Booker, Christie court growing Hispanic voting bloc in N.J. campaigns

 A screen grab from a Spanish language ad for Corey Booker.

A screen grab from a Spanish language ad for Corey Booker.

“Soy Cory Booker y appruebo este mensaje,” says Cory Booker in his latest political ad.

(“I’m Cory Booker, and I approve this message.”)


Representatives of Booker’s campaign to win the Democratic nomination to run for a U.S. Senate seat reported that he has launched three radio and television spots that will be seen by Spanish-language media consumers statewide.

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Booker is running to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in office earlier this year. But the Newark mayor isn’t the only one courting the Hispanic vote from the start of his campaign.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie made a Spanish ad buy in May as part of his re-election campaign against Democrat Barbara Buono.

“Both parties should be spending some money trying to court those voters since the numbers of Hispanic voters are growing pretty rapidly,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers.

New Jersey now has more Hispanic residents than African Americans – though fewer Hispanics are eligible to vote, Redlawsk said. Those who vote do so at lower rates, but this emerging voting bloc is proving attractive to candidates of both political persuasions.

“While [Hispanic voters] are trending Democratic and certainly have in the national elections, I think with any group of new voters, you have more opportunity to win their interest,” he said.

Elizabeth Wilner, vice president at the Kantar Media Group, oberved that it’s striking both candidates have included a Spanish-language ad in their first round of TV advertising.

“In terms of seeing Spanish language television advertising early in a race, New Jersey’s really a first,” she said.

Wilner’s data shows 75 percent of Booker’s TV spots run so far have been in Spanish. Governor Christie fielded Spanish-language ads on the radio, but not on television during his 2009 campaign.

There are only a handful of high-profile races this year after the 2012 presidential election renewed interest in Hispanic voters. She says the New Jersey competitions offer a sneak peak at the next big round of national elections in 2014.

Booker faces competition in the Aug. 13 primary from U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone,and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Republican voters will choose between former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and tea-party favored  candidate Dr. Alieta Eck.  The Senate election will be held Oct. 16.

New Jersey voters will cast ballots for governor and the Legislature Nov. 5.

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