SeriesLIVE

Chuck Rocha

Immigrant Archive Project
Chuck Rocha is a Mexican-American political consultant, adept Democratic Party strategist, and former union organizer who currently holds the presidency of Solidarity Strategies. In this interview, Mr. Rocha opens a window into his vibrant upbringing, shaped by the convergence of his white mother's family and his father's Mexican heritage. He eloquently shares his initial foray into the labor movement, tracing its transformative influence on his journey, ultimately propelling into a position of prominence as a top-tier political consultant.
Show transcript
00:00
My father had left at a young age and I wanted to know from him
00:03
is like, why did I never hear him speaking Spanish?
00:05
And he would tell me that in East Texas in the late fifties and
00:09
sixties and seventies was not a really friendly place to immigrants
00:13
or to black or brown people.
00:14
So they tried to be as white as they could be.
00:22
My name is Chuck Rocha.
00:24
I'm a Mexican and I grew up in East Texas and I am a political
00:29
consultant.
00:30
Fantastic.
00:31
Let's go back to your, your childhood.
00:34
What are some of your earliest childhood memories?
00:37
You know, I was really blessed growing up uh with two different
00:41
families, my mother's family and my father's family.
00:43
Um I like to tell the story that I had a white grandmother who
00:47
was my mother's mother and I had a Mexican grandmother, Carmen
00:50
Rocha, who was my father's grandmother and they both had certain
00:53
things in common.
00:54
They both made the best food.
00:56
My white grandmother who was the Southern Bale who grew her
01:00
own vegetables, processed her own meat, made her own sausage
01:03
canned her own vegetables, probably made the best fried
01:07
chicken of any fried chicken you would ever eat in your life
01:09
Cast iron skillet Crisco.
01:11
She would kill the chickens herself, like really amazing
01:14
things.
01:15
And then my, my, my grandmother Rocha Carmen Rocha, I can never
01:20
remember ever walking into her house and my nose burning just
01:24
a little bit.
01:25
And I realized as I got older that it's because she had one of
01:28
those and she would grind the peppers every morning and she
01:32
would hot sauce every day.
01:34
She would make flour tortillas every day.
01:37
And my memory of her as a little boy is her standing at the stove
01:41
in her apron, usually holding one of her grandchildren on
01:44
the phone, talking to one of her sisters or one of her kids while
01:48
making tortillas hot plate.
01:50
It was like an assembly line.
01:51
She was doing all while watching babies on the phone and taking
01:54
care of everything my grandmother wrote.
01:56
She had 15 Children.
01:57
My father was one of 15.
01:59
You had the fried chicken on one side.
02:01
You had the Mexican food on the other.
02:04
How did you identify growing up as a kid?
02:06
Well, the first thing you identify with food like that is that
02:09
I weighed £310 when I graduated high school and I was an Allstate
02:13
offensive lineman in East Texas.
02:15
So I was a big old boy because I was raised on a farm and my grandfather
02:19
would put me to work and my grandfather, my white grandfather
02:22
he probably weighed 100 and £35 sopping wet.
02:24
So I did a lot of the lifting around the house.
02:27
Uh, growing up and growing up on that farm and, you know, early
02:31
in life, I didn't really know what to self identify as my father
02:34
left when I was five years old.
02:36
And uh my mother didn't remarry for a long, long time.
02:39
And so my grandfather and her two brothers served as my father
02:43
Keep in mind my mother was just 15.
02:45
So I was this boy being raised by these other boys with a young
02:48
set of grandparents on a working farm in East Texas.
02:50
We lived in a trailer house just off to the side of the main house
02:53
and that's where I was raised and no one really ever spoke of
02:57
my father's heritage or his culture or him being Mexican or
03:00
Mexican American about anywhere his family had come from
03:03
I discovered all this later in life when not identifying as
03:08
anything other than just a redneck in East Texas.
03:10
Like all of my friends, not based off of my skin color, but my
03:13
father got me a job in a factory when I was 19, I had, at that point
03:18
carried on a long tradition of babies having babies and had
03:20
my own son at 19 and asked my father, could he help me get a job
03:24
in the meal?
03:25
Because I needed health care.
03:27
I needed health care because I'd taken full custody of this
03:29
boy that I had just had with this woman.
03:31
And me and my father reconnected in that meal and really became
03:35
getting close.
03:35
And I would ask him stories about his parents and my grandparents
03:38
his parents who were um Agapita Agapito, uh Pete Rocha and
03:43
and Carmen, obviously, my grandmother and their story of
03:46
how they came here from Guanajuato.
03:48
And he, I remember he, Pete's father's name was, I don't remember
03:53
my great grandmother's name.
03:54
And you know, I just remember my grandfather Rocha being a
03:57
really quiet man.
03:58
And I remember he had these big big rocha hands, like all the
04:01
boys have these big rocha hands, right?
04:04
Um And, and that was some of the things I remember, but it was
04:07
it was interesting that I discovered that later in life like
04:10
until I was 18 or 19 because I was hungry to know more because
04:14
I, all of my friends were white or they were the white or black
04:17
I was the only one that was brown, right?
04:19
And, and I couldn't speak Spanish that well because my father
04:22
had left at a young age.
04:23
And the stories I remember and I wanted to know from him is like
04:27
why did I never hear him speaking Spanish?
04:29
And he would tell me that in East Texas growing up in East Texas
04:34
that it was very important for my grandmother and my grandfather
04:36
for them to assimilate him.
04:38
And his 15 brothers and sisters almost for their own safety
04:42
East Texas in the late fifties and sixties and seventies was
04:45
not a really friendly place to immigrants or to black or brown
04:49
people.
04:49
So they tried to be as white as they could be.
04:52
One of the craziest stories that I remember hearing was at
04:54
my grandmother's funeral.
04:56
This would put me about 18 or 19.
04:58
I just got the job in the factory and my grandmother passed
05:00
away grandma, my grandmother, Rocha.
05:02
And I remember my uncles always talking about my grandmother's
05:06
family and they called them the Macs.
