As Nevada Democrats prepare to caucus on Saturday, capping off a week where presidential hopefuls blitzed the state for votes, activists warned against dismissing a powerful segment of the electorate: women of color.
One in four Democratic voters in Nevada is a woman of color, according to a survey conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research on behalf of She the People, a progressive organization seeking to elevate the role of women of color in politics.
“Women of color is not a racial identity, it’s a political organizing identity,” Aimee Allison, founder and president of the group, said during a roundtable she moderated Thursday on the upcoming caucuses.
“This is a big year for us; this is an opportunity for us,” she added. “We have two days to shape the momentum and figure out who are the people carrying our issues.”
In the same ALG Research poll, conducted Jan. 21-24, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were found to be in a tight race among Democratic-leaning women of color.
But 22 percent of the 393 women surveyed were also undecided, which Allison said made the demographic influential ahead of Saturday’s caucuses.
She was joined by four leaders of activist groups in Nevada during a roughly one-hour discussion that assessed the issues driving women of color to the caucuses: Health care for all, immigration and union membership, to name a few.
Erika Washington, the executive director of Make it Work Nevada, said she wanted candidates to acknowledge systemic racism embedded in domestic policies on the economy and criminal justice, and to offer solutions to fix them.
“Don’t put me in a box, I’m not in your box,” Washington said. “I am who I am and you are going to respect it and then you’re also going to celebrate it. And then you’re also going to make policies that fit my community.”
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Chairwoman Raquel Cruz-Juarez’s issues mirror those important to her mother, a Central American immigrant who has worked at the Golden Nugget hotel and casino for three decades.
“And so when I think about a candidate I think about the people that will improve the lives of the mother figures in my life,” Cruz-Juarez said, adding that she didn’t see many who fit that profile on the debate stage Wednesday.
But the Democratic Party could find itself in a precarious position with women of color in Nevada if President Donald Trump’s next opponent in the general election is too similar to Trump himself, according to activists.
“If our party is not looking to change with us, then I’m going to go someplace else,” said Grace Vergara-Mectal, executive director of SEIU Local 1107.
In particular, as the activists seek to collectively energize thousands of Nevada Democrats to vote, the roundtable found it difficult to imagine generating much enthusiasm in November if billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the nominee. They cited the controversial stop-and-frisk policies under his tenure for which he has since apologized.
The four roundtable guests did not specify whom they preferred as the Democratic contender. Some noted their groups did not advocate for any one candidate.
Mercedes Krause, with the National Education Association of Southern Nevada and Native American Caucus, said it was key that the community she represents feels seen.
“I want us to be the country that we say we are,” she said.