The 2018 midterm elections gave Democrats a net gain of 38 seats and control of the U.S. House of Representative. And as more election data comes in, it is apparent that this great success for Democrats was made possible by huge increases in voter turnout all over the country.
A very important statistic for Democrats is the percentage of eligible minority voters who actually vote. And voter participation by the Latino community surged 174 percent in 2018, compared to the 2014 midterms.
In addition, according to Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), voter turnout by African-Americans jumped 157 percent between 2014 and 2018.
In some cases, turnout numbers this year approached turnout for the presidential year of 2016, which is highly unusual.
“Latino voters played a pivotal role in taking back the House,” Lujan told reporters on Tuesday. “Evidence is clear: Early and active and robust outreach to communities of color — in this case, into the Hispanic community — clearly pays off.”
Lujan spoke on a national conference call organized by the political action committee Latino Victory.
Lujan is the first Hispanic to head the DCCC, a very critical role in Congress. He said that the Democratic Party invested over $21 million in Latino candidates in 2018, and it paid off.
In addition, he arranged for the DCCC to create and distribute the first multi-state Spanish-language TV ad that was played during the final week before the midterms.
Showing the increased clout of Latinos in Congress, Lujan is currently contending for the position of Assistant Democratic Leader of the House. Votes on leadership positions will occur after Democrats convene as the majority in the House next year.
In their successful bid to win House control, Democrats targeted 111 Republican House congressional districts, and over 25 percent of these have an electorate that is at least a 10 percent Hispanic.
DCCC executive director Dan Sena said that they used polling experts Latino Decisions to conduct a large number of nationwide focus groups in 2018. This allowed them to correctly identify the opinions of Latino voters and tailor their campaign messages accordingly.
“What we wanted was a real, organic way to engage Latino voters and Hispanic voters across the country with a message that was positive,” Sena said. “We did a fair amount of studying how to create urgency without it feeling overtly heavy.”
Lujan pointed out the victory of Antonio Delgado in upstate New York as an illustration of how Latino candidates can win by keeping their message positive when facing racist attacks.
Delgado is a Harvard Law School graduate and Rhodes scholar and he beat GOP Republican Rep. John Faso for a congressional seat representing the Hudson Valley. Faso and other Republicans attacked Delgado (who is black) for his brief hip-hop career and tried to portray him as unfit for office.
“Antonio did not get distracted by any of that. What he did was he talked to the American people and the people of the 19th District of New York about the economic challenges that they are facing every day,” Lujan said.
Increased Hispanic voter turnout means more Hispanic representatives. In 2019 there will be at least 42 Hispanic members of Congress, which is a record.
There are several important causes of the Blue Wave of 2018, and large increases in minority voter turnout is certainly one of the most important.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.