Hispanic voter registration leans Democratic by a wide margin, and polling reinforces their support for Democratic candidates.
Though the Hispanic vote has typically fallen short of the power suggested by their growing numbers, this month’s election is viewed by many as a turning point, encouraging Democrats and causing Republicans to rethink their party’s approach.
At the legislative level, the growing Hispanic population could mean that toss-up districts become safer for Democrats. And some reliable Republican districts could become competitive. If Democrats’ wishes come true, and a handful of key districts become winnable for Democrats, the upshot is a Legislature where Republicans may not be in the majority.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau give a glimpse into the future ethnic makeup of Arizona’s recently redrawn legislative districts. For Arizona Republicans concerned about the impact of an expanding Hispanic electorate, the numbers are sobering.
According to an Arizona Capitol Times analysis, every legislative district will see Hispanic growth outpace non-Hispanic growth. In some districts, the growth in the Hispanic voting age population — those who are at least 18 years old — will dwarf that of non-Hispanics. And in a few cases, the non-Hispanic voting age population could even shrink while the Hispanic voting age population expands.
The greatest increase in Hispanic voting age population will be in districts that already have a high percentage of Hispanics. The Hispanic voting age population in southeastern Arizona’s Legislative District 2 is projected to increase to 58.3 percent from 52.8 percent.
Central Phoenix’s districts 30 and 24 are also projected to gain 4.5 and 4.4 percentage points on that scale respectively. But predominantly white LD21, which includes northwestern Phoenix, Peoria and the Sun City retirement community, is poised to have a 4.2 percentage point increase in Hispanic voting age population, judging by the current population there.
Hispanics in LD21 are projected to grow by 24 percent, where non- Hispanics are projected to decrease, if more non-Hispanics do not move in.
Click on the map below to see details about the projected growth of the Hispanic voting age population
In Tucson, the populations in LD9 and LD10 are also set to see a 17 percent and 18 percent growth in the Hispanic population respectively, while the non-Hispanic population will stay nearly the same.
Those districts elected almost all Democrats this year and had been considered slightly Democratic-leaning. If new Hispanic voters there become solid Democrats, it could mean they become reliably Democratic seats.
Democrats are quick to count growth trends as a guaranteed boon, recounting recent trends showing Hispanic voters largely rejecting the Republican brand in Arizona.
Harsh immigration laws passed by the Republican-led Legislature over the past decade, along with the perceived targeting of Hispanic communities during “crime suppression” sweeps led by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio have pushed Arizona’s Hispanic community into their fold, Democrats say.
A concerted effort by Democrats to reach out and integrate those Hispanic voters has already produced significant gains. Hispanic groups earlier this year boasted more than 34,000 newly registered Hispanic voters in Maricopa County alone, as part of an aggressive anti-Arpaio Hispanic voter registration drive.
And while Democrats are hoping to transform legislative districts, they cite progress made in other races as well.
Some Democrats point to Democrat Richard Carmona’s bid for the U.S. Senate and a Maricopa County sheriff’s race that was a referendum on Joe Arpaio more than anything else, said Democratic Party Chairman Luis Heredia.
Even though the Democrats lost those races, Heredia said, a narrow margin in the U.S. Senate race and an ever decreasing winning margin by Arpaio over his five elections prove that strong outreach to Hispanic communities is changing the nature of Arizona politics.
Looking forward, Heredia says he’s put a target on a handful of legislative districts that can be won in the future, using the same sort of outreach.
Arizona Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey, says he’s not willing to concede anything to the Democrats, however, and promises to put the platform of his party front and center for the Hispanic community.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge I welcome. The challenge is to convey who we are and what we stand for,” Morrissey said.
The way Morrissey sees it, the Republican Party’s traditional stance on family value issues, particularly abortion, religion and business entrepreneurship, line up closely with traditional Hispanic values.
And that will be how Republicans will invite Hispanics into their party.
