Sunday, June 23, 2024

How Wendy Davis and Latinos Could Turn Texas Blue, or Not

NewsTaco logoBy Victor Landa, NewsTaco

The big news out of Texas, “leaked” before it was “ready,” is that Wendy Davis will run for Governor.

Some background: Wendy Davis is Senator Wendy Davis, the Democrat from Fort Worth who pulled off the real filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate some months ago, the filibuster that stalled a strict abortion bill backed by every conservative that works in the capitol in Austin. It was a tactical, albeit temporary win. It was also a publicity bonanza for pink Mizuno Wave Rider 16 running shoes, the kind Davis wore during her 11 hour talk-a-thon, the ones that flew off the shelves and were drained from inventories in stores across the state and nation.

It’s important to mention the political context of Davis’ run as well: Texas is a bright red state. Gov. Rick Perry isn’t running for reelection so there’s a vacuum at the top of the statehouse’s executive suite. Former Obama reelection campaign big shots have come to Texas to turn the state blue, or purple at least. Latinos are a big part of that turn-Texas-blue plan. But Latinos in Texas have a reputation for not voting.

So there you go. Shuffle those cards and deal.

If nothing else, this is making Texas politics a lot more interesting than it has been for several years. But make no mistake, much of this is premeditated. The effort to make Texas viable for the Democrats began almost immediately after the last Presidential election. No sooner had President Obama clinched his reelection than the plan to press Texas for the liberal side started rolling down the hill. It was quiet at first. Few people knew what was happening. But now the effort is in full swing.

Davis and Latinos are key.

Davis is key because there’s energy behind her. Latinos are key because there’s potential energy there, the numbers tell the story well. But there’s some fancy juggling to do if this thing is to work for the Dems. Davis earned her recent notoriety by championing abortion rights, and Latinos tend to be conservative on that issue. Someone is going to have to figure out how to split the difference. They’re also going to have to  figure out how to get Latinos to vote.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying that’s the lay of the land.

The Republicans have the wind at their backs, because it’s Texas, so they’ll be fighting this one from high ground. But the Democrats in Texas have the energy of hope, the kind that sees a light at the end of a tunnel, and that’s the spoiler kind of energy, the kind that trumps all business-as-usual.

The wildcard in all this is the Latino vote.  It boils down to that. There are enough potential Latino votes to put Texas in national play but in order for that to happen Latinos have to be coaxed, enticed, asked, convinced to go to the polls. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I spent the better part of a year registering Latino voters in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. In that time we registered 40,000 new Latino voters in those states and got more than 80 percent of them to the voting booth. It was hard work, so it’s possible.

Experience tells me that we can’t leave voter registration to an agency, or to a group or political party. Latinos are best served politically when Latinos vote their interests; when Latinos take part in registering Latinos – their friends, neighbors, coworkers … Latinos are best served when their interests are represented on both sides of the political divide.

For that to happen there’s a long road ahead, in Texas and across the nation. But this Wendy Davis candidacy is a good place to start.

Victor Landa is the Founder and Editor for NewsTaco. Landa worked for 30 years as a writer, journalist and community builder, mostly in TV news, at  Univisión and Telemundo. He’s written columns for the San Antonio Express-News for 20 years and done voter registration for SVREP. He also owns Palabrero Communications where he advises clients on media strategy,  message crafting, storytelling and presentation/public speaking.

This article originally appeared on NewsTaco.