On Tuesday afternoon, Ronnie Najarro sat in the converted four-bedroom home in Las Vegas that serves as his office, working on the future of the conservative Latino movement. That work had nothing to do with the Nevada Republican caucuses, which were just hours away, and which Donald Trump handily won, besting his closest rivals, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, by a double-digit margin.
Instead, it was just another day of work for the Nevada state director of the Libre Initiative, a group funded by the conservative donor network run by Charles and David Koch. Najarro had wrapped up his morning radio talk show, a 15-minute segment that runs Tuesdays through Fridays on KENO 1460AM, a Spanish-language sports station in Vegas. Najarro’s show is called Generación Libre, or “Free Generation,” and is inspired by the name of his parent organization.
“We talk about our plans, our events, our activities,” which include an upcoming concert starring the Latino Christian singers Karina Moreno and Hermanos Medina, and a driver’s licenses exam workshop set for March. “But then we also talk about issues.” That usually means conversations about property rights, rule of law, but first and foremost, free enterprise. And that, in a nutshell, is how the savvy and rapidly growing Libre Initiative operates. The group is playing the long game, which is why it’s sitting out the 2016 presidential primaries.
Like any good organizing campaign, though, the group regularly heads out on weekends to knock on doors and chat with Latinos about the ills of government regulation. They hit up 1,000 homes in both February and January, Najarro says. And like any decent community-services organization, they also offer the kinds of services Latinos need and crave. The New Mexico office of Libre runs English classes. Libre hosts back-to-school nights, health checkups, financial planning, and GED completion courses. Najarro is preparing for Libre’s seventh driver’s license–exam workshop, called Pasa la Prueba, or Pass the Test. The exam-prep courses are so successful and so accessible (they’re not just conducted in Spanish, they’re also free) that Libre’s become well-known for them; they draw hundreds of Latinos at a time to a swap meet in Vegas.
And, like any savvy political organization, Libre is also aggressive about earned and paid media. The group has bought television ads slamming Obamacare, gotten op-eds published about the the Venezuelan elections, and regularly advertises its work and programs on radio, over e-mail, through digital marketing, and mailers. Every spot includes their message of self-reliance and unfettered free enterprise.