Democrats’ use of Spanish in debate evokes praise, eye rolls

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks to the media in the spin room after the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Some Democratic presidential hopefuls spoke some Spanish during the first televised debate of the 2020 election, evoking praise from some Latino activists and eye rolls from others.

Advocates looking for clues about how candidates would respond to issues facing Latinos saw the Spanish-speaking move Wednesday night as promising and sincere. Critics called the moves “hispandering” — a term used to describe pandering to the Hispanic community.

Their efforts were a testament to the fact that Latinos are on track to be the largest racial or ethnic group eligible to vote in 2020 with 32 million, according to figures from the Pew Research Center.

The candidates who spoke some Spanish were former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro.

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