Georgia Senate Candidates Scramble to Ramp up Ads in Spanish to Reach Latino Voters

Republicans want Latinos in Georgia to know their opponents are socialists. Democratic Senate candidates wants Latino voters to know who they are and that only they will provide COVID financial relief. Both are up against the clock when it comes to critical Spanish-language outreach.

Latino voters often are not top of mind in the January special elections that will decide which party controls the Senate, and go a long way toward deciding how much President-elect Joe Biden will be able to implement his agenda after his election win last month.

But with 270,000 registered voters, 185,000 of whom voted in November, the bloc is large enough to influence the runoff elections between Senator David Purdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, and Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Reverend Raphael Warnock.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee was up with one of the first ads on behalf of Loeffler at the end of November about the importance of retaining Senate control, and the spending on Spanish-language TV in the race has been competitive, with Warnock making ad reservations of $59,880 from December 8 to January 5, and Loeffler spending $43,467, according to ad tracking reports.

Aided by Nuestro PAC, an outside group, the disparity is much larger on Spanish-language radio, with Warnock outspending Loeffler $235,268 to $18,231, during the same time period.

Ossoff ad reservations are $262,655 on Spanish-language TV and $192,338 on radio over the same final period of the race. Perdue's spending is unclear because it was just made in recent days and isn't yet reflected. He is being aided by the Koch-backed LIBRE Initiative Action, which is not running ads for him but already had an infrastructure in the state and is going door to door speaking to Latinos on his behalf.

The NRSC and RNC did not respond to a request for comment about their work on behalf of Loeffler and Purdue.

Interestingly, LIBRE, which backed Perdue in the general election, is not aiding Loeffler for the special election. The group said that contrary to popular belief, they have limited resources, and Perdue better matches their policy views on economic prosperity, health care and educational freedom.

Some Democrats and Latino advocates on the ground in Georgia, however, said the Spanish-language ad spending edges, which include outside groups like Indivisible, Mi Familia Vota and Nuestro PAC, are not enough.

I don't believe enough has been done in Spanish. Latinos are enthusiastic about voting but don't know much about the candidates, so they have a lot of work to do there.
Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials

"I don't believe enough has been done in Spanish," said Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO). "Latinos are enthusiastic about voting but don't know much about the candidates, so they have a lot of work to do there."

Chuck Rocha, the Nuestro PAC founder, went up with Spanish-language radio ads this week, saying Ossoff and Warnock will help deliver COVID financial relief, a $15 minimum wage and immigration reform. He said the messaging should be simple: How to vote, when to vote and who to vote for.

"There is a lot of money flowing into Latino outreach in Georgia, but what is concerning is that it's all going to organizations on the ground doing nonpartisan and issue advocacy work," he said. "I'm worried that not enough money is going to TV and radio in a partisan-expressed way to tell Latinos who stands with us and who stands against us."

National grassroots group Mi Familia Vota is attempting to pick up some of that slack on the Spanish-language airwaves, to the tune of a $600,000 Georgia investment, which includes bilingual ad buys on radio and digital, and 30 canvassers on the ground. The group's message to Latino voters learning that they have to vote again is that while Trump is not on the ballot, his policies are alive and well in the Senate. The best way to repeal those policies, the group says, is to take back the Senate.

The messaging on the Republican side has taken an expected turn. Perdue has said Ossoff will do and say anything that "supports his radical socialist agenda," which Politifact rated "pants on fire." The NRSC ad for Loeffler went further, saying in Spanish that America is the land of liberty, but asking if that will continue if Democrats control the Senate. It calls Warnock a "radical socialist," linking him to the deceased former Cuban leader Fidel Castro over previous statements.

Daniel Garza, executive director of LIBRE Initiative Action, said his group is not calling Ossoff a socialist because that title is about the government assuming the means of production, but said he would advance policies that are "socialist-like," including getting the government more involved in health care and education.

The Ossoff campaign said that in addition to paid media buys on television and radio, it is investing in bilingual digital advertisements and Spanish-language direct mail to Latinos. The campaign said former presidential candidate Julian Castro and former congressman Luis Gutierrez have made campaign stops on Ossoff's behalf but did not address the socialism charge levied by Republicans.

But Jose Parra, a veteran Democratic strategist, said the socialism messaging won't work as well in Georgia as it did in Florida in November.

"It's not Florida anymore," Parra told Newsweek. "It's mostly Mexican immigrants that don't have the same history with socialism as Cubans, Venezuelans or Nicaraguans, so the key there is a more-concerted effort to turn Latino voters out."

georgia latinos
People attend a rally with former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro and Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, on December 7, 2020, in Lilburn, Georgia. Ossoff is running against Senator David Perdue (R-GA), while his fellow Democrat, Rev. Raphael Warnock, is in a closely watched race with Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA). The rally comes ahead of the crucial January 5 election in Georgia that will decide who controls the United States Senate. Spencer Platt/Getty