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Outside Groups Use Nevada Caucus To Identify, Fire Up Supporters

<p>People wait in line at an early voting location at the culinary workers union hall, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas.</p>
(AP Photo/John Locher)

People wait in line at an early voting location at the culinary workers union hall, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas.

This week’s Nevada Democratic presidential caucuses have attracted more than candidates.

Political groups are using the attention surrounding the caucuses to identify supporters who can be active through the November election and beyond.

In Nevada, there are fewer groups more politically active than the Culinary Union. Local 226, which represents 60,000 members in the state, making it Nevada’s biggest union. 

The union declined to make an endorsement in the caucuses but still expects to fire up members.

“We were explaining to them how important it is to elect a Democratic candidate to be ready to defeat President Trump this year,” Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Union, told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Arguello-Kline said they've been working with members to make sure they understand how important it is to cast a ballot and walking through the caucus process, which is not like a primary where voters drop in a ballot and leave.

She said the union has explained to people the caucus day process and how long it will take.

While the union didn't endorse anyone ahead of the caucus, Arguello-Kline said the union will support the nominee in November.

"We have one commitment. We see the big picture from the entire country. We know we have a president right now who everything that he [does] is not for the working class," she said.

The caucuses also attracted Alphonso David, national president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group. The organization wants to inspire volunteers and raise the profile of LGBTQ issues.

"Our goal here is to make sure we mobilize our team. We mobilize our members. We mobilize our supporters to actively engage in the electoral process," he said.

David said around the country there are 11 million LGBTQ voters and 57 million pro-equality voters who consistently vote in support of LGBTQ issues.

This year, the field of candidates includes former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay man. 

The HRC has not endorsed anyone for president, but David said his group is proud that Buttigieg is a viable candidate for president and if Buttigieg does win the nomination it would be a testament to the principle of equality.

"It's not only going to be you're selecting an LGBTQ because it is validating the LGBTQ community. I think it's validating the principals of fairness and justice and equality for all of us," he said.

Briana Escamilla is with the Nevada chapter of the Human Rights Campaign. 

She said her group has been working to engage the LGBTQ community ahead of the caucus. The group has been pushing engagement, training caucus volunteers and teaching people how a caucus works.

"We are really trying to help our community see the power of the community and the potential if we all turn out to vote that is a huge voting bloc here in this state," she said.

Escamilla noted that The LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada was an early voting site for the caucus. She said her group wanted members of the LGBTQ community to see themselves reflected in the political process.

When national pundits and political observers talk about diversity in Nevada, they often point to the fact that unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, the Silver State's population is 29 percent Latino.

While some people consider immigration to be the top issue for that group of voters, Rudy Zamora, program director for Chispa Nevada, says climate change is their top priority.

"Our research actually shows that within the Latino community climate is the number one priority that voters are talking about," he said.

Zamora said Latino communities, just like other people in the state, are feeling the impact of climate change as the summers get hotter and hotter.

"If candidates want to interact with our community, they need to talk about the issues. Climate is that number one issue we've seen here in Nevada within Latino voters. So candidates need to make sure they're addressing climate at [Wednesday's] debate," he said.

Candidates need to talk about climate when they're knocking doors and meeting with voters at community meetings, Zamora added.

While the Latino community is still concerned about immigration issues, he said, climate overarches everything, because if there is no planet to live on, then family separation and social-economic justice don't really matter.

Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer, Culinary Union; Alphonso David, national president, Human Rights Campaign; Briana Escamilla, executive director, HRC Nevada; Rudy Zamora, program director, Chispa Nevada

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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)
Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.
With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.