The Republican National Hispanic Assembly is launching a new state chapter in Connecticut.
The advocacy organization, which already has chapters in 19 states and in Puerto Rico, asked Waterbury Republican Ruben Rodriguez to lead its statewide effort in Connecticut. Rodriguez previously ran for the seat of the fifth Congressional district and for the Connecticut state legislature.
The assembly’s national treasurer, Santiago Avila said he reached out to Rodriguez about expanding into Connecticut because he saw potential to be more aggressive about courting the Hispanic vote in the state.
“Connecticut has a really big Hispanic base, but Republicans don’t pursue them,” Avila said. “There hasn’t been enough Hispanic outreach, that is a fact.”
Rodriguez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, said he hoped the organization could do more to connect with his community in Connecticut.
“Connecticut has the largest percentage of Puerto Ricans out of any state in America, and Puerto Ricans are more Republican than people think,” Rodriguez said. “With this organization coming to Connecticut, we’ll be able to get our message out to those communities.”
Rodriguez said that conservatives have natural inroads with Hispanic communities in Connecticut.
According to the Pew Research Center, 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast their ballots for President Donald Trump in 2020, compared to 28 percent in 2016, a ten point increase that Rodriguez sees as a validation for the Trump administration’s policies.
In 2012, Mitt Romney garnered 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.
“People understood the message he was bringing, and it was really related to Hispanic Americans,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of Hispanics appreciated the way he handled how people should be coming into the country legally, and how he was creating job opportunities.”
Avila echoed Rodriguez’ optimism, and said that frustrations with the way Democrats have run Connecticut has opened doors for Republicans to connect with Hispanic voters.
“As Hispanics, we are intelligent enough to make our own choices and decisions,” Avila said. “We don’t want to be forced to follow vaccine mandates or pay high property taxes, and we want to be able to pick where we send our children to school. That’s very important to the Hispanic community.”
Miguel Castro, chair of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, took issue with the idea that the Republican party could better represent Hispanic residents in the state.
“The Republican party’s track record at a local, state and national level has proven that they don’t support the issues that impact our communities, as they’ve purposefully and intentionally voted against diversity, immigration reform, healthcare, and education,” Castro said. “I don’t think the Democratic party in Connecticut has ever taken Hispanic support for granted, because they have always prioritized getting Latino and Latina voices at the table.”
Carmelo Rodriguez, a member of New Britain’s police commission, will serve as the organization’s vice chair, and Richard Rivera of Waterbury will serve as secretary.