Thursday, March 4, 2010

Texas Republicans' Hispanic Problem.

brewing problem?

(GOP incumbent Victor Carrillo blames loss on "Hispanic surname", Theodore Kim, Dallas Morning News, 03/04/10)
Here's a post about Tuesday's GOP primary for a seat on the powerful Railroad Commission of Texas. In a true shocker, unknown challenger David Porter trounced incumbent Victor Carrillo despite being outspent by 20 to 1.

In a lengthy email to supporters and some news media this afternoon, Carrillo blamed his loss largely on the fact that he is Latino.

Or media-driven pseudo-controversy?

(The Elefante in the Room, Brian Thevenot, Texas Tribune, 03/04/10)
“I don’t think (Carrillo’s ethnicity) played much of a factor, if any," Porter said. "Sure, you might find somebody that didn’t vote for him because he’s Hispanic, but then you’d probably find somebody else who did vote for him because he’s Hispanic. Quite honestly, I think I caught some anti-incumbency fever. But, also, nobody really knew who he was. I spent a lot of time talking to people, and nobody could name the third member of the Railroad Commission, even in oil towns.”

In Houston there was the case of Don Sumners defeating Leo Vasquez, which provided the media has cast as providing* the (mostly Caucasian) Tea Party with one of their few victories. Is this a case of anti-Hispanic bias? Or just the anti-incumbency of the Tea Party selectively making waves?

The compelling case for the former is that both races involved were down-ballot with very little name ID being possessed by the incumbents heading in. There's a case to be made that, when faced with two unfamiliar names, the type of Republican who pays attention to voter guides such as the Link Letter are going to default to the Anglo-Saxon sounding name every time. How many times can a political party stand by silently while members belittle "those people" who don't speak "our language" and expect for there to not be some type of ballot effect? The "anti-incumbency" excuse is hard to swallow, due in part to the fact that these upsets were so isolated in nature. Anti-incumbency typically comes in waves, and the Tea Party movement was barely a ripple in the kiddie pool during this electoral cycle.

While it's true that the Democrats often go overboard stereotyping Republicans as "racist" or "xenophobes" the fact is that Republicans are facing a real problem with their rhetoric and identity with the Hispanic portion of society. Are their racist Republicans? Sure. But there are just as many racist Democrats out there who choose to cloak their racism under the guise of big government and taking care of those "who can't take care of themselves". (A racist statement if ever there was one.)

But if the Democrats suffer from the soft bigotry of reduced expectations then the Republicans suffer from a more overt hostility toward those who talk and look different. Not ALL Republicans and Democrats of course, but enough to move the electoral needle in races that should have been won easily by the incumbents.

Do Republicans have a Hispanic problem? You bet. And figuring it out going forward could be the key to their future vitality.

*Thank you to commenters Dave Jennings and josparke who pointed out a major flaw in the initial posting. The post should have read that the media is portraying the Sumners win as a Tea Party victory. In fact, Sumners was soundly trounced by Vasquez in the Tea Party straw poll. The correction has been made.


  1. Good post. No question we have a "Latino" problem. I was planning on writing about it.

    One point, Sumners was not a "Tea Party" candidate. In fact, he was pretty much despised by the people that attended these things (Vasquez crushed him the the HTPS straw poll). He won because of the Link Letter and the CRT (Hotze) mailers.

    The truth is that Harris County Republicans are older and white. A lot of people are trying to change that but the leadership isn't. As well, the "Latino" groups that currently participate in the HCRP want to act as gatekeepers - the actively worked against Leo because no one asked them about his appointment. Sort of Al Sharpton wannabes.

  2. I'm an organizer with the Houston Tea Party and in our straw poll, Vasquez crushed Sumners:

    I'm with Jennings... Sumners won because he got in Linkletter and CRT endorsements. Harris County's paid-endorsement racket strikes again!

    I was very much pro-Vasquez and was shocked to see Sumners defeat him!

