Hispanic Republicans make their move

Friday, November 5, 2010 - 5:42pm

Most analysts say the Hispanic vote in Texas is crucial to any candidate, and that importance is growing.

But does it automatically go to the Democratic candidate?
The Latino population of Texas now represents 37% of the state, and growing.

That is one factor Democrats count on to improve their chances in coming years.
But one group is hoping to upset those plans.

The Hispanic Republicans of Texas might seem like an oxymoron to some. After all, other than anti-Castro Cubans in Florida, the Hispanic vote has been pretty dependably Democratic over the years.

“the general rule of thumb in Texas is that you can’t win statewide without about 35% of the Hispanic vote,” says Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report.A”nd every couple of years, the Hispanic vote increases by another 2 or 3%.”

And for Democrats, the fact that the Latino population represents over 50% of the overall population growth in the state, means that they can just sit back and wait for the numbers to swing their way.

But a group of Hispanic conservatives have formed Hispanic Republicans of Texas to try to swing more Texans of Hispanic heritage over to the GOP column.

“Until we were formed,” says George Antuna, “really there was no mechanism to elect more Hispanic Republicans.”

And they had some success on Tuesday, electing new State Representatives John Garza, Jose Aliseda, Larry Gonzales, and Raul Torres.

Maybe the biggest though was the defeat of longtime Congressman Chet Edwards by businessman Bill Flores.

“For the last 20 years, the Republican Hispanic vote has been growing regularly in Texas. But it plummeted when the illegal immigration debate began in 2006,” Kronberg says.

“We do need to make sure that we are being a little more sensitive, obviously. But at the same time, we need to make sure we’re not violating the law of the land,” Antuna admits.“Like I said, it doesn’t matter how much policy you implement that is pro-Hispanic, until they start seeing folks like themselves on the ballot box, we’re not going to be able to capture that vote.”

Another problem for both Democrats and Republicans is turnout. So far, efforts to mobilize the huge Hispanic vote in Texas and elsewhere have been hit and miss at best.

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