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Why Latino Voters Are An Important Constituency For Democrats

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK, we want to zoom in now on one important constituency for Democrats. Pew Research says some 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote this November. Recent polls show Biden leading Trump with this voting bloc but not by the same margins as Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York is with us this morning. He serves as the whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Congressman, thanks for being here.

ADRIANO ESPAILLAT: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

GREENE: So your district, I mean, we should say, includes parts of Harlem, parts of the West Bronx, majority Latino. And I just wonder, as you listen to constituents talking about their lives right now and their needs, what do you think is the biggest priority in this election?

ESPAILLAT: I think the pandemic is still very much in people's minds. I think that folks are still concerned as to whether or not they can send their children back to school, whether or not they're going to be able to pay their rent. Many of them are backed up on rent. So health care continues to be a major issue because of the pandemic. And just really making ends meet post-pandemic, I think, is a critical issue and one that people are still very much worried about.

GREENE: What do you think Joe Biden has done, said to convince people that he is taking care of those needs?

ESPAILLAT: Well, first and foremost, I think that our party is united right now, as, you know, we're a very diverse party. We're a big-tent party, and very often we have a lot of ideas. But I think that now - that we're we're united, and I think the nation wants to see a party that's united and a district that's united. I think that that's an important factor in this convention that's starting today. And throughout the rest of the election, folks are going to be looking to see whether there's leadership that could change things in the right direction, whether there's leadership that could usher us out of this pandemic and get us on the right track economically. And for that to happen, I think, that the party has to be united. So the message that the Democratic Party is united is an important message not just for Latinos or not just for African Americans but for all Americans.

GREENE: Well, I want to ask you. I was on the road last week speaking with voters. I was actually in Arizona. One of the voters I spoke with, Lena Crandell (ph), she is Latino - she's Latina. She lives in Arizona. She supports President Trump, and she told me that he's just been viciously attacked by Democrats. Let's hear what she said.

LENA CRANDELL: Hollywood's attacked him. The elite has attacked him. He's been attacked everywhere, and the boxing gloves are still on. And to me, I can stand behind somebody like that. And his views haven't changed on abortion. His views haven't changed on the border. So it's a win-win situation for me.

GREENE: Congressman, I mean, you talk about party unity. You talk about, you know, wanting a change. And the Democratic Party been focusing so much on getting President Trump out of office. But do you worry that the party in some ways could risk taking Latino voters for granted, thinking that an anti-Trump message is going to be enough to turn them out?

ESPAILLAT: Well, I think the party doesn't just think that an anti-Trump message is the all-in-all of this campaign. I think that we are very much part of the platform. You know, Latinos are not a one-issue community. We want to hear about the recovery and how we're going to be able to get our jobs back. You know, Latinos also are very much part of the health care question in the country, even prior - they're very much prior to the pandemic and even more so now. So those that feel that Latinos are, like, a one-issue community are mistaken. We're not just about immigration. We're about economic development. We're about health care. We're about the education of our children, higher education. So these are all issues that are very important, and I think that we have a good platform that the Latino community will gravitate towards.

GREENE: New York Congressman Adriano Espaillat is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, represents parts of the West Bronx and Harlem, joining us on the line this morning. Congressman, thanks so much for your time.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much for having me this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.