Nevada Plays The Long Game With The Hispanic Vote : It's All Politics The state's first Hispanic governor, Republican Brian Sandoval, is expected to win re-election easily, but Democrats have a rising star in a young Latina politician.
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Nevada Plays The Long Game With The Hispanic Vote

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Nevada Plays The Long Game With The Hispanic Vote

Nevada Plays The Long Game With The Hispanic Vote

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Of course, election day is also coming up in this country. And once again, both parties are vying for Latino voters. The governor's race in Nevada could have implications for both parties nationally. The state's first Hispanic governor, a Republican, has become very popular and he's expected to easily win reelection. And as Will Stone of Reno Public Radio reports, Democrats there also have a rising star - a young Latina politician.

WILL STONE, BYLINE: A small gathering of victims' advocates in a strip mall outside Reno may seem like an unusual campaign stop at the end of election season. But for Lucy Flores, it makes a lot of sense.

LUCY FLORES: Hi, I'm Lucy.

STONE: The young attorney and second term assemblywoman keeps her tone light even when the conversation touches on why she's here - domestic violence.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is something that most people don't want to talk about.

FLORES: Nope, they don't. But I mean, that's how we solve problems. You know, by bringing them out from under the rug.

STONE: That might as well be the mantra for Flores. She's the State Assembly's Assistant Majority Whip, and now running on the Democratic ticket for Nevada's Lieutenant Governor. She openly talks of her upbringing in a rough part of North Las Vegas and ending up on juvenile parole after becoming involved with gangs. Here, she speaks with the same candor about her testimony last year on a bill addressing domestic violence.

FLORES: It was the first time that I had acknowledged publicly that I myself was a victim of domestic violence. And I'm going to keep this together because it's still a very difficult topic to talk about.

STONE: Speaking in support of a sex-education bill, she revealed she had an abortion as a teenager. While this honesty has grabbed headlines, she says her intention is above all to put a face to these important policy issues.

FLORES: I've never shared anything about my life just for the purpose of sharing. It's always been to try to accomplish something.

STONE: To Democrats, Flores is an ideal candidate, especially in a purple state where the Hispanic community makes up about a third of the population.

JON RALSTON: Her only chance to win, really, is to get a very high Hispanic turnout, which I think she could generate. But it's much more difficult in an off presidential year to do so.

STONE: That's longtime Nevada political commentator Jon Ralston. Even though the Lieutenant Governor doesn't have much power, this race has gained national attention. That's because some speculate Nevada's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, the first Hispanic to hold statewide office here, could run against Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, in two years.

RALSTON: There's going to be an immense national pressure from Republicans after he wins with 65, 70 percent of the vote - scores well with Hispanics here, they'll say he's a natural to run against Reid, assuming Reid runs.

STONE: The thinking goes like this. The governor wouldn't want to run for Senate - if he knew were he to win - a Democrat like Lucy Flores would take over the governor's office. To head off that possibility, the GOP is investing heavily in its candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Mark Hutchison. He's a state senator who runs a law firm in Vegas.

MARK HUTCHISON: I've been a leader in calling for comprehensive immigration reform. I gave a speech on - about that on the floor of the Senate.

STONE: He's also supported driver privilege cards and more funding for English language learners.

HUTCHISON: So I think that I have demonstrated that I believe the - about the importance of the Hispanic community and I've been very much in touch with what their concerns are.

STONE: The governor's backing gives Hutchison a distinct advantage. But Democrat Lucy Flores believes voters here will split their ticket, casting a vote for a Republican governor and her, a Democrat, for Lieutenant.

FLORES: You know, I think Nevada is still a place where people vote for the person.

STONE: And Flores hopes that her personal story, along with her qualifications, mean people will vote for her. For NPR News, I'm Will Stone in Reno.

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