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Newsom Won, But He Won Big With Latinos

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Votes are still being counted for the California gubernatorial recall election, but the outcome is clear. Gavin Newsom will continue to serve as governor. Out of the state's 58 counties, 27 voted in favor of the recall. But those numbers change when we look at the Latino vote specifically. Around 40% of the population in California is Latino, so the way they vote can sway an election.

To learn more about how Latinos voted in Tuesday's election, we're joined now by Sonja Diaz. She is founding executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA. Welcome.

SONJA DIAZ: Thanks so much for having me.

CHANG: You know, in national races, we often talk about the Latino vote as if it were some monolith, but obviously it's not. So let me ask you, who is the Latino voter in California, and how do they compare to Latino voters in other states?

DIAZ: Yeah. Latino voters in California are younger than the state's largest electorate, which is white voters. They also lean Democratic. Now this is distinguishable from places in Florida and in Texas where the Republican Party has a higher number of Latino voters who identify with that party. But by and large, Latino voters care about the same things in California that they do in Texas - good jobs and good health care.

CHANG: OK. Well, let's now just dig into the numbers here a bit. How did Latino voters vote, generally, in this recall election, and how does that compare to how Latinos voted in California in other recent elections?

DIAZ: Our research out of UCLA looking at the 2020 presidential found that Latino voters in California, at a 3 to 1 margin, voted for Biden. And now what we were able to ascertain through the data that has been released in the state of California regarding the 2021 gubernatorial is actually outstanding, one of the reasons being that Latino turnout was higher. And in terms of their vote choice, by and large they were against the recall. In Los Angeles County, in high-density precincts with lots of Latino registered voters, 84% voted against the recall.

CHANG: OK. Well, let's look at a specific county where Latinos made a difference. I'm looking at Merced County. That's north of Fresno. It was pretty interesting because the overall vote there was 50/50, but the Latino vote tells a very different story, right?

DIAZ: Absolutely. So it wasn't as high as Los Angeles and Orange counties, but it was high. Merced - 74% of Latinos in these high-density precincts, again, against the recall.

CHANG: OK. Well, Latino voters definitely supported the Democrat in this recall election, Gavin Newsom. But looking at the future, I am wondering if Democrats can just assume that they can rely on the Latino vote?

DIAZ: Well, I was really curious about this recall given that it's on the heels of the 2021 Senate runoffs in Georgia and the work that Arizona organizers had done to send two U.S. senators from that state affiliated with the Democratic Party. Now, here in California, unfortunately what we saw was that it was civil society organizations that were going into low-propensity neighborhoods. These are voters that are registered to vote but need that mobilization to actually cast a ballot.

So the fact that these voters came out, it was because of these community-based organizers that really put a message that was distinct from either party. And that message was defending California from either xenophobia, from a lack of data science, policy, you name it. That was very persuasive to these voters. And by and large, now they're likely voters going into the 2022 midterm elections.

CHANG: Sonja Diaz is founding executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. Thank you very much for joining us today.

DIAZ: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.