Photo: Kamala Harris’ first visit to the Asian & Latino Coalition meeting in October 2018.
Senator Kamala Harris won the coveted endorsement of the Asian & Latino Coalition of Iowa this evening, beating out the field in a very sought-after contest.
It comes on the heels of Harris’ five-day, river-to-river bus tour throughout Iowa, her most time spent in the lead-off state yet — she had left the state hours earlier before the endorsement. That trip was a reflection on Harris’ doubling-down of her campaign’s investment in Iowa. They built out their ground game this summer, now numbering among the top three largest caucus field organizations.
“She has the strength and the personality to take on Donald Trump on the debate stage,” said Asian & Latino Coalition Chair Prakash Kopparapu after the vote. “She has a very balanced appeal, and she’s communicating her message really well.”
“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Asian and Latino Coalition,” Harris said in a statement. “During this campaign I’ve been lucky to have the chance to spend time with leadership and get to know members of the coalition. Their mission and values of equality and justice are the same values I am fighting for in this campaign. We must ensure that all Iowans have a voice in this caucus, and I look forward to working together to make sure that happens. I am thankful I will have the Coalition’s organizational strength in my corner as we head toward February.”
Harris has visited the organization three times, most recently at their fundraiser in Des Moines this weekend after her trip to the Iowa State Fair. Board members told Starting Line the vote among the final four contestants was extremely close.
“The decision was a huge struggle, the board knew we had four good candidates,” said Megan Srinivas, a board member from Fort Dodge. “We finally chose a candidate, but it was a very close vote. I think that all the candidates would have represented us well, and I think she’ll do a great job … I’m excited to see what she’ll continue to do on the campaign trail here in Iowa.”
Julian Castro had already won over the endorsements of a few key members of the organization, and it appeared like it boiled down to a contest between him and Harris.
Members of the coalition told Starting Line they’d received many calls over the past few weeks from campaigns for their respective candidates.
About ten campaigns appear to have taken significant efforts to win over the group. On hand on Monday evening was staffers and top surrogates from the campaigns of Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.
Well over a dozen Democratic presidential candidates have visited the organization over the course of the past two years. The Asian & Latino Coalition was often one of the first stops for White House hopefuls coming into Iowa (in part because they could always drive a large turnout). Harris visited them in October 2018 during her one swing to the state during the midterm elections.
Biden spoke before them last week, where he made his gaffe about poor children (though the members in the room noted that they knew what he meant to say).
The group, which often meets at labor halls across the Des Moines metro, peppers the candidates with questions around immigration and economic issues.
The organization’s leadership, however, was only considering the names of those who had actually attended Asian & Latino Coalition events. That means that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who did not speak before the group in their many visits this year, would not be considered.
Members of the Asian & Latino Coalition cast their ballots early in the evening, whittling down the field to four potential choices. The final four were Booker, Castro, Harris and Klobuchar.
While not every member of the influential organization will follow along with the board’s endorsement, enough likely will, adding many key Central Iowa activists who are good at mobilizing their local communities. Most importantly, they can network through diverse communities across Central and Western Iowa, where it’s hard for campaigns to get a foothold into.
The Asian & Latino Coalition has gotten heavily involved in Iowa primaries before. They backed Cindy Axne early on in the 3rd District congressional primary in 2018, providing her with countless volunteers and inroads into their communities.
The organization as a whole has increased their influence significantly in the past few years in Iowa politics, growing their ranks substantially (including with many white allies) with membership drives.
by Pat Rynard