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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hispanic Surnames and the Texas Republican Ticket

I am sure many of you who have been following all the post-primary buzz read about the surprising result of the Texas Railroad Commissioner's Republican primary. Republican Incumbent Victor Carrillo spent $620,960 on his campaign while his opponent David Porter , a virtually unknown candidate, spent $33,684. Despite his well funded campaign, his experience and his glowing endorsements, Carrillo lost to Porter by nearly 20 percentage points.

In a letter to supporters, Carrillo proposes a theory for his loss which centers on the assertion that Republican primary voters are less likely to vote for a candidate with a Hispanic surname. Below are three excerpt from the letter which can be read in its entirety here :

“Early polling showed that the typical GOP primary voter has very little info about the position of Railroad Commissioner, what we do, or who my opponent or I were. Given the choice between 'Porter' and 'Carrillo' — unfortunately, the Hispanic-surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover although I did all in my power to overcome this built-in bias. I saw it last time (in the 2004 election), but was able to win because the 'non-Carrillo' vote was spread among three Anglo GOP primary opponents instead of just one.”

"Many of you have begun to call and/or write to express your concern over the whole situation. You are correct to be concerned over the fact that the GOP (our party) still has these tendencies to not be able to elect or retain highly qualified candidates who WANT to continue serving the public as I do. It is indeed a shame."

"I also urge party leaders to not alienate the Hispanic/Latino voter in Texas, as we now comprise about 39 percent of the population and we remain the fastest-growing minority group in the nation."

This letter is a powerful message to the Texas Republican party and Republican primary voters. Carrillo was the highest-ranking non judicial Latino in Texas state government and his primary defeat is a signal that the GOP needs to evolve in order to survive in Texas's changing political landscape.

I want offer my condolences to Victor Carrillo for both his political loss and the personal losses he has recently suffered. His wife and children and his mother will remain in my thoughts and prayers. I commend him for writing this letter of reflection and bringing this issue to light.


Jill Warren said...

I propose an alternative theory for discussion.

Voters flooded the polls to vote in a more high profile race and for their local candidates and didn't do their homework on the Railroad Commission. They looked at two names, neither of which looked familiar, and assumed (wrongly) that the Anglo name was the incumbent. Perhaps that is a form of bias, but not the type of bias that Mr. Carrillo is referring to -- an actual vote against him because of his ethnicity.

I have voted in the Republican Primary in Texas since 1988 (when I turned 18) and have never met a Republican Primary voter that would vote against an Hispanic surnamed individual for that reason.

I think very highly of Mr. Carrillo and even consider him a friend. And, I voted for him and encouraged everyone that asked my opinion to do so. But, I think this was a passive offense against him based on ignorance of the position and the candidates rather than the active offense that he alleges.

John Coby said...

Until the Hispanics in Texas start to vote, the GOP has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Words never rang so true. Today there are no Republican U.S. Senators who are Hispanic; there are only Three Republican members of Congress who are Hispanic (all in Florida) Texas has never elected a Republican Hispanic State Senator and we have no Republican Hispanics in the House . If you watched the last Presidential election on television and turned off the sound and just observed; you'd see little to no diversity in the crowds who supported McCain vs. those who supported Obama. Hispanics are not blind. They see the landscape of the Republican party and although they agree with a majority of their conservative values, until they see Hispanics rise in the party they will stay away.

Mike Kueber said...

I suggest that the tendency to vote for ones own ethnicity/race is not just an Anglo thing, but also an Hispanic thing or an African-American thing. I suspect Hispanics tended to vote for Carrillo over Porter.

I'm from North Dakota, and we had the same problem. Norwegians (the majority) always won the down-ballot races over the Germans (the minority).

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