05:09
And I couldn't, for the life of me ever figure out my grandmother
05:12
was the most Mexican person I'd ever known in my entire life
05:15
Thick accents.
05:17
I told you the stories about the tortillas and the hot sauce
05:19
every meal.
05:20
Like if there's a stereotypical Mexican grandmother, it
05:23
was my grandmother.
05:24
But they always referred to her family as the Mac.
05:27
Oh, I would ask my uncle uh who was I with?
05:30
I was with my Uncle Manny sitting in the queue, he worked in
05:32
the factory with me.
05:34
And I asked Uncle Molly, who is that?
05:35
He goes, that's one of the Mac.
05:37
And I was like, well, who was that?
05:38
Oh, that's another one of the Mac.
05:39
And I finally looked at him and I was like, uncle, somebody's
05:43
got to tell me what's the deal with Mac R?
05:46
And he said your grandmother's father grew up on a farm in East
05:49
Texas early, early on.
05:51
And that the last name of the man who owned the farm was Macree
05:55
mc Reesemr.
06:00
And my grandmother's given last name for her family was Ruiz
06:05
Ruiz.
06:07
And my grandmother's father asked the landowner if he could
06:11
change his name to be more American like his name.
06:14
So they literally went to the courthouse and changed his last
06:17
name to be spelled MC Capital Ruiz.
06:22
So when they would go and his Children would go and apply for
06:25
jobs, they would think it was mcree, the white name so they
06:28
could get a job.
06:29
And that's how racist it was in East Texas at the time.
06:31
And what families would go to go through to assimilate in East
06:35
Texas, you made a point which uh in the book um that these families
06:40
that went through all of this in order to, you know, change
06:45
their names, try to assimilate very rapidly.
06:49
Uh were not any less Mexican or any less prideful of where they
06:54
came from.
06:55
And those families that, that, that didn't speak to that a
06:59
little bit.
07:00
I think the reason that these families, my father's family
07:03
the Ramirez is there were only like two or three Mexican families
07:06
in Tyler, Texas, you know, in the sixties and late fifties
07:10
there wasn't a lot of folks, a lot of Latinos around and I think
07:13
that they assimilated in a way that was best for their families
07:17
their kids.
07:18
I don't think they were running away from who they were.
07:20
My grandmother didn't stop making tortillas every day.
07:23
My grandmother didn't stop using a, every day.
07:26
Right.
07:26
My grandmother had 15 Children.
07:28
Like you couldn't go to my grandmother's house and place your
07:31
hand on the wall and not touch a picture of a grandchild because
07:35
you can imagine how many grandchildren she had and great grandchildren
07:38
That was her pride.
07:39
She had never worked a regular job, a paying job in her life
07:43
because she spent her entire life raising babies for 15 years
07:47
and then the grand babies.
07:48
But because all of her kids and this is something else interesting
07:52
that actually I didn't even put in the book.
07:53
But almost every one of her kids married an Anglo now, I don't
07:58
think that they were doing that because they were trying to
08:00
assimilate.
08:01
I think they did that because that was all that was around.
08:03
So they were doing what all their friends were doing, which
08:06
was finding a beautiful man or a beautiful woman that they
08:08
would fall in love with and they would start raising a family
08:11
The one thing I will say is that the family and, and all of these
08:14
mixed race babies are probably some of the prettiest people
08:16
I've ever seen.
08:17
Minus my big old, ugly ass like they need, there needs to be
08:21
a lot of, of assimilating going on in America because I think
08:23
the mixing of the cultures is a beautiful thing and I never
08:27
heard anything from any of my uncles or any of my aunts or my
08:31
grandparents about like talking about race.
08:34
Like you can't see a white person or you can't, you need to be
08:37
more Mexican like that just wasn't spoken of.
08:39
It was just them trying to actually lead an American life,
08:42
trying to achieve the American dream and do the things that
08:46
they had to do for their family.
08:48
Like my grandmother lived in a small two bedroom house and
08:51
like was a very, very Catholic woman.
08:53
Like the all the things that are stereotypical Mexican.
08:56
But everyone in that family, all 15 of those kids all went on
09:00
to be great successes in her eyes, in our eyes.
09:03
Like they all had regular jobs they all provided for their
09:06
families.
09:06
They all were some kind of a middle income family like they
09:09
all did really well because they worked hard.
09:12
My, my grandpa Pete had worked I, that's the story of my uncle
09:18
Manny.
09:18
I keep referring to my Uncle Monty because he was like my closest
09:22
thing to my father as a father to me.
09:23
Besides my father, we worked in the same department in that
09:26
factory where I got that job.
09:28
And I asked him one time, I said, why did Grandpa Pete?
09:33
And that's what we called Pete was why did he set up shop of the
09:36
family in Maybank, Texas and May Bank is 20 miles outside of
09:42
Tyler.
09:42
And he said, well, that's where they were building the train
09:45
track when he had enough money to buy the land.
09:48
And I said, what does that even mean?
09:50
He said, well, he was working on the railroad, your grandmother
09:54
was living with her family and when he had enough money in his
09:57
pocket that he had saved from working on the railroad, that's
10:00
where they were, were building the railroad track when they
10:02
came across this piece of land that he could buy.
10:04
So he quit his job and bought the piece of land.
10:08
And that's how the roaches got to East Texas.
10:12
So a long line of blue collar, hardworking people on both sides
10:16
of your family.
10:18
Yeah, there's a long line of people on our family who have just
10:22
figured out how to make it work, but in a good way, right?
10:24
A football coach told me one time that there's no such thing
10:28
as luck.
10:29
It's skill met by opportunity.
10:31
And I think about that a lot when it comes to my grandfather
10:33
like all of the rocha men, all the rocha women are all very
10:36
hardworking people.
10:38
Uh And I think that's the backbone of my personal success.
10:41
Uh But I also think it's the success that all of, of those folks
10:44
had, right in that, that, that, that set of grandparents,
10:47
Carmen and Pete really were a great example for their Children
10:51
uh who will all have went on to do amazing things.
