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Hillary Clinton Reunites Obama's Latino Team In Nevada With Second Hire

Jorge Neri is joining the Clinton campaign as Nevada organizing director to join state director Emmy Ruiz, BuzzFeed News has learned. The two helped Obama get 70% of the Latino vote in the state in 2012.

Posted on April 9, 2015, at 6:03 p.m. ET

Elise Amendola / AP

Hillary Clinton celebrating with President Bill Clinton after being declared winner of the Nevada Caucus in Las Vegas.

Jorge Neri, who served as the Nevada field director for Obama in 2012 is leaving the White House to join Hillary Clinton's coming presidential campaign as the organizing director in the state, sources told BuzzFeed News.

A source with knowledge close to Clinton confirmed the hiring.

Friday is his last day in the Obama administration where he served as the associate director of public engagement.

The move will reunite him with Nevada state director Emmy Ruiz, whom Clinton brought on last month. The two served in the same roles in 2012, helping Obama get 70% support from Latino voters in the state, part of a Latino outreach effort many Democrats have been privately and publicly pining for since.

As organizing director, Neri's role will involve setting infrastructure for the general election.

"Since she's not expecting a primary they're going to use the caucuses as an organizing model for the general," predicted Andres Ramirez, a Nevada political operative for 20 years.

Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, has worked extensively with Neri in the state and called him a leader not only on get out the vote and civic engagement in the state but also on immigration nationally.

Neri worked for the Alliance4Citizenship where he built field operations which Monterroso says helped lay the groundwork for passage of the bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate.

"The fact that his first assignment is to go to Las Vegas, is an indication that Las Vegas has been the epicenter for Latinos and immigration," Monterroso said, pointing to Obama's visits to the state in 2013 to kick off a focus on an immigration overhaul and in 2014 to announce his executive actions to shield more than 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

At the White House Neri "played a key role in making sure the community knows what the executive order is about," Monterroso said.

On the Obama reelection campaign, Neri was Southeast region field director and the field directors in Florida and North Carolina reported to him. Then he went on to become the field director in Nevada.

Nevada Democrats say Neri not only has extensive contacts with elected officials and grassroots leaders on the ground in Nevada in the Latino community, but also among the rapidly growing Asian-American community in the state because of the crossover among immigrant groups.

"Someone who is worth their salt has to be connected in Latino and peripheral communities," one Nevada Democrat said. "People are feeling legitimized."

"It clearly demonstrates that the Clinton campaign and frankly Hillary herself is taking Latino voter outreach seriously and ensuring that Latinos understand what her campaign is going to be about from the very beginning," said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.

Neri and Ruiz join Tim Hogan, who is doing communications in Nevada for the coming Clinton campaign, Ramirez said.

He said the hirings are a departure from how campaigns are sometimes criticized for "importing a bunch of operatives that don't have institutional experience working in the state."

"Her first three hires have experience in Nevada," he said. "The head position is a Latina and now the organizing director. Two Latinos working in a senior role in a state like Nevada, that's not something we have seen in the past."

Ramirez said the early focus on Latino outreach coupled with the Wednesday announcement that Catherine Cortez Masto will try to become the first Latina U.S. senator, with support from the retiring Harry Reid, could boost Democratic hopes in the state.

"They're banking on the Latino electorate to carry the ticket in the state," he said.

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