"The geographic concentration of Hispanics in essentially east Las Vegas creates an economy of scale when you are running a campaign. Here, 80 percent of the Latinos are in Clark County; it makes the outreach game much easier," said UNLV political scientist David Damore. "The strength of unions here is another big one. If you look at the demographics of Texas and Arizona, Hispanics underperform there. They don't have the union component there (to mobilize voters). Also, (Sen. Harry) Reid was, to his credit, way ahead of the game on this stuff."
In the 1990s there were few successes for Hispanic voters, but by the mid 2000s victories came that set the foundation for future growth, Romero said. State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who first won election in 2006 to the Assembly, is now the upper chamber's majority whip and chair of the revenue committee.
"When Ruben first became an assemblyman, he fought against a Democratic incumbent and didn't have a heck of a lot of support among some Democrats," Romero said. "But he counted on the community, he relied on the community, and the community came through for him. It was the same hard work that got Mo Denis elected in 2004 and then later propelled both of them into the Senate."
Hispanics in Politics has been around for decades, but as Nevada became a swing state and the size of the Hispanic electorate grew, national operations set up outposts. The work that Hispanics in Politics used to do with a few other local organizations is now bolstered by national organizations that see Nevada as an important battleground. Romero became the regional field coordinator for the National Council of La Raza's voter turnout efforts in Nevada.
Civic engagement organization Mi Familia Vota came to Nevada for the 2012 race focused on registering Hispanic voters and convincing them to go to the polls.
When Mi Familia Vota was looking to expand its operations for 2012 and move into several new states including Nevada, it contracted with the Ramirez Group a new political strategy and marketing firm that opened in January 2011 in Las Vegas.
Nevada's Unique Opportunities
Andres Ramirez, 34, used to think the action was in Washington. Before launching his business in downtown Las Vegas, he commuted weekly to Washington for work, coming home on weekends to see his wife and daughter.
The Texas native moved to Las Vegas from California in 1993, when he was in high school, and he quickly noticed the political environment here was different. Ramirez balked at having to repeat his freshman year in high school because his credits were not honored. He took his case to the Clark County School Board and won.
"In California they would've ignored me. I was like 'holy smokes, someone no one knows like me can actually get some attention.' The potential was here to get involved. There weren't those old infrastructures that you might find in places like Los Angeles that act as a barrier for some people because power is so entrenched," Ramirez said.
Ramirez went to Georgetown University for college and then worked for former Gov. Bob Miller. In 1996, Ramirez was hired on to Sen. Harry Reid's staff. Today, Ramirez is vice chairman of Democratic National Committee's Hispanic caucus. Before opening his firm, he was vice president of Hispanic programs for NDN, a Washington-based think tank.
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