Latino Media Outlets Wonder: Where Are The Campaign Dollars?


In recent months it is difficult to tune into a news program, listen to radio talk shows or pick up a newspaper without reading about the crucial Latino vote. That is exactly what has many of those who run Connecticut’s Hispanic media outlets perplexed. Not much of the millions of political advertising dollars being spent in the state in the two high profile media campaigns – the U.S. Senate and 5th District Congressional races – is making its way to Latino media outlets.
Walter Martinez, general manager of WRYM (840 AM in Newington) says, “I think they are not being well informed by their advisers as to the potential we offer them. It would be so logical for them to use Latino media to reach Latino voters.”
To no one’s surprise, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon has ads running on almost every Latino media outlet in the state. Her opponent, Democratic candidate Chris Murphy, who is in a tight race with McMahon, has ads running on a number of Spanish language radio stations but none on Spanish language television such as Univision or the Telemundo stations.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, through July 25, the McMahon campaign had spent $2.236 million on advertising. Murphy’s campaign reported spending approximately $844,000 on media buys. The most recent campaign filings through the end of Sept. 30 were not yet available in detail online.
“We can change the vote for them but candidates do not understand that,” said Brenda Mulero, general manager of Telemundo in Hartford, adding, “They just feel confident they will get Latino votes no matter what.”
Hartford’s Univision station has only McMahon ads running.  Station manager, Sulma Avenancio has worked in the local general market media for over a decade and says while Univision stations around the country are all receiving a good share of the political ad dollars, in Connecticut  there is a different mindset.  She claims, “I find those who place media here in campaigns as well as for other  advertisers somehow  have been educated to think that outreach to the Hispanic community is done through grassroots events or someone going to neighborhoods with brochures so they can save a few dollars.”
In the 5th District Congressional race, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Esty drew the harshest criticism from the media outlets.  As best can be determined, she has no ads on any Latino radio or TV stations. Through Sept. 30, according to FEC reports, Esty has spent $1.3 million on media services. Roraback was more specific in his filings and has spent $6766 on radio through Sept. 30  and $162,500 on TV advertising. Roraback did debut a Spanish language ad that he narrates on Oct. 12 after the most recent filing deadline.
On Spanish language radio station WPRX (1120 AM in Berlin), McMahon, Murphy and  GOP 5th District candidate Andrew Roraback have been filling the airwaves with ads aimed at a segment of Latino voters.  The station’s owner is surprised, however, Esty has not advertised on his station which reaches into three of the district’s cities – Waterbury, New Britain  and Meriden. “I think she is taking our vote for granted, either that or she doesn’t care about the Hispanic vote,” said Oscar Nieves.
He says they have reached out to her campaign but he claims, “They (the Esty campaign) told our account executive that if they hadn’t called us yet, forget about it.  This tells me she doesn’t care; she thinks she’s going to win our votes.”
Nieves says he and his morning talk show host have been talking on air about what he sees as a snub.  “I tell our listeners she is sending a negative message to us. She’s a politician who doesn’t care about us; just think how much she will care if she is elected to office,” he adds.
Jeb Fain, director of communications for the Esty campaign, said, “We are actually focused on television advertising.”  But, added, Esty has had significant outreach to Latino community. “Elizabeth has actively reached out to local Latino political, community, and non-profit organizations —  attending events and meeting with group members. She’s also participated in several in-studio interviews on Spanish-language radio stations including WXCT 990 AM  WFNW 1380 AM,” he said. According to the FCC,  WXCT broadcasts out of Torrington and WFNW out of Naugatuck.
Fain also said, “The bottom line is that at the end of day that most issues that matter to the Latino community are the same as those who are facing hard working middle class families around the district.” He added that the campaign also uses “bilingual canvassers and volunteers” in “Waterbury, Meriden, New Britain and communities across the district. ”
The Murphy campaign is also relying in part on grassroots efforts.  Campaign spokesperson Taylor Lavender said, “Our campaign is reaching out to communities across Connecticut to highlight Chris’s strong record of fighting for middle class families and contrast that with McMahon’s failed right-wing Republican policies. While we certainly can’t match the tens of millions of dollars McMahon is spending on lies and smears, we are very proud of the strong grassroots support Chris has across the state, and we are always looking for the most effective ways to reach out to voters through Election Day.”
Marion Anderson, who is the general sales manager of two Latino radio stations in the Hartford area, WLAT (910 AM in Hartford) and WNEZ (1230 AM in Manchester) as well as WKND (1480 in Hartford), which reaches African American listeners, said her Spanish language stations are carrying McMahon and Murphy ads but none from Esty and is surprised Murphy has not advertised on WKND. “This goes to show you what they really think about the Hispanic and the African American vote. He is not advertising on WKND either,” she said.
On the lack of advertising from Esty, she adds, “They are figuring the general population of Latinos are Democrats and won’t vote Republican and will pull the party lever.” WLAT has the state’s largest Latino radio station audience and reaches into 5th District cities like New Britain and Meriden.
Anderson also raised another point, “When they advertise, they are also showing the importance of supporting a small minority business. We are a small radio station that employs 8 full-time and 7 part-time workers. They don’t support us, but yet they are talking about small businesses being so important.”
Roraback spokesman Chris Cooper said, after this story was originally published, that the campaign has no plans for Spanish-language television advertising and, instead will continue to run ads on WPRX and WLAT. “Andrew speaks fluent Spanish and a major reason for doing Spanish ads is that Andrew wants the support of all voters, from all parties and from all ethnic groups. He believes that his bi-partisan approach to molding government solutions invites a big tent and he would never take any vote or voter for granted,” said Cooper.