Things That Matter

Opinion: Are the Mega-Rich Using Latinos To Protect Their Wealth?

Libre Action, a political advocacy group funded by mega-billionaire Charles Koch that has prioritized the Latino vote, endorsed Virginia police officer Yesli Vega this week, according to The Hill.

Vega is gunning for the state’s 7th Congressional District, a historically Republican area that was flipped blue in 2018 by Abigail Spanberger.

Michael Monrroy, Libre Action’s director of coalition who has focused on Hispanic outreach since working on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said, “We’re proud to endorse Yesli Vega, a Prince William County Supervisor, and like many in our community, she is the daughter of immigrants. But, most importantly, Vega knows the power of the American Dream and the proper role of government — limited.”

Spanberger is currently serving her second term after winning again in 2020 by less than two percentage points, making Virginia’s 7th Congressional District especially vulnerable in the upcoming midterms. Vega, like many Republicans during the 2022 election cycle, is running on family values, faith and responsible government spending, though her recent comments on rape and pregnancy have come under fire following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Why are donors like Koch so keen to take back Virginia?

It might have something to do with the controversial Carlyle Group, a Virginia-based private equity fund that manages over $325 billion in assets, one of the largest funds in the world. One of its former co-CEOs, Glenn Youngkin, is now the Governor of Virginia.

However, Libre Action’s endorsement of Vega is more of an outlier, as the advocacy group has focused a majority of its efforts on Florida and Texas, two states with a high concentration of Latino voters and mega-billionaires. Ranking just under California and New York, Florida and Texas are home to the largest collection of billionaires in the country.

Of this election cycle’s 11 Libre Action endorsements, eight of them support elections and re-elections in Florida and Texas, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Others include Ted Budd’s North Carolina campaign for senator and Barbara Kirkmeyer’s campaign for Colorado’s 8th Congressional District.

DeSantis was endorsed by Libre Action six weeks after signing one of the biggest tax relief packages in the state’s history, one that included “corporate income tax credit expansions, and ad valorem tax and exemption provisions,” according to the official press release. Libre Action has also backed Juan Carlos Porras for Florida House District 119, Vennia Francois for Florida House District 45, Paul Renner’s re-election in Florida House District 19 and Maria Elvira Salazar’s re-election in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

All of the Florida House districts were redistricted after the 2020 election cycle.

Latino influence in Florida’s Republican Party extends beyond Libre Action.

Brian Mast, who is half-Mexican and a veteran, won Florida’s 18th Congressional District in 2017. After serving two terms, he’s set his sights on Florida’s 21st Congressional District, which encompasses Palm Beach, a historically Democratic county that also happens to have the highest concentration of wealth in the entire state. Mast was also endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who lives in Palm Beach at Mar-a-Lago, in the 2022 election cycle.

Florida’s Republican candidates are promising tax cuts across the board for small business owners and working-class Floridians, even though many of these candidates supported Trump’s 2017 tax bill that favored the ultra-wealthy, while simultaneously opposing Biden’s 2021 tax cuts which overwhelmingly benefitted the working class.

The main hurdle most of these candidates face is the party’s staunch pro-life position. Virginia candidate Vega is already facing criticism for her pro-life stance in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s overturning, and recent polls suggest that nearly 60% of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s controversial decision, according to Market Watch.

Targeting Latinos, who are notoriously conservative when it comes to reproductive rights, has offered many of these candidates a clear path to victory.

In Texas, where Libre Action has endorsed the re-election campaigns of both Abbott and 23rd Congressional District Rep. Tony Gonzales, the goal seems to be maintaining the state’s Republican stronghold. The only non-incumbent in Texas that’s been endorsed by Libre Action, Monica De La Cruz, has widespread support from Republican voters, garnering 56.1% of the vote during the primaries. Her opponent, Michelle Vallejo, won a primary runoff election by just 0.2%.

Following Republican Mayra Flores‘ surprise win in Texas’ 34th Congressional District, widespread Latino support for a Republican candidate is no longer the pipe dream it once was, especially as the party courts more Latinos to run on their platform.

Cassy Garcia, who’s running for Texas’ 28th Congressional District, took 57% of the primary vote while her Democratic opponent, Henry Cuellar, took 50.3%.

Republicans across the country are taking advantage of the increasing divisiveness within the Democratic Party, especially as support for President Biden continues to wane.

With backing from some of the richest, most influential Republicans in the country and effective targeting that has swayed a significant number of Latino voters right, Democrats are poised to take a massive hit in the midterms, seemingly with no real plan of action to win back the Latino voters that they’ve lost.

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