U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-New Mexico) spoke briefly during the opening of the RNC Hispanic community center in southwest Albuquerque on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. (Photo by Shelby Wyatt for Source NM)
Attempting to capture votes on the southside of Albuquerque, the Republican National Committee opened what it’s calling a Hispanic community center on Thursday.
This is the 35th minority center the Republican National Committee has set up in the U.S. It’s meant to serve as a political and casual gathering spot, said Alex Kuehler, RNC western region spokesperson.
The GOP has been focused on garnering support and votes from minority groups. The party spent millions of dollars on outreach efforts, like opening these centers around the nation.
Chairperson of the Republican Party of New Mexico Steve Pearce said at the event that Republicans are committed to growing their party, especially to include communities that haven’t traditionally voted for them.
“Republicans are going to invite all people to be a part of the Republican party,” Pearce said. “They’re looking for our values. They’re looking for people who have morals. They’re looking for people who want faith, family and freedom. And that’s the reason we’re here in the South Valley.”
South Valley residents rolled into the new CD2
About 80% of the South Valley’s population is Hispanic, according to 2021 federal population estimates based on census data. And now that the region is part of the second congressional district — typically a stronghold for the state’s southern Republicans — some South Valley residents will have a say in whether the GOP will continue to hold the seat.
Republicans objected to the redrawn voting district maps approved late last year, saying they’d been gerrymandered and made U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell’s re-election less certain.
Herrell will now depend on voters from the South Valley in addition to her southern N.M. constituents to remain in Congress. At the event, officials also announced the start of a Hispanics for Yvette Coalition.
“It doesn’t matter what race, what culture, whatever you celebrate,” Herrell said. “Let’s just remind each other that we should identify as Americans first.”
State House Rep. Rod Montoya represents a northwestern New Mexico district in the Legislature, and he was there for the redistricting battle in Santa Fe. He said the redrawn map could actually open the door to GOP gains in central and northern New Mexico, which are often strongly blue.
“As we go forward, the way that they redistricted, all three of those seats are potentially available for Republicans to win,” Montoya said.
Another RNC Hispanic center is planned for Las Cruces in southern New Mexico, though there’s not a set timeline yet. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said he wants to see a similar hub for Native Americans open on the Navajo Nation, which includes western parts of the state.
The Hispanic vote
The issue of inflation, which disproportionately affects minority communities, is in play this election cycle. It was brought up multiple times at Thursday’s event, and it’s an issue of concern for Hispanics, according to Reuters. Many attendees said that’s part of the reason they’re voting Republican come November.
Joaquin Romero lives in Santa Fe, but he grew up in the South Valley, he said, and that’s part of why he wanted to be at Thursday’s event. To get more Hispanics registering and voting Republican, there needs to be more representation, Romero said.
“It’s well time that the Republican party starts to look more like the state,” Romero said. “Faces that look like the community and that can identify culturally with the unique culture that Hispanics in New Mexico have” will inspire long-term commitment to the GOP.
Gabe Vasquez is Herrell’s Democratic opponent in the CD2 race. Even though he’s Hispanic, Romero said, representation also comes down to having the right values.
What people want from the center
Romero said this center is an investment in the community by the Republican party.
“I grew up just down the street, went to Valley High School. The South Valley has been very important to me,” Romero said. “I hope to see services come out of this place. This is a community that’s in need of help.”
There are a number of things the center could do to help the area flourish, Romero said, including teaching English as a second language, offering business classes or hosting school supply drives. Some of these things have been offered in other states’ RNC minority centers.
“It could raise the economic status, create a hub of economic innovation here that I think could uplift this community in a way that they haven’t been able to do through policy for years,” Romero said.
Rose Gonzales, a first-generation Mexican American whose parents came from Mexico, attended to show her support for the Republican Hispanic representation in southern New Mexico. She used to be a Democrat but said the nature of the party felt oppressive and so she switched to the Republican party in the 2010s.
Still, she said she wants to see education for the Hispanic community, regardless of political affiliation.
“This is a good opportunity to be a voice and to have a voice for the Hispanic, Mexicano, Latino, Chicano community in their own turf,” Gonzales said.
Kuehler said attendees had great suggestions that will be considered for future events.
RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks said the center in Albuquerque will have volunteer trainings, candidate visits, American citizenship test study sessions, as well as more laid-back events like pizza parties.
“This is an opportunity for us to build relationships,” Hicks said. “We need to talk about what we stand for as Republicans.”
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