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Advocacy Group Says Latino Outreach In Texas This Year Is A 'Missed Opportunity"

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT News
Students gathered an event put on by the National Council of La Raza in East Austin on October 13, 2016.

The head of the largest Latino advocacy group in the U.S. says both major political parties in Texas dropped the ball on Latino voter outreach this year.

During a stop in East Austin on Thursday, Janet Murguia – the president of the National Council of La Raza – said more could have been done to engage voters, including young Latino voters.

She said this during and event for East Austin College Prep students aimed at getting newly registered high school students to talk with local parties and become civically engaged. Students also asked about gun control, police relations and student debt. And they got a feel for how each party approaches these issues.

Murguia says this is the kind of thing political parties in Texas should have been doing more of leading up to this year’s election.

“Specifically in Texas, I think the Latino voter outreach has really represented a missed opportunity,” she said.

Murguia says too often parties wait until four months before a presidential election to start taking interest in Latino voters. It’s not enough to hope Latinos are fired up over an issue or a candidate that year, she explains. Murguia says political parties need to be consistently reaching out and letting Latino voters know what they stand for.

“Investments are required for that. And we just haven’t seen those investments either from major public interest institutions or from really the parties,” she said. “So, Hispanics often either feel ignored by one party or taken for granted by another.”

Carisa Lopez, with the Travis County Democratic Party, says this is definitely something the party needs to get better at across the state, but it’s hard work.

“Texas is such a large and a red state and of course statewide we need to do more. But locally I think we have done a really good job of engaging,” Lopez said. “But we need to increase that statewide. It’s a hard job. It’s not easy. And it’s going to take multiple election cycles to make that happen.”

And Latino outreach has been particularly tricky for Republicans like Gabriel Nila, who's running for the Texas House seat now occupied by Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin). He says that’s because this year the national party backed a Presidential candidate that has said controversial things about Latinos.

“They have told us, you are the party of Trump,” he said. “And we are like, ‘no, I am me’ and I am running for this position and I happen to be on this Republican Party ticket. It’s not the same thing.”

Nila has hopes it will be easier to reach out to Latino voters on behalf of the party the future. In the meantime, he said, he’s focusing on local issues.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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