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Latino Vote Seen As Crucial For Clinton

U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro Thursday returned home to San Antonio and appeared with Hillary Clinton at a rally designed to kick off her “Latinos for Hillary” effort.

Castro endorsed Clinton in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and ratcheted up the ongoing speculation that Clinton could choose him as her vice presidential running mate if she becomes the party’s nominee.

For most of the week Hillary Clinton’s Latino strike force has camped out in San Antonio, trying to build enthusiasm for the launch of a campaign within the campaign that will try to register and turn out more Hispanic voters.

Tuesday night former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was head cheerleader at the Alamo Beer Hall where more than 350 watched Clinton and the other Democratic presidential candidates debate.

“What about Hillary Clinton.  She’s doing great,” Van de Putte said as she rallied the crowd.

The Democratic nomination, once a slam dunk for Clinton has her scrambling a little as polls show opponent Bernie Sanders leading in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders is attracting younger voters like 36-year old Angela Diaz who showed up at the debate party.

“He’s cutting through the BS.  And it’s not only me it’s a lot of other people my age who think Bernie Sanders can be the change we need in Washington.” 

Lydia Camarillo of the Southwest Voter Registration Project says Clinton must do a better job attracting young Hispanics like Diaz if she wants to win the huge haul of delegates in Texas on Super Tuesday and her party’s nomination.

“Sanders is exciting a young vote, and the Latino electorate is very young.  The median age of the Latino electorate is 22 years old,” she said.

“I think the Latino vote is going to decide whether Hillary becomes the presumptive nominee.” 

Clinton’s Latino outreach director Lorella Praeli says the campaign is reaching Hispanics many ways including the way many millennials prefer- through technology.

“Latinos are on mobile almost more than any other group so we are developing content that is culturally sensitive and relevant and finds ways to engage them via mobile or digital platforms.”

Clinton may also get a Hispanic youth vibe going by campaigning with with 41-year-old Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor, and his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joachin Castro.

Camarillo says the Castro brothers are popular in Hispanic circles across the country.

“The Castros are really reaching out.  I think they are becoming the young politicos that people love.  They’re smart, they’re young, they’re good looking.  Just like people know who Henry Cisneros is they know who the Castros are.”

Beyond the primary, Texas is such a deep shade of Republican red, there’s almost no scenario by which Clinton could win Texas in the general election.

But former Texas land commissioner Garry Mauro who’s helping organize Clinton’s Texas campaign says San Antonio is still the right place to launch her Latino outreach.

Mauro says San Antonians elected Henry Cisneros mayor in 1980 and Henry B. Gonzalez to Congress in 1960, long before Hispanics were elected in most other big cities. He says Texas has more elected Hispanic officials than any other state.

“This is where the action is,” said Mauro.

Mauro believes strong support radiating from a Hispanic stronghold like San Antonio could send a message nationally and help Clinton in swing states like Colorado and Nevada.

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.