Hispanics will be a majority voting electorate in 15 years in the Lone Star state, and the political party that wins their hearts and minds will win elections, said a Latino freshman state lawmaker.
Texas Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican, is making it his mission to keep his party alive in his home state, and to him that requires getting the GOP to see how Latinos are critical to keeping Texas from going blue.
“We’re already a minority-majority state. We’re going to be a majority Hispanic state in just six years. The voting electorate will be majority Hispanic within 15 years,” said the 41-year-old lawmaker in a recent speech before voters in Texas, according to The Monitor.
“So as a political party, unless we’re able to capture at least a proportion of the mind share and the votes of this rapidly growing electorate, we as a political party, the Republicans, are destined for failure.”
Villalba echoes the warning of many in his party who urge a softer tone when speaking about hot-button issues such as immigration.
He is careful to avoid the controversial term “illegals” and opts instead for “unauthorized people.”
“We’ve got to do a better job of communicating our ideas without alienating Latinos,” he said to the crowd. He has been speaking to different GOP and voters groups, bringing the same message.
A 2010 report by the Pew Hispanic Center on Texas’ Latino voters showed that Latinos accounted for 36 percent of the state’s population, and nearly 4 million are eligible to vote.
A 2013 report, by Pew Research Center, said that the Republican Party’s image among Hispanics has deteriorated in recent years, citing a poll that showed that 10 percent of Hispanic registered voters say the GOP has more concern for Hispanics than the Democratic Party.
“Latino voters have leaned more towards the Democrats and supported Democratic presidential candidates in growing shares,” the Pew report said.
At the same time, Latinos have showed a willingness to vote Republican when the candidate appeals to them.
Texas’ own George W. Bush got nearly half of the Latino vote when he ran for governor in 1998, and then got more than 40 percent of the Latino vote when he ran for president in 2004, according to Pew.
“Republican Latinos are rare, but we shouldn’t be,” said Villalba to the voters. He added that he and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, another Texas Republican, were sort of “unicorns.”
The state lawmaker said that Republicans and Latinos were a natural fit because they shared many values.
A fellow Texas Republican said getting Latinos to go red at the polls would be challenging.
“Traditionally, it's been Democrat,” said Javier Villalobos, the Hidalgo County Republican chairman. “It's hard to break tradition. They were brought up believing that you have to go and vote Democrat.”
Democrat Latinos conceded that the ethnic community shares some views with the Republican party, but they also different in significant ways.
“I think that Mexican-Americans tend to be fiscally conservative. Also with respect to religion they tend to be conservative, and they don't like big government,” said state Rep. Terry Canales.
“However, from a social aspect, and with respect to equality, I think that the Hispanic community is definitely more in line with the Democratic Party,” he said. “When it comes to helping out your fellow citizens and those in need, I think that's where the philosophical difference lies.”