Latinos have a “Patron-age” Problem Within the Democrat Party in Houston

By Alex Gonzalez

Congressman Gene Green canvasses Saturday in Pasadena. The popular Democrat last faced a primary opponent in 1996.

In 2012, I wrote a piece about why  the Republican Party  needs to groom Latinos – Mexican-Americans -within the party apparatus so they can move  up within the party ranks and truly represent the interests of Mexican-Americans. The GOP needs Mexican-American Generals, not only low-ranked foot soldiers, but under a patronage system, Latinos are delegated to foot soldier status.

This lack of political representation, or Generals, is symptom of the racial old patronage, and this still present within the Democrat Party in Texas in 29th congressional district.

Back then, I argued that While Mexican-Americans have, arguably, been living in the United States longer than any other ethnic group, their profile has grown to grand proportions only recently. As a result, they hold little political legacy from which an efficient and independent political organization can arise. Thus, in his argument lack of Latino political power come from the fact that the Party machine has only developed a patronage system in which “Mexicans” still rely on elder white “Anglos” for party representation via white “Generals.” As a result, and despite their large numbers, Mexicans continue to be represented by ethnically white elder men in the GOP who control the state and county bureaucracies, and thereby, creating a Latino community with no leadership skills, or leaders to become “Generals”. And this is also the case for Mexican/Latino Republicans in Texas who still lack proportional Representation within the state Republican Party.

This reality exists in patronage politics—loyalism– because where there is patronage “there is no reason to develop young leaders.”

Why Lot of Mexican Soldiers, but Not A Lot of Mexican Generals?

In Texas, in Mexican-American communities lack strong political candidates with coherent policy platforms and an established base in the community are rare. But part of this legacy in Mexican communities is that the Party “machine” has perpetuated a lack of Mexican political organizations to keep conservative Latinos voting for white candidates.

According to Mark J. Redmond’s study paper Mexican Voter in Chicago “Lot of Soldiers, but not a Lot of Generals the “Machine politics breeds machine leadership.” But within the Mexican community, he argues, “they do have precinct captains, they do have block captains who are Latino, but the top remains “white”. Essentially, what Redmond found was that there was no reason for the Party Machine and the white precinct “captains” to develop Mexican leadership, or “Generals”, because the Mexican “soldier”, under patronage—stay loyal to white “captains“ become that is the only alternative; moreover, under this hierarchical arrangement, the “white” candidate can claim to have the support of the Party machine.

And this is exactly what is happening in the 29th congressional distinct in Houston.

More than 76% of the residents in Texas’ 29th congressional district are Hispanic, as are about 61% of the district’s eligible voters. So the question now is should a Hispanic represent the 29th congressional district. Yet, the area carved out in 1991 to represent the Houston area’s Latino population has never had a Hispanic representative. To be specific, these Latinos are long-time Mexican-Americans who have been in Texas for generations, yet still have to be represented by white elder “General.”

When, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia announced that he will challenge the incumbent Rep. Gene Green, the local Houston Democratic Leaders to Endorsed Gene Green. The endorsement by theses Latino democrats was directly to give Green cover against Garcia’s argument that the mostly Hispanic district would be better served with Hispanic congressional representation. Similarly, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela,  The Brownsville Democrat,  gave his blessing to a staffer to join the Green campaign.

Following the endorsement of local Latino democrats, the leadership of Congressional Hispanics Caucus gave its support to Rep. Green arguing that “the decision to stick with Green came down to his relationships and work on issues of importance to the Hispanic community.”

There are political calculations as to why the Hispanic democrat leadership in Houston and in Congress quickly came out in support of Rep. Green.

Adrian Garcia just lost the Houston mayoral race where he finished third with 16%, the white candidate Bill King won second with 25% and percent of the vote, and the Africa-American candidate Sylvester Turner came in first place with 32%.

When Garcia entered the race for major, he was highly favored because Houston is 44% Hispanic (mostly Mexican-American) and Garcia is well known in the city. But he lost again a black and white candidates in liberal city that is considered a democrat  stronghold.

Thus, it is possible to presume that in race against a white Republican opponent in congressional district 29th, Garcia could be weak candidate, and therefore, it is better to fend off any potential GOP opponent with a white alder man representing a district that is 76% Hispanic and where 61 percent of the district’s eligible voters, but have low turnout.

Moreover, as it was the case in San Antonio between Leticia Van De Putte Ivy Taylor, in big city with large Mexican-American population, Latino voters still have a dismal turnout. So understandably, Democrats cannot rely only on Latino voters; and they want to prevent Republican-leaning coalition of voters in the district.

However, democrats have been preoccupied with this ethnic transition in the 29th congressional district for longtime to show that Latinos need to be represented by one of their own in a district that is predominantly Latino, or Mexican-Americans. But they have not done anything about it, and instead, they assumed they are still better off with a white elder man protecting the interests of Latinos.

But that is precisely the problem with a patronage system described by Redmond. Essentially, there was no reason for the Party Machine to develop Mexican leadership, or “Generals”, because the Mexican “soldier”, under patronage, stay loyal to white “General“ because that is the only alternative; moreover, under this hierarchical arrangement, the “white” candidate can claim to have the support of the Party machine and Latinos.

Adrian Garcia claims that because the 29th congressional district is 76% Hispanic, the district can be better represented by a Hispanic candidate. But the local and national democrat party machine that still operates under an old patronage system is openly telling Garcia that for now he is still a good, foot soldier, but not good enough to be a Mexican “General.”

meAlex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote. comments to or  @AlexGonzTXCA



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