MIAMI – Shortly after Ted Cruz and John Kasich abandoned the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Denise Galvez found herself in a conundrum. The Cuban-American public relations guru had voted for Sen. Marco Rubio in the March Florida primary that he lost by double digits to the eventual nominee, Donald Trump.
“I have known Rubio for a long time,” Galvez said. “I thought he was the best candidate.”
She could have either sat out the general election, temporarily switch her allegiance to the Democrats, vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, or cast her ballot for Trump, a candidate who derided Mexicans crossing the border as “rapists” and recently drew bipartisan criticism over his comments that an American-born judge of Mexican descent is biased against him.
“I’m not gonna sit it out,” Galvez recalled. “At a recent event, I was talking with other women about politics. We were almost ashamed to admit we were all leaning toward Trump. We were talking about establishment politicians taking us for granted and not putting this country first.”
So about a month ago, Galvez and her girlfriends formed Latinas for Trump, a grassroots organization that has seen its numbers swell to about 250 members. Last night, Latinas for Trump held its first rally at American Social, a local bar in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami, Florida. About three dozen Trump supporters, a majority of them females, mingled with one another over cocktails and appetizers. Galvez and her crew also handed out red t-shirts with “Latinas for Trump” in white lettering.
The group’s coming out party comes at a crucial time for Trump. He has come under fire this week over his comments about a Hispanic judge, with one senator even pulling his endorsement of the presumptive GOP nominee. Trump has insisted his words were “misconstrued” as an attack on people of Mexican heritage.
A recent Fox News Latino poll found that Clinton leads Trump 62 percent to 23 percent with Latino voters. About 74 percent said they have an unfavorable option of him.
Latinas for Trump co-founder Ileana Garcia said polls don’t take into account Latinos who are secretly supporting Trump. Garcia and Galvez said the recent, at times violent, backlash female Trump supporters have experienced is one of the reasons they formed Latinas for Trump. In March, Arizona business owner Betty Rivas told local news outlets she had been receiving harassing phone calls and Facebook comments after she appeared on stage with Trump holding a campaign sign supporting him.
“People need to respect other people’s decisions,” Garcia explained. “We have a right to go out there, not be scared, and say who we support.”
An independent voter, Garcia said she jumped on the Trump bandwagon during the first Republican debate last year. “I liked how he just went at the other candidates,” she said. “So I registered as a Republican so I could vote for him in the primary. As soon as he becomes president, I’ll switch back to being independent.”
Lisa Concepcion, a New York native of Puerto Rican and Chilean descent, said she kept her Trump support a secret for five months. Concepcion, who relocated to South Florida in 2010, is the owner of LoveQuest Marketing, a company that assists women with relationship advice.
“I officially started supporting Trump publicly when I began posting about him on Facebook around the holidays,” Concepcion said. “I was in the closet since August of last year. I think the momentum he was gaining made it feel it was time for me to come out.”
By continuing to hold events, Latinas for Trump will help convince other professional women who share their conservative views on immigration, the economy, and foreign policy that it is okay to show support for their candidate, Galvez said.
“We all don’t think he is racist,” she said. “We actually think he is a respectable businessman. We actually agree with the things he proposes.”
Includes reporting by The Associated Press.