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Latino Democrats launch 'Our Lucha' war room using Spanglish to combat GOP

Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., is among the members using Spanglish--meaning a mix of English and Spanish--to communicate with constituents.
Anna Moneymaker
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Getty Images
Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., is among the members using Spanglish--meaning a mix of English and Spanish--to communicate with constituents.

As the youngest candidate elected to Congress last year, Florida Democratic Rep. Maxwell Frost says Spanglish was key in connecting with voters.

"You might be nervous doing a full ad in Spanish and maybe sounding, you know, like a 'gringo' or whatever, and you don't want to sound that way," Frost, 27, told NPR recently from his Capitol Hill office.

However, Spanglish — switching back and forth between Spanish and English, sometimes in the same sentence — may be a more effective way to "speak with all your constituents," he added.

Frost is part of new, groundbreaking project this election cycle for Latino House Democrats who today are launching a campaign war room using Spanish and Spanglish to boost candidates in key congressional races. In an exclusive preview for NPR, leaders of the BOLD PAC, the fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the effort will be backed by an initial six-figure budget.

The campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is calling the new effort "Our Lucha War Room," or their fight for Latinos and boosting their representation in Congress.

"This is the first war room that has ever had Latinos in mind from the very beginning and at its very core," said Victoria McGroary, executive director of BOLD PAC. "So every single thing that we have done in designing this war room is with the lens of: How can we communicate this best to a Latino audience?"

Power in communicating the way voters communicate

Florida Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an endorsed BOLD PAC candidate running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Sen. Rick Scott this cycle, has battled misinformation in her state for years.

That included testimony before members of Congress about its spread on Spanish language media.

She says the new "Lucha" war room will be a boost in her race.

"This is more critical than ever as we continue to see disinformation being spread and targeted to Latinos," she said. "And we know that there are going to be over 35 million Latinos that are eligible to vote in these November elections."

The war room will target Senate races in Florida, as well as the battleground state of Arizona, where BOLD PAC endorsed Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego. The Arizona race — where Gallego could face off against former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake — could decide control of the Senate in 2025.

Already, "Lucha" war room launched an ad targeting Lake and her "extremist" views.

Expanding on a presentation that worked

BOLD PAC leaders say this new effort will expand on test cases led by congressional candidates like Frost, who released a Spanglish ad in his last campaign.

"My abuela," he says in the ad referring to his grandmother, "taught me early on to always look out for my community."

Last year, a Pew Research study found that Spanglish is widespread among Latinos. More than a majority, 63%, now use the combination of Spanish and English.

With this in mind, the "Lucha" war room is part of Latino Democrats' larger mission to defeat Republican candidates, and especially the party's more extreme candidates.

They'll start with a focus on a dozen key races around the country with ads on YouTube and other social media platforms. The races include two for U.S. Senate and 10 swing House congressional districts in West Coast states such as California, as well as in Colorado, Nebraska and Texas.

McGroary said the effort is designed to reach every generation of Latino in the same household.

"We want to make sure that all of the content that we are creating right down to the logo and the name," she says, "that every piece of what we are doing is designed with the Latino audience in mind."

Combating misinformation to win competitive races

California Democratic Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, who is the chairwoman for BOLD PAC,says the war room is poised to quickly respond to misinformation and disinformation.

The BOLD PAC is launching the Lucha War Room under the direction of the group's first entirely female leadership team.
Catie Dull / NPR
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NPR
The BOLD PAC is launching the Lucha War Room under the direction of the group's first entirely female leadership team.

She points to the recent, fake robocalls impersonating President Biden in the New Hampshire primaries as an example of what would trigger the Lucha war room into action.

"We think this is long overdue. We're making a sizable investment in this," Sánchez told NPR. "And that's just a down payment on, you know, further investment and ... making sure that voters have accurate information."

McGroary, the BOLD PAC executive director, also notes it would be historic if Latinos were elected in either the Arizona or Florida Senate races.

"It is critically important that Democrats defend the Senate this cycle," she says. Also, "Arizona has never had a Latino senator. ... In Florida, they have never had a Latina senator."

Back at Congressman Frost's office, he remembers all of the young Latinos who reached out after that first ad featuring Spanglish.

"Young Latinos who are maybe first- or second-generation Americans ... oftentimes use Spanglish," he said. And "after we put out that ad, we received a lot of texts and DMs from like young Latinos who ... said, 'I love that ad' ... so I think that we'll see a lot more Spanglish ads going on across the country."

Destinee Adams produced the audio for this piece. contributed to this story

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Destinee Adams
Destinee Adams (she/her) is a temporary news assistant for Morning Edition and Up First. In May 2022, a month before joining Morning Edition, she earned a bachelor's degree in Multimedia Journalism at Oklahoma State University. During her undergraduate career, she interned at the Stillwater News Press (Okla.) and participated in NPR's Next Generation Radio. In 2020, she wrote about George Floyd's impact on Black Americans, and in the following years she covered transgender identity and unpopular Black history in the South. Adams was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.