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Michelle Lujan Grisham says the convention is less important than what comes after for Democrats’ Latino outreach

Washington Post politics reporter Eugene Scott interviews New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) about why she believes Joe Biden should be elected president in November and speculation about potential roles she might play in a Biden administration. (Video: The Washington Post)

Some Latino Democrats have expressed disappointment that more prominent voices from their community aren’t in prime spots at the Democratic National Convention given the demographic’s size in the American population. One of nominee Joe Biden’s most prominent Latina surrogates said Wednesday that is not a reflection of the team’s interest in addressing issues of importance to Latino voters.

The convention’s official schedule features three prominent Latino politicians: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), the first Latina U.S. senator; rising star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.); and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was among those considered for Biden’s vice-presidential pick and who appeared at a Washington Post Live virtual event Wednesday.

“There are as many Republicans speaking on night one as there are Latinos speaking the whole week,” Sawyer Hackett, who advises Julián Castro, the only Latino to seek the White House in 2020, told The Washington Post’s León Krauze.

While Lujan Grisham praised the contributions of Castro, who was not given a speaking role, she said Wednesday that the focus at this point has to be on looking beyond the convention toward November.

“With just 70-plus days to go, we can’t waste any more moments debating how many of us can discuss what a great ticket this is,” she said during The Post’s virtual event. “But it’s all of us, in every environment we have, whether it’s nationally televised or just at the kitchen table, we’ve got to deliver and make sure we have a Biden presidency.”

There has been a consistent thread of concern among some Latino voters that the Democratic Party takes them for granted and does not do enough to engage voters. During the Democratic primary, one of the reasons Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) performed so well in Nevada was his Latino outreach, something some in the community believe was less robust after the former vice president became the presumptive nominee.

While Biden was beating Trump with Latino voters in a June NPR poll — 59 percent to 39 percent — he was underperforming compared with 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who ultimately won 66 percent of the Latino vote.

Biden often touts his long-term relationship with Black voters, from his earliest days in Congress representing Delaware to becoming the vice president to America’s first Black president. But his relationship with Latino voters is less entrenched; it’s a population that is on average younger than Black voters and is generally less politically engaged. It is this fact that helped newcomers such as Ocasio-Cortez — previously a Sanders surrogate — energize Latino voters for Sanders, who often spoke about income inequality between working-class people of color and the wealthy Americans for whom they worked.

The Biden campaign is hoping that Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), whose home state has one of the largest Latino populations in the country, can help improve the campaign’s numbers with this voting bloc, a group into which Republicans are also trying to make inroads. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic adults approved of Biden’s choosing Harris, according to the most recent Post survey.

Castro, who worked with Biden as the housing secretary in the Obama administration, told PBS on Tuesday that he believes the Democrats will win Latino votes but that it won’t be easy, given the opposition.

“Donald Trump and his team are doing everything that they can to try and suppress the vote, from sabotaging our Postal Service, to trying to chill the willingness of the Latino community to vote by being so anti-immigrant and raising questions about people’s ability to vote,” he said. “So, we can’t take anything for granted.”

Lujan Grisham told me that she — and the Biden-Harris team — will not do that. In fact, she hopes to enlist Castro and others in her efforts to make sure as many Latino voters as possible get to the polls to support the former vice president.

“He’s a powerful voice, and I intend to use that powerful voice and others just like that to engage the Hispanic and Latino community’s vote all across the country,” she told me. “And I hope that whatever small effort that I have tonight, that I can reassure every community of color that this is the right choice for you.”