The state’s Latino population of 630,000 has soared by 92 percent since 2000, and 74 percent of Hispanic U.S. citizens in the state, about 214,000, are registered to vote. Of those, more than two-thirds identify themselves as Democratic — and about 71 percent voted for President Obama last year.
“It’s very exciting. Just a few years ago, you would see maybe one Latino event a month before an election. Now we are having several a week, not just in Northern Virginia but all across the commonwealth,” said Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), who is running for reelection.
Combined with Asian Americans in Virginia, another rapidly growing group of nearly 440,000 that also tends to vote Democratic, analysts say the “New American” vote is poised to have a significant impact on current state races and an even greater effect in the future as Virginia continues to diversify.
“The demographics of Virginia have changed quite significantly, and we are seeing much more political engagement and organizing by Latinos and Asian American groups in state politics now,” said Mark Rozell, a public policy professor at George Mason University. “Very bluntly, groups that attracted little attention 15 years ago are now an important driving force in elections in the state.”
Latinos are heavily involved in the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, both as campaign staffers and as volunteers in numerous counties and cities. McAuliffe, who supports immigration reform, is running Spanish-language ads on Univision and Telemundo TV and has created a “Latinos con Terry” steering committee with more than 300 members across the state.
McAuliffe’s Republican rival, Ken Cuccinelli II, has done more limited outreach to Latino voters, chiefly through the creation of an advisory group in September called “Nuestro Cuccinelli.” The group has an English-language Web site, and the campaign has sent representatives to several Latino business and cultural events.
A spokesman for Cuccinelli said he had a “serious, substantive plan that would grow Virginia’s economy and expand opportunities for Hispanic families.” But his record as a vocal opponent of immigration reform — well-publicized by Democrats — has left many Latinos with an image of Cuccinelli as not sympathetic to their concerns.
Both campaigns have taken pains to reach out to Asian American voters, visiting South Asian, Vietnamese, Korean and Filipino communities in Northern Virginia. They make up only 3 percent of the state’s registered voters, compared with 6 percent for Latinos, but they have also been a major source of donations to Democratic candidates.