The Increasing Political Influence of Hispanic Voters in Nevada: A Beacon of Hope for the GOP

The Increasing Political Influence of Hispanic Voters in Nevada: A Beacon of Hope for the GOP

Discover the shifting political landscape in Nevada as Hispanic voters gain influence Explore the changing dynamics and the hopes it brings for the GOP

As a child, Antonio Munoz looked up to Ronald Reagan in a much different Las Vegas than what exists today. "When I was born here, it was a much smaller city," Munoz recalled. "The communities were segregated, with Hispanics on one side of town and African Americans on the other. The strip and downtown were home to small resorts and hotels, but now we have mega resorts."

There has been another change. When Reagan was elected, Hispanics made up only 7% of Nevada's population, but now they account for 30%. "It's incredible to see the political influence that Hispanics are building here in Nevada," Munoz remarked during a break at his Las Vegas restaurant, 911 Taco Bar.

Nevada's political influence has the potential to reshape the electoral map in 2024. Despite backing the Democratic presidential candidate in the last four elections, the margin was only 2 points in 2020. There are indications of the Republican party making some progress with Hispanic voters in both the 2020 and 2022 elections, suggesting a possible opportunity for further gains in 2024. CNN recently visited Nevada, a crucial battleground for the upcoming election, as part of our initiative to follow the 2024 campaign from the perspective of voters.

Munoz, an independent, says he has voted for both Democrats and Republicans in past presidential elections, with a third-party vote in 2016. When asked about his 2020 voting, he declined to answer, citing the current divisive nature of society. As a small business owner, he expressed concern about being targeted for supporting a particular candidate.

Both of his adult sons have opposing views, with one supporting President Joe Biden and the other favoring former President Donald Trump, who is currently the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2024. Munoz himself remains undecided, but strongly disagrees with Trump's rhetoric towards Mexicans and immigrants. "It's painful, it's painful," Munoz expressed. "You know, sometimes we say things we shouldn't, maybe he does it more often than others."

Still, Munoz said, "Trump did some good stuff for businesses that actually helped us out as a small business. And I think Bidens done the same thing for us."

The Increasing Political Influence of Hispanic Voters in Nevada: A Beacon of Hope for the GOP

Antonio Munoz speaks to CNN's John King at his restaurant 911 Taco Bar in Las Vegas, Nevada.


The 911 Taco Bar is located in the Mercado, a collection of vendors housed in a space that was once occupied by JCPenney in a Las Vegas shopping mall. The restaurant was a long-held dream of Munoz, who served in the Air Force for a decade and then spent 16 years as a Las Vegas police officer. In addition to the restaurant, Munoz also operates 15 taco trucks for catering services. Based on his own observations within the community, Munoz believes that Latino voters may be more open to supporting Republicans than in the past, a sentiment that is supported by polling data. "I think it is going to be a very interesting year," said Munoz. "People are confused and, you know, if somebody comes out with that solid message, that would be great. Right now, I just dont see it."

A Democrat-turned-Republican looking for an alternative to Trump

Valeria Gurr is the face of the new competition here.

A former Democrat, Gurr now identifies as a registered Republican and is focused on voting for candidates that align with her views on school choice. In an interview at her home in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, she emphasized that this issue will ultimately determine her vote for any office, deflecting questions about immigration or the economy.

Her immigrant experience has shaped her perspective. "When I arrived from Chile in 2007, I had only $600 and hope," Gurr said. "Without education, my career prospects were limited to labor jobs."

The Increasing Political Influence of Hispanic Voters in Nevada: A Beacon of Hope for the GOP

Valeria Gurr speaks to CNN's John King in Nevada.

Now, pursuing a doctorate in public policy, she actively advocates for school choice and makes the daily effort to drive her 6-year-old son to a private school across town, believing that the local public schools offer no future for him.

Every time I witness children and mothers striving to secure a better future for their kids through quality education, it deeply affects me," Gurr expressed. "For those living in low-income areas, the only option for their children is often failing public schools."

In 2020, she ultimately cast her vote for Trump due to her primary concern with this issue, albeit with some hesitation.

"I didn't vote for him because he was the ideal candidate," Gurr stated. "I voted for him due to his support for educational choice." She expressed disappointment in Trump's track record as president on this issue. Gurr also mentioned that she would be open to a change of heart from the Biden administration, which has focused on investing in public schools, but she believes that most Democrats are hesitant to upset teachers unions.

She hopes that the Republicans will choose someone new. "I admire Ron DeSantis for his accomplishments in Florida," Gurr said, referring to the governor of the Sunshine State. "Personally, I would love to see Nikki Haley - another mother in the White House who advocates for school choice."

