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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.