Bernie Sanders just turned in his best performance among Hispanic voters to date, and now has a key endorsement from Arizona's most influential Latino-rights organization --- the first ever in its existence.
Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, announced this week that it was backing Bernie Sanders for the presidential nomination. The organization has previously never given an endorsement to a candidate, noted Tomas Robles, the non-profit organization's executive director.
But Robles said the group broke its precedent to endorse Sanders, noting that its members were "frustrated with the establishment" and wanted the change Sanders has promised to bring."Looking at his record and what he's stood for, it only makes sense that LUCHA members back him," Robles said (via the Phoenix New Times).
Many of LUCHA's points of emphasis align with the Sanders campaign, including the fight for a $15 minimum wage and fair elections.
"Every day, we hear the stories of Moms working at fast-food restaurants for 11 years and only making $11 an hour and students who want to get more involved but their tuition is squeezing them," said Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of LUCHA. "At every turn, our community is being squeezed, and the only candidate speaking for them is Bernie."The endorsement comes at a key time for the Sanders campaign, which just won the Hispanic vote in the Nevada caucus. Until very recently Sanders has largely trailed Hillary Clinton among non-white voters, a segment he will need to improve in order to gain ground on Clinton beyond Super Tuesday.
Experts have noted a growing split among Hispanic voters, a demographic where Clinton once held large leads. Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velásquez Institute, which has run exit polling in Nevada, said Sanders out-performed Clinton among Latino voters, and especially has the enthusiasm of younger voters.
"The leadership that is older is all Clinton, but the younger Latinos, they're with Sanders," Gonzalez told the Los Angeles Times. The report added, "Gonzalez said the rift is present in his own family. 'My daughters are Sanders people,' he said. 'My wife is with Hillary.' "
A report from NBC News noted that Sanders is making gaining rapidly among Clinton's "firewall" of Latino voters.
"While our national surveys have shown little discernible trend among all Democrats since the Iowa Caucuses, the movement among Latino voters suggests that a critical part of the so-called firewall of support that Clinton's campaign had hoped to rely on among non-white Democrats may be crumbling."Sanders has closed the gap with Hillary Clinton within the last week, and with a national poll from Fox News shows Sanders with a 3-point lead over Clinton. He has also increased his numbers among non-white voters, but Clinton still has many key advantages, including leads in some large upcoming states and an edge in polling of likely voters.
The LUCHA endorsement could be especially important in Arizona, where Bernie Sanders once trailed Clinton by 20 points but was just 3 percentage points behind in the latest analysis from NBC News.
He also has momentum from some other key endorsements of Latino leaders in Arizona. This week, State Senator Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix) and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo joined close to a dozen other Latino leaders to endorse Sanders, the Phoenix New Times noted.
"He's an individual who puts American ideals before special interests," Quezada said. "He's a candidate who puts the voters ahead of lobbyists. And he's a candidate who puts people ahead of corporations. Those are things that so many politicians nowadays do not do anymore."
The fight for Latino voters is expected to grow more intense as Super Tuesday nears, and if Bernie Sanders continues to make gains, he could reap benefits beyond Arizona to states like Texas, where Latinos comprise one-quarter of all voters.
[Image via Instagram/Bernie Sanders]