It’s a sunny afternoon in Thornton and Sashikala Rubio-Rodriguez is out ringing doorbells. Those who answer get a quick spiel reminding them to vote and, if she gets the right vibe, the 18-year-0ld student also lays out some information about immigration policy.
Rubio-Rodriguez is canvassing for the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition Action Fund, known as CIRC, who have taken to the streets in support of Jared Polis and, here in Senate District 24, candidate Faith Winter. But as she makes her way around to town homes in the snaking neighborhood, Rubio-Rodriguez doesn’t stop at every house. She is specifically visiting families of color – Latinx, Asian and African American – who could hold crucial sway in these two close races.
Campaign groups across the metro area have narrowed their focus as election day draws closer. Democrats are focusing on young people and people of color. Republicans are targeting people across demographic lines whose voting records might indicate they could be swayed to the right. And both parties are ramping up their efforts to make the most of every remaining moment before polls close.
“We’re absolutely doing canvassing at this point, now more than ever,” said Denver GOP Chairman Jake Viano.
While his party is hoping to reach Latinos who might vote red, they’re just one group within what he calls the “conversion universe,” people who probably aren’t surefire Republican voters but could still be won over in these final days.
“A lot of that was focused on the unaffiliated,” he said. “We are going after them hard and heavy.”
Kevin Young, who has been ringing doorbells for the GOP over the last few weeks, said he’s spoken to people across every demographic line from Aurora to Littleton. Like Rubio-Rodriguez, his main message is just that people vote, and he’s reminding folks it’s too late to mail their ballots in. He does hope they’ll vote Republican and in favor of oil and gas development.
Still, Spanish-speakers play a part in the GOP’s late-stage strategy. In addition to increased canvassing, the party has also made significant social media ad buys, which includes hyper-targeted ads just for Latinx voters.
For Democrats, this population represents a more critical base. This is especially true for District 24, where Winter is running against incumbent Beth Martinez Humenik.
Kimmy Fry, field manager for CIRC Action Fund, said uninformed voters might back Martinez Humenik based on her name. She wants to make sure they know that Winter might be a preferable choice if they’re concerned about issues like immigration.
Latinx voters have also grown as a voting base this cycle. A study released this week by the Pew Research Center stipulates that Hispanic voters have become significantly more active in 2018 than past election cycles. In 2010, the study estimates just 32 percent of that bloc was engaged “quite a lot” in politics. Now, that number is just over 50 percent.
Both Democrat Jason Crow and Republican Mike Coffman, who are tussling over Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, both showed up to a Dia de los Muertos event in Aurora on Thursday.
Democrats, like Fry, hope pushing them to vote could tilt the tight state senate race in their favor.
“Latino voters do make that difference,” she said, “they just need someone to reach out to them.”
Democrats, too, have been pushing Spanish-language ads. But Eric Walker, spokesperson for the statewide party, said their focus in these last days has included all people of color as well as young people across racial divides.
On Friday, Polis and Governor John Hickenlooper kicked off a late-stage canvass targeting African American families in Aurora. Walker pointed to recent visits to college campuses as a way they hope to engage young people.
A network of canvassing groups has taken on separate slices of these groups. CIRC is taking on families of color. Other groups like New Era Colorado are working other segments of the electorate. They are tightly coordinated, and their ambitions are high.
At a Westminster Starbucks that’s been turned into a de facto campaign field office, Kyle Huelsman, policy and advocacy manager with CIRC, rallied a group of canvassers before they set out for the afternoon. If they move quickly, he told them, they ought to reach 960 houses between 3 and 7 p.m. This weekend, they’ll be working double shifts.
Huelsman, Fry, Rubio-Rodriguez and others put their hands together for a final cheer. Then, they hit the streets.