Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine spoke to a church group in Miami over the weekend.
That wouldn’t be remarkable except that he spoke entirely in Spanish — a first for a candidate on a major-party ticket.
“Yo soy cristiano, un católico” (“I’m a Christian, a Catholic”) Kaine told parishioners at Pneuma Church at the beginning of his five-minute speech.
Kaine described his background working as a missionary in Honduras, where he said he learned lessons about faith, family and hard work.
He also described his running mate, Hillary Clinton, as a person of strong faith, noting that Clinton was raised in the Methodist church.
Kaine avoided a typical stump speech, saying that would be inappropriate in a church setting. But he urged parishioners to register to vote before Tuesday’s deadline.
“Tenemos una responsibilidad a participar y votar en acuerdo con nuestros valores, verdad?” (“We have a responsibility to participate and vote in accordance with our values, right?”) he said.
Fifteen percent of Florida’s registered voters are Hispanic, tracing their roots to Cuba, Central America and Puerto Rico, among other places. While Kaine’s particular Spanish dialect — Hounduras by way of Virginia — hardly matches the rapid-fire delivery heard on Miami’s Calle Ocho, political experts think it can only help in getting his point across.
“The pros certainly outweigh the cons,” said Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida. “If you try to speak the language, people are appreciative.”
She added that a Spanish-speaking politician is hardly a novelty in Florida, where Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush are both fluent.
Still, some Hispanic voters may see it as a sign of pandering, as NPR’s Eyder Peralta found shortly after Kaine, and his Spanish, first made their debut on the campaign trail in July. And most Latinos in the country speak English proficiently.
Kaine also showed off his familiarity with Scripture, recounting the story of the Good Samaritan and stressing the importance of compassion and help for those less fortunate.
He promised that if he and Clinton are elected, theirs will be an administration in which, “Cada dia, estamos trabajando para hacer una differencia en la vida de la gente.” (Every day, we’re working to make a difference in the lives of the people.)