Q&A with Chuck Rocha: Celebrating Leaders of Color

July 21, 2021

In April 2021, we introduced our inaugural National Advisory Board. In this new series of posts, we’re diving in with our board members to learn about their careers, inspirations, and vision for the future.

Chuck is a preeminent Latino vote expert, the President and Founder of Solidarity Strategies, a New York Times op-ed contributor, and the author of his debut memoir, “Tío Bernie,” which provides an inside look at the strategy behind the historic Latino outreach operation he pioneered on the Bernie 2020 campaign. Chuck is on the board of the National Wildlife Federation and is also the founder of Nuestro PAC, a partisan Super PAC that aims to educate, mobilize and turn out Latinos in key electoral states.

Chuck, you have been so engaged and active politically for so long. Tell us a little bit about your work and why you’re so passionate about it.

I am the founder of Solidarity Strategies, a full-service nonprofit and political consulting firm. Solidarity was built on the idea of diversity, inclusion, and mentorship opportunities for the next generation of minority professionals. In 10 years, Solidarity Strategies has employed over 100 young people of color and has become one of the most successful minority-owned political consulting firms in the nation.

I’ve worked on several presidential, congressional and gubernatorial races through the years, including both of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns. I would look around and see that I’m one of only a handful of people of color to help run a presidential campaign. We need more organizing. That’s why I started Nuestro PAC, a partisan Super PAC that aims to educate, mobilize and turn out Latinos in key electoral states.

My biggest accomplishments and reason for my work are my twin grandsons, Wyatt and Rowan. I look at them and know that we need to do better for our future.

What are you working on right now?

I created Nuestro PAC, which is a partisan Super PAC that uses the successful model of Latino outreach that delivered early victories for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential race. We work to educate, mobilize and turn out Latinos in key states. We are launching an associated podcast in September 2021! I also work with VoteVets — the nation’s largest progressive veterans group.

What’s the one thing you want people to know when they embark on a political or community leadership career?

I never attended college, I have a criminal record, and I was a single father at 20 years old. Any one of those things should have prevented me from having a successful career in politics. In reality, they are the experiences I draw on to inform the strategies I advise campaigns to use to win their elections.

What’s one thing that’s on your mind right now as we think about growing Black and Hispanic political and civic power?

The very top of the entire consulting and power infrastructure is controlled by white women and men. Political and nonprofit campaigns are the whitest industries in the nation! There are more Black and brown CEOs than there are senior campaign operatives or staff combined. It’s really important that we train more people to become operatives and to run campaigns. There are hard skills we can teach to people about campaign structure, finance, ads, and so much more. Those skills are then easily transferable to lots of sectors — running or participating on a political campaign gives you insight into strategy development, human resources, project management, and on and on. You have to do it all.

On a personal note, I always say that it’s important to work hard, show up on time and stay humble! The rest you can learn.

What do you think are the key features of the Leaders of Color Program that help close this gap?

Training diverse communities to run for public office is the key to long-term success and there are almost no initiatives to help people get the skills and network they need except Leaders of Color and a handful of other groups. Black and brown people already understand why it is so important to have community leaders that look like them. We don’t need to convince them — we need to help them actually do it with money, training, time, and network-building. That’s what Leaders of Color helps to do.

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