Democrat Beto O’Rourke released his first Spanish-language TV ad Tuesday, to go on air this week in eight Texas media markets, including Fort Worth.
The buy comes as Democratic strategists have warned that O’Rourke needs to ramp up his outreach with Latino voters if he wants to unseat Republican Ted Cruz — one of four members of the Senate of Hispanic descent — this fall.
Cruz’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on its Latino outreach in the Texas Senate race.
His first re-election ad, released last week, focuses on O’Rourke’s comments supporting football players who kneel during the national anthem. The ad features veteran Marine Sgt. Tim Lee who lost his legs in Vietnam who says players should stand.
After his 2012 victory, Cruz warned that his party’s candidates needed to do a better job making its case to Hispanic voters, by “laying out [that] the key to economic opportunity is economic growth.”
Latino voters were about one-fourth of the Texas vote for president in 2016. President Donald Trump took 34 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas, while Democrat Hillary Clinton took 61 percent, according to CNN exit polls.
Other recent independent polling on the Texas Senate race has shown a closer contest.
O’Rourke’s campaign is spending roughly $215,000 on Telemundo and Univision ads from September 19 through 25 in Corpus Christi, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas (which covers Fort Worth) McAllen, Austin and Laredo, according to a media tracker.
The buy is roughly half what his campaign spent for a week of English-language ads on two stations in Dallas during the same span. O’Rourke is also running statewide Spanish-language radio ads.
“There should be 10 times as much money across all markets,” said Albert Morales, a Fort Worth native who serves as senior political director for the left-leaning polling firm Latino Decisions. “[O’Rourke] needs to crack into that 40 percent [of the] Republican base that are Hispanic voters.”
Texas’s Republican Gov. Greg Abbott won 44 percent of the Latino vote in his 2014, and he’s running this year for a second term.
Abbott is currently running Spanish-language radio ads and will be going up with Spanish language TV ads in the coming weeks.
Texas’s senior Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who is not up for re-election until 2020, won 48 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2014 race, more than Democrat David Alameel.
“During the campaign we made a real emphasis, we didn’t cede any ground, and went to a lot of different meetings, put together different counsels, had leadership teams in that community, and we did a lot of specific advertising to them,” said Rob Jesmer, a former executive director for the Senate GOP’s campaign arm strategist who managed Cornyn’s re-election campaign.
O’Rourke sought to draw out Latino voters in Fort Worth last month with the help of local Spanish-language band Latin Express. He has another event planned for Sept. 26 in Marine Park.
A translation of the TV ad O’Rourke released Tuesday features the candidate saying: “I know that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can unite to overcome the fear, the paranoia, the divisiveness, the corporations that control politics today. Let’s work together to lead the way on healthcare, education, and immigration reform.”