I’d say I feel sorry for them, but I don’t.
Every few years, I like to check in with Massey Villarreal to see if he’s still a Republican.
He still was on Thursday. But it’s getting harder all the time. The Houston businessman and former national chair of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly didn’t bother to hide his anger when we talked. The anti-immigrant rhetoric he was railing about years ago in bygone campaign seasons has found new life in his party’s primary race for lieutenant governor.
Villarreal and several other Hispanic GOP leaders are sickened by it.
“I have made the Kool-Aid for many years for other Hispanics to come into the party – I made the Kool-Aid and people drank it,” said Villarreal, who is also a former chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “And I refuse to make that kind of Kool-Aid anymore. Not for this party. Not for these leaders.”
For a party that desperately needs to appeal to Hispanic voters, a loudmouthed few among Republican candidates seem to be doing all they can to push the growing population of potential voters away.
Right now, the poster child of the loudmouths is state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has run a shockingly nativist campaign, even for Texas. He wasn’t the only candidate singing the “secure the border” mantra at the debate the other night. And all four lieutenant governor candidates want to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.
But he has relentlessly tried to tie immigrants to violent crime, skewing numbers in the process, and he has waxed alarmist about alien “invasions.”
“I don’t know of one Hispanic Republican who isn’t appalled by Dan Patrick,” Villarreal wrote in an email that prompted me to call him. “If Dan Patrick wins, he will be the Pete Wilson of Texas.”
And if Patrick wins the March primary, Villarreal, the son of a Mexican immigrant, swears another state senator will get his vote for lieutenant governor: Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio.
Other Hispanic Republicans that Falkenberg talked to weren’t willing to go that far, because party affiliation is a powerful force. This isn’t the first time that Massey Villarreal has had a problem with a statewide Republican candidate, and again it’s over the issue of immigration. I guess that’s why Falkenberg keeps checking on him, because that situation isn’t getting any better at the national level or here in Texas. Redistricting plays a big role in this, because Congressional and legislative Republicans represent districts that are heavily white, so they have little electoral reason to listen to the concerns of Latinos. Of the 24 Congressional districts currently held by Republicans, only two have Latino citizen voting age populations (CVAPs) above 25% – CD27 (43.0%) and CD19 (26.5%). Only CD27 (49.4%) and CD22 (53.3%) have Anglo CVAPs less than 60%. It’s the same in the Senate, where Latino CVAP tops out among Republican districts at 28.0% (SD28) and Anglo CVAP bottoms out at 59.3% (SD17); Dan Patrick’s SD07 is at 17.9% and 62.1%, respectively. In the House, where turncoat Republican and top Democratic target JM Lozano’s HD43 has a Latino CVAP of 58.9% is there some variation, though not much beyond that. Just six others out of 95 total have Hispanic CVAPs above 30%, with only HD32 having an Anglo CVAP below 50%.
So the candidates are mainly trying to win the votes of the people in their districts, who vote in their primaries, and who don’t look or think like Massey Villarreal. It’s hardly just the Lite Guv candidates acting like this – the Republican candidates for Attorney General are just as bad, and as we know Greg Abbott just released his Extreme Border Security plan – though Patrick’s super-charged rhetoric, the high profile of the race, and the certainty of several more weeks of this insanity as it goes to a runoff have focused attention on these four. I don’t expect anything to change until more Republicans feel like they have to compete for Hispanic voters and not just their seething primary base, and I don’t expect that to happen until they start losing some elections they expected to win. The Lite Guv, Governor, and AG races here in Texas would be three great places for that trend to start. Your move, Massey and friends. Campos has more.