(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
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.