Both Democrats And Republicans Put Focus On Texas Latino Vote

Two events in Houston showcase the parties’ increased efforts to secure Latino votes.

Texas is increasingly becoming a "battleground state" as Democrats are hopeful of winning statewide offices and even Texas' 38 electoral votes in the next presidential election.

On Friday, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez joined local Hispanic Democrats for an outreach event at Talento Bilingüe in Houston's East End, called "Cafecito con Politics."

It also included U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, state Sen. Carol Alvarado and state Rep. Christina Morales.

Perez said his party needs Latino votes to turn Texas blue.

"Beto lost by 200,000 votes," he said, referring to Beto O'Rourke's 2018 U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. "There were 3.5 million voters – Latinos – who did not vote and could have voted."

Perez called on Latinos in the audience to step up efforts to mobilize Hispanic voters.

Republicans appear to be aware of this dynamic too.

Just a day earlier, President Donald Trump's reelection campaign organized a similar event in Houston, the first of its “Vamos to Victory” tour.

It took place at Gulf Coast Distillers in Denver Harbor, just five miles from Texas Southern University, the site of the Democratic primary debate that same day.

A panel of Latino Republicans made the pitch for Trump to a Hispanic audience of a few dozen people. After that, there was a training for those wanting to get involved in voter outreach.

"This type of event that gathers the Latino community together that they're able to talk about their preoccupations or what are the concerns of the Latino community, it helps," said Yali Nuñez, director of Hispanic media at the Republican National Committee.

Manuel Vena said he came to show his support for Trump and see how he can get involved in his campaign.

"My company is doing great, my 401k is looking great, I mean the economy is on fire, stocks are up," he said. "It's just all around good."

He said he's long been a Republican, although the majority of his family are Democrats.

Vena said he doesn't like everything Trump says and tweets but that he doesn't believe the president is racist or anti-Latino.

While Democrats at Friday's event called Donald Trump's administration the "most anti-Latino" in history, Republicans on Thursday said the president's policies have been the most beneficial for Hispanics.

But reaching Texas Latinos is an uphill road for the president. In a recent Univision poll only 19% of the state's Hispanics said they plan to vote for Trump – still more than the 16% of Hispanics nationwide who said so.

"Trump's support has fallen among Latinos in large part due to his policies related to immigration and asylum, which are seen by a majority of Latinos as being anti-Latino," Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said in an email.

But, he said, this sentiment is less pronounced among second, third and fourth generation Latinos, who are not as alienated by Trump's immigration policy and care more about the strong economy, for example.

"Realistically, Trump's floor among Latinos in Texas is likely between one-fifth and one-fourth," Jones said. "And events like this one should help Trump to retain the support of his core Latino base, and in doing so increase his prospects for victory in the Lone Star State in 2020."

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Florian Martin

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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