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October 6, 2015

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Heller, Romney campaigns mimic each other on Hispanic outreach

GOP and Democratic Senate candidates release Spanish-language ads this week

Craig Romney ad (Spanish)

Lynne Heller ad (Spanish)

Shelley Berkley DREAM Act ad (Spanish)

Heller clean energy act ad (Spanish)

The Dean Heller and Mitt Romney campaigns seem to be taking their Hispanic voter outreach strategies from the same playbook.

Mitt Romney’s Hispanic supporter coalition is called “Juntos con Romney” (Together with Romney), and Heller’s is “Juntos con Heller.”

In July the Romney campaign released an ad featuring Craig Romney, the GOP presidential candidate’s son who spent time in Chile, addressing voters in Spanish about his father’s character.

On Friday, the Heller campaign came out with its own Spanish-language ad with a family member’s testimonial on the candidate’s core values. Heller’s wife, Lynne, in a similar style to the Craig Romney ad, speaks in Spanish directly to the camera.

“Dean Heller is a good father and husband, and now grandfather,” Lynne Heller says as shots of her speaking are interspersed with footage of her walking a horse with her husband, and the candidate talking to various people.

“His life is based on faith and family. Dean believes that Washington has failed the Hispanic community with policies that have not helped to create jobs.  Dean is sincere and will fight every day to improve the quality of life for all families in Nevada,” she says in the ad.

The Craig Romney ad was similar in its tone, addressing character traits and the importance of family in the candidate’s life over actual policy points.

“I want to tell you who my father is, Mitt Romney,” Craig Romney says. “He is a man of great convictions. He’s been married for over 40 years to my mom. Together they have five sons and 18 grandchildren. He loves our country greatly. What he has achieved has been through hard work — and it is with that same dedication that he will fight to get our country on the right track and create jobs.”

When Heller first launched “Juntos con Heller” and started issuing campaign materials and advertisements in Spanish, foes, namely Democratic opponent Rep. Shelley Berkley and Nevada Democrats, said the outreach efforts were hypocritical.

In the past, Heller has sponsored legislation to limit election ballots to English-only, to mandate that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid only be filled out in English and to make English the official national language. He also previously supported a bill to end birthright citizenship.

At that time, Heller campaign spokeswoman Chandler Smith said the criticism was unfounded because Heller’s positions on those issues revolved around his fiscal policy.

“Dean Heller has been open and honest about how federal taxpayers’ dollars should be spent,” Smith said in May. “To suggest that he doesn’t care about children learning English or to criticize efforts to reach out to Hispanics in the language they may prefer is a transparent attempt to throw water on the growing support for Dean Heller within the Hispanic community.”

Polls show the Nevada Senate race is close, with most results putting the two candidates within the margin of error of each other.

Earlier this week the Berkley campaign issued a Spanish-language ad touting her support of the Dream Act. The ad calls the Obama administration's deferred action initiative, which offered work permits and a temporary reprieve from deportation to some young immigrants residing in the country illegally, a “step forward” and said if Republicans were in power, they would repeal it.

“Dean Heller and the Republicans have already said that they want to deport undocumented students,” the narrator says in Spanish. “While Shelley Berkley and the Democrats keep fighting for the Dream Act, so qualified young people can contribute to the only country they know and love.”

At one point in the ad, a picture is shown of Berkley with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has been one the most vocal supporters for the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. Heller has stated previously he does not support the Dream Act.

While the Heller ad released Friday was a family testimonial, a Spanish-language ad from the campaign released earlier this week tackled specific policy. The ad criticizes Berkley for voting in 2009 for a provision designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions with a cap-and-trade system.

The ad features two women, whmo the campaign identified as “Juntos con Heller” members, speaking in Spanish in front of a digitally created backdrop with the word “hecho,” meaning “fact.”

“Shelley Berkley voted for a massive energy tax,” the speaker states. “It will increase the cost of gasoline. And the cost of heating and cooling of our homes will rise by 50 percent. Nevada’s families are struggling and Shelley Berkley wants us to pay more. She simply doesn’t understand. Taxes on gasoline and energy do not help anyone. We cannot allow Shelly Berkley to continue to harm our economy.”

Despite the tone of the ad, the issue is not exactly pressing, or even current. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey cap and trade legislation, narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives 219-212 in 2009 but died in the Senate. The bill was highly controversial, and environmentalists and economists alike both defended and bashed the legislation.

The Heller campaign cites a 2009 National Association of Manufacturers study for its claim that “the cost of heating and cooling of our homes will rise by 50 percent.”

What the report actually said was residential electricity prices were expected to rise between 31 and 50 percent by 2030. The report also said the act would negatively affect economic and job growth.

Many hailed the House’s passage of the legislation as a landmark step toward curbing greenhouse gases. Republicans for Environmental Protection endorsed the bill and the Congressional Budget Office and Environmental Protection Agency said the economic impacts on families would not be as steep as the National Association of Manufacturers' report projected.

“(C)laims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate change denial,” economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times in 2009. “Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either."

With the race between Berkley and Heller in a dead heat, and Hispanic voters making up 15 percent of the Nevada electorate, expect several more Spanish-language ads from the candidates before Nov. 6.

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