10:56
Did that experience?
10:57
Did, did, did, did that sort of narrative that played out for
11:02
you growing up on both sides of the family?
11:04
Did that have anything to do with what you ultimately decided
11:07
to pursue as a career, you know, growing up, how I grew up had
11:11
a big influence over what I ended up end up doing at the very
11:15
end, which was doing politics and advocacy work.
11:18
Uh I don't know if it made me a better consultant, but it definitely
11:22
gave me a different vision, right?
11:24
And I still had that same determination as the rest of my family
11:27
to work hard.
11:28
I talk about this in the book because it's something that I'm
11:30
very um ashamed of is too harsh a word.
11:33
But I'm self conscious of is that I never went to college.
11:37
Uh And I work in the most powerful rooms in Washington DC.
11:40
I just finished helping run a presidential campaign.
11:42
I've been to the White House, I've been in the oval office.
11:44
I've got to do things that I would never dream.
11:45
I got to do.
11:46
And I've never been to college a day in my life.
11:49
But what I know is what, what we're talking about here with
11:52
the family and growing up in East Texas and growing up watching
11:55
my grandmother, watching both of my grandmothers.
11:58
My white grandmother was named Evelyn Bussell.
12:01
She worked in a factory where they made air conditioners for
12:04
25 years until she retired and she was an inspector.
12:06
I remember all of these stories.
12:08
She would go to work at seven in the morning.
12:09
She got off at three in the afternoon.
12:10
My mother was normally working two jobs.
12:13
So when we get off the school bus, it was about the time my grandmother
12:16
would get home the first shift at the factory and we would go
12:19
lay in her living room and watch TV and eat cereal and watch
12:22
whatever programming was on in the evening.
12:24
That's how I lived.
12:24
My entire childhood was being raised by that grandmother
12:27
watching her hard work watching my papa's hard work.
12:30
My white grandfather, Charlie Bussell and then having this
12:33
great role model on the roaches side is definitely the way
12:37
I look at politics.
12:38
And what makes me different.
12:39
I think when you think about the lens of consulting or having
12:43
to relate with an electorate, I've lived that life like I was
12:47
there personally.
12:48
It, there's nothing against men or women who get to go to Harvard
12:51
and Yale and whose mom and daddy has trust funds for them, good
12:53
for them.
12:53
And some of them are amazing people, but they didn't live the
12:56
experience that I lived.
12:57
And that gives me a unique lens into the fabric of America that
13:02
makes me so much better at messaging for my candidates are
13:04
my nonprofits that I'm working for because I've lived that
13:07
dream.
13:08
I know what it's like for my mother who in the book I talk about
13:11
this, my mother would take me to an all day swim class at the
13:14
Y MC.
13:14
A little.
13:15
Did I know she was dropping me and my sister off there to learn
13:18
how to swim, but also it was free day care.
13:21
Right.
13:21
Uh Those things come to me later in life and I was like, oh, that
13:25
makes much more sense.
13:26
Right.
13:26
Me and my sister never went without, we never went without
13:29
a meal.
13:30
We always had at least one pair of the best blue jeans that everybody
13:33
else was wearing for all you kids in the eighties.
13:35
Those Joor ashes were hot.
13:36
I know it.
13:36
We all had one pair of Nikes and you better take care of them
13:40
because your mama would whoop your butt if you tore them up
13:42
because we only had one good pair.
13:44
So you learn to appreciate things differently.
13:46
Again, being a high powered political consultant in Washington
13:50
DC.
13:50
That's not the story that you hear many consultants talk about
13:53
when you're talking to your candidate about how you represent
13:56
and talk to people who feel like they have no representation
13:59
who feel like they don't have a voice in their government
14:01
who feels like their government only adheres to that 1% or
14:04
to the rich.
14:04
People are so aligned with that every single day and probably
14:08
have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder about it.
14:10
As well because I feel like I have to get up a little bit earlier
14:13
work a little bit longer because it's harder for me to break
14:17
in to some of those rooms and some of those campaigns.
14:20
And that's why I actually created my firm to give an opportunity
14:23
to those kind of kids who come to this town who are looking for
14:25
those opportunities, knowing the Hispanic market the way
14:31
you do, once you came to DC, you started doing this work.
14:36
What surprised you about that disconnect?
14:40
What they thought they knew about the market that they really
14:44
didn't when I arrived in DC.
14:47
What surprised me the most is how these white establishment
14:50
consultants didn't even understand our community at the
14:52
very basic level.
14:54
And when I explain this, when I'm teaching classes and I'm
14:56
talking to young activists, I talk about, my name is Charles
15:00
Rocha on my driver's license.
15:02
My 30 year old son is named Charles Rocha as well on his driver's
15:06
license.
15:06
Now on the voter file, me, both of us on the voter file are both
15:11
Charles Roach and we're both Latino voters.
15:14
Mine DC, him and Pennsylvania.
15:17
I live alone.
15:18
He's got two kids, my amazing young grandkids, uh Rowan and
15:22
Wyatt Roach.
15:23
But let's talk about how we consume information every day
15:26
When I come home from work, I'll have some dinner.
15:29
I'll sit in a big chair.
15:30
I'll fix me a glass of iced tea or a bourbon all depending on
15:33
what my day was like.
15:34
I'll turn on a 72 inch plasma TV and I'll watch baseball while
15:39
I'm looking at Facebook.
15:41
I'm probably doing a little work and that's how the rest of
15:43
my evening is.
15:44
And I'm served ads on that Facebook.
15:46
I'm served ads during that baseball game and when I get up in
15:49
the morning I start getting, and I'm consuming information
15:52
the whole time.
15:53
Well, my son doesn't even own a TV.
15:56
My son doesn't know the first thing about major league baseball
15:59
and we're still considered Latino on the voter file.
16:02
And these consultants, if they chose to talk to Latino communities
16:05
at all, would talk to us in the same way by running a badly translated
16:10
English TV commercial on Univision and thinking that they
16:13
have checked the Latino box and have run a Latino communication
16:16
program where me or my son, either one ain't watching Univision
16:19
We're not watching Telemundo, right?
