— -- In a presidential race full of firsts, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine made a little history of his own today, delivering a campaign speech only in Spanish in Phoenix, Ariz. -- a first for a candidate on a presidential ticket.
"There is so much in play for the Latino community that it’s important that our campaign reach out in a language that is spoken by so many families throughout the country. My Spanish is not perfect and thank you for your patience,” said Kaine at the Maryvale Community Center.
The Clinton campaign provided an English translation of Kaine’s remarks as he spoke. The Virginia senator contrasted his running mate with GOP nominee Donald Trump by aligning him with former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Brewer and Arpaio have been viewed as divisive figures by some for their comments about the Latino community.
"Latinos will have a very important voice in this election and the option is crystal clear. On the one hand is Hillary Clinton," Kaine said. "On the other hand, there's Donald Trump who is someone who thinks, someone who thinks that reaching out to the Latino community means tweeting a picture of a taco bowl."
Kaine continued to attack the GOP nominee in Spanish to the crowd of 360 people.
"The first week of his campaign, Donald Trump said that Mexican immigrants are drug dealers, rapists and murderers. He's a clown. In the last debate, Trump referred to them as 'bad hombres.'"
Kaine described Trump as a man who "fails to understand that bilingual families and multilingual families contribute to our diversity and our economy."
Kaine also blasted Trump’s remarks about Judge Gonzalo Curiel and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. Trump got into a Twitter war with Machado for following the first presidential debate between he and Clinton. Judge Curiel presided over a lawsuit involving Trump University and Trump questioned whether Curiel’s Mexican American heritage impacted his ability to be impartial.
"Even the speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump, said that was the definition of a racist comment," said Kaine about Trump's attack of Curiel. "Judge Curiel is as much of an American as I am. He is as much of an American as Donald Trump," Kaine said.
Kaine crafted his speech for weeks, according to a campaign aide. He made drafts in Spanish and English, accounting for the way things translate from Spanish to English and vice versa. Kaine gained his Spanish fluency as a missionary in Honduras in the 1980s. He utilizes Spanish on the trail often in exchanges with voters or during stump speeches in areas with a large Spanish speaking population.
Kaine discussed a range of issues from immigration reform to the economy to college affordability.
"Whether your family got here recently or whether your family has been here since before the United States came to be, Hillary Clinton and I believe that you are our brothers and sisters and we will fight for all of you," Kaine said. "You are our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends and our relatives. You make our country stronger and smarter and more creative...we do understand you and we are with you."
Kaine’s made history before using Spanish. In 2013, he gave a Senate floor address in Spanish when the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill was being debated. On the campaign trail, Kaine gave a Spanish only address at a church in Florida.
“There are a lot of things in this election that have been unprecedented and historic. We’re sort of proud that this is a positive and again I think this represents where our country is, the changing demographics of our country but also you know again to have someone on the ticket who is so uniquely able to not just speak Spanish but really listen in Spanish and really has such a respect for the culture,” said Karen Finney, Kaine’s communications director.
Kaine’s speech was just one of several steps taken by the Clinton campaign to try and turn Arizona blue and have the state vote for another Clinton. In 1992, Bill Clinton won the Grand Canyon state.
Yesterday, 15,000 people turned out to see Clinton speak in Tempe, Arizona. Other big name surrogates like First Lady Michelle Obama have given the state attention too. A recent CNN/ORC poll shows Trump leading Clinton 49 to 45 percent.
A former civil rights lawyer, Kaine has described his fluency in Spanish as giving him a better understanding of racial injustice in the country.
“I know the wrongs that still remain in this country,” Kaine said on August 4 in an address to the National Urban League. “I learn about them more every day because so many of the things that I know are wrong, I haven't felt the sting of them myself. I've known them because I am able to listen. And because of my Spanish fluency, I don’t say I’m a great Spanish speaker but I do have the ability to listen in two languages, and that’s an important thing to have.”