Republicans now have two Latino (and two Asian-American) governors; Democrats have none. Mr Sandoval, a former Nevada gaming commissioner, shrewdly exploited a scandal within the state Republican Party to win election. Ms Martinez is a former criminal prosecutor from a border town, and an ex-Democrat whose 1995 conversion seemed to bear out Ronald Reagan’s quip that Hispanics, a fast-growing chunk of the electorate, are Republicans who “just don’t know it yet”.
Some polls show Latinos to be more pro-life than other Americans; many Republicans, rightly or wrongly, see this as an opportunity. Latinos are also more likely to run their own businesses and to believe that “most people can get ahead if they work hard”, which sounds like a good fit with Republican ideas. However, according to the Pew Hispanic Centre, 75% of them favour a bigger government that provides more services, which doesn’t sound like a good fit at all. In truth, many Latino votes are up for grabs. George W. Bush won a respectable 40% of them in 2004; Mitt Romney won a pathetic 27% in 2012. That suggests two things. First, personalities matter. Mr Bush, a Texan with a half-Mexican nephew, was at ease with Hispanic audiences; Mr Romney was not. Second, Latino voters really care about immigration. Mr Bush was vocally in favour of giving illegal immigrants a chance to become legal; Mr Romney was against it. Today, 55% of Latinos say immigration is the most important issue they face.
Last Saturday, Republican Hispanic Citizens in Action hosted a morning event that focused on Republican outreach, as seen through the experiences of minorities. The speakers included David Zapata, Republican Party of Texas Outreach Director; Kevin Fulton, a local attorney and Melissa Salas Blair, President and CEO of Puentes Research & Communications. Club President Anthony Magdelano, a judicial candidate, opened the meeting. Club 2nd VP Tony Garza put forth the morning's agenda and explained the topics of the day. Garza said we would "learn how to speak Latino."
The program states "Professional Latinos Promoting Conservative Public Policy".
This club was started in 2008 by Bernadette McLeroy and is a fast growing group. The members are dedicated to getting the conservative message out and bringing in Hispanic voters for the Republican party.
BBC sent a reporter and a tech support person along to document the event. Melissa Salas Blair, in particular, was chosen for an interview. Many candidates were in attendance and a few even participated in the entire event, not simply showing up to glad hand and be seen long enough to be introduced when the time came. Yes, candidates, attendees notice things like that at these events.
According to David Zapata, the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) conducted a survey concentrating on Hispanics in Texas. All counted - residents, citizens, and undocumented Hispanics - the number grew 2,790,000 from 2000 to 2010. By 2012, white Texans grew by 5% -6%, but minorities grew 50%-60%. 44% identify as Democrat, 26% identify as Republican, and 23% "vote by office". But, when asked if the person is liberal or conservative, 40% identify as conservative, 18% identify as liberal and 36% identify as moderate.
In Houston, 45% of Hispanics voted for Mitt Romney and 46% voted for Obama in 2012. In Houston, 18% of Hispanics considered themselves somewhat or very conservative, 52% conservative and 11% liberal. In the U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler, in Houston, 43% of Hispanic voters voted for Cruz and 32% voted for Sadler.
Social issues don't motivate Hispanics to vote for Republicans. The economy and jobs are their focus. To win Hispanic votes, Republicans have to commit to community involvement. Simply showing up four months before an election and asking for votes will not sway voters. RPT is working to establish offices in areas that are in need of outreach - minority areas - and working with groups that are not Republican groups. Voter outreach provides access to leadership. Community service as outreach throws "a monkey wrench into the thought process", that just because the mother or father of a voter always voted Democrat doesn't mean the next generation cannot become a Republican voter.
As Anthony Magdaleno said, outreach is "not a pre-election endeavor, it is a life long endeavor".
Kevin Fulton spoke to the concerns of the black community. He was a Democrat until 15 years ago. He pointed out that historically black universities were all started by Republicans. It was the 1930's before Democrats allowed blacks into their conventions. Republican, however, have lost 37% of the black vote in the last 40 years. Though the community is receptive to conservative messages, Republicans have lost touch. 13% of the vote has been lost since 1996, which can turn an election.
Fulton said that blacks don't want to hear that you don't see color - they do and know that you do, too. This plays into the loss of identity that blacks had in the past. Flooding money into a community before elections doesn't work. The message has to be that you see a black person but you don't judge a person on color. While the GOP is good at numbers, charts and logic, we are bad at appealing to emotion. Speaking about wiping out social programs reminds people of poorer times. We have to speak about using social programs as a safety net for those in need - as a temporary relief. "Conservative" is not a good word in the black community - in the past for Democrats and now for Republicans. "States Rights" is another poor choice as it conjures up the days of slavery. The Democrats have been quite savvy to frighten Republicans away from talking about black issues. If Republicans do, they are labeled as racists. If Republicans don't, Democrats tell voters Republicans don't care enough to talk about issues.
Melissa Salas Blair spoke about "taco outreach" - doing an annual event but nothing else during a calendar year. "Latinos have been testing the waters of the Republican Party and have found it tepid and unwelcoming". A point of reference is the yearly Christmas in July event in the Hispanic community. Why wouldn't Republicans be a part of that, as well as other times? She spoke about using social media and of re-branding the Republican party as a welcoming party.
Pastor Marcus Pena spoke of the need for Republicans to mentor students in schools. In HISD, for example, Democrats have boldly infiltrated the system and are involved in mentoring students. They know that once a child is won over, the parent is not far behind. Back to School supply drives are a good way for Republicans to join in with a school. Clubs or groups can chose a school and adopt it. Republicans need to stay and mentor or tutor students year around. Efforts must be consistent.
Our candidates must be comfortable speaking to any group and our tone has to be welcoming. Words matter. Solid conservative public policy involves more from politicians than just saying no to everything. We are the party of Lincoln. We are the party of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Our message must be one of showing the way for others to realize their dreams and the dreams of their families.