  3. "One point, Sumners was not a "Tea Party" candidate. " True, but he presented himself as such, and his win is being cast by the media as a "tea party victory". As we all know perception is reality in politics.

    "I was very much pro-Vasquez and was shocked to see Sumners defeat him!"

    1. Straw polls are....well.....

    2. Before you spend a lot of time arguing your multi-cultural bonafides to me realize that I'm not your target audience. The problem that the Tea Party is going to run into is NOT one of ideology but one of public perception.

    All that said: both your points are taken. I should have stated that Sumner's victory "is being cast by the media" as a victory for the Tea Party. I will make that correction in the post.

  4. You'll get no multi-cultural Tea Party argument from me, I've been to far too many rallies and meetings. They do try and there are scattered successes but they are few and far between.

    I think the Tea Parties' public perception has been cast in stone and isn't going to change. No reason for them to stop what they are doing but they shouldn't expect miracles.

    The major problem they face as a whole is that they don't know how to play nice with other groups. They need to follow their own advice and learn that someone with 70% of the time is your friend, not your enemy.

  5. I wish the Tea Parties could decide if they are an organized movement (we did a straw poll, our movement thinks X!) or a completely spontaneous, diverse grassroots (just common folks who believe that government has gone off the rails). I get so confused trying to figure this out. :)

    Whatever the organized group has to say, I'm with Cory on this -- I think a lot of voters who identify with that latter group took a look at the way Vazquez was anointed, and decided this race on the merits of the candidates.

    While Lowry is indeed a despicable character, giving him so much credit for deciding this race is a little insulting to those who voted in the primary. Maybe they looked at the backgrounds of the two men, and the way that Vazquez was anointed (this isn't the time to be seen as the establishment's pick, whether the perception is fair or not), and that is what decided their votes.

    I say that as someone with no dog in that race. Just food for thought. *shrug*

  6. Kevin, thanks for the pull back to reality. I do have a dog in this, that dog being Lowry, and I do go over the top when he is involved. I should have said "with the help of" not "because of".

    You give voters more credit than I do. I don't think that the group of voters that would have taken the time to look at the way Vasquez was anointed is very large. The margin of victory (14%)is seems out of the ordinary. And Sumners spent virtually no money except on Lowry - 5k of his total of 12k, which includes the 1,250 filing fee. Vasquez spent 68k. (through the 8 day out)

    Sorry for the length, gathering my thoughts. And thanks again for reminding me that life isn't entirely about moving Lowry away from the gate of the HCRP. Mostly, but not entirely. ;-)

  7. Guys, I could be wrong on this, but wasn't Carillo listed second on the ballot? Seems like I recall he was. In races like this where nobody knows who is who, ballot position has a HUGE effect. I'm not sure there was a whole lot of anti-hispanic bias so much as people either reading the linkletter endorsements or picking the first name on the ballot. I don't recall if he endorsed Carillo or not, but a lot of republicans are zombie voters and follow that rag to the letter.

    As far as Lowry goes, There were a BUTTload of people trooping in with his linkletter as cheatsheets in hand Tuesday in my precinct.

  8. I don't think that theory holds water Ror. There are a lot of other races where the candidate with the "white" name was below the candidate with the "hispanic" name and the "white" candidate still won.

    I'm still looking it up, but I'll do a blog post on it soon. (probably tomorrow)

  9. It is about time someone admits to the problem that Republicans have with Hispanics. As far as name recognition, my name is Pittman. As for face recognition, I am proud to be of Hispanic descent. I have met some Republicans along this campaign trail that made me feel welcome. But there were others that made me feel as if I did not belong in their club. I am not sure if it was because of my Hispanic descent, but I sure was made to feel that way. So, what makes a Republican? I am a Christian before anything, conservative, I believe in pro-life, marriage is a man and woman, what more should I say? Or is it your race, your name, or better yet, is it the money you can spend on those paid endorsements? It sounds to me that the Hispanic problem might not be the only issue the party has, because aren't those paid endorsements (those cheatsheets you called them)turned into purchased votes pretty equivalent to Obama's ACORN ?


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