Panelists at a Milwaukee luncheon said claims Latino voters are shifting to favor the Republican Party are overblown, while noting the community is not a monolith.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Ricardo Torres, who is also vice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Wisconsin Chapter, asked reporters about where Latino voters stand at Wednesday’s event cohosted by, NAHJ and the Milwaukee Press Club in Milwaukee.

The panelists cautioned against seeing Latino voters as a monolith, while noting some issues of concern for Latino voters include immigration, the economy, education and health care.

“If you’re from Cuba, if you’re from Nicaragua, if you’re from Venezuela, where you’re fleeing socialism and a dictator, right? You have a different set of priorities,” said Darryl Morin, president & CEO of Advanced Wireless, Inc. and president and chairman of Forward Latino.

He added factors such as socioeconomic status, education, and location should also be considered.

Paru Shah, an associate professor of political science at UW-Milwaukee, said the 2020 election showed that Latino voters shouldn’t be lumped together, with some supporting Joe Biden while others voted for Donald Trump.

Racine County Board Supv. Fabi Maldonado, also political director of Voces de la Frontera, said bunching Latino voters together is a big problem in Wisconsin, but added immigration-related issues are a top concern for Wisconsin Latino voters due to a large immigrant community.

All three panelists said they believe claims Latino voters are leaving the Democratic Party are overstated.

Shah said Latino voters are still “very much attached” to progressive politics.

“I don’t think that whole scenario is going to happen unless the Republican Party dramatically changes its tone around immigration,” Shah said.

She added increased Latino support for Republicans in 2020 should be a wake-up call for both parties not to take growth in the voting bloc for granted.

Morin said he agrees claims Latino voters are favoring Republicans more are overstated. He noted Latinos in Wisconsin favored Biden over Trump in 2020.

He also cited support for former Republican President George Bush from Latinos, arguing any shift didn’t happen overnight. Morin said where Latino voters shift will depend on party outreach and policy but also respect.

“When you say the Latino community are drug dealers, they’re murderers, rapists, right, and that gets applied to all — not just immigrants, it gets applied at the end of the day to all — that gets to the very heart of ‘does this party respect me? Does it respect my community? Does it respect my wife? Does it respect my kids?'” Morin said.

Maldonado said in 2020, Latinos in Texas, Georgia and Florida largely supported Biden. He argued Latino support helped Biden win Wisconsin.

“The question should be ‘what is the Republican Party going to do, now that the highest demographic ethnic group is Latinos, what is the Republican Party going to do to get the Latino vote?'” Maldonado said.

Morin noted voters in Miami-Dade County in Florida, who supported Trump in 2020, included lots of Cuban and Venezuelan people who had concerns about socialism.

“The narrative there quickly became if you want socialism and a dictator, right, vote for this party kind of thing versus the other. And I think that was a huge, huge wake-up call for the Democratic Party,” Morin said.

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