GOP Governors v. Senators: The two faces of Latino approach in the Mid-Term Election

By Alex Gonzalez

Secretary of state Greg Abbott, NM Gov. Susana Martinez and NV Gov. Brian Sandoval.
TX Secretary of state Greg Abbott, NM Gov. Susana Martinez and NV Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The Mid-Term election this year is becoming a two-face Republican approach to Latino voters based on region, and how big the Latino vote is in each respective state. In states in the southwest and Texas with a significant share of Latino voters, Republican governors running for re-election–or where Republican candidates are challenging a Democrat incumbent–Republicans are taking a positive moderate campaign message on jobs, education, family values, and staying away from “hot” rhetoric on immigration. Conversely, in states with little Hispanic voting representation, and far away from the border such as New Hampshire, Kentucky, Alaska, Iowa, and North Carolina Republicans running for the U.S. Senate are waging an open “no-amnesty” war against Obama and the Democrats.

What this two-face conflicting Republican campaigns show is that, Republican in the Southwest and Texas are aware of the pressing need to woo Latinos in this region, and thus, Republicans have to adjust their “tone” to appeal to the increasing Latino voting bloc; and the GOP candidates will have to adopt a clear, optimistic, growth-and-reform message to turn America around, and win the Latino vote to win presidential elections and statewide races where Latinos will have a significant voting bloc. But it also shows that the GOP will have a tough time getting those states with few Latinos voters to embrace the Latinos issues –such as education, jobs an immigration. The new Pew Research Center poll shows, the GOP is becoming “older and whiter” with the infusion of more low-income rural “whites” that will focus on social issues, not economic issues.

New Mexico: We all Wants Susana
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has doubled her lead over Democratic challenger Gary King since mid-August, in part by picking up support from Democrats, Hispanics and independents who previously backed King, a new Journal Poll shows.

The September poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday last week, found that Martinez had increased her advantage to 54 percent of likely New Mexico voters. Increased support for the governor from voters identifying themselves as Hispanic appeared to contribute to Martinez’s increased advantage. Hispanic voters in New Mexico have traditionally leaned more toward Democratic candidates.

Forty-four percent of Hispanic voters in the latest poll said they backed Martinez, compared with the 45 percent of Hispanic voters who said they favored King. Eleven percent said they were undecided. One month earlier, 36 percent of Hispanics said they would vote for Martinez Governor Martinez has devoted herself to improving the lives of all New Mexicans by creating jobs, reducing taxes, and reforming education, and showing her compassion as a motherly candidate whose main campaign ads are showing her as a hardworking mother who is taking care of New Mexicans not by demanding higher accountability from government and from people, while providing services for those in need.

Texas: We Need 40 Percent of the Latino Vote
In Texas, Wendy Davis’ theme is to “give all Texans a voice in their future and a place in Texas’ future,” while Abbott wants to empower Texans through “limited government and unlimited opportunity.” Abbott’s campaign is aimed at wooing more Latino voters by promoting improvements on education and making job-luring initiatives more accountable, and creating jobs and support for veterans.

Abbott voices support for the Second Amendment, which it’s must for Republican running in Texas. On the issues of immigration, Abbott wants to reform the is-state tuition, including the assurance that students comply with a requirement that they apply for legal residency when eligible– a small piece of red meat for state angry tea party groups; led by ted Cruz, who have decided to make “amnesty” and DACA their main agenda. Also, Abbott has proposed $4 billion more for transportation infrastructure improvements, as Texas’ population continues to grow.

In an state where the Latino vote can realign the power structure with a high turnout, Abbott is dedicating a big part of his campaign to woo Latino voters in South Texas; he has committed his campaign to get at least 40 percent of the Latino vote in the Rio Grande Valley, hence his soft “tone” and immigration and Latino message, in both English and Spanish, focused on Jobs, education, and family themes as “juntos.”

In his message, “Juntos” echoes the message of an ad the campaign put out in English. In a TV, Abbott is shown crossing a three-dimensional map while discussing why so many businesses leave California for Texas. He argues his economic proposals would keep up that trend, saying he would “control state spending, unleash our oil and gas industry, and keep taxes low so small business can grow.”

Just like Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Abbott has stayed away from “harsh” rhetoric on immigration and “amnesty”, even though Texas was at the center of “humanitarian crisis” of unaccompanied minors from Central American last June. This issue has waned down and Abbott has opted to focus on issues important to voters, others than red meat for tea party activists.

California: Rebranding Republicans in California
Neel Kashkari will not unseat California’s Democratic governor, but he may help his party in the long run.

Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for Governor, has called Governor Jerry Brown’s plans for high-speed rail “the crazy train”. He is a political novice, the 41-year-old Mr Kashkari is unlikely to oust the 76-year-old Mr Brown, who has far more money, far more experience and a 20-point lead in the polls. But he has longer-term aspirations: he is trying to rebrand the Republican Party in a state where it holds no statewide offices, is outnumbered two-to-one in the legislature and is shedding supporters fast as elderly whites die or move to Las Vegas. Mr Kashkari presents himself as a different kind of Republican.

Kashkari says that he has lived the American dream and wants to make that possible for all Californians by focusing on failing schools and its unemployment rate of 7.4%. His campaign is “Jobs and education. That’s it!” Some 39% of the Californian population and 23% of registered voters are Latino. This fast-growing group has shunned Republicans since 1994, when then-governor Pete Wilson won re-election by stoking fears of illegal immigrants and pledging to deny them social services. Mr Kashkari says he believes in border control but talks much more about creating legal paths for immigrants to contribute to society

Nevada: Jobs, more Jobs, and Education
Brian Sandoval is running for re-election in Nevada and his message is that voters in Nevada must remain vigilant in their economic development efforts to continue moving Nevada forward. Sandoval argues steady improvements in Nevada’s economy needs to diversify its economy to make it stronger. Therefore, his chief message is of economic and education advancement.

In addition, last summer, Sandoval urged parents to read at least five books with their children to help them develop a lifelong love of reading and learning, .Sandoval says “It’s important that we give our kids every opportunity to put their best foot forward” saying additionally “for many students, the summer can be a great time to catch up or better prepare themselves for the new school year.

On social media, Sandoval has not used one single post on anti-immigration or “amnesty,” or tea party reference, and more about the family-man. Apart from his message on Jobs and the economy, he signed the Driver license bill for undocumented workers in the state and he often attends Hispanic/Latino events.

Colorado: The Republican Education State
In Colorado, Republican Bob Beauprez, after defeating Tom Tancredo in the primaries, is challenging seating Democrats governor John Hickenlooper.

Colorado is purple state where Obama has won twice but the state has libertarian mantra, but the Latino votes is not as big as in Texas or California; but gubernatorial and senatorial races are won within the 5 point margin in the state. For example, in 2010, Democrats Michael Bennet won the race for the U.S. Senate with only 48.1% while GOP candidate Ken Buck got 46.4%. John Hickenlooper won the gubernatorial race with only 51.0% while Tom Tancredo came in second with 36.4% (Tancredo ran as a Constitutional tea party) and Republican Dan Maes received only 11.1%. So in Colorado any small collation of voters can influence statewide elections. RealClearPolitics has Colorado as toss up in the governor race, but POLITICO has it as “Leans Democratic” and CNN has it as “tilting Democrat.”

In Colorado, 13 percent of registered voters are Hispanic. Thus, Bob Beauprez’s main campaign is largely framed around  education too appeal to Latino voters; this will be very close race. He has also stayed away from hot “no amnesty” rhetoric and instead has been attending “Fiestas Patrias” in Hispanic events.

Florida: the Republican “Services” State
Florida is not in the southwest, but is a large state with a large Hispanic voting bloc where Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott is running against GOP turned-Democrats Charlie Crist.

But Rick Scott has also stayed away from any incendiary remarks on “amnesty” and has opted for a campaign of lowers taxes, service for seniors and veterans.

And there is reason why. Florida has one of the most active Hispanic voting bloc and Cubans in the state are now shifting Democrats, along with a large influx of Puerto Ricans who tend to vote Democrats; Puerto Ricans now are a bigger ethnic Hispanic bloc in the state than Cubans. As a result, Florida is now a purple toss up state that has voted for Obama so Rick Scott has framed his campaign on jobs lowers taxes and services to woo senior retirees and Hispanics while shying away from the immigration issue.

They all Love Education and Hispanics

There is common denominators among all Republican running in states with significant share of Latino voters: Education and Jobs, and no harsh immigration rhetoric. Therefore, there is a strong correlation between states with substantial share of Latino voters and a positive Republican outlook promoting issues important  to Latino voters—education jobs, family values, and soft tone on immigration. In these states, all Republicans—candidates and incumbents—are staying away from angry “amnesty” message that tea party groups want to hear on immigration; and these candidates and incumbents are focusing their campaigns on education, job opportunities and family themes in all these major Hispanic states.

This is a regional Republican message in the southwest where Latino voters can sway elections; in these states, all Republicans running as governor offer more positive moderate economic policies messages, which is the opposite of harsh “tone” used by Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in states that has no significant Hispanic voting bloc like in Kentucky, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Georgia, Louisiana, Iowa, and Alaska where the GOP candidate have embraced the tea party theme of angry “no-Amnesty” that antagonize Hispanics.

meAlex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote! comments to




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