|"What we want to do with the Latino Victory Project is build political power in the Latino community, so that the faces of Latinos are reflected not just in every level of government but in the policies that drive the country forward," said Cristobal Alex, a former program officer for the Ford Foundation who left his post to serve as president of the new group.
"A missing ingredient in the past was Latino financial power," Alex said. "For the first time, we saw Latinos flex their financial and political muscle."
Latino Decisions identified 10 House Republicans whose reelection bids could be affected by Latino voters in 2014: Reps. Mike Coffman and Scott R. Tipton of Colorado; Jeff Denham, Gary G. Miller, David Valadao and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California; Daniel Webster of Florida; Joseph J. Heck of Nevada; Stevan Pearce of New Mexico; and Randy Weber of Texas.
Weber won the 2012 elections by a 53% to 45% margin. His congressional seat used to belong to Ron Paul.
Members of the group have agreed to spend anywhere between $1 million to $2 million in each of the targeted districts. The effort will begin in coming weeks with a campaign aimed at persuading the Republican members to back an immigration reform measure this year. If the members refuse to publicly come out in support of immigration, the Latino Victory Project plans to run a barrage of radio and TV ads against them next year.
Rob Stutzman, a GOP campaign consultant in Sacramento, said an intensive media campaign has to be matched with a major voter-turnout operation to be effective.
He also said some of the House members on the group's list may have inoculated themselves by already modifying their stances. One of the members, Rep. Jeff Denham (Calif.), just announced this weekend that he is backing a comprehensive reform bill recently filed by Democrats. Denham is the first Republican in the House to back the Democrats' initiative.
"We're all very united," said Amalia Perea Mahoney, an art gallery owner in Chicago, who joined donors from Washington, Florida, Texas, California, New York and Massachusetts at the groups' gathering on Friday. "I think it's a pivotal moment."
Tom Snyder, the AFL-CIO's immigration campaign manager, said, "There was agreement in the room that if we don't see action in the House, we know who we're going after."
The meeting was attended by officials from several labor unions, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as well as representatives of deep-pocketed backers of liberal causes, including a political adviser to billionaire George Soros.
"There's a realization that we have to get back to basics," Snyder said. ". . . We're at the point where if you don't act, we're going to have to make you pay at the ballot box."