The first Spanish-language advertisement of the Senate race between former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Senator Cory Gardner was released by Hickenlooper on Aug. 18.
The ad highlights how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the Latino community. A press release by the Hickenlooper campaign explained that the ad is meant to shine a light on how poorly President Donald Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
“The ad, called ‘Terrible,’ contrasts John’s record of expanding health care in Colorado with the failed leadership of President Trump and Washington during COVID-19,” the release stated. “Because of this failure, there are three times more cases of COVID-19 within the Latino community. In the Senate, John will fight to cover the cost of COVID treatment and to make sure insurance companies can’t deny coverage for people with preexisting conditions.”
Hickenlooper has started running another ad in both English and Spanish about a former employee of his when he was an owner of the Wynkoop Brewery. The employee was paralyzed after being struck by a drunk driver but was allowed to stay on the company’s healthcare plan. An article by Colorado Politics pointed out that the commercial was a response to ads attacking Hickenlooper for ethics violations.
On Sept. 1, two weeks after Hickenlooper, the Gardner campaign also released a commercial, called ‘Rosie’s Diner,’ in Spanish and English. Gardner’s ad focused on his fight for forgivable loans for small businesses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I backed forgivable loans so small businesses like Rosie’s Diner and their employees could get the help they needed to survive COVID-19 closures,” said Gardner in a statement. “Unfortunately, Governor Hickenlooper hypocritically criticized the program even though companies he invests in received loans. As usual, when it comes to Governor Hickenlooper, it’s more about him than what is best for Coloradans.”
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Democrats have criticized the loan forgiveness program for not supporting minority-owned businesses and populations without access to traditional banks. A study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a group of grassroots organizations that works to end discrimination in lending and business, found that Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applicants faced discrimination based on race.
In Arizona, liberal groups like the Senate Majority PAC and the SomosPAC launched a seven-figure Spanish-language radio and television campaign promoting U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly. Kelly, similar to Hickenlooper, is leading his vulnerable incumbent Republican opponent in polls. Also, in the presidential race both Trump and Joe Biden have unveiled attack ads in Spanish.
In 2018 NBC News Latino reported how political candidates, even ones that do not speak Spanish themselves, can be boosted in the eyes of Spanish-speaking voters when they run Spanish-language ads. The key, according to experts, is to provide valuable information in a language they can understand.
During the Democratic presidential debates last June candidates such as Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker spoke Spanish in an attempt to appeal to Latino voters. The problem was, the Spanish was not substantial, full of banal grammatical errors, and not relating to the question asked, according to some members of the Spanish-speaking community.
These individuals considered the candidates’ Spanish to be simply a “symbolic gesture” or an example of “Hispandering,” a portmanteau of ‘Hispanic’ and ‘pandering.’
Melissa Mark-Viverito, interim president for the Latino Victory Fund, a PAC dedicated to increasing Latino representation in Government, was at the debate and told the AP that she welcomed the use of Spanish.
“In the time I have been part of the debates, I’ve never seen candidates directly reach out to our community in that way,” Mark-Viverito told the AP. “It’s important that we have candidates who speak to our community.”
According to a Pew Research Center poll, 13 percent of Latinos who are currently registered to vote speak Spanish as their primary language.
Martha Hernandez de la Garza, a Spanish professor at the University of Colorado, said that while it is helpful for Spanish voters to be informed and included in the conversation, she wants to make sure Spanish speakers are not forgotten about after the election.
“For candidates it is easy to just ask someone who speaks Spanish to be the candidates’ voice in a commercial because politicians think that Hispanics are going to see themselves in that person and will be easy to convince us that way,” Hernandez de la Garza. “What these politicians probably do not know is that many of those Hispanics are educated and aware that they belong to a strong group that could change the voting results. Therefore, we do not like to be used and then forgotten after Election time. We Hispanics want solutions not just empty promises.”
Gardner’s office did not respond to a phone call to ask if they would be running more Spanish-language commercials.