Commentary: Hispanics may help Texas GOP

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramNovember 9, 2012 

Texas Democrats are in trouble, and more than they ever imagined.

Not only did their candidates take a shellacking Tuesday, but they also lost the chance to say, "Wait 'til next generation."

The certainty of Hispanic Democrats taking control now seems like just a possibility.

That all changed with the statewide election of Texas' first Hispanic U.S. senator, Cuban-Irish descendant Ted Cruz, and with the emergence of Hispanic Republicans like lawyer Jason Villalba of Dallas in the Texas House.

With Fort Worth lawyer George P. Bush waiting in the wings, Republicans have rising young stars to match the Democrats' vaunted twins, Mayor Julian Castro and U.S. Rep-elect Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.

"If Texas Republicans can follow the strategy laid out by George P. Bush" - by aiming for 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, a number that was never any trouble for George W. - "then the GOP's majority will be secure for many years," Rice University political science Professor Mark Jones wrote by email Tuesday, while we were awaiting word on the Texas Senate election.

But there's a catch.

Some of the newly elected Texas House members are Tea Party nativists who may want to revisit the idea of Arizona-like immigration enforcement.

Sending grandparents back to Mexico or throwing helpless illegal immigrant children out of college will not win Hispanic votes.

Villalba, the only Texas candidate endorsed by both presidential nominee Mitt Romney and retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, has called for "consistent and effective" immigration rules and to avoid strident rhetoric.

"The party's efforts will go for naught if leading figures in the Texas GOP don't heed his warning," Jones wrote, adding that Republicans must be careful not to push policies "which a large majority of Texas Hispanics consider to be anti-Hispanic."

Tea Party groups even campaigned against Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign because Texas hasn't passed laws like Arizona's.

"It's always good to have another Hispanic Republican in the Legislature," retiring state Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, wrote by e-mail

"You'd have to ask a Tea Party representative about how they will be with that."

Meanwhile, the statewide Democratic ticket was on its way to an ignominious defeat, with President Obama already more than 1 million votes behind by mid-evening.

The strongest Democrat on the ticket was Judge Michele Petty.

She was the only one winning more than 40 percent.

In Texas, Republicans' biggest threat isn't the Democratic Party. It's the Tea Party.

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