LatinaLista — The political world is in a frenzy today because of what happened in last night’s Texas Republican Senate primary race — newcomer Ted Cruz beat veteran and current Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.
The election of Ted Cruz has many, mostly outside the Lone Star State, speculating that the GOP is improving its odds among Latino voters. One columnist, Raoul Lowery Contreras, even broke it down by Texas county:
Not only did Ted Cruz receive a mountain of votes in his 56.8% to 43.2% defeat of the Texas’ Lt. Governor but he received a mountain of Hispanic Republican votes as well.
A study of each Texas county on the border with Mexico demonstrates that a Cuban-American can receive Mexican American votes. Examples: Cameron County with 87% Mexican Americans produced a 62.6% victory for Cruz; Zapata County with 92% Mexican Americans voted 75% for Cruz. Webb County with 95% Mexican Americans produced a 55.7% Cruz victory. The largest border county is El Paso with 82% of its people Mexican American, produced a 73.3% Cruz victory; Val Verde County is the only border county to have voted for Cruz’ opponent.
Unfortunately, for those who have been waiting for the GOP to make inroads among Latino voters it’s best for them to remember that “looks can be deceiving.”
Case in point: On the Texas Secretary of State 2012 Republican Party Primary Runoff Election Night Returns web page, Zapata County, cited in the above quote, does have 92 percent Mexican Americans in the county and did give 75 percent of the vote to Cruz. Yet, on closer inspection, the 75 percent amounted to 6 votes for Cruz. His opponent Dewhurst garnered a whopping 2 votes making for a grand total of 8 votes cast on the night of the election (2 votes were cast for Dewhurst in early voting).
According to the US Census, Zapata County, population 14,282, also is home to 6.4 percent of “White persons not Hispanic.” It’s not clear how many Latinos actually turned out to vote for Cruz. So, until a deeper analysis is done it would be premature to claim Cruz is a runaway hit with Latino voters in Zapata County and in Texas overall.
The simple truth is he isn’t.
From the election turnout, he’s not even a favorite of traditional GOPers. Where he’s made his mark is among the state’s active Tea Party, which by the way has its fair share of Texas Latinos within its membership.
Cruz did nothing to endear himself to the majority of Latinos, of either party, during his campaign. He regurgitated the same anti-immigrant rhetoric that makes Tea Partiers drool with excitement. In a state where 38 percent of the population is Latino and 45 percent are “White not Hispanic,” it’s a mystery that so many Latinos have chosen to turn the other cheek – and ear – when it comes to insulting talk about a segment of the Latino population, separated only by citizenship.
The future political success of Cruz and other Latino candidates won’t rest with their like-minded Latino party colleagues but to Latino independents who will be taking more than just a shared heritage into account or party affiliation when casting their votes.
In the end, Cruz’s victory has nothing to do with the GOP reaching Latino voters and everything to do with the Tea Party taking up the slack left open by a party that has become too complacent that it can win elections in Texas by voters who are “White persons not Hispanic.”