Activist Group LUCHA Joins Other Arizona Latino Voices in Endorsing Bernie Sanders

One of Arizona's most prominent Latino-rights organizations has thrown its support behind Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. 

It is the first time Living United for Change in Arizona (or LUCHA, as it more commonly is known) has publicly backed any politician since its 2009 founding, said Tomas Robles, the nonprofit's executive director. 

Robles said LUCHA chose to speak out because its 800 members are "frustrated with the establishment" and feel Sanders is the candidate whose values most closely align with their goals.

"Looking at his record and what he's stood for, it only makes sense that LUCHA members back him," Robles said Tuesday afternoon. 

In particular, he said, LUCHA appreciates the Vermont U.S. senator's ideas about improving access to healthcare and a university education, as well as his promise to dismantle immigration detention centers, pave the way to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and modernize the visa system to make it easier for people to come to the United States legally.

Sanders also has pledged to address income inequality by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, investing in youth jobs programs, and raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour — an issue LUCHA has loudly lobbied for through the Fight for $15 campaign

"Every day, we hear the stories of Moms working at fast-food restaurants for 11 years and only making $11 an hour and students who want to get more involved but their tuition is squeezing them," said Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of LUCHA. "At every turn, our community is being squeezed, and the only candidate speaking for them is Bernie." 

LUCHA officials are the latest in a string of Arizona-based Latino leaders to endorse Sanders in the past month.

Democratic Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva
, state Senator Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix), Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, and about a dozen others all are "feeling the Bern." 

But at the same time, others have come out in support of the formidable Hillary Clinton. 

Nearly three dozen Latino lawmakers and business leaders, led by Democratic Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego, announced their combined support for Clinton on Monday during a press conference at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Phoenix. 

Their reasons for supporting Clinton were similar to those of her opponent's camp: her position on immigration reform, college tuition, and income inequality.

“[She is] someone who has the experience and the knowledge, somebody we have trusted and known to trust with all issues when it comes to the Latino community, especially immigration reform,” Gallego said.

The race is shaping up to be tight, with a recent national poll from Fox News putting Sanders three points in the lead, and another from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal placing Clinton 11 points ahead. 

For months, Clinton has maintained a firm lead among Latino voters. However, with vigorous campaigning that seems to be working with Latino leaders like those in Arizona, according to a new NBC News analysis, Sanders has managed to clip Clinton's lead from 20 percentage points during December and January to just 3 percentage points last week.
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Elizabeth Stuart
Contact: Elizabeth Stuart

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