16:21
We're not watching Tele in the middle of the day either, right
16:23
But the consultants had such a lack of understanding of our
16:27
community.
16:27
They, I actually thought that was how you reach out to Latinos
16:30
That and maybe putting 20 or 30 Latinos in a Latino neighborhood
16:35
the last two weeks to have everybody knock on the door to remind
16:38
them, get out to vote.
16:39
Don't forget the elections tomorrow, but has spent no time
16:42
talking to our community for the last two years.
16:44
But show up at the last minute.
16:45
So, you know, during the Bernie campaign, I talk about this
16:47
a lot in the book about how you should do this differently.
16:50
We did it differently and it paid off in Spades.
16:53
Bernie was receptive to your ideas from, from the jump.
16:58
I think Bernie was open to my ideas because we had lived through
17:02
2016 and in 2016, when I was with the campaign as well, we realized
17:08
that Latinos really moved to his messaging, but we learned
17:11
too late to really capitalize and do it in the right way.
17:15
And what I mean by that is Bernie.
17:19
Bernie didn't catch fire till the very end of that campaign
17:21
And we started raising millions of dollars, but not till December
17:25
right before the Iowa caucuses.
17:26
So we're trying to literally fly the airplane while we're
17:29
building the airplane and made lots of mistakes.
17:31
But there's one thing that stood out to me is that there was
17:34
this undertow of support with Latinos that we had spent a ton
17:38
of time talking to.
17:39
We had spent a bunch of money talking to and they still were
17:41
showing up in bigger numbers than other demographics.
17:44
So when we started the 2020 campaign and I had a much elevated
17:47
job in 2020 I said, let's start where we left off with Latinos
17:52
in 2016 and make them the backbone of our operation.
17:55
So they were open to that.
17:57
But what really helped me is when we first started doing our
18:00
initial set of polls, just like I had imagined Latinos after
18:04
hearing Bernie sanders' message in polling and focus group
18:07
move twice as much towards him than white voters or black voters
18:11
So I had the data on my side and I had the trust of Bernie and Jeff
18:15
Weaver, Bernie, the candidate Jeff Weaver, the other senior
18:17
advisor.
18:18
And then after we brought him on to be the campaign manager
18:21
who said, oh, the data backs up what Chuck is saying, Chuck
18:24
is an expert on, on doing this.
18:26
And literally, my clients were all the Latino organizations
18:29
who do this full time.
18:31
So it was that cultural competency that I brought with a, with
18:35
the understanding that the candidate and the senior advisor
18:37
saw the importance of the demographic and then the trust for
18:40
them to give me millions of dollars and the authority to see
18:43
it through.
18:44
And so by the end, we had 206 Latino staffers, we spent tens
18:48
of millions of dollars in Spanish advertising in places like
18:52
Iowa and Nevada and California and Texas and really turned
18:56
the political establishment on its head with the way that
18:59
we had pulled this off.
19:00
What did you come out of that campaign?
19:03
Knowing about the Hispanic voter, the, the Hispanic consumer
19:08
that you didn't know going in?
19:10
I learned a lot of lessons coming out of that election that
19:13
I didn't really know until we'd spent this money.
19:15
I thought I knew, but it hadn't been tested, right.
19:18
So, getting Latinos to caucus is hard because caucusing is
19:22
different than voting when you go to somebody and say, well
19:25
you go caucus, that's not just going and voting and walking
19:27
When you gotta go in a room, you gotta raise your hand, you gotta
19:30
do this publicly.
19:31
It's very intimidating.
19:33
The average Latino primary voters is 10 years younger than
19:36
the average white voter just based off of pure demographics
19:39
We're about 27 as the Latino age for a voter and it's 38 for a
19:43
white voter.
19:44
So you're talking to a younger demographic who's not truly
19:47
comfortable and who don't want to go into a room and really
19:51
hasn't been motivated.
19:52
But the main thing they haven't been done is talk to, I'll use
19:56
this example of what I learned the first time we ran a poll in
20:00
Nevada to Latinos.
20:02
Joe Biden was beating us by five points with Latinos by election
20:07
day by caucus day.
20:09
Seven months later, we would win 73% of the Latino vote and
20:14
we kicked everybody's butt in a long like there was nobody
20:17
even close to us.
20:18
And the point I'm making there is I didn't really believe I
20:21
could move that many Latinos in six months to make that big
20:26
of a difference in an election.
20:28
Uh And I proved that it could, it was possible, but it had never
20:30
been tested, right?
20:32
And I used a lot of jujitsu that I talk about in the book of Little
20:35
things here and little things there that were really different
20:37
But the bottom line was start early, spend lots of money, hire
20:41
people from the community that looked like the community
20:44
and do a culturally competent campaign with Latino staff
20:47
Latino consultants that is delivered at the door by Latinos
20:52
He, he hit a snag in Florida, particularly with Cubans.
20:57
Looking back on it.
20:59
Where did he go wrong?
21:01
I think that there's one thing that you've got to know about
21:03
Bernie Sanders and that you have to take the good with the bad
21:07
And what I mean by that is that he feels very, very strongly
21:11
about representation for people and regular everyday people
21:15
right?
21:15
And when he started making the comments about Castro in Florida
21:19
obviously, that's not something that Chuck Roach is running
21:21
to him going, we should hurry up and go talk about how great
21:23
Castro is or how his government had given free education to
21:26
everybody.
21:27
That is not the case.
21:28
But what you saw is a very heartfelt moment from Bernie who
21:32
in his heart with every time he's talked to me, he's talked
21:35
about Castro being a dictator and being bad person and the
21:40
horrible things that the Castro government did to its people
21:43
bad.
21:43
He's told me all these things, but he would also because he
21:45
just could not recognize that there were some minor things
21:49
that were done that were probably good, like educating farmers
21:53
and this and that and the little pieces of it because he just
21:56
believed that there was not totality of everything was bad
21:58
or everything was good and to do it over again, I would have
22:01
just had him keep that to himself.
