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Buttigieg has a serious Latino problem, too

“I don’t know who is working for him, who is supporting him or where they exist in our ecosystem,” said Laura Martin, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, which focuses on marginalized communities, including undocumented immigrants. PLAN officials have spoken to and participated in events with every other top candidate or their campaigns, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden. (Buttigieg’s campaign was one of multiple campaigns to buy a table at a recent PLAN fundraiser and his staff attended.)

“He’s definitely lagged behind the rest” of the top candidates on Latino outreach, said Annette Magnus, executive director of Battleborn Nevada, a progressive group in the state. “If we’re considering Mayor Pete in the top four right now, I don’t know that that translates here.”

“His outreach to the Latino community is virtually nonexistent,” added Cesar Carvajal, a 23-year-old college student who helps mobilize fellow Latino voters for the group Make the Road Nevada.

Buttigieg’s campaign often points to polling showing the mayor as broadly unknown, which offers a “huge opportunity,” he told reporters in California. “I believe that we have the right message for Latino voters about creating economic opportunity, about solving issues like health care, about reforming our immigration system.”

But Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl acknowledged the campaign needs to “level up and expand” its outreach to Latinos. He said the campaign would air bilingual advertisements in Nevada in “the very near future” and unveil a “holistic” policy proposal focused on the Hispanic community in the next month.

“We will continue to ramp up our investments — that’s in paid media, in people on the ground, in Pete’s time in the states,” Schmuhl said. “It’s go time, right now.”

Schmuhl pointed to two recent hires — California state director Cecilia Cabello, who ran Hillary Clinton’s operation in the state in 2016, and Juan Carlos Perez, the campaign’s national Latino engagement director — as key elements to the campaign’s outreach strategy. Among its staffers, about 10 percent identify as Latino, Schmuhl said. In Nevada, the majority of the 55-person staff are people of color. The campaign also has 10 field offices in Nevada, opening its first in the heavily-Latino East Last Vegas with plans to add an 11th office in northeast Las Vegas later this month, according to the campaign.

Asked about the lack of engagement with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Schmuhl said, “It is on the list and we will get it done.” He said the campaign is reaching out to CHC members individually.

Buttigieg did make some overtures to Latino leaders during his recent trip to California. Among them were sisters Susan and Blanca Rubio, both California state lawmakers who were once undocumented immigrants.

At a meeting with them and about 40 other party officials, Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio said Buttigieg “didn’t make big promises to the group” but “impressed” them. Rubio said she knew little about Buttigieg ahead of the sit-down, and though she thinks there’s potential for him to make inroads with Latinos, she “[doesn’t] know if California is that place.”