Friday, April 19, 2024

Traces of Racism in the Afterglow of a Texas Primary

The electoral defeat of the highest-ranking Hispanic Republican in Texas has triggered widespread speculation that race is still a significant obstacle in Texas politics, particularly among the Right.  Victor Carrillo, the incumbent Railroad Commissioner, was handed an unexpected and lopsided defeat by a relatively unknown, under-funded challenger in the recent GOP primary.

After the election, Mr. Carrillo himself suggested that voters were probably driven to his opponent, David Porter, because of his Anglo surname.  These allegations would appear to hold water, given that not even political pundits had foreseen such a result in the elections, with Porter picking up 60 percent of the vote.

Bill White, the Democratic nominee for the upcoming gubernatorial election, commented on the issue.

“The Republicans will have a lot of explaining to do because the Republican candidates on their ticket, including the highest ranking Republican elected official, on the Railroad Commission, were defeated,” White said on Thursday. “Mr. Carrillo himself says his Hispanic last name was decisive against him in the Republican primary. If he is right about that, it is a sad day for Texas.”

Soon after the shocking result, Carrillo did in deed issue a statement addressing the nature of his defeat.

“Early polling showed that the typical GOP primary voter has very little info about the position of Railroad Commissioner, what we do, or who my opponent or I were,” Carrillo said. “Given the choice between ‘Porter’ and ‘Carrillo’ — unfortunately, the Hispanic-surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover although I did all in my power to overcome this built-in bias. I saw it last time (in the 2004 election), but was able to win because the ‘non-Carrillo’ vote was spread among three Anglo GOP primary opponents instead of just one.”

Carrillo was only one of several Hispanics to suffer surprising defeats in the Texas GOP primaries. Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez also lost to an Anglo. And, in South Texas, a young and highly-regarded former White House staffer, Daniel Garza, failed to make it to the runoff in the Congressional District 15 race.

In an article for the Texas Insider, political consultant Suzanne Bellsnyder said that Texas Republicans will be forced to confront the “elephant in the room”, referring to racial biases among conservative voters.

“Tuesday night’s defeat in the Republican Primary of Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo sent shockwaves throughout the state, and rightly so. How could a well-funded, conservative and proven incumbent go down so handily in defeat?” Bellsnyder asked.

The fact that even Republicans are alarmed by conservatives’ inability to welcome Hispanics into their ranks is indicative of the larger challenge that the GOP will face as it tries, somehow, to appeal to voters of color.


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