Politics & Government

Kentucky lawmaker prepares speech to help Trump with Hispanic voters

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado knows his prime-time speech Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland is designed to attract Hispanic voters to Donald Trump.

Alvarado, a Winchester physician who joined the Kentucky Senate in January 2015, is the only Hispanic ever elected to the state’s legislature.

Trump, the GOP’s presidential nominee, faces problems with the United States’ largest ethnic minority group, which makes up a significant voting bloc.

As of 2013, Hispanics in this country numbered 54 million, or 17 percent of the total population. In 2010, 7 percent of all voters in federal elections were of Hispanic origin, but by 2012 they numbered 8.4 percent and now are close to 10 percent.

Trump has created controversy with Hispanics by proposing that a wall be built between the United States and Mexico and dismissing some Mexican immigrants as “rapists.”

A poll this week by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo showed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton way ahead of Trump among Hispanic voters: 76 percent to 14 percent.

Alvarado, in a telephone interview, said he hopes that his six-minute speech at the GOP convention gives all voters “a little glimpse of my life and shows how the Republican Party is the one best equipped to restore American values and restore the American dream.”

Trump was Alvarado’s third choice this year for president. The Kentucky lawmaker first backed U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green and then supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Alvarado, 46, said he stands by Trump’s views on immigration.

“The ‘wall’ doesn’t bother me in the least,” he said. “Trump wants to keep out illegals. So do I. We both want to secure our borders. We both are for legal immigration and helping people who sincerely want to do good.”

Alvarado, whose 28th Senate district includes Clark and Montgomery counties and a portion of Fayette county, said he knows a Hispanic who is voting this year for the first time in 30 years. “He will be for Trump because he believes what Trump is offering can benefit him more.”

The idea of speaking at a national convention makes Alvarado feel “very excited and honored.”

Alvarado said he keeps tweaking his speech of about 950 words and reading it aloud. “I hope it’s a message of inspiration. It’s about perseverance.”

The opportunity to give the most important political speech of his life in front of about 35 million people worldwide began about two to three months ago, when Alvarado sent an email to “higher-ups in the Republican Party” about his message, particularly for Hispanics.

He said he was at his medical clinic when he got a phone call from an assistant in U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office to come to Cincinnati on July 5 to “meet with Trump’s people.”

Alvarado said the meeting was in nearby Sharonville, Ohio, and he got to meet Trump for about four to five minutes. He told me, “We can win this.”

Alvarado said he told his wife that the encounter could “have all been done over the phone.”

About a week later, Alvarado got another call and was told to “stay tuned.” He said he met Trump again last week at a private fundraiser in Lexington.

Alvarado’s wife, Dawn, and their children, Nathan and Sarina, will be in the audience Wednesday night. “They are just as excited about all this as I am,” he said.

Sometimes speeches at national party conventions have catapulted politicians to bigger and better roles.

In 2004, a little-known Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois named Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention about the American dream.

Last year, GOPAC, a national Republican recruiting organization, named Alvarado an “emerging leader” of 2015, giving him access to speech coaches, fundraisers and strategists to help mold him for a run for possible higher office.

Alvarado laughed when asked what impact he hopes his speech Wednesday night will have on his personal life.

“I live in the here and now,” he said. “My focus now is to help my district, my state, my party and my country.”

Jack Brammer: 502-227-1198, @BGPolitics