Republicans open Hispanic outreach office in Thornton

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican Jaylen Mosqueira, running to represent House District 38, at the opening the state GOP’s Hispanic Community Center in Thornton Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

The Republican National Committee's effort to court Latino voters has arrived in Colorado, with the opening of its Hispanic Community Center in Thornton Wednesday. 

The location is a strategic choice — putting the center in the state’s most competitive congressional district. The new CO-8 spans northern parts of the state, including Greeley, and has the largest share of Latino residents of any congressional district in Colorado — 38 percent.

“We will for sure be here through the election, and then we're going to ask the RNC to keep this center open. We would love to see it be a permanent fixture here in Thornton,” said Colorado GOP Chair Kristi Burton Brown at the facility’s opening. 

The center occupies a nondescript building near a shopping center and restaurants just off of Interstate 25. Staff there will host community events, and the facility will serve as a gathering point for outreach efforts to Latino voters.

The RNC said this is the 19th Hispanic Community Center it’s opened in the nation. The party has also opened offices to reach out to other communities of color

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Republican National Committeewoman Vera Ortegon, who was born in Colombia, speaks at right as state party chair Kristi Burton Brown listens at the opening of the state GOP’s Hispanic Community Center in Thornton Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

“I look at the values of the Republican Party, and then I look at the values of the Hispanics and they're the same, they're identical,” said Colorado RNC National Committeewoman Vera Ortegon, who was born in Colombia.

Republicans in Colorado are trying to focus much of their election messaging on cost of living, crime and education, while steering clear of topics like abortion. 

“We want an economy that is prosperous. We want to make sure that maybe there's a few cents left over, so maybe we can buy a home, or even be audacious enough to open up a business,” said Ortegon. 

7th Congressional district candidate Erik Aadland was there, as was state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer who is running in CO-8 against Democratic state House Rep. Yadira Caraveo. 

Kirkmeyer’s campaign said they plan to do a lot of door knocking to talk directly with Latino voters and hear their concerns. 

“The Hispanic folks in this community, they're part of our rich fabric of this community,” Kirkmeyer told CPR News. She highlighted a Ronald Reagan quote she likes, “‘Latinos and Hispanics really are Republicans. They just don't know it yet.’”

Both parties are hoping to make inroads with the Latino community, a key voting block, which has traditionally been more reliably Democratic in Colorado. 

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. Republican challenger Joe O’Dea also recently started airing a new Spanish-language TV ad.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Republican state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, campaigning for Congress in the new 8th District against state Rep. Democrat Yadira Caraveo, arrives at her new headquarters in Thornton with two of her grandchildren on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

But Republicans see an opportunity to make gains given President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings coupled with the high cost of living in the state. 

“They're my friends, they're my neighbors. They're people I go to church with,” said Kirkmeyer of Latinos in the eighth district. “So I'm going to communicate to them the same way I communicate to everyone else because family and faith are important to them just as much as it is to me.”

Part of the effort to connect with Latino voters is also evident in the party’s candidates for some state level offices.

First time Republican candidate Dan Montoya, who is running for the state House, said he’s hearing voters bring up a lot of concerns about the high crime rate and the situation in the schools. 

“Parents want to feel like they have a voice. They want to feel like there's transparency where they feel like they're playing an integral part in their children's education,” he said.

Montoya is among a more diverse pool of Republican candidates seeking a seat in the state legislature. The general assembly currently only has a miniscule number of GOP lawmakers of color, far fewer than in the Democratic caucus.

“I don't think it's necessarily that we are all of a sudden finding new minority voices here in Colorado to run,” said Jaylen Mosqueira, who is running for the statehouse and also attended the community center opening. “The Republican party has made sure that we are getting those candidates and telling them it is time to step up and represent our communities and our values, our morals, the way that we know we can.”