Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who already has received the nod from Democratic Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, has scored more endorsements from state Latino leaders.
State Senator Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix) and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo joined about a dozen other Latinos — most of them members of the Arizona Legislature — to announce their endorsement of Sanders. Among those endorsing him also were non-Latinos, including state Representative Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) and state Senator Andrea Dalessandro (D-Sahuarita).
Quezada said he is behind Sanders because he believes the Vermont senator has stayed true to the ideals that Americans want in an elected official.
“He’s an individual who puts American ideals before special interests,” Quezada said. “He’s a candidate who puts the voters ahead of lobbyists. And he’s a candidate who puts people ahead of corporations. Those are things that so many politicians nowadays do not do anymore.”
The backing of Quezada and other Latino leaders is significant for the Sanders campaign as it tries to court Hispanic voters in Arizona. The state has the nation’s fifth-largest Latino statewide eligible voter population. There are about 902,000 Latinos living in Arizona who are eligible to vote, according to the Pew Research Center.
Nationwide, Sanders is closing in on Hillary Clinton’s lead. A Quinnipiac University poll released this month finds 44 percent of Democrats say they support Clinton, compared with 42 percent who say they support Sanders.
But among Latinos, Clinton has a substantial lead over Sanders. A recent NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll found 54 percent of Hispanic voters support Clinton and 33 percent support Sanders.
The Vermont senator mainly has struggled with name recognition among Latino voters. As a way to help with that, his campaign added a number of influential Latinos to his campaign team. They include Erika Andiola, a 28-year-old undocumented immigrant from Arizona who made national headlines when she posted a tearful video on YouTube moments after immigration officials came to her home in Mesa and arrested her undocumented mother and brother.
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Jose Miranda, state director of Sanders’ campaign in Arizona, said his group is trying to gain support for Sanders among Latino voters by going door to door and talking directly with voters in English and Spanish. He said it’s easy for the campaign to appeal to Latino voters because Sanders has an agenda that is in line with issues Latinos support, such as immigration.
“Bernie cares very deeply about deportations and raids that are happening, especially here in our community,” Miranda said. “But even beyond that, Latinos also care about jobs and about whether their kids have access to a good education.”
State Representative Richard Andrade (D-Phoenix) said the Democratic presidential candidate is advocating for paid sick leave and to raise the minimum wage, issues that he said affect working families. In endorsing Sanders, Andrade noted that he recently introduced bills in the Arizona Legislature that would address these same issues.
“It is time that we elect somebody who truly understands what working families are going through everyday,” Andrade said. “Bernie Sanders is definitely that one person who's going to put us in the right direction, because he puts working families first. He doesn’t put corporations and big businesses first.”