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Texas Latino Voting Patterns Suggest Both Parties Should Pay More Attention

Voters in line at the Ruiz Branch Library in southeast Austin.
Voters in line at the Ruiz Branch Library in southeast Austin.

As election results continue to be tallied, sifted and evaluated, some patterns are starting to take shape, especially when it comes to Latino voters.

Richard Pineda is the director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication at the University of Texas-El Paso. He told Texas Standard that the immigration narrative the Trump administration created has connected with Mexican-American voters in the state.

“I think that it has drawn a bright line for the administration to point to newcomers to the state, newcomers to the United States and say, ‘listen, you know, those people are coming and they’re going to be a threat to what you have accomplished so far,’” he said.

Pineda also points to how he says Democrats didn’t see the issue of immigration resonating as much as they had hoped, and thought the images of the child separation policy, and the plight of asylum-seekers would sway voters in their favor.

“I think there are a lot of second and third-generation immigrants that say, ‘that’s right. We came here the right way, and now we have carte blanche to be unhappy or upset at those people that are coming,'” Pineda said.

Something that could have changed the conversation, Pineda said, especially for Latinos, would have been Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden campaigning in Texas. But mainly, Democratic candidates just need to be stronger.

“I think the other thing, and this is the big picture for Democrats and in Texas,” said Pineda, “is that they need to really think about pushing Mexican-American candidates and really changing the landscape.”

It is something he says Republicans have been able to do.

“I think what the Republicans have managed to do in certain places is use the rhetoric of fear and the rhetoric of economic prosperity. The Democrats can’t counter that until they start putting up legitimate candidates, legitimate Mexican-American or Latino candidates that have the backing of the party. I think otherwise it’s going to come off as tone deaf and without the muscle to actually make change,” Pineda said.

Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit .

Kristen Cabrera is a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where she saw snow for the first time and walked a mile through a blizzard. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, she graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American (now UTRGV) and is a former KUT News intern. She has been working as a freelance audio producer, writer and podcaster. Email her: kcabrera@kut.org