Hispanic Voter in Wyoming Urges for Political Representation
Political analyst warns Democrats that leaning too far left could cost them votes from Hispanic community
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Jul 11, 2022
Rosa Reyna-Pugh, 30 of Rock Springs, says she wants a lawmaker in office who will represent the needs of the Hispanic community. Although she is a registered Democrat, Reyna-Pugh has voted for Republican and Independent political candidates in the past. (Courtesy photo of Lindzee Glauser)
By Shen Wu Tan
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Rock Springs resident Rosa Reyna-Pugh wants a legislator who will represent the needs of the Hispanic community—and not forget the community after taking office. The issues that matter most to her? Economic growth, immigration reform and translation services for Spanish speakers.
Reyna-Pugh is the committee chairperson for the Sweetwater County Democratic Party, but she also has voted for Republican and Independent candidates.
“It’s not [about] a party: it’s [about] who is going to represent us and who is actually going to listen to us and what our needs are,” Reyna-Pugh, 30, told the Wyoming Truth. “Sometimes, it’s not the party itself. It’s just how I feel I am being represented…Candidates need to kind of not forget about us.”
While some Hispanic voters in Rock Springs tend to lean left, Reyna-Pugh said others have switched parties or are registering for the first time to vote.
Hispanics are a growing voting block nationwide, and there is much media speculation as to how their vote—which is reportedly shifting toward the GOP—will impact the mid-term elections. In what could be a preview of November, Republican Mayra Flores flipped a House district in South Texas from blue to red in a special congressional election last month.
A 2021 Gallup poll, including more than 1,300 Hispanic respondents, found that Hispanic Americans’ party identification shifted from a 32-point Democratic advantage between January through June to a 28-point advantage from July through December. In the first half of 2021, 58% of respondents identified as Democrat compared to 26% who identified as Republican. In the latter half of the year, this shifted to 54% Democrat to 26% Republican, the poll found.
However, the picture of Hispanic voting habits in Wyoming is not clear. As a whole, Wyoming’s population is only about 10% Hispanic, data from the 2020 census shows. Carbon County’s population is nearly 18% Hispanic, followed by Sweetwater County at 16.5% and Laramie County at 15.5%.
Yet, Hispanic voters likely make up an even smaller share of the actual electorate, said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the nonpartisan newsletter of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Since Hispanics disproportionately aren’t actually citizens, they usually punch under their weight in terms of voting power,” he told the Wyoming Truth.
An estimated 7.7% of voters in Wyoming are Hispanic while 93% are white, according to media company Stacker, which compiled voter demographics using the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
It is difficult to know for sure how the majority of Hispanic voters in Wyoming vote: the state does not collect data on the race of registered voters.
Monique Meese, a spokesperson for the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, said people are not required to report their race when they register to vote. The Wyoming constitution provides for absolute secrecy at the ballot, she said, so there is no way to tell how Hispanics voted in a particular election.
Coleman pulled data from Dave’s Redistricting App, which stores census and precinct data, to isolate precincts that were at least 25% Hispanic. “Those precincts were mostly in the relatively urban areas in southern Wyoming,” he said. “They gave Biden about 34% — not much, but notably more than the 27% he got statewide. So, it’s probably fair to say that, compared to whites, Hispanics in Wyoming are a less Republican-leaning demographic.”
What Wyomingites have to say about Hispanic voters
However, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, believes that Hispanic voters, nationally and in Wyoming, are shifting toward the GOP. Rodriguez-Williams, who was sworn into office in Jan. 2021, is running unopposed to retain her seat for House District 50, according to a primary election candidate roster from the Wyoming Elections Division.
“Young Latino voters are standing up for conservative Latino/a candidates in many states and communities,” she said. “I believe Wyoming families with Latin roots, are shifting toward the GOP because the majority are pro-family, pro-God and pro-life. Naturalized American citizens that have come from socialist countries have seen the destruction and devastation it causes.”
David Martin, spokesperson for the Wyoming Democratic Party, told the Wyoming Truth that Hispanic voters have typically supported Democratic candidates because Democrats support issues like strong education, civil rights causes and better economic diversity.
“If they [Hispanic voters’ preferences] are drifting further to the right, it would mean some districts could be more difficult for Democrats to win,” Martin said. “But as 70% of the registered voters in Wyoming are Republican, it wouldn’t change much as far as how dominant the GOP is in the Wyoming legislature. Any shift, one way or the other, might be more noticeable in county elections.”
The Wyoming Republican Party did not reply to multiple requests for comments for this story.
Coleman, the political analyst, warned that Democrats should take caution as the GOP makes inroads with Hispanic voters.
“If the Democrats lurch too far left on social issues, they may lose ground with Hispanic voters, many of which are devout Catholics,” he said. “If Democrats want to be somewhat competitive in Wyoming, they’ll probably want to pay attention to the Hispanic vote. In 2000, the state was only 6% Hispanic — it’s up to 10% now, and I can continue to see it growing.”
While Reyna-Pugh will vote in the Democratic primary on Aug. 16, she plans to eye congressional candidates across the board in the November general election. She is still evaluating their campaign platforms to decide which contender will best meet the needs of the Hispanic community.
Reyna-Pugh, who moved to Wyoming in 2017, is originally from Alamo, Texas, a border town near Mexico. Her mother was born in the northern part of Mexico; her father is the son of migrant workers from the Spanish-speaking country.
“I don’t speak for the entire Hispanic population,” Reyna-Pugh said. “With my experience, I have noticed that we are very left out on a lot of policy-making decisions – locally, state and even sometimes federal. With that being said, we’re trying to get more people out to vote.”
Reyna-Pugh also would like to see more Hispanic candidates on the ballot. “… Since I was a little girl, I really hadn’t seen someone who looks like me in a place that makes rules and laws,” she said. “So that’s something I would love to see – more diversity within our candidate pool. It would just be amazing because we are here.”