Among one of the most interesting questions before last Tuesday’s election was whether Republicans in Texas could keep their three Hispanic Republican legislators. Well they did; and the GOP Hispanic representation in the Texas Legislature increased to five.
In 2010, Republican voters elected the largest bloc of Latino Republicans to the Legislature in History. For the first time, the Texas legislature had five Latino Republican legislators. In 2012, in Texas, only one of those Latino Republican state legislators elected in 2010 was re-elected to the Texas legislature, Rep. Larry Gonzales from District 52 who ran unopposed. But the 2012 election did add a new Republican Latino legislator, Jason Villalba from district 114 in the Dallas area with 54%. The other Latino Republican legislator, J.M. Lozano, changed from a Democrat to a Republican in early 2012 after redistricting brought more conservative voters into his old Democrat district.
In this election, all Hispanic GOP incumbents were easily re-elected. Jason Villalba won with 81% of the vote and J.M. Lozano received 61% of the vote while Larry Gonzales got 56% in HD-52.
The two new GOP members ran in more competitive districts. Rick Galindo won with 52.7% in HD-177 defeating Philip Cortez, who took the district from Republican John Garza in 2012. Therefore, this district will most likely remain competitive in 2016. In HD-144, Gilbert Peña ousted Mary Ann Perez with 50.5%. So HD-144 also will be a very competitive in a Presidential Election in 2016.
The demographics of these Hispanic GOP districts also show that Hispanic Republicans can have a broad appeal to voters across “racial” or “ethnic” lines. For example, Jason villalba won with 81% of the vote in a district that is 50% “Anglo” and 28% Hispanic. Moreover, Villalba is an outspoken Hispanic GOP representative openly arguing that the GOP needs to “tone down” the rhetoric on immigration to appeal to more Hispanics. Larry Gonzales also received 56% of the vote in a district that is 54% Anglo. Both House districts, 114 and 52, share similar demographic characteristics while districts 117, 144, and 43 are “Majority-Hispanic districts.”
So while JM Lozano “settles in” in his new GOP seat, it appears that district 43 is becoming a solid Republican in a Hispanic-majority district.
The one single common denominator for these House districts, with exception of HD-144 which is still within urban area of the city of Dallas, is that they all are in the suburbs in major metro areas of the state.
Note: a correction has been made underlining that HD-144 is not in the suburbs but rather within the city of Dallas.