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State Senator Wendy Davis won the Texas Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination this week. There was never any doubt she would win, her only opposition was Corpus Christi Municipal Judge, and frequent candidate, Ray Madrigal. Even though Davis won with a landslide 79% of the vote, she lost in nearly every South Texas and border-area county with large Hispanic and Democratic electorates. This should give pause to the campaign as they begin to plot out and implement general election strategies. Davis cannot compete, and the Democratic Party cannot move the needle in Texas without robust Latino support. The Valley, South Texas, and the border regions could be pillars of that support: Texas Hispanic voters support Democratic candidates at higher rates (than GOP candidates), and strongly favor the type of education policy solutions Davis is placing at the center of her campaign. But, as Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Leticia Van De Putte has said, Democrats cannot wait for the demographics to catch up. The underwhelming performance in South Texas underscores the dire statewide need for Hispanic voter engagement. Last week we published a report that analyzed demographic and voter participation trends in Texas. In 2012, only 25% of Latino voters were contacted by parties, campaigns, or organizations to encourage their participation.

Hispanic Texans register to vote at lower rates compared to non-Hispanics in the state, and the national average for Hispanics. There are 2.9 million voting-eligible Latinos in the state who are not engaged in the electoral process. Once registered, Latinos turn out at relatively high rates — getting registration rates up is essential to closing the voter participation gap. Democrats must convert some of these non-voters in to their supporters if the party is to be competitive again.

 A couple of facts should be taken into consideration when thinking about the South Texas results. By virtue of name alone,  Madrigal would have seen a bump where there are large pockets of Hispanic voters. Several academic studies find Latino voters use surname cues to make vote choices, particularly in low-information elections, when voters are unfamiliar with the candidates. It is also important to bear in mind that in the largest counties Davis lost in her primary, she was far more successful with voters than Republican nominee, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was in his primary: Davis won 35,954 votes compared to Abbott’s 8,853. In the big picture there are millions of Hispanic votes up for grabs, and Democrats remain very popular with Texas Latino voters.

 Texas Republican elected officials and candidates have provided Democrats with a unique opportunity to capitalize on their aggressive anti-immigrant messaging, and condescending digs at the Latino community that have been on full display throughout the GOP primary. Republicans should knock it off already — they have big opportunities with Latino voters too, as we’ve discussed in this space. Ugly GOP tactics alone will not register or turnout Hispanic voters. If Democrats hope to benefit from the demographic shift underway (and Republicans effectively purging Latinos from their base), they must strategically invest to build relationships with more Hispanic voters, and re-build the state party.

Originally posted to LatinoDecisions on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 08:32 AM PST.

Also republished by TexKos-Messing with Texas with Nothing but Love for Texans, Houston Area Kossacks, and Turning Texas: Election Digest.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You make some very valid points. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Libby Shaw, Bluefin

    I can understand Davis losing to Madrigal for several reasons.
    Madrigal is probably better known among hispanic voters. Maybe when Davis starts running ads her profile will rise.

    Also, Madrigal's anti-abortion position cannot be over-emphasized as a cause.  Davis faces an uphill battle there.  What she must do is explain how in the big picture her positions produce fewer abortions than simply pretending that outlawing abortions will result in no abortions.

    For example supporting Planned Parenthood results in fewer abortions, simply because Planned Parenthood's efforts toward prevention far outweigh the abortions they perform when all else fails.  More abortions are prevented by Planned Parenthood than are performed.

    That is a difficult concept for religious opponents to abortion to grasp or justify to themselves, so yes, that's a real problem and it will continue to be a problem for democrats in Texas.

    She has to run an aggressive campaign and hammer Abbott on how his policies and philosophy harm REAL, LIVE children, resulting in very real negative outcomes including death.

    In the end Hispanics, like everyone else, will have to weigh the pros and cons of both camps.  At some point they will surely realize that they are voting harm to themselves every time they vote Republican or fail to vote at all.

    Ted Cruz president? Pardon my Vietnamese, but Ngo Pho King Way.

    by ZedMont on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 09:13:40 AM PST

    •  Republican actions caused 30000 prenancies... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Libby Shaw, ZedMont

      since the shutdown of the clinics.  This is what everyone in Texas, especially the poor, are going to be faced with!  Republicans could care less about the Latino population and what their policies mean to them...they just want their vote and they know that the abortion issue is their wedge.  How many pregnancies will it take for Latino's to notice how the Republican policies are doing to their own?  How many deaths due to not having access to healthcare?  How many children must die due to starvation?  How many children will not get an education due to their policies?  These are the issues we need to take to the Latino voters.

  •  It's a matter of the Texas Democratic Party (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Libby Shaw, Bluefin, Pinto Pony

    not reaching people -- regardless of their ethnicity.

    In a state where the AG COMMISSIONER candidates ran on fighting Obama and "securing the border" how do you get through to Hispanic voters?

    Well first you win a suit to overturn the "poll tax" law that forces Texas voters to show a state-issued ID before they can vote.

    Then you run ads pointing out the lies the Gee O Pee is spewing 24/7 during election season.

    Except you can't, if you're a Texas Dem, because the money all goes to the Gee O Pee locally and the National Dems all say, "It's Texas -- you can't win. Give us money for places we can."

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 09:43:17 AM PST

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