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Libre Initiative Spreads Free Market Ideology To Latino Voters

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many conservative groups have not embraced Republican Donald Trump for president, yet they are still working to influence the political landscape, and that includes a group linked with the billionaire Koch brothers. It's called The LIBRE Initiative. Libre is Spanish for free, and the group is dedicated to spreading free market ideology to Latino voters who have voted for Democrats overwhelmingly in recent years. Daniel Garza, the group's leader, says it's involved in Senate races such as Nevada and Florida but not involved in the presidential race.

DANIEL GARZA: We have not been involved in the presidential race because we feel that there's just a lack of enthusiasm for both candidates. We don't feel they're - either one is strong on the direction that they're taking with respect to reining in irresponsible spending, reducing the tax burden on people, reducing the regulatory burden who are going to effectively address the issue of Obamacare, advance school choice...

INSKEEP: Trump says he's going to do virtually all those things - sounds like you don't buy it.

GARZA: You know, we feel that there is a question on the certainty of, you know, the results that are going to come from a Trump administration. But we feel even less of a certainty with a Clinton administration. We don't see it as an opportunity to leverage, I think, our agenda and drive a conversation around the presidential election.

INSKEEP: You are involved in some Senate races. Tell me about Nevada, how the decision has come down there, because in Nevada, as some people will know, you're supporting Joe Heck, who's a Republican, against a Latina who wants to become the first Latina woman senator, if I'm not mistaken.

GARZA: Yeah. Look, I have to confess, you know, if all things were equal and you had a Latina candidate going up against a non-Latino, you know, candidate - because of the lack of representation in the Senate, I would support the Latina, you know, for Senate. But in this case all things are not equal.

INSKEEP: Catherine Cortez Masto, we should say her name.

GARZA: Exactly. Cortez Masto is a typical liberal who we feel would expand the size and the scope of government by increasing the burden on taxes on Latinos by also heaping more regulations that would hinder business startups for Latinos. I mean, we're very entrepreneurial. And on the other side, you have Joe Heck who would reduce the tax burden, the regulatory burden, who would go - who would support a balanced budget amendment, who is supportive of school choice. So it's very clear, you know, whether you're Latino or not, at the end of the day, a big spending, big-government Latina is still a big spending, big-government liberal.

INSKEEP: Is Joe Heck one of the Republicans who signed up for your version of immigration reform, one that includes a path to citizenship?

GARZA: Yes. Joe Heck has expressed his support for immigration reform. Now, of course, what that immigration reform is going to look like, you know, obviously it has to be debated, but we feel very confident that that issue is mitigated because of the ideas that he's expressed in the past.

INSKEEP: We've reported, I think, on some of your activities in Nevada to try to encourage more Latino support. What's the hardest question that you've been asked by Latino voters as you do this work that you're doing?

GARZA: The hardest question - that's a hard question (laughter). You know, probably the notion that conservatives, Republicans, only care about the rich and that Democrats care about the poor - is that true? And nothing could be further from the truth. Look, I give Democrats the benefit of the doubt that they are working for a better society. And I wish that those on the other side would also give those on the conservative side the same benefit of the doubt.

INSKEEP: Has anyone asked you in the Latino community how can you continue to be part of a party in which the largest number of primary voters thought Donald Trump was a pretty good candidate or a great candidate?

GARZA: Yeah, I - yeah, maybe in one way or another I've been asked that. But, look, I'm not a conservative or a free market advocate or a Republican because, you know, I want people to like me. At the end of the day, it's because, you know, I feel a strong sense that the ideas work. On the issue of minimum wage, which is one that is always used as, you know, you don't care for decent wages, here is a case where you have Latino minorities who are at 20 percent unemployment and you want to double the cost to hire them by doubling the minimum wage. How is that going to help young Latinos?

All I'm saying is that we need to have an honest conversation about the policies that are generating opportunity and prosperity. And what are the policies that are generating barriers to opportunity?

INSKEEP: Daniel Garza of The LIBRE Initiative. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.