Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., speaks during the opening of a Republican National Committee Hispanic Community Center in South Omaha. Others, from left, are Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Nebraska GOP chair Dan Welch and Jaime Florez, Hispanic media director for the Republican National Committee. (Republican National Committee/Submitted photo)
OMAHA — National Republicans opened an outreach office in South Omaha this week aimed at helping Nebraska’s top political party grow in a Latino-rich part of Omaha.
Omaha’s office is the first “Hispanic Community Center” the Republican National Committee has opened in a Great Plains state, RNC spokeswoman Preya Samsundar said.
Others have opened in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin, in swing states and swing districts where helping with key races in 2022 could help the party prepare for 2024.
The offices help the party connect with potential voters and volunteers. Party leaders said they hope neighbors will use the South Omaha office as a gathering space.
Virgil Patlan, a frequent GOP candidate in South Omaha, said he and his wife, Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan, had sometimes felt lonely as Republicans in “South O.”
“I’ve been a proud Republican since Ronald Reagan,” he said. “Because we stand for faith, family and freedom … I’m glad the party is down here.”
Aligning with GOP values
U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Nebraska Republican Party Chairman Dan Welch argued that Latino voters align better with GOP values.
Among the issues they highlighted: abortion, economic development, deregulation, lower taxes, restrained government spending and national defense.
Bacon said the GOP message “resonates with a majority of Hispanic voters, but they’ve got to know we care.”
“We are going to try to reach every single voter in South Omaha,” Bacon said. “Every Hispanic voter counts.”
Latinos are the second-largest group of voters in Nebraska and in Omaha.
Bacon’s opponent in the 2nd Congressional District race this year, Omaha State Sen. Tony Vargas, tweeted that Nebraskans support those who “show up every day, not just a few months before #ElectionDay.”
Bacon’s House race is a headliner again this fall in the Cornhusker State, because the Omaha-based 2nd District remains the state’s most competitive.
Stothert praised Bacon as a strong advocate for Omaha and said voters understand the price of one-party leadership in Washington, D.C.
She said the new GOP community center near 24th and Vinton Streets would boost community engagement, which she said is “at the heart” of local politics.
“More and more of our Hispanic friends and neighbors are seeing the Republican Party as being more aligned with their political views,” she said.
Engagement with Latinos ‘a farce’
Zachary Mora James, who chairs the Nebraska Democratic Party’s LatinX Caucus, said a “community center” can’t overcome the cruel policies many Republicans support.
“The Republican National Committee’s attempt to engage with Latino voters is a farce and we see right through it,” Mora James said in the statement.
He criticized Bacon for failing on immigration and DACA, as well as on affordable health care, education, job training and economic relief.
Bacon defended his record Tuesday, including his support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals kids brought to the country as minors.
He pointed to his backing for legislation that helped small businesses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including federal assistance for restaurants.
Bacon has acknowledged voting against the most recent COVID-19 relief package that passed Congress, a bill he and other Republicans have said made inflation worse.
“Democrats have … control of both chambers of Congress and the White House and have failed to do anything for DACA, TPS and immigration,” Bacon said.
Jaime Florez, Hispanic media director for the RNC, said the GOP is investing in Latino community to boost Republican gains among Latino voters in 2020.
Some national political observers have questioned whether former President Donald Trump’s performance among Latino voters is sustainable without him.
Welch, the Nebraska GOP chair, said the new community center will host activities, events and two-way conversations with voters.
“We want to convey our message of optimism, freedom and opportunities,” Welch said. “But we want to listen to you all.”
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