Michael Bennet and Joe O’Dea both launch Spanish-language TV ads as they try to sway Latino voters

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Sen. Michael Bennet (L) and Joe O’Dea are competing in Colorado’s 2022 U.S. Senate race.

The two men competing in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race are putting more dollars into their efforts to woo Spanish-speaking voters.

On Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet released his first Spanish-language TV ad of the campaign season.

It comes on the heels of a new Spanish-language TV ad released by Republican challenger Joe O’Dea and is a sign of how important the Latino vote may be in the upcoming midterm elections for both campaigns.

Michael Bennet's ad focuses on his economic policies

Bennet’s ad, titled ‘Logros’ or ‘achievements’, focuses on his recent legislative accomplishments, specifically the work Bennet has done to — he claims — build an economy in Colorado that grows for everyone and not just those at the top.

It highlights Bennet’s support for aid to small businesses during the pandemic, renewable energy sector jobs, the bipartisan infrastructure law, and the American Rescue Plan, which included an expanded Child Tax Credit that Bennet pushed for, but has since lapsed.

“These successes prove that Michael Bennet is on our side,” the ad says.

The ad buy will run on Spanish-language stations, including Telemundo and Univision, in the Denver and Colorado Springs markets. While it’s his first TV ad targeting this audience, Bennet ran a digital ad in Spanish in April last year that also touted the benefits of the American Rescue Plan for Coloradans.

Republicans have been hammering on the economy leading up to the midterm elections, but Bennet does not think they have a plan that will work.

“I think that an economic message of trickle-down economics or supply-side economics, cutting taxes for the richest people in America is not going to resonate with the Latino community here,” Bennet said.

He added his campaign is going to have “a very aggressive outreach program” to Latino voters. 

According to the most recent census, Hispanics and Latinos make up over 22 percent of the population in the state, making it the second largest ethnic voting bloc in Colorado. A poll released this week by the advocacy groups Unidos and Mi Familia Vota, found that in Colorado, Latino voters rank inflation & the rising cost of living, gun violence, and jobs that do not pay enough as their top three concerns. 

With concerns about the rising costs of living foremost on the minds of most voters, Bennet campaign manager Justin Lamorte thinks Bennet’s message will resonate with Latino voters.

“They have a really clear choice between Michael who’s fighting to lower costs for working families … and on the flip side Joe O’Dea,” Lamorte said. “Who’s going to make sure that billion-dollar corporations aren't going to pay less in taxes than the Latino voters whose support we’re hoping to win.”

Joe O’Dea’s ad makes his own economic pitch to Latino voters

On Friday, O’Dea released his first Spanish language TV ad titled “Una Historia Americana.” 

Given his status as a political newcomer, O’Dea’s ad serves as an introduction to Latino voters. It goes over his biography and emphasizes his message that “he’s running to be the voice of working-class people.” 

The ad promises O’Dea would reduce gas prices and inflation, secure the borders and protect Dreamers, and support police and reduce crime, without going into any specifics. 

Like Bennet, O’Dea’s message is also focused broadly on the economy and the American Dream. 

“We want future generations to be able to have the same opportunities that we had,” O’Dea said in a statement about the ad. “For decades we've gotten to work with first- and second-generation Hispanic or Latino immigrants who are planting their roots here in Colorado and also want to leave a better future for their kids and grandkids.”

The campaign expects the ad will run on Spanish-language TV stations through September. 

Our goal is to win the Hispanic and Latino vote,” said Joshua Marin-Mora, O’Dea campaign spokesman. “Democrats are bleeding support among the broader Hispanic community because of crime, inflation, and a Democrat Party that has become angry, divisive and extreme. Joe Biden and the Democrats are more focused on political stunts than they are improving the lives of people in the community. We’re playing to win.”  

The O’Dea campaign ran a radio ad on Spanish stations across that state ahead of the primary earlier this year that was voiced by his wife, Celeste, who is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants.

The Republican Party sees an opportunity this year to court more Latino voters

While Latino voters were once a reliable vote for Democrats, Republicans see an opportunity to make gains this year given the state of the economy and Biden’s low approval ratings.

While the Latino bloc is not a monolith in Colorado or elsewhere, Prof. Robert Preuhs, chair of the Political Science Department at Metropolitan State University of Denver said the GOP could make some inroads.

“I think the Republican Party, after decades or more of neglecting Latinos, sees a chance to move some of those voters into their camp. So there's a sense that Republicans really actually do have a chance to pick up some votes,” he said.

“Latinos have counted for anywhere between four and eight percentage point margins for the Democrats,” added Preuhs, whose work has focused on ethnic and racial politics. “Depending on how close those elections are gonna be, Latinos can be the pivotal block.”