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Conservative Hispanic group zeroes in on three high-profile GOP senators

In an election cycle expected to have record Hispanic turnout, a conservative Hispanic group is endorsing three incumbent Republican senators facing high-profile reelection battles.

The conservative LIBRE Initiative Action PAC is rolling out endorsements for incumbent Senators Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and John Cornyn in Texas.

"We feel we can make a difference in these three Senate races given the numbers of Latinos in those states and, of course, how close the Senate races are going to be," the initiative's senior adviser Daniel Garza told CBS News.

The LIBRE Initiative Action, a part of the conservative Koch network, in memos to its supporters touted the senators' work to lower taxes and fix the immigration system. The memos also detail support for the CARES Act, which expanded access to telemedicine, and the senators' efforts to allow individual patients to pick the insurance best for them.

All of the senators voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act ,which has seen more buy-ins during the coronavirus pandemic as workers who have lost jobs no longer have access to employer-based insurance. The state governments in Texas and North Carolina have not expanded Medicaid, which would provide insurance to millions whose incomes don't currently qualify them for Medicaid.  

"What we're looking to do is to move away from more government-controlled decisions on behalf of the consumer, making sure that instead of centralizing health care decisions, that we actually empower the individual," Garza said.

CBS News polling has consistently found that healthcare is one of the top issues for all voters. An October 2019 poll found that more than 4 in 10 Americans said the healthcare system needs fundamental changes, and 43%  said paying for basic health care is a hardship. 

The LIBRE Initiative Action was founded in 2011 as a conservative group, but has strayed from the base on a few issues. The group has supported giving permanent status to Dreamers and has also criticized the administration's tariffs on China. In the Texas primaries, LIBRE Action endorsed incumbent U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat to help fend off his progressive challenger, Jessica Cisneros.

For the newly-released Senate endorsements, the initiative will dispatch its field workers to make video conferences, phone calls and social media to campaign in Hispanic communities.  

The Pew Research Center projects there will be 32 million Hispanics eligible to vote in 2020, which would surpass the African-American population for the first time to become the nation's largest racial or ethnic minority during a U.S. presidential election. The growth of the Hispanic population is visible in the three states targeted by LIBRE Action's endorsements.

Analysis from Univision released in 2019 showed Hispanic voters played a decisive role in the 2018 midterms, with turnout on average doubling between 2014 and 2018 in seven states, including Colorado and North Carolina. In Colorado, all political parties saw higher Hispanic turnout with the "Independent/Other" category having the highest at 74%. The turnout in North Carolina skewed more Democratic. The Republican party saw a 47% increase in Hispanic voter turnout versus a 115% for Democrats. 

Texas, which was not included in the Univision analysis, has the second-highest number of eligible Hispanic voters at 5.6 million, according to analysis from the Pew Research Center.   

But LIBRE is not yet weighing in on Arizona, a state with a competitive Senate match-up where Hispanic turnout is influential. Senator Martha McSally is facing a special election in November against former astronaut Mark Kelly. Univision data shows Hispanic turnout more than doubled from 2014 to 2018, and both Republicans and Democrats saw significant growth.

When asked about the race, Garza said, "What we looked at was, can we make a difference in the race? Is there enough alignment with the policy champions? And then, of course, with the limited amount of resources that we have … we're focusing on these three races."

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