A yearning for a GOP that no longer exists

Interest rates and inflation are the pressing issues for Zoila Sanchez, a real estate agent in the Las Vegas area for 26 years.

Sanchez noted that the economy is in a really bad shape. While she acknowledged some improvement in prices, she emphasized the need for a significant decrease in interest rates to make it possible for working families to afford a new or larger home. She refrained from blaming Biden, attributing the economic downturn to larger economic cycles that are beyond the control of any president.

Sanchez, similar to Gurr, is a first-generation immigrant. Originally undocumented when she crossed the border from Mexico into the United States, she later obtained amnesty through the legislation signed by Reagan in 1986.

Despite her conservative and religious beliefs as a registered Republican, Sanchez has voted for Democratic candidates in the past four presidential elections. She was inspired by Barack Obama, but was repelled by Trump, she said.

"Hes not a Republican," she said. "I dont know what he is. And then of course he offended me by saying all the things he said about Mexicans."

The Increasing Political Influence of Hispanic Voters in Nevada: A Beacon of Hope for the GOP

Zoila Sanchez speaks to CNN's John King in Nevada.


Sanchez voted for George W. Bush twice due to his blend of lower taxes and conservative views on social issues, along with his compassionate approach to immigrants.

"That Republican Party no longer exists," Sanchez lamented. "I hope it will come back. That's me."

Like Gurr, Sanchez is a Haley fan.

"Because I think she could bring back that real Republican feeling, conservative - everything that it used to be."

In a Biden-Trump rematch, Sanchez said she would vote for Biden.

But in a Biden-Haley matchup, "I would vote for Haley."

Nevada also plays a role in the nominating process, but Haley's only opportunity there is to gain momentum, not delegates. The party will host both a caucus and a traditional primary, just two days apart in early February.

A Culinary Union foot soldier tries to hold the line for Democrats

Haley has not registered for the caucus, which is dominated by Trump loyalists within the state party organization. The allocation of delegates to the national GOP convention will be determined by the caucus results. While Haley will appear on the primary ballot, a strong performance may garner media attention and build momentum for future nominating contests, but it will not result in any convention delegates.

The early GOP maneuvering is just a sideshow for Carlos Padilla, a pastry baker at the Treasure Island casino for the last 30 years.

"It's amazing to be in a job for that long and still love it," Padilla said in an interview at his townhouse apartment.

Padilla's primary concern currently is the increasing rent prices. He mentioned that many of his colleagues have not returned to work or are only working part-time, despite the travel and hospitality industry experiencing a significant recovery from the 30.1% unemployment rate in April 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "Businesses are profiting greatly at the moment," Padilla stated. "They should consider supporting those who are currently unemployed."

The Increasing Political Influence of Hispanic Voters in Nevada: A Beacon of Hope for the GOP

Carlos Padilla speaks to CNN's John King during an interview in Nevada.


Padilla is a loyal Democrat and a volunteer foot solider for the politically powerful Culinary Union.

Having heard all the comments while knocking on doors, including negative remarks about Biden such as "He's too old" and "He's going to be senile and not be able to do his job," Padilla is prepared to address them.

"He is the strongest advocate for unions we have ever had," he stated. "He has significantly supported the middle class and the working class."

The 2022 midterm elections yielded mixed results for the union and its supporters. While Republican Joe Lombardo won the governor's race, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto secured re-election in a race that was a prime target for the GOP. Lombardo made progress in gaining Latino voters, and Padilla anticipates a challenging battle to maintain Nevada's Democratic stance in 2024.

Should Trump become the GOP nominee, Padilla foresees healthcare becoming a major concern. Trump has recently promised to make another attempt at repealing Obamacare. While Padilla currently receives health insurance through his employment and union contract, he acknowledges that previous campaigns have shown that healthcare remains a significant concern for working-class individuals who struggle to afford insurance. Despite this, he notes a slight increase in Latino support for the Republican party.

"I've witnessed it. When I've gone knocking on doors and speaking to Latino voters, I've seen a change in their perspective," Padilla stated. "We are the largest organization that conducts door-to-door outreach. So I believe we have a significant impact in preventing them from switching their support."

It is certain that Nevada will be one of the six to eight battleground states next year.

Biden narrowly secured victory in Nevada in 2020 with 50% of the vote, compared to Trump's 48%. Trump saw a slight increase in support from 2016, due in part to his improved performance among Latino voters.

Munoz, owner of the 911 Taco Bar, expressed his skepticism towards the early predictions that indicate a potential rematch.

"I think we are going to surprised," he said with a smile and a nod. "I think well be surprised."