A day after the long-expected announcement that Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016, she has hired Jose Villarreal, a Latino with deep ties to the Clintons, as campaign treasurer, a Clinton campaign official told BuzzFeed News.
Villarreal has a long history in Democratic politics and with the Clintons, having served as deputy campaign manager for Bill Clinton in 1992 and as a senior adviser to Clinton in 2008, during her first presidential campaign. Of Mexican-American descent, he has also been a presence in Latino activism as chairman of the board of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).
The hiring of Villarreal comes after Clinton chose Amanda Renteria, who was the first Latina chief of staff to a U.S. senator and a former congressional candidate, to be her political director.
"First of all, big props to Hillary," said Andrés W. López, a lawyer from Puerto Rico and national co-chair of the Futuro Fund, which helped raise $32 million for Obama in 2012 from Latino donors. "He has a wealth of experience, he's insightful and has the trust of the candidate."
After the 2012 election, López said he turned to Villarreal for advice and had a long, fruitful conversation with him on how to continue "moving the needle forward on Latino issues."
"As long as he is someone in the room, seated at the table with her, his word carries weight," he said.
Democratic operatives and donors know that repeating Obama's success with Latino voters, when he got 71% of their support, would be a boon to her campaign and have publicly and privately called for Clinton to both take outreach to the growing Latino electorate seriously as well as fill the campaign at all levels with Hispanic staff with expertise in their respective areas.
"Building a successful strategy to reach Latino donors and voters starts with having members of the community in key decision making roles. I applaud the Clinton campaign for bringing on Jose Villarreal," said Cristóbal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project, which has helped elect Latino Democrats. "Much of this election cycle will be focused on how effectively campaigns can register, educate and turn out Latino voters. And the Clinton team is taking this challenge seriously."
Clinton has also brought together the duo of operatives who helped Obama win 70% of the Latino vote in Nevada, state director, Emmy Ruiz, and organizing director, Jorge Neri, BuzzFeed News reported last week.