22:03
Right.
22:03
So you should just know that that's where him, me and the advisors
22:06
were and every day that that would come up, I'd be like, can
22:09
we quit talking about Cuba?
22:10
There are so many other things that we could talk about this
22:12
little island in the ocean with this dictator, right?
22:15
Let's talk about all the other things.
22:16
But the reporters that was Catnip and especially in South
22:20
Florida, right?
22:21
And especially with this Cuban community uh in Florida, was
22:24
that an issue of him being brutally honest and not being willing
22:28
to sort of reposition this to be more palatable to the Cuban
22:36
market was at him again since my voice isn't heard here.
22:39
Was that him saying?
22:39
Listen, fuck it.
22:40
This is the way I feel about this and not everything coming
22:43
out of that island has been horrible.
22:46
And if you don't like it too bad, the one thing you get for Bernie
22:49
Sanders all the time is the truth, like whether you like it
22:51
or you don't like it, like he's always gonna tell you exactly
22:54
how he feels and that's just how he feels like he really believes
22:59
that, that not everything in Cuba has been bad.
23:01
He would tell you that he thinks 95% of it is.
23:03
And he would openly tell you that Castro and his brother is
23:06
a dictatorship, right?
23:08
And that it's a bad place in what they've done to people is horrible
23:11
But he, you're not going to get him to flinch when it comes to
23:14
not saying that some of the little things that they may have
23:16
done were good and that's just who he is.
23:18
Like, he believes that he believes it to be true, but he's not
23:22
going to bend because the media don't like it.
23:24
And that's good for a consultant.
23:26
99% of the time, I could imagine.
23:31
I could imagine.
23:32
I could imagine.
23:33
Yeah, that was just such a storm in Florida when that whole
23:36
thing.
23:37
Uh This is how I feel about Cuban primary voters and about all
23:40
of this attention.
23:41
Anybody who's done 10 seconds worth of work in South Florida
23:44
understands the demographics down there, especially if
23:46
you're Latino and if you're competing in a Democratic primary
23:49
the thing that we went up with, with the Castro.
23:51
Sure it raised all kinds of holy hell with the Cuban community
23:54
but in a democratic primary, it doesn't kill you.
23:57
And we even got half of all the Cuban support in the primary
24:01
because the Cubans that are voting in a Democratic primary
24:05
Don't think that what he said?
24:06
Is that crazy?
24:07
And all the Cubans who think that Bernie Sanders is the devil
24:10
himself are saying it are voting in the Republican primary
24:13
and it's a bigger issue in the general election spot.
24:17
What drew you to, to Bernie Iii I my takeaway from the book was
24:24
that you have an enormous amount of respect for him.
24:28
Um bring that to life for me.
24:32
Why?
24:33
What is it about him?
24:33
That that is, that makes him a man to be admired.
24:38
You know, there's certain things about Bernie Sanders that
24:40
drew me to him as a candidate or drew me to him as a person.
24:44
Um I've always aligned with the values of the part of our party
24:49
that really stand up for regular people coming out of the labor
24:53
movement starting as a factory worker was a big part of who
24:56
I am at my core.
24:57
People ask me a lot of times what's the one issue that got you
25:00
in politics?
25:01
And they expect for me to say immigration or talk about health
25:03
care?
25:04
And I say it was a North American free trade agreement.
25:07
It's trade policy is why I got involved and they like gay.
25:10
Like what's what in the?
25:12
And I tell him about that factory where me and my daddy worked
25:14
in East Texas.
25:15
Because what I didn't tell you is that five of his brothers
25:18
worked there and a bunch of my cousins worked there and it was
25:21
the best job in East Texas between Dallas, Texas and Shreveport
25:25
Louisiana.
25:26
Uh and they closed that factory and moved those jobs to China
25:29
some probably 20 years ago now.
25:32
But after I've left the factory and went to work for the union
25:34
full time, um 1500 men lost their job, including my father
25:38
his uncles, many of my cousins and all the kids I grew up with
25:41
in East Texas.
25:41
It was the best job ever.
25:42
Cadillac health care benefits.
25:44
You could raise a family.
25:45
It's the old school job where your dad leaves in the morning
25:48
with a lunch kit and he comes home and everybody's got insurance
25:50
You can take a summer vacation, blah, blah, blah.
25:52
The company took all of that and just, you know, threw it all
25:55
away and it's just something that sat with me wrong my entire
25:57
life.
25:58
Well, Bernie Sanders had always stood up for those people
26:01
Bernie Sanders had always been a Stallworth labor representative
26:04
and always stood up for the little person and talked about
26:06
the importance of that.
26:07
So I'd always, and I talk about in the book meeting him for the
26:10
first time when I'm up here doing citizen lobbying against
26:13
fast tracking these trade agreements because I was a poster
26:15
child of these trade agreements at that point.
26:17
But what was unique that I didn't know what that was unique
26:20
is that I'm this big old brown man from Texas who sounds like
26:24
an old white man when I speak.
26:25
And I had a really unique voice because I aligned with Latinos
26:29
very much.
26:30
But you could not redneck me.
26:32
Like I knew everything about all these redneck congressmen
26:35
who represent rural areas and they wanna talk about tractors
26:37
and farms and all of that.
26:38
Like I could beat him to death with that.
26:40
Like I, I grew up there but you don't expect that coming out
26:44
of a brown man's face.
26:46
You know, when he's talking about having a tractor and understanding
26:48
what rural America is like because I grew up there, right?
26:51
So that's one of the things that drew me to Bernie.
26:53
And I make a lot of, of comparisons in the book between Bernie
26:58
Sanders and my grandfather uh Charlie Bussell, the old white
27:02
man who was there in my life all my life growing up who really
27:05
served as my father in my early years, who was just tougher
27:08
than nails.
27:09
And when I talk about Papa, it makes me think about burnt rubber
27:12
No, it makes me think about burnt leather and old spice.
