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Latino Early Voters In Nevada Weigh In On Democratic Primary Candidates


In Nevada, Latinos are among those lining up at early voting sites ahead of Saturday's Democratic caucus. Those waiting say they are worried about President Trump and his anti-immigrant rhetoric. They also say they're worried about the economy, jobs, health care. NPR's Claudia Grisales has been speaking with Latino voters near the strip in Las Vegas.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Rosa Mares says in her native Spanish she's voting for the first time in a U.S. election.

ROSA MARES: (Speaking Spanish).

GRISALES: The Las Vegas Strip housekeeper has lived here for more than 30 years but just became a U.S. citizen a few months ago. With prompting from her family, she went to an early caucus site at her local union office.


GRISALES: She belongs to the Culinary Workers Union, which didn't endorse anyone this year. And Mares isn't sharing her choice for nominee, either, but she did say her union health care is critical. But she's especially worried about Trump's immigration policies.

MARES: (Speaking Spanish).

GRISALES: Mares says it's dividing Americans. She's also proof of major efforts to get a new wave of Latinos engaged in politics for the first time. Nevada Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto thinks it's working.

CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO: I ran in 2016. The energy that exists now did not exist in 2016, and we won in 2016. So there's a lot happening here, and people are really engaged, and they are going to turn out for election here in Nevada.

GRISALES: She was elected the state's first female senator thanks in part to a wave of Latino support. She's predicting even higher turnout in 2020. Back at the early voting site, casino cook Francisco Lopez says he voted early for former Vice President Joe Biden. Like others we talked to, he felt more at ease speaking in Spanish and urged Latinos to stick together.

FRANCISCO LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

GRISALES: He says united, they can't be divided. At another early voting site at local grocery store Cardenas Market, we ran into Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. The Nevada caucus was moved up in the Democratic nominating schedule because of its diversity.

TOM PEREZ: Latino voter engagement here, not just now but over recent years, that's been the difference.

GRISALES: The early voting site for workers near the Las Vegas Strip was no ordinary caucus experience. There were taco and cookie food trucks serving long lines of hungry customers, and a mariachi band was playing.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing in Spanish).

GRISALES: Nearby, Labor organized an event focused on boosting turnout among women.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) We vote; we win. We vote; we win.

GRISALES: Both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren made their pitches. Union members passed out headsets so some could listen to live Spanish translations. Many Democratic candidates pledged to be there for this critical voting contingent and also made the case they can be Trump. Here's Klobuchar.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: I know you, and I will fight for you.

GRISALES: Geoconda Arguello Kline, a leader of the Culinary Workers Union, says although they didn't endorse a candidate this year, they'll unite behind the Democratic nominee.

GEOCONDA ARGUELLO KLINE: Whatever candidate going to be nominee, we're going to knock on doors, have an army over here, talk to people, do phone calls, send them texts, pass a leaflet - do whatever we need to do, whatever it takes to win.

GRISALES: Caucus results here Saturday could signal where Latinos will land their support in this primary fight. They're also going to be a factor in Super Tuesday contests for states like Texas and California on March 3.

Claudia Grisales, NPR News, Las Vegas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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