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Gov. Abbott’s campaign eyes the vote of people of color in Texas

A group of people stand behind a podium with a microphone and a sign that says "Beto's Reinvention Convention."
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Eva Garza, a former GOP Texas Supreme Court justice, led a group on Thursday of Latino, Black, and Asian Republican leaders in an appeal to voters to support Gov. Greg Abbott.

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A group of Texas Republicans pledged Thursday to court voters of color and win their support in an effort to re-elect Gov. Greg Abbott.

The announcement comes as statewide polling shows Abbott’s lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is shrinking.

Talking to reporters Thursday afternoon, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman said the future of the Republican party is Latino.

"Our Latino community is experiencing a real awakening. We are on the cusp of change,” Guzman said. “We won't be taken for granted by the Democrats."

The press conference in Dallas took place not far from where the Texas Democratic Party was kicking off its biennial convention. The GOP event, which served as a rally of sorts for Abbott, featured mainly Latino, Black and Asian Republicans.

All speakers expressed that the values of Latinos and other minority groups are aligning with those of the Republican Party.

Andy Nguyen, a Republican candidate for the Tarrant County Commission, said he left Vietnam with his family in search of the American Dream. He says that dream is now under attack by the Democrats.

“Texans will not be fooled by the charade, especially those of us who left persecution, tyranny and famine behind for the freedom America and Texas offer,” Nguyen said.

Courting the Latino vote

It’s clear that Republican leadership in Texas is eying the Latino vote, and they believe it’s possible, despite data showing it might be an uphill quest.

According to 2021 data from Gallup, nationwide, 54 percent of Hispanics identified as Democrats, while 26 percent identified as Republicans.

But on the state level, things are less definitive — Republicans have been able to make some gains with Latinos.

The Republican Party has also invested in South Texas, a region that’s majority Hispanic. The party’s Republican National Committee has opened community centers in McAllen, San Antonio, and Laredo to attract Latino voters.

It also opened a center in Dallas late last year “to reach Indian and Asian Americans.”

Manny Ramirez, who is running for Tarrant County Commissioners Court, said Democrats have been making gains in some areas, like Tarrant County. There, President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump in 2020 by only a few thousand votes.

But Ramirez said he believes that won’t continue, mainly because the Republican Party is running younger candidates who can connect with more voters.

When asked how they would capture the vote of young Latino voters, a demographic that O’Rourke has been working with, the Republican leaders agreed it was all about showing young people results.

“We are not going to vote for a party, we are going to vote for our values,” Ramirez said. “And we are up here representing our values and saying, ‘You know what, if not us, who else?’”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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