Results Show Latino Republicans Don't Have a Latino Constituency

Monday, November 08, 2010 - 12:00 PM

Rodolfo de la Garza

The Tea Party Republican electoral triumph resulted in changing the Latino political map. With the exception of Henry Bonilla, a Republican elected to Congress from San Antonio in 1999, it had been almost a century since Latino Republicans had won major contests in states other than Florida. In 2010, they elected two Congressmen in Texas, one in Washington and Idaho and governors in New Mexico and Nevada.

Additionally, they continued to win major contests in Florida. They elected Mel Martinez to the U.S. Senator in 2004. He resigned in 2009, and in 2010 Marcos Rubio was elected to fill Martinez's seat. Latino TPRs also retained control of three Congressional seats, which Cuban Republicans consider their fief.  In total, there will be 7 Latino TPRs in Congress and one in the Senate in the 112th Congress.

Republicans have long asserted that Latinos are Republicans, they just don’t know it. Their claim is based on the assumption that Latino cultural values such as strong Christian beliefs and family ties translate into support for the Republican political agenda. Beginning with the Bush campaign of 2000, the Republican Party has pursued the Latino vote. Their efforts yielded little more than a substantial increase in the support Texas Latinos gave President Bush in 2004. Even there, however, he received only 40 percent of the Latino vote.

Do the 2010 results indicate that Republicans have finally broken the Democratic hold on Latino voters? How will they affect Latino-Republican relations? Will they enhance Latino political clout?

Despite the numbers, these results provide little evidence that Republican outreach to Latinos had a substantial impact. Overall, Latinos preferred Democratic candidates by a 2 to 1 margin over Republicans. More noteworthy is the pattern evident in Washington, Idaho and Nevada where Latino TPRs produced victories without winning the Latino vote. In Nevada, Brian Sandoval won the governorship despite getting only 33 percent of the Latino vote. (By comparison