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Why Eric Cantor’s Primary Defeat Has Few Implications In Texas

Immigration reform is already dead among Texas Republicans.

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s opponent in the Virginia primary, David Brat, was relatively unknown but he challenged Cantor on his support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said Cantor’s defeat means the chances for reform in this Congress went from poor to virtually zero.

“I also think the prospects are very poor in the new Congress that will be seated in 2015,” he said, “because the Republican members are likely still to be in the majority, obviously with a new majority leader, maybe with a new speaker, but they’ll all be vividly aware of what happened to Eric Cantor, who many people thought would be the speaker in 2015 and now all of a sudden he’s going to be a former member of Congress.”

And, Murray said, it will likely cause other Republican supporters of immigration reform to lay low on the issue, and it will embolden critics of reform.

“The people that staked out hardline anti-immigrant positions like Ted Cruz certainly are not going to back off given what happened in Virginia,” Murray said.

What it won’t change, he said, is how Republicans in Texas deal with the issue. Being tough on immigration is already something that’s part of prominent Texas Republicans’ agenda.

In fact, last weekend at the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, the party voted to remove its endorsement of a guest worker program in the party platform.

“Basically, what happened is the Virginia Republicans kind of voted like Texas Republicans here in this recent primary,” Murray said. “But, you know, we’ve had no prominent advocates within the state of Texas Republican Party for significant immigration reform.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that there are no Republicans in Texas who support reform.

State Rep. Larry Gonzales from Round Rock near Austin participated in a conference call with other conservatives in favor of immigration reform. He said the hardline stance at the GOP convention was not adopted by an overwhelming majority.

“Even in the reddest of the red states, with the reddest of the red delegates, you know, 45.5 percent want to see a reasonable answer going forward,” Gonzales said. “That’s the take-away from the convention that I think people are missing.”  

But Murray said until the state changes to having significantly more Hispanic voters, which is bound to happen eventually, the majority of Republicans here are not likely to abandon their tough stance on immigration.

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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