With Election Day In Their Sights, Presidential Campaigns Look To Colorado’s Non-White Voters For An Edge

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro speaks at a Biden drive-in rally in Pueblo, CO, on October 24, 2020.

Every election season, as political campaigns and parties work hard to get out the vote, they try to find ways to tailor their message to particular groups where they hope to find allies.

In Colorado, where the last census found a third of residents identify as non-white, that means crafting pitches for the state’s many different minority communities.

For the Biden campaign, one big focus in the state is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters. It’s not a huge part of the population, but the campaign believes they could help determine which way the state goes — just take a look at 2016. 

“If you look at the statistics, AAPI voters make up 4.5 percent of Colorado's voting-eligible population,” said Amit Jani, National AAPI Director with the Biden campaign. “Last cycle, as we know, our party won Colorado by just 4.1 percentage points.”

No block of voters — whether they be minority groups, youth, LGBTQ, suburban women, veterans, etc. — all votes the same, but members do face common issues and challenges campaigns can latch onto. 

During a virtual AAPI event in Colorado, Jani talked about some of the challenges facing the Asian community.

“AAPIs have lost their jobs, hours, pay, health insurance, or the small business that they started. And unfortunately, it didn't have to be this way,” he said, before going on to criticize the Trump administration’s lack of a plan for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Biden campaign’s outreach to different racial and ethnic groups in Colorado has included targeted kick-offs and ongoing events. This past weekend, the Biden Bus stopped in Pueblo for a rally focused on the state's largest minority population, the Latino community, with former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez also recently visited the state to pitch Latinos on Biden. 

It's notable that Castro was in Pueblo. Hilliary Clinton won Colorado in 2016, but Trump took this heavily Latino county and Democrats are hoping to avoid that same outcome in 2020. At the Pueblo rally, State Senate President Leroy Garcia, who represents Pueblo, said the Biden team’s outreach has been strong.

“They’ve been invested, they’ve had a field team. So I’ve been extremely proud of the work they’ve been doing to lay inroads, not only in the Latino community but throughout the nation,” he said.

Pueblo Democrat Alexandra Montez likes Biden's positions on a host of issues, and thinks his unifying message is important. She argues the more outreach the Democrats can do to minority groups, the better.

“The Democratic party should never take for granted any group, but definitely those in the Latino [community], or groups where we feel we’re not recognized, or seen, and our voices are not quite heard,” she said.

For all of the Biden campaign’s outreach, Republicans aren’t ceding the field. The Trump campaign is making its own pitch for those same voters. Both campaigns are running Spanish-language ads targeting Latino voters this election season.

Many Latinos are attracted to Trump’s economic message, if not his immigration one. The president continually touts the country’s historic low unemployment for Blacks, Hispanics, and women, all of which occurred under his watch before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
Republican congressional candidate Casper Stockham talking up President Trump's plan for Black Americans.

Republican Congressional candidates for the Denver area came together earlier this month to talk up Trump’s economic plan for Black Americans, what he’s called the “platinum plan.”

“Parts of it are new, but parts of it are [a] continuation of what he’s already been doing in the Black community. So First Step Act, Second Chance Act, criminal justice reform, permanent funding of HBCUs, and the list goes on,” said Republican Casper Stockham, who is running for the 7th congressional district seat currently held by Democrat Ed Perlmutter.

Stockham argues it's important for Black voters to hear what the GOP is doing for them, but that the party hasn’t always prioritized getting that message out. 

“The Republican party 100 percent has solutions,” he said. ”And that’s been my cry as a Black conservative is we need to get out there and talk about our solutions.”

Someone who liked what he heard about the plan was Dr. H. Malcolm Newton. He trains pastors and lives in Aurora. He voted for Obama in 2008 and plans to cast a vote for Trump in 2020. But he questioned why the president hasn't touted these ideas all along.

“This Platinum Plan is fantastic for the Black community. Why wait until election time?” he said. “That’s kind of hypocritical and makes us feel like they just want the vote.”

Newton, who’s unaffiliated, was just as critical of the Democratic party, saying they have also ignored the Black community for the last three years. 

With historic turnout levels brewing for this year's presidential election, both parties are looking for voters everywhere they can to bring together just enough support to deliver them the margin of victory.