27:15
Like if you combine those two smells, that's my father, my
27:18
grandfather, right?
27:19
I remember watching him shave and him put the oil in his hair
27:22
and him throwing the face wash in his face after he shaved and
27:26
me just watching it as a little boy, he taught me how to be a man
27:28
right?
27:29
And he taught me what hard work was like and he taught me what
27:32
values was like and that's why I'm not giving Bernie Sanders
27:35
too much.
27:35
I really do think of Bernie Sanders in that way.
27:37
Like when Bernie Sanders talks, you listen, he's always going
27:40
to be a man of his values and talk about exactly the way he thinks
27:43
all the time.
27:44
And for a man who's as old as Bernie, I talk about my grandfather
27:49
always being able to outwork me, even though I was 6 ft tall
27:52
weighed £300 was just meaner than Hale, stronger than an
27:56
ox.
27:56
My papa could still outwork me every day.
27:59
Well, Bernie Sanders, if you're out on the road with Bernie
28:01
Sanders, you can't keep up with Bernie Sanders like it's just
28:04
one of those things.
28:04
So that drew me to Bernie is the way he looked at issues.
28:08
The biggest thing with Bernie Sanders is me is that he took
28:11
a chance on me and treated me with respect.
28:14
And there's a piece in the book where I talk about prior to him
28:17
getting in the race in 2015, I had actually applied to work
28:21
for Hillary Clinton because she was going to be the only one
28:23
who actually ran and I was gonna be her Latino consultant.
28:26
So I give her team all of my Spanish TV and radio and mail and
28:31
they, I talk about this in the book.
28:33
It's funny.
28:33
They invited me over to a big pitch at the media firm and I walked
28:36
into this big grand meeting room is very intimidating.
28:40
I was surrounded by 20 different staffers and I have to show
28:43
them all my products.
28:44
And I was just nervous, more nervous than a long tailed cat
28:48
in a rocking chair factory.
28:49
Like I was just uptight and thinking back on that, um it was
28:55
it was a great experience for me to see how the pitch is supposed
28:57
to be done in, in, in a, in a setting that's supposed to be made
29:00
to intimidate me later on.
29:02
I would find out a month later that, um, they wouldn't hire
29:06
me because I couldn't pass the vetting and I didn't understand
29:09
that.
29:09
But I talk about this in the book.
29:10
I had made a mistake with the steel workers and I have a non violent
29:13
felon on my record.
29:15
It was over a $500 mistake that I made on my expenses.
29:18
But this is a lesson to all of you young people when you have
29:20
a corporate credit card, do not put gas in your personal vehicle
29:24
Now, that don't sound like a big deal.
29:25
But if you work for a union that that's a big deal and you can
29:29
get in trouble and I got in trouble and I had to own up to that
29:31
mistake and I did and I paid for it.
29:33
I had to pay a fine.
29:34
I had to be on probation.
29:35
I was treated like a criminal like it was very, very hard for
29:38
me.
29:39
It was embarrassing for me.
29:40
It was embarrassing to my family and I had to live through this
29:42
embarrassment.
29:43
But I didn't realize at the time, I thought that was the worst
29:47
thing that has ever happened to me and that ever could happen
29:49
to me when actually it was probably the best thing that ever
29:51
happened to me because it taught me a lesson.
29:54
It taught me to own it.
29:55
But it also taught me to work hard to rebuild, to get back to
29:58
where I'm at today.
29:59
And when I had that same conversation with Bernie Sanders
30:01
and Jeff Weaver, three months later, when they were gonna
30:03
hire me and I was like, I'm gonna get this out of the way right
30:06
now.
30:07
Gentlemen, you should know that this thing is on the internet
30:09
I do have a criminal record.
30:10
If somebody wanted to do a Google search, you know, somebody
30:13
could come after you for having a felon on your campaign.
30:16
And I remember Jeff kind of giggling and I was like that, not
30:20
it's supposed to be funny.
30:21
He's like, Chuck, he's like, he's like, we knew about this
30:23
the first time we ever talked to you.
30:25
He was like, if it would have been an issue, I'd have brought
30:27
it up then.
30:27
I'm like, well, what's, what, how are we gonna handle that
30:30
If I actually do it?
30:30
He goes handle what he and I was like, does Bernie know this
30:34
And he said sure Bernie knows he goes.
30:35
Bernie said, how long are you supposed to pay for a crime that
30:38
you've already paid for?
30:40
How long are you supposed to be punished?
30:42
And it was, at that point, I really thought I found a politician
30:45
who lived his values because politicians talk about criminal
30:48
justice reform and diversity and helping people make it,
30:51
who are on hard times.
30:53
But I had had one politician after another go, you know, Chuck
30:55
we really like to work with you but you know, we don't want
30:57
to take a press hit over something that had happened in your
31:00
past because you have a criminal record and these are democrats
31:04
These are liberal democrats who are supposed to be all about
31:06
redemption and criminal justice reform.
31:08
But Bernie Sanders was the first one or the biggest one who
31:11
had said, oh no, no, we want you to work here like that's over
31:15
like you've paid your price.
31:16
You don't have to pay for that anymore.
31:17
You don't have to be embarrassed the rest of your life because
31:19
you made that mistake.
31:20
We welcome you here.
31:22
And so that was the biggest turning point.
31:24
People are like, Chuck, why did you go back to work for Bernie
31:28
in 2020?
31:29
You know, you could have worked for Kamala Harris, you could
31:31
have worked for Cory Booker.
31:32
You could have worked for Joe Biden.
31:33
You, I could have had my pick of who I wanted to work for.
31:36
And I was like, I'll always be loyal to Bernie after what he
31:39
did for me.
31:39
Like he was there for me when I needed him the most and I'll always
31:42
be there for him.
31:43
And I talk about that in the book.
31:45
You can't forget that.
31:46
Oh, no.
31:47
As a man, you can't forget that.
31:50
What did that tell you about Bernie as a man?
31:52
Forget about as a politician.
31:53
What did that teach you about him as a man?
