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LIBRE Initiative plays long game to bring Latinos to the political right

June 28, 2024

One Friday afternoon this month, about a dozen volunteers and staff of the LIBRE Initiative met in a University City office.

They were going door-knocking the next day, and Cecilia Navas was giving them their assignments: Kannapolis, Ballantyne and central Charlotte.

The next day, two paid staffers drove their red Jeep through Blakeney in south Charlotte, going door-to-door, using a cellphone app that shows them where Latino voters live.

One was Niko Goldstein, whose mom is from Ecuador and whose father is from Israel. The other was Gerardo Lora, a U.S. military retiree who is originally from the Dominican Republic.

It was hard work in heat well past 90 degrees. Most people weren’t home. Some didn’t want to talk.

Finally, there was a win: an elderly man in a townhome, with a Virgin Mary statue in his garden.

Goldstein — reading from his phone — asked the man in Spanish his biggest concern: education, inflation or health care.

Goldstein was surprised it wasn’t health care, given that the main is retired.

“His was inflation,” he said. “But that’s very common. Everyone is dying to get their opinion on what inflation is impacting them.”

Depending on the response, the cell phone app produces a new question.

“So the next question is if he supports increasing taxes or government spending to try to fix the economy even if it causes inflation,” Goldstein said. “And then the prompt asks him about health care questions, asking him who he thinks should have the most say in the type of health care he gets — his family or the government?”

The questions don’t mention Biden or Trump. They do not encourage someone to vote one way or another, and — in these questions at least — they don’t even talk about the election.

Playing the ultimate long game

What the LIBRE Initiative is doing is trying to identify Latinos who are predisposed to center-right political ideas — and to get them engaged with meet-ups and seminars.

In North Carolina, 10% of the population identifies as Latino.

Only 4% of registered voters are Hispanic. In recent elections, they usually make up about 2% of the voting pool.

(It’s likely there are more Latinos voting. An increasing number of people registering to vote aren’t picking a political party or listing their race or ethnicity.)

The hope is that as Latinos increasingly flex their political muscle, they turn out to be a conservative bloc, not part of the Democratic coalition like strategists often assume they will be.

It’s the ultimate long game.

Originally published in WFAE 90.7