It’s a new Democratic day in Texas.

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Following the 2018 midterm elections, there’s a lot to be excited about. 

A record number of LGBT people ran for office in Texas, with 14 of 35 winning their races.

A record number of Texas women also threw their hats into the ring. Forty percent of the women running for Congress, the judiciary, state board of education and other statewide offices won, according to Texas Tribune data.

Nineteen African-American women won judicial races in Harris County. Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar were the first Latinas from Texas to win a congressional seat. First time candidate Lina Hidalgo beat the popular incumbent Republican for Harris County judge.

And of course Beto, who came less than three points of Cruz while other statewide Democrats came up short by just five.

It’s a new Democratic day in Texas, that’s for sure.

A lot of political decisions were the right ones in 2018, including the quality of progressive candidates. As we look ahead to 2020, there’s a viable case to make for Democrats to  keep doing, generally, what they’ve been doing. What needs more than a tweak, however, is turning out Latino voters.

The Pew Research Center broke down the Latino vote in Texas.

U.S. Senate:

64% of Hispanics went for Democrat Beto O’Rourke
35% went for Republican Ted Cruz

Governor:

53% of Hispanics voted for Democrat Lupe Valdez
42% went for Republican Greg Abbott

Those are big numbers for Republican candidates. They reinforce what many others have said before: Democrats can’t take the Hispanic vote – or any other, for that matter – for granted. Nor can they continue what’s been considered milquetoast outreach efforts – if Latinos are contacted at all during elections – in Texas.

Historically, Hispanic turnout has been low. Jolt, an effective up-and-coming organization out of Austin, commissioned a study to find out why. Many Latinos, their report found, mistrust the political system, don’t identify with the candidates, or aren’t registered to vote.

On its face, it’s a safe assumption to think Cruz and Abbott would have lost among Latinos who did vote badly – like 20-point loss- given the horrific anti-immigrant brand of the Republican Party and closeness of both Tea Partiers to Trump.

But whether it’s the conservative streak among some Latinos, or the improved GOP machine to message and motivate them, or both, Democrats have our work cut out for us.

Cristina Tzintzun, executive director of Jolt, told KUT this month that “Latinos are becoming a political force to be reckoned with in the state.”

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