Latino voters critical to Yadira Caraveo victory in CO’s 8th district

Hispanic voters proved instrumental in sending Colorado’s first Latina lawmaker to Congress, pushing Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo over the top this week in what turned out to be a tantalizingly close race to represent the state’s new 8th Congressional District.

That was the takeaway from the first-ever Colorado Latino Exit Poll, which surveyed in-depth 531 Latino voters across the state from Oct. 10 through Tuesday. Gabe Sanchez, a pollster with BSP Research, broke down the findings of the survey with reporters Thursday.

In the 8th district, where nearly 200 Latino voters were polled, the survey found that three of four of them chose Caraveo over her Republican opponent, state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer. With such a tiny margin separating the two candidates — Caraveo led Kirkmeyer by less than a percent late Thursday — Sanchez said it proved the difference between a win and a loss.

“So with the opportunity to vote for Latina Yadira Caraveo, Latinos in CD8 did so in large numbers,” he said. “The fact that 75% of Latinos in this heavily Hispanic district supported their fellow Latino, we think definitely that without the Latino electorate going hard for her, she would not be the first Latina ever to enter the U.S. House from the state of Colorado.”

Kirkmeyer conceded the race to Caraveo Wednesday evening as it became clear that the part of the district more politically aligned with her — namely Weld County — was largely done counting votes while Democrat-friendly Adams County still had thousands of ballots to tally.

The district, created last year as part of the decennial redistricting process, is Colorado’s most heavily Latino congressional district with nearly 40% of the population describing themselves that way. About one in four registered voters in the district is Latino.

Caraveo, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who became a pediatrician and a state lawmaker, also credited her fellow Latino voters for her victory during a press conference she held Thursday morning in the backyard of her childhood home in Adams County’s Sherrelwood neighborhood.

“Latinos in Colorado are very different from Latinos across the country, and Latinos across the 8th district are different from one another,” she said. “But what I can tell you I saw in this campaign was how unified they were behind having a voice, behind the ability to share a story, a language with somebody who really would understand them, who came up in their community and who could represent them in Congress.”

From her experience knocking on doors in the district that covers portions of Weld, Adams and Larimer counties north of Denver, Caraveo said Latinos were “key in getting me elected.”

“I had so many people pull me aside, give me hugs give me kisses on the cheek and say, ‘It’s so great to finally see somebody like us, not just running for congress but possibly representing us,’” she said as her parents and sister looked on.

Despite predictions and GOP aspirations that Hispanic voters were quietly shifting rightward politically as inflation, crime and other kitchen-table issues began to dominate the 2022 midterm elections, BSP Research’s exit poll showed that Colorado Latinos went for Democrats over Republicans by a two-to-one margin.

Gov. Jared Polis got 70% of Colorado’s Latino vote, Attorney General Phil Weiser garnered 58%, Secretary of State Jena Griswold got 65% and Treasurer Dave Young got 63%, according to the poll’s findings.

Survey results also showed majorities of Latino voters in Colorado pointed to Democrats as best equipped to address issues like the economy, abortion, gun violence, conservation and immigration. Support for Democrats was higher among foreign-born and Spanish-speaking Latino voters and among Latinos under 30, the poll found.

Still, there was some shift to the right among Latinos in Colorado over the last two years. The survey found that slightly more Latinos statewide reported their ideology moving to the conservative side over those moving leftward when compared to 2020.

But the situation in the 8th Congressional District was the opposite. Nineteen percent of respondents said they had moved to the left over the last two years while only 9% reported shifting to a more conservative mindset, according to the survey.

That led to 73% support for Democrat Michael Bennet in the U.S. Senate race among 8th district Latinos compared to 70% support for the Democrat among Latinos statewide.

Even compared to other congressional districts in Colorado where the Hispanic population is large, the 8th leaned more Democratic. The exit poll found that 75% of 8th district Latinos voted for a Democrat compared to 68% of Latinos in Colorado’s 1st Congressional District, which covers Denver.

It’s not that Kirkmeyer and Republicans didn’t make significant efforts to court Latino voters in the 8th district. The Republican National Committee opened a Hispanic Community Center in Thornton over the summer and the GOP upped its ground game in the district with invigorated door-knocking and outreach.

But Sanchez said while a candidate’s position on the issues is most important to a Latino voter, the shared ethnic connection between candidate and voter can be the “push factor” to earn that voter’s support.

“It’s often that Latino candidates like this one typically do a better job of actually outreaching to Latino voters,” he said. “They typically have staffs that are bilingual — they have all those other resources at their disposal because they happen to be from the same community. They just do a bit better job of being able to connect with their constituents that happen to share their ethnicity.”

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