Texas candidates battle for Hispanic vote in US midterm elections

“MuiTypography-root-225 MuiTypography-h1-230″>Texas candidates battle for Hispanic vote in US midterm elections

In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke have spent more than $9 million combined in purchasing Spanish-language media advertisements to appeal to voters.

The WorldNovember 7, 2022 · 3:00 PM EST

Shown in the Spanish language are "He Votado Hoy" stickers or "I voted today," at a polling place in Philadelphia, May 21, 2019.

Matt Rourke/AP/File

Ahead of US midterm elections, candidates in Texas are battling it out to win over Spanish-speaking voters, who now make up a quarter of those eligible to vote in the state, according to census estimates. Overall, Hispanics — regardless of whether or not they speak Spanish — make up a third of all voters in Texas.

“Any candidate that wants to win the election in November needs to have at least some Latino voters [as] part of their coalition,” said Jeronimo Cortina, a political scientist at the University of Houston.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke have spent more than $9 million combined in purchasing Spanish-language media advertisements.

Along with traditional TV ads, the O’Rourke campaign has a team staffed with bilingual videographers who produce TikTok videos, with several of them going viral in both Spanish and English.

Meanwhile, Abbott’s campaign says he’s more than doubled his Spanish ad spending from previous years. The GOP is paying special attention to voters in South Texas, hoping to make gains among the Latino and bilingual voters there.

This combination of photos shows Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke in Edinburg, Texas, left, Sept. 30, 2022, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in Del Rio, Texas, right, Sept. 21, 2021.

Credit:

Eric Gay (left) and Julio Cortez (right)/AP/File photos

Republican congresswoman Mayra Flores — whose district includes Brownsville, which has historically been left-leaning — won a special election last summer, flipping the seat. Now, she’s up for reelection.in South Texas, where two other conservative Latinas could also flip congressional seats.

Many Latino voters are excited about Abbott, including Rodolfo Guajardo Jr. — a long-time Republican voter in Laredo, who said the governor is “like Superman.” Guajardo Jr. supports the wall along the US-Mexico border, and said he likes Abbott’s policies, including those such as busing migrants to other cities.

But many other South Texas voters are fed up with the continuous emphasis on border security. 

“The moment they see brown skin, they're like, you're illegal.”

Kathia Rodriguez, 25-year-old library aid in Brownsville

“The moment they see brown skin, they're like, 'you're illegal,'” said25-year-old Kathia Rodriguez, who works as a library aid in Brownsville and is from Mexico. One of her top issues is abortion rights, which have been taken away since Texas reinstated a total ban on abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.

“It's illegal. Now [pregnant people] have to go through more dangerous methods, and it could lead to people losing their lives,” Rodriguez said.

Both parties are paying closer attention to Latino voters, not just in Texas, but also nationwide. A Pew Research report shows that they now make up 14% of the US electorate.

Political scientist Cortina said that Texas could be a harbinger for how the rest of the country votes.

“Texas is at the forefront of perhaps demographic change in terms of how the nation is going to be looking demographically in the next decades or so,” Cortina said.

Earlier versions of this story originally appeared in The Houston Chronicle:
Abbott and O'Rourke's big bet on Spanish speaking voters
Latino voters on the Texas border care about these issues the most

Related: The complicated history and identity of Latinos in the United States

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