31:56
But what kind of insight into his character did that give you
32:00
when Bernie took a chance on me?
32:01
And despite all the things in my past, still hired me to be a
32:04
senior advisor and helped run the day to day.
32:06
Like he gave me more responsibility than that.
32:08
I interviewed every staffer.
32:10
I opened up the office, I went and found the buildings.
32:12
I, I hired all the senior staff with Jeff Weaver, like I had
32:16
ultimate power until we brought the manager on.
32:18
And then I reported to the manager who I love, who was the perfect
32:21
choice to be the manager.
32:22
I tell a funny story in the book about how Jeff Weaver and Bernie
32:27
mainly Jeff had come to me and said, because I'd been looking
32:29
for a manager and he was like, have you ever considered doing
32:32
it?
32:33
And I was like, and I tell this long thing about how I didn't
32:37
take the job and I made the right choice not to take the job.
32:40
But fast was the perfect person for the job because you need
32:43
somebody with a cool head who can put up with all of this stuff
32:46
And after watching fast do it for like two months, I was like
32:49
they would have fired me immediately because I would have
32:51
hit somebody.
32:51
I know that that's what would have happened.
32:54
But Bernie Sanders as a man after Bernie took a chance on me
32:59
and stood by my side and had my back, I got to know a lot more about
33:03
Bernie, the person.
33:05
Uh because I got to go to Burlington and, and go to his home,
33:08
I got to eat dinner with him and his wife at their home sometimes
33:12
and we would have senior meetings.
33:14
Uh And the thing that I realized that I learned about Bernie
33:18
is that we all think of him as superhuman and something that's
33:21
a caricature, but he's just a man.
33:24
He's just a man.
33:25
And the thing I love about that is that he's a grandfather.
33:28
And if you ever really want to get to Bernie and the only two
33:32
times I ever saw Bernie Sanders cry was in reference to kids
33:36
because that's how strongly he feels about his grandchildren
33:39
and about Children in general about wanting to help Children
33:43
Um The first time was in the early on in this campaign when a
33:49
young dreamer girl got up and cried about her experiences
33:52
as a dreamer and about her family and about them being deported
33:55
maybe and the scared and her feeling scared and he broke down
33:58
on stage, you could see him, right?
33:59
Get upset and, and a tear.
34:02
People don't think about Bernie that way.
34:03
And the second time was during an interview, I talk about this
34:06
in the book.
34:07
The second time I saw him get upset was when we were doing the
34:10
interview with Anna Lia Maia who was the national political
34:14
director.
34:15
And the last question in the interview was about why do you
34:19
want to beat Donald Trump so bad?
34:21
And she talked about her two little Children and Anna Lia who
34:24
is Colombian and Dominican uh is married to an African American
34:29
man.
34:30
So she has these two little fuzzy headed beautiful Children
34:34
these two little boys with these big little Afros and they're
34:37
just the most beautiful little boys I've ever seen short of
34:39
my grandkids.
34:40
And she talks about the fear of them growing up in a Donald Trump
34:44
world.
34:44
She talks about the fear of them growing up in a society that's
34:48
not scared anymore to be openly racist.
34:50
And it upset her, it upset him.
34:52
They had this moment in the meeting.
34:55
And I remember getting up and I wrote this in the book, I remember
34:57
getting up and looking at Jeff Weaver and I was like, does this
35:01
happen all the time?
35:02
He was like, no, this just never happened.
35:05
And I was like, I assume she's gonna get the job and he goes,
35:07
oh, yeah, I think she's gonna be just fine.
35:09
So that was a funny part of the book about the first time I had
35:12
been in a meeting like that with Bernie when he did that.
35:14
But that's who Bernie is.
35:15
To me as a man is the caricature that's steadfast on all the
35:19
issues.
35:19
Medicare for all funny talking all the things that he does
35:23
But also at his heart, he's, he's a grandfather and he's just
35:26
just, and he gets just as emotional as the rest of us.
35:29
When we talk about our grandkids, talk to me about the process
35:33
of writing this book.
35:35
The process of writing this book was, was different uh, than
35:40
anything I had ever done.
35:42
My, my girlfriend Ebony, who is my right hand on many things
35:47
I call her my conscious because she leads me the right way.
35:50
Lots of times she makes fun because I'm not a prolific reader
35:54
of books because my eyesight is so bad.
35:56
Right?
35:57
So now II I, the reading that I do is normally polls, focus groups
36:01
and things about work.
36:02
I don't have time for novels.
36:04
I don't have time for nonfiction.
36:06
And if you want me to have an escape, we need to go get on the water
36:10
in Miami or down in Amara and put me on the front of a boat, that's
36:13
where I like to be away from things.
36:15
So she had taught me out of calling my book, I never read a book
36:19
but I wrote a book.
36:20
So I thought that may not be the best title.
36:23
Um And the reason that the experience was really different
36:28
for me was I wanted a way to give people an insight into the campaign
36:35
There's really two reasons.
36:36
One is I wanted to have an open source record of what we did with
36:39
the most historical Latino outreach operation in the history
36:43
of American politics.
36:44
And I don't say that lightly.
36:46
That was a fact.
36:46
And it wasn't me.
36:47
It was my entire team.
36:48
206 Latinos did that, but I wanted no one to ever look at me or
36:53
any Latino again and say, you know, Chuck Latinos just don't
36:57
really vote, they don't vote at the same level, they just don't
36:59
perform.
37:00
They're just, you know, they're just not there yet.
37:02
And if somebody else is sleeping GT to me, I'm gonna probably
37:04
punch them in their nose if they call us the sleeping giant
37:07
again.
37:08
I wanted to prove that there that we were a giant that we're
37:11
no longer sleeping, that we're just walking right down the
37:14
middle of Fifth Avenue and we're ready to take on Donald Trump
37:17
and I had one chance to do that and we did it and we did it in the
37:20
most historical of ways.
37:22
So I wanted to dictate and put that down into an open source
37:25
where everybody could do what I did.
