The race for Congress: Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine launches first Spanish ad
The Senate candidate needs Latino support to win in November.
In addition to this year’s presidential race, Latino voters could help decide the outcome in a number of Senate and House races. In no place is that truer than Virginia.
Former Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic Senate nominee, is going on the air with his first Spanish-language advertisement of the election aimed directly at the state’s burgeoning Latino population. The 30-second spot, titled “Valores” (Values), touts Kaine’s experience as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras (where he learned to speak Spanish) and emphasizes his positions on education and immigration, two top voting issues for Latinos. A 60-second version is going on the radio.
“I will never forget my time living in Honduras… where I learned more about faith and family. Values I still appreciate today,” he says in Spanish. “As governor, I worked with the Hispanic community. I increased the attendance of children in prekindergarten. I also increased state contracts given to small businesses. As your senator I will continue to invest in education and support immigration reform.”
Kaine is locked in a virtual dead heat with Republican George Allen, himself a former governor and senator, in one of the most highly-watched Senate contests this year. With the contest so close, a small amount of voters could end up swinging the election.
For Kaine, turnout among voters from racial and ethnic minority groups is important. African-American and Latino voters in 2008 helped then-Sen. Barack Obama become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in a generation. Sixty-five percent of Latino voters backed Obama four years ago.
Over the last ten years, the Latino population in Virginia almost doubled and Latinos now make up 8 percent of the state’s overall population, according to Census data. Two years ago there were 183,000 eligible Latino voters in the state and many of them have personally dealt with the nation’s immigration system; 36 percent are naturalized citizens, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, with many immigrants coming from El Salvador and Mexico.
A poll of Virginia Latino voters conducted by Latino Decisions in June found that 53 percent would support a Democrat in the Senate race while 32 percent preferred a Republican, while 15 percent said they were undecided. The survey is flawed in the sense that it did not test the actual candidates, just a generic Republican against a Democrat. But it’s one of the only recent measures of how Latinos feel about the Senate contest in Virginia.
Kaine’s campaign did not say how much money would be placed behind this ad in particular, but it is part of a purchase of $250,000 on Spanish-language airwaves between now and Election Day.
Kaine has aggressively courted Latino voters since beginning his campaign. He’s showed off his Spanish-speaking skills at multiple town hall events with Latino voters across the state. Allen has also attempted efforts at Latino outreach, bringing in Sen. Marco Rubio (R), a Cuban-American from Florida, to campaign on his behalf in June.