Latino-voters-logoThe “Latino Vote Iowa” campaign has been holding training sessions for potential caucus-goers in cities around the state with large Latino populations, including one over the noon-hour today in Sioux City.

“We have five staffers on the ground, mostly in Des Moines and Davenport,” says Christian Ucles, political director for the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa. “…Polk County and Scott County have the majority of the Latino vote.”

Officials say nearly 70,000 Latinos are eligible to vote in Iowa. Ucles says 50,000 Iowa Latinos are registered to vote — and the campaign aims to get 10,000 of them to show up on Caucus Night. Ismael Valadez  of Council Bluffs started voting in 2014 and this will be his first caucus.

“Prior to that I had no interest in it, until I started figuring out a lot of the things would affect me personally — education, jobs, health care — alongside, obviously, immigration,” says Valadez, whose family came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was nine.

These ‘Latino Iowa Vote” training sessions have had officials from the campaigns of the three Democratic presidential candidates on hand to answer potential questions, but only one Republican has chosen to send someone. It’s Jeb Bush.

“Twenty percent of our Latino registered voters are Republican, so he’s going to reach out to those Latinos,” Ucles says.

The group started in December and has held caucus training events in towns like Columbus Junction, where about half the town’s population is Hispanic or Latino, and in Muscatine. More than 17 percent of the population in Muscatine County is Latino.

Other training sessions have been held in Grinnell, Ottumwa and Iowa City as well as Sioux City, Des Moines and the Quad Cities. Iowa’s Latino population has more than doubled in the past 14 years. There are more than 173,000 Latinos living in Iowa according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s 5.6 percent of the state’s population.

(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)