by Gelet Martínez Fragela
Democrats and Republicans targeting their campaign efforts to win the Georgia Senate race between Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker have turned their attention to Hispanic American voters who could be a deciding factor.
Neither candidate reached the state required 50% threshold to emerge victorious on Nov. 8 due to the 2% garnered by Libertarian Party Senate candidate Chase Oliver.
As the two candidates now face a tight runoff in the spotlight, both parties are convinced that Hispanic American voters, who make up 5% of Georgia voters, could hold the margin needed for a victory.
In Georgia, Hispanic Americans make up the third-largest group, totaling 1.1 million statewide, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Of those 1.1 million Hispanic Americans living in the state, the Georgia Secretary of State has reported there are 300,000 registered voters, and that about 88% of those are “active.”
Of the 1.1 million Hispanic Americans living in the state, the Georgia Secretary of State has reported there are 300,000 registered voters, and that about 88% of those are “active.”
In August 2021 the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Georgia’s Hispanic population had “surged.”
Hispanic American voters gave Warnock an edge of about 80,000 votes on Election Day, according to NBC, and as a result, both progressive and conservative groups are beginning to mobilize organizations in the Peach State to target potential Latino votes.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is has mobilized its Operación ¡Vamos! outreach program to help Walker and Democrats are coordinating with progressive groups such as Poder Latinx and the GALEO Impact Fund.
“If this is a 1% election, it looks like Latinos could provide that key margin,” said Matt Barreto, the co-founder and president of Democratic polling firm BSP Research in an interview with NBC News.
So far, Georgia has seen a record turnout for in-person early voting which already saw 300,000 ballots cast on Monday and then again on Tuesday. According to the Georgia secretary of state’s office, more than 18,000 Latinos had already voted early in the runoff election as of Thursday morning, making up 1.6% of the early vote.
Barreto said Hispanic Americans “could be that key group,” that is the deciding factor for the race.
As part of the parties’ efforts, they are mobilizing bilingual canvassers. GALEO, a left learning nonprofit targeting Latino voting for Warnock is taking to the streets and visiting residential areas for outreach. They have also distributed “El Pastor” lotería cards to promote the Georgia senator who previously served as a pastor in Atlanta and New York.
Dozens of bilingual canvassers from GALEO in Georgia are knocking on doors across homes in Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties and handing out the Warnock lotería cards. The incumbent Georgia Senator served as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Some of the controversy from Warnock’s past however that may impact Cuban Americans is his past work with the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem that chose to host Fidel Castro in 1995.
At that time, the Miami Herald reported that Castro “blast[ed] the United States with the vigor that was missing from his speech to the United Nations earlier in the day and led the Harlem church with a rousing rendition of the socialist hymn Internationale.”
C-SPAN footage from the event depicts head pastor Calvin Butts praising Castro, and leading his congregation to engage in calls celebrating the dictator as they shouted, “Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!”
A translation of Castro’s speech later he revealed that even he was mystified why he had been invited to the church, and also noted that he changed from his business attire at the U.N. and back into his military fatigues for his Harlem appearance.
There is additional footage on YouTube showing the church congregation cheering Castro.
Still, Democrats are hoping they can elevate Warnock past that by focusing on his work as a Christian pastor. The lotería card they are handing out shows Warnock surrounded by a flurry of butterflies to show solidarity with undocumented immigrants. He is also holding a Holy bible and a medical invoice to signal a connection between Christian compassion and health care.
Some prospective voters have held discussed the cards on social media, according to Alejandro Chavez, a Deputy Director at GALEO, which is also escalating its presence on Spanish language radio while sending canvassers to smaller counties in Northern Georgia to ensure no stone is left unturned.
State statistics also demonstrate that about half of the state’s Latinos live in five Atlanta-metropolitan-area counties: Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett.
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Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who founded ADN Cuba.
Photo “Hispanic America” by GPA Photo Archive. CC BY 2.0.