“If the Democrats see an amassing Hispanic population in certain legislative districts as a tool, and I think that’s how they see it, we see them as part of the family,” Morrissey said.
Rural Legislative Districts 6 and 8 went entirely Republican except for the win of a former Democratic senator in LD8, but the numbers there show opportunity, Heredia said.
Given the current populations, LD6, which captures a large portion of northern Arizona, should see a roughly 18 percent growth in the Hispanic community, with only 2 percent growth of non-Hispanics, and District 8, mostly comprised of Pinal County, should see 18 percent Hispanic growth and only 6 percent non-Hispanic growth.
Those projections, however, leave out possible in-migration and new housing growth. If new growth were to reach the levels of the mid-2000s, both districts are poised to see new non-Hispanic growth.
In the more dense urban and suburban areas of Maricopa County, Heredia said he’s looking to shrink the Republican advantage in Legislative Districts 20, 21 and 28, which are all positioned directly north of Democratic-leaning and minority-heavy central Phoenix districts.
Those districts should see 21 to 24 percent Hispanic growth and negative to 6 percent non-Hispanic growth.
“What’s interesting in (District) 28 is there are a lot of new immigrant pockets, especially in the Sunnyslope neighborhood,” Heredia said.
But the Democratic conversion of a district like that is not guaranteed, Heredia said, and the answers to key questions loom.
“Are they going to attract new immigrants? Are they going to stay there? Are the new 18-year-olds going to become politically effective?” he asked.
Economist and redistricting expert Alan Maguire said there’s another reason to think those districts will skew Democratic during the next several years. Given the way that population shifts occur in urban areas, he said, districts adjacent to Democratic-leaning, minority- majority districts generally become more Democratic over a political map’s 10-year lifespan.
Arizona Democratic Party Researcher Joaquin Rios said the key to ensuring that new Hispanic voters join their ranks is to paint the Democratic Party positions as more beneficial to Hispanic communities.
“On issues like immigration and the ‘DREAM Act,’ but also other issues like public education, the Democratic position has really resonated with the Latino community,” Rios said. “We saw the results of that with the support of Democratic candidates this cycle. I think there’s plenty of reason for optimism.”
But Republicans have, during the past few years and with increasing volume since this year’s election, begun talking about new ways to reach out to Hispanic voters.
Though Morrissey has been more vocal than most Arizona Republicans about the need to attract Hispanics, he is now doubling-down on the assertion that his party’s values will appeal to Hispanics.
“I understand what happened in this last election — the break for President Obama. I’m not happy about it, but I understand it. What it tells me is we have to get clearer in our message, to build trust. It all comes down to that,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey is reluctant to say that an end to anti-illegal immigration bills will need to be part of his party’s approach, but he repeatedly has expressed a desire to reach a pragmatic solution to illegal immigration that does not push Hispanic communities away.
“We’re going to have to bring a lot of people together, bring ideas to the table and we have to come away from that with a real solution,” he said. “The journey of a thousand miles takes a first step and we’ve already taken a lot of steps and will continue to take more.”
Morrissey’s assessment that his party’s policies will lead to economic success is echoed by Maguire, who said economic circumstance has a strong influence on political persuasion. As Hispanic populations become more economically successful, there’s a strong reason to believe they will move toward the Republican Party, Maguire said.
That, he said, hinges on the broader economy, which could be a linchpin to attracting new Hispanic voters.
“Any attempt to look forward and project any group’s voting behavior over time will be significantly impacted by their upward economic movement. The speed at which that happens is a function of the overall economic environment,” Maguire said.
A stronger economic situation, coupled with a skillful presentation of the Republican values could help them maintain their advantage in the areas targeted by Democrats, he said.
|District||Estimated growth of Hispanics of voting age by 2020||Estimated growth of non-Hispanics of voting age by 2020||Current Hispanic Voting Age Population (HVAP) proportion||Estimated Hispanic Voting Age Population (HVAP) proportion by 2020||Percentage point gain of Hispanic of Voting Age Population (HVAP) proportion|