Nevada NewsMakers

News - July 3, 2019 - by Ray Hagar

Latino voters -- growing fast in Nevada in numbers and influence -- have seen enough political disappointment to cause a chilling effect in future elections, said one of Nevada's leading political consultants.

Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners, said on Nevada Newsmakers that Latinos have endured broken promises from major politicians from both parties for the last two decades and that could dampen enthusiasm.

"They (Latino voters) have had a lot of Democrats, Republicans and other candidates promising -- whether it was help for Dreamers, a path to citizenship, some immigration reform, or something to not detain families and their kids at the border -- and no one has delivered," Vassiliadis said.

Vassiliadis agreed with host Sam Shad who said Congress and the presidents of the past 20 years share the blame.

"No question," Vassiliadis said. "But that also goes to the (thinking of) 'Why should I bother?' I really don't understand. All of these important people are telling me there is going to be immigration reform. And it is not happening. And it hasn't happened again and again. Why bother?"

Vassiliadis traced the failure to pass any meaningful immigration legislation back to 2004. Then, Republican George W. Bush won much of the Latino vote in Nevada and across the nation with an organized Hispanic strategy in his race against Democrat John Kerry. Yet he could not deliver on comprehensive immigration reform.

"We are talking about (going back to) George W. Bush in 2004, who had a bill which was almost identical to current Democrat bills and the Republican president could not get it through his Republican colleagues (in Congress).

"George W. could not get it passed so maybe we needed a Democrat president," Vassiliadis said. "So Obama is sitting there with two Democrat houses (of Congress) and all he could get on was the executive order for the Dreamers. And so I think a lot of folks are looking at politicians -- Latinos especially because they have been promised a lot of things -- and no one has delivered yet."

The Latino vote has long been called the "sleeping giant" of Nevada politics. Yet instead of "bursting onto the scene," Hispanic voting power is slowly growing into a major political force.

In 1980, the Hispanic voting population in Nevada was about 5 percent of the electorate. In the 2020 presidential election, it is estimated to be at 20 percent, according to the Center for American Progress.

Latinos made up about 19 percent of the Nevada electorate in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.

The lack of progress on immigration, Dreamers and other issues may also spark other Latino voters to get more involved in politics, Vassiliadis said. The Latino vote has never been seen as a solid bloc, experts have said.

"I think our lack of immigration policy, our lack of protection for the Dreamers is creating more intensity and I think that intensity will increase participation and turnout," Vassiliadis said.