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How Donald Trump Is Affecting Latino Votes For The GOP


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. In California, Republicans have been working for years to bring Latino voters into the GOP fold. They were starting to have some success until Donald Trump. The Republican nominee's rhetoric around immigration is famously incendiary. He most recently attacked a federal judge presiding over the Trump University lawsuits because of his Mexican heritage.

To talk more about how Donald Trump is affecting the Latino vote, we spoke with Mario Guerra. He's treasurer of the California Republican Party. Guerra has been at the forefront of the party's efforts to court Latinos. I asked him if he supports the GOP nominee, which is a complicated question for him. Here's how he responded.

MARIO GUERRA: Well, us here in California, we've been working hard to make a lot of strides to build up our party, especially with a growing minority that'll soon be the majority in so many years, the Latino community. So we're working hard to make sure in the state of California that we change attitudes and we get a see of the table. But sometimes this election has hurt us.

And some of the rhetoric you see here on all sides, not just by Donald Trump, have definitely hurt the perception of Latinos and something we have to work hard to make sure that doesn't get in the way of participation.

MARTIN: Will you support Donald Trump in the general election?

GUERRA: Well, I'll tell you what, the one thing we can't have is Hillary Clinton as president. In California, last year, we changed our party platform to make it more inclusive. So we're making great strides. I mean, there's more Republicans on city councils and in school districts in the state of California than there are Democrats.

MARTIN: But the top of the ticket, the presidential election, can affect those down-ticket races. How are you seeing that play out? Are you concerned that having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket will jeopardize some of those local regional races?

GUERRA: Yes, we're obviously always concerned when the values of each candidate are skewed by the opposition. You know, you have, in some districts, the opposition, the Democratic, are putting pictures of Donald Trump next to the Republican candidate, even though they has nothing to do with it - so yeah.

MARTIN: So how do you make the case to Latino voters who say to you, listen, Mario, I get it. And I'm sympathetic to some of the Republican Party platform. But Donald Trump is talking about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And they're concerned, perhaps, about some of the language that he has used when he's talking about illegal immigration.

He wants to deport 11 million people who are here illegally. How do you respond to constituents who express those kinds of reservations about him?

GUERRA: I tell them this. I said, look, our state has the highest taxes - income taxes - in the country, and yet, we're in the lower ten of education. We have problems, and we're democratically controlled. I'm telling you, we can't have this on the national level. Latino values are no different than anybody else. Immigration is not the number-one issue for Latinos.

It's far from it. Latinos want jobs. Latinos want education. Latinos want a fair playing field for everyone.

MARTIN: Mario Guerra is the party treasurer of the California GOP. Thanks so much for talking with us.

GUERRA: Thank you so much, Rachel, God bless. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.