Johnson County Democratic candidates hope to connect with Spanish speaking voters

Heard through the strong winds on Oct. 16, Johnson County Democratic candidates asked El Paso Tienda y Taqueria patreons, “Usted esta registrado para votar?” (Are you registered to vote?) as they walked into the store.


Jerod Ringwald

Yasmin Mosrell gives her phone number to Adam Zabner during a ‘votando juntos’ event held by Manny Galvez, Adam Zabner, V Fixmer-Oraiz, and Elinor Levin at El Paso Mexican Tienda y Taqueria in Iowa City on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022.

Emily Delgado, Politics Reporter

Johnson County Democratic candidates have attempted to register Latino and Spanish-speaking citizens ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm election at grocery stores in the county.

Adam Zabner, an Iowa House 90 candidate, Elinor Levin, an Iowa House 89 candidate, and V Fixmer-Oraiz, a Johnson County Board of Supervisors candidate, stood outside El Paso Tienda Mexicana Y Taqueria, a Hispanic-owned restaurant and grocery store in Iowa City on Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and spoke with potential voters.

During the last two weeks of September, the candidates stood outside Latino businesses like El Paso and talked to patrons about the election and voter registration. This is a part of Votemos Juntos (We Vote Together), a collaboration that started this year between Johnson County Democratic candidates and El Trueque Magazine writer Manny Galvez.

“This is the first effort to try to do something like that,” Galvez said. “And for me it is a good sign the party is doing this and again, not to just hear the Latinos, but to incorporate the Latinos to the political life in Iowa.”

Votemos Juntos wants to bring Latino voters together and make going to the polls a community-wide event and inform Spanish-speaking voters about politics, Zabner said.

With the midterm election a couple of weeks away on Nov. 8, Fixmer-Oraiz said conversations with voters will help keep elected officials like themselves accountable by the community.

“First of all, it’s just the connection and then it’s like we need to hear from people, we need to be in the know,” Fixmer-Oraiz said. “And then we need that accountability. And so, it’s not just lip service, it’s not just people talking to me, we need to make that a priority so that we can make those changes.”

A big part of Votemos Juntos is breaking a preconceived notion that a language barrier is a reason for elected officials to not reach out to non-English voters, Levin said.

“I think it’s incumbent upon political and county and city figures to make it clear. Not only that they’re willing to do the work to work with someone even if there’s a language barrier, but like that they want to,” Levin said.

While Levin and Fixmer-Oraiz are not fluent in Spanish, Zabner was able to serve as a crutch for the two candidates as a Latino and fluent Spanish speaker.

The candidates stood outside El Paso, saying “Buenos días, ¿usted está registrado para votar?” to any patreon walking into the door.

One patron, Iowa City resident Yasmin Mosrel, told Zabner she had never heard of him but said she would take some time to learn about the election after meeting him and other candidates.

Zabner’s family immigrated from Venezuela to Iowa City so his dad could complete medical school and ended up falling in love with the area.

“My dad and the people he works with and their willingness to serve the community and work for it to be accessible, and our government not show up in that same way was really difficult,” Zabner said. “It’s part of what made me think that my voice can be a good addition to our seats.”

Zabner grew up in the Iowa City Latino community and saw many Latinos struggling or being overlooked by their government officials, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think one of the things I’ve learned running for the first time is that the way that you show people that you care is by showing up,” Zabner said. “And so, I think it’s a really great thing to have local candidates feel like it’s a good use of their time and show that they care to be at these grocery stores.”

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