Iowa Latino Community Gaining Momentum in Caucus Participation

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- This week has been jam-packed with campaign events across the state of Iowa, as presidential hopefuls try to use what little time they have left to convince caucus-goers to support them on Feb. 1.

Latino leaders around the state say they are disappointed in the small number of presidential candidates that reach out to their communities while visiting Iowa. But leaders say that will not stop them from proving their power this election cycle.

"Many of our people have not been approached by the presidential campaigns. They're not on that radar screen for whatever reason,” said Joe Enriquez Henry, director for the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa.

Historically the Latino community hasn't always been as excited to caucus as the rest of the state and it's having a harmful effect.

Over 1,000 Iowa Latinos participated in the Iowa Caucuses in 2012, but LULAC officials say that’s about to change this year.

“We expect at least 10,000 of our people to participate in our caucuses throughout the state,” Henry said. “We are empowering our community on our own. We are an independent voice with key issues when it comes to jobs, education, health care and comprehensive immigration reform.”

LULAC is distributing a special caucus edition of Hola Iowa directly targeting Latino communities to spark caucus participation and a hunger for politics.

“The nation is putting their eyes on Iowa so it's important for Latino’s to be a part and be heard and to caucus February 1,” said Claudia Steele, an immigrant from San Salvador who is now an Iowa citizen and a voter.

Now, the Latino community in Iowa is gaining momentum.

There were about 23,000 registered Latino voters in 2007. Now, there are roughly 50,000.

Members of LULAC hope presidential candidates are paying attention to not only the rising numbers but also the enthusiasm.

“We can have a voice and it can be here in Iowa. We can amplify our voice by participating in presidential caucuses,” Henry said.

To reach their goal of 10,000 caucus goers, LULAC leaders say they've been working hard to reach out to strong Latino communities in areas such as Polk, Black Hawk, Johnson, Dallas and Woodbury counties and by covering 700 of the over 1,700 precincts in the state.