37:26
My friends would say Chuck, you could have marketed that you
37:29
could have made a billion dollars.
37:30
You could have done this.
37:31
I don't care about the money.
37:32
I wanted our community to have a voice.
37:34
That's why I did this work.
37:35
That's why I do this work.
37:37
So being able to write down how we did it when we did it.
37:40
What was the challenges I had to overcome to get it done?
37:43
All that's in the book, state by state budget, by budget.
37:46
So now no one can ever worry about how to do it.
37:48
But that's the second half of the book.
37:51
The first half of the book is my true journey to Bernie.
37:54
And I needed people to know that my mother was 15.
37:58
I needed them to know that I had to go back and forth between
38:01
a white family and a brown family in my childhood.
38:04
I needed them to know that there was a reason my Spanish ain't
38:06
as good as it should be.
38:07
I needed them to know that I live with my own insecurities and
38:10
that's ok.
38:11
And that as an old man now, I can say that it's ok to be insecure
38:14
and how I yearn to please men.
38:17
And I, because my dad wasn't around and, and I realized that
38:19
as I got older, that you, that I, I wanted to please Jeff Weaver
38:25
I wanted to please Bernie Sanders.
38:26
I wanted to please the president of the union, Leo Gerard.
38:30
When I was at the steel workers, I wanted to please John Nash
38:33
When I was at the local union, there were these big men in my
38:36
life that I looked up to that I learned to please.
38:39
So I get up early and I'd work late and I want them to think I was
38:42
doing a good job.
38:44
And that led to my journey to Bernie to say I went through all
38:48
these things, I went through the experience of having a criminal
38:51
record.
38:52
I went through rebuilding my life.
38:54
I went through the experience of raising a son by myself.
38:56
And all of these things are the stories of the majority of young
39:00
black and brown girls and boys in America, the majority of
39:04
young black and brown kids don't go to college and they don't
39:07
have an uncle or an aunt or a grandfather who can get them a job
39:10
in Washington DC.
39:11
They have the same obstacles that I had and I needed them to
39:14
know if they could read my book.
39:16
And it would just be one of many game plans that they could use
39:19
to try to succeed in a world that treats us a little bit different
39:23
either because of the way we look, the color of our skin, the
39:26
way that we talk or where we come from.
39:28
And that shouldn't define us.
39:29
And I've proven that it don't define me and I need them to read
39:32
this book to show that it doesn't define them.
39:35
Looking back over your life as you've had to do and putting
39:39
this, this wonderful book together.
39:41
Um What would you say you're the proudest of?
39:45
There's lots of things in my life that I'm really proud of and
39:47
I get to do work with politicians.
39:49
I get to do work with nonprofits.
39:51
I get to speak for immigrants.
39:53
I get to do all this cool work.
39:54
But at the end of the day, it's work and you get to feel good about
39:58
your work.
39:59
But it's your family that you really have to be the proudest
40:01
of like, you know, my son who is 30 now has two four-year old
40:09
grandkids, my grandkids his kids and I'm probably the most
40:13
proud of him, right?
40:13
Because I was not the best father.
40:16
And I openly admit I was not the best father.
40:18
Uh I was on the road organizing and I talk about how Chuck Rocha
40:22
raised my son.
40:23
I didn't raise my son, my grandmother and my mother and my sister
40:26
and the whole family raised my son with me because I was on the
40:28
road organizing, right?
40:29
So I never showed this boy how to be the right kind of father
40:33
I tried to give him advice.
40:35
I probably uh wasn't home as much as I should be and to watch
40:40
the father that he's turned into now, that's what I'm definitely
40:43
the most proud of.
40:45
And I think everything else is just secondary.
40:48
I think that I've been to the White House, I've got to run a presidential
40:51
campaign, but none of those experiences will make me as proud
40:55
as I am of Charles.
40:56
And what he's done with two boys that he's now having to raise
40:58
by himself.
40:59
Now, let's be clear, it helps that he has a grandfather who
41:02
hasn't done that bad in business, who can help out from time
41:05
to time like, but what the honest truth of that is is I had a grandmother
41:09
who did the same thing for me, right?
41:11
So if I listed the things in my life that I'm most proud of, I'm
41:15
most proud of my son and him raising these two boys.
41:18
The second thing I'm proud of is 100 young brown and black kids
41:23
who've come through my firm in 10.5 years.
41:25
I've created a consulting firm that's half incubator and
41:28
half consulting firm.
41:29
That means if you come to this town and you're brown or black
41:32
you come from no means and you're looking for your first job
41:35
everybody in this town will tell you you should go have coffee
41:38
with Chuck Rocha.
41:39
I'll give everybody 30 minutes.
41:41
If you're from Texas, you get an hour and if you will come and
41:43
sit with me, I will talk to you about getting a job.
41:47
And if I have an open computer in our office, I will automatically
41:50
give you a job, pay you $500 a week, pay for your bus fare or your
41:55
uh, metro.
41:55
So you can get to work and you can find some place to sleep on
41:58
that $500 a week.
41:59
I won't call you an intern.
42:01
I won't call you a fellow and I'll call you an associate.
42:04
And if you can do that for six months, you can get a job anywhere
42:06
in this town.
42:07
And I've done that 100 times now.
42:09
Not everybody in my firm makes $500 a week.
42:11
I'm just talking about a paid internship that I'm calling
42:13
an associate.
42:15
Uh So that's the second thing I'm most proud of is if we don't
42:18
create space for other people, it does no good for us to become
42:21
a success.
42:22
You have to create the space so that other people can follow
42:25
in your footsteps, right?
42:26
206 Latinos on the Bernie Sanders campaign.
42:29
I did the same thing like I'd done running the firm.
42:31
So the second thing that I'm most, most proud of are those 100
42:34
young kids who came through my firm, who many of them now own
42:37
their own consulting firm.
42:38
And then the third thing would be the Bernie Sanders campaign
42:41
and the Latino outreach program.
42:42
So we finally could prove something beyond a shadow of a doubt
42:45
in those orders.