Could Conservative drift of Texas Latinos doom Democratic hopes?

It is a fundamental demographic fact - Latinos comprise better than 40% of the Texas population.

That steadily growing number should translate into formidable power at the polls, but unlike most midterms, a significant number of Hispanic voters in the Lone Star State have swung their support to conservative candidates.

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"It's real. That split is there," said Sergio Lira, President of LULAC Houston.

Lira believes much of the Latino drift can be traced to South Texas and the turmoil on the border - a trend identified by polling for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation which found 52% of likely Latino voters support sending the National Guard to the Rio Grande, and a slight majority of Hispanics (48% to 45%) support construction of a border wall.

Macarena Martinez is rallying Latino votes for the Republican National Committee and says the collapse of public safety is also attracting Hispanic support for the GOP.

"Especially down in South Texas. It's the border. It's border issues. It's something that's permeated Texas and almost nationwide. Even here in Harris and other major cities where its crime that's being propelled by Democrat run cities and Democrat policies that are causing our crime to skyrocket," said Martinez.

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And yet, the HPF survey found Democrat Beto O'Rourke still winning the Latino vote (51% to 39%), albeit not by near enough to catch incumbent Republican Greg Abbott.

Rice Political Analyst Mark Jones says a simple majority of the Hispanic vote amounts to a losing formula for Beto and other Democrats running statewide.

"Beto needs to get that up to mid-60's, along with driving Generation Z, to turn out in record numbers if he has any hope whatsoever of defeating Abbott," said Jones.


Lira is still hopeful the highly restrictive Texas abortion ban will energize young Hispanic voters, Latinas in particular.

"I think Latinas are going to be the silver bullet. They are going to come out, not only because of the progressives and the motivation behind Beto's movement, but also because of the issue of pro-choice," said Lira.

On the critical issue of reproductive rights, the HPF survey found Hispanic Texans split with a majority (57%) saying they favor modifying the current law to make it easier for women in this state to access abortion.