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Key Latino group urges Dems not to write off Florida

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As Democrats ramp up spending for the midterms, there’s an ongoing debate among national party officials, donors and major outside groups over how much time and money to commit to Florida in the wake of the party’s crushing losses there in 2020.

As part of an effort to make sure the state isn’t written off by Democrats, Latino Victory Fund, a Democratic super PAC, is backing candidates in two Florida primaries — endorsements that come with a six-figure investment in ads, fundraising events and organizing help for the state.

The progressive organization will announce Tuesday that it will endorse Annette Taddeo, a Miami-area state senator running for governor, and Maxwell Frost, an activist running for an Orlando-area congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Val Demings, who is vying for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat.

The endorsements are designed to send a larger message to the party: Show up for Florida or Democrats risk losing ground with Hispanic voters.

There are “folks who are kind of abandoning the state and we said, ‘We’ve invested too much time, energy and resources and we are going to continue investing because Florida is too critical of a state,’” said Nathalie Rayes, president and CEO of Latino Victory Fund. “We cannot build national Latino political power without investing in Florida. The state must always, always, always be part of the equation.”

Democrats are facing an uphill battle this year in Florida — home to the third largest Hispanic population in the country. After a series of bruising losses over the last three election cycles, the state’s status as the nation’s largest swing state has been put into question.

In 2020, Joe Biden lost the state by more than three percentage points. While he won the majority of the Florida Latino vote, Donald Trump made some of his most impressive gains with Latinos there. Late last year, Florida Republicans officially outnumbered Democrats in registered voters for the first time in state history.

Still, Rayes said that Democrats need to remember that it hasn’t been that long since Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and 2012. Obama also made notable inroads with the state’s conservative-leaning Cuban Americans during his two campaigns.

Rayes shares the concern of other Democratic operatives that donors are weighing spending their money in states that currently appear more competitive than Florida, such as Arizona and Wisconsin. One longtime Latino Democratic operative said more Florida donors are echoing the opinion that resources could be better spent elsewhere, which the operative insisted should worry all Democrats about the party’s future in the nation’s third-most populous state.

“I hadn’t really seen that happen before and that helps solidify this national narrative that investments and resources are better leveraged in other states we narrowly won,” said the operative, who was granted anonymity to speak openly about the party’s Florida troubles. “If Florida donors themselves are not pushing back against the national narrative, it doesn’t give a lot of encouragement or urgency for people to come and invest.”

The operative cautioned there are still donors doubling down on investing in the state because there’s an understanding that their contributions aren’t only about Democrats winning the current election but future elections.

Rayes said she has already spoken to several groups, such as Hispanic Federation, a Latino nonprofit that works to register voters, that aren’t planning to step away from Florida this year.

A nonprofit founded by Biden allies, Building Back Together, has also begun to run both English and Spanish-language ads in the state. Last month, the group announced a $1.5 million ad campaign focused on reaching key constituencies, including Latino voters, in battleground states. Of that, the group is spending six figures on targeting Florida Hispanics with ads that are already airing in the state, a spokesperson for Building Back Together said.

Taddeo, who would become the state’s first Latina governor if she wins the Democratic nomination and defeats GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis in November, has long been warning her party that they will continue losing ground in Florida if they don’t focus on and improve their Latino outreach immediately. Now is not the time for national groups and donors to give up on the state, she said.

“The races in Florida are always going to be close and about the margins,” Taddeo said, adding that she doesn’t think Florida is losing its position as a swing state.

“Now, if we don’t get the Hispanic vote back, then yes, we will. It’s a must,” she said. “Clearly, the Republicans get it.”

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