There’s an emerging voice on Colorado’s Proposition CC, and it speaks in Spanish.
Los impuestos más altos son malos — higher taxes are bad, that’s the word from the Libre Initiative, a Hispanic outreach effort affiliated with the conservative crusaders Americans for Prosperity.
Libre has lingered in the background of Colorado political scene for years. Now it's stepping forward on the ballot question that seeks to steer the occasional refunds under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights into transportation and education.
Libre just rolled a six-figure Colorado campaign, including TV ads on Univision, to convince Spanish-speaking voters that giving up part of their tax refunds amounts is a bad deal.
“We think the Hispanic community is untapped on this issue right now,” said Ansley Bradwell, Libre’s Arlington, Virginia-based spokeswoman. “The Hispanic community has the potential to make a big difference in the upcoming election.”
In Colorado that could said of every future election, whether mainstream Republicans choose to hear it or not.
Univision Communications released a voter data analysis in July that indicated Hispanic voter registration and turnout was nearly double that of the general population nationwide from 2014 to 2018. The increase in Hispanic voters ages 18 to 24 was three times higher than the overall demographic, the data showed.
Vince Sadusky, Univision's CEO, said those who want to win in 2020 "must get their message out to Latinos.”
President Trump's strict border policies and demeaning remarks about undocumented immigrants have done him nor his party any favors with this emerging electorate.
A September Latino Decisions-Univision News poll indicated less than 20% of Hispanic voters said they would consider voting for Trump. That compares to exit polling nationwide in 2016 that showed that fewer than 3 in 10 Latino voters supported Trump.
If Democrats take these voters for granted, the party does so at its peril, especially if organizations such as Libre can get some fiscal hooks into them.
To attract these voters and, perhaps, remain relevant in Colorado, Republicans will need to embrace immigrant communities by first embracing their issues. My friend Jason Salzman wrote about this dynamic for the left-leaning Colorado Times Recorder in March to help explain the drubbing the GOP took in state elections last year.
“It’s math,” Republican pollster David Flaherty told Jason. “For us to win elections, we need to have a broader and different approach to issues that we want to solve.”
Despite Libre’s ties to Americans for Prosperity, and AFP’s history as a political phalanx of the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, Bradwell said the aim of the Hispanic outreach organization isn’t partisan, though I expressed my skepticism.
“Our goal isn’t to bring Hispanic voters to one party or another party,” she retorted. “It’s just to help educate them and make sure they’re informed voters. We’re not partisan. We’re not party-focused. We’re policy-focused.”
The discussions with voters are about rights of taxation and the foundations of economic freedom, hence the name.
“We’re unique, because we’re one of the only voices in that space,” she said, meaning conservative in Hispanic communities. The liberal voices are many.
Ivette Díaz, the Colorado-based foudation director for the Libre Institute, is the former Colorado field director for the Libre Initiative, managing statewide outreach strategy and grassroots stuff. Before that she worked for Focus on the Family after she worked for President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives.
She said that during Hispanic Heritage Month, Libre sent Hispanic community leaders and professionals to more than a half dozen Colorado schools. Nationally Libre co-sponsored the 32nd annual Hispanic Heritage Awards in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1, which aired on PBS.
Libre has been a spoke out in favor of immigration reform and urged its members to “stand with Dreamers.”
“It’s one of our federal priorities to share the stories of immigrants and try to change the narrative for some who hold negative views or don’t quite understand the value of immigration and how critical that has been to our nation’s strength and continues to be,” Diaz told me.
It’s worth noting here that while Charles and the late David Koch helped shape the conservative narrative of the modern GOP, they didn’t support Trump in 2016 and their network announced in January it wouldn’t support his reelection, averse to his ideas on trade and immigration. Americans for Prosperity, however, is backing Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
Joe Salazar, however, isn’t buying it.
The former state representative from Thornton dropped out of the legislature to run for attorney general last year, narrowly losing to the eventual winner, Phil Weiser.
“For the past few years, the Koch brothers and the Republican Party have tried to fool Latinx voters with their snake oil and charm,” Salazar told me. “We have consistently rejected their attempts because we know they have an underlying hatred for our communities.
"We can sniff out good chiles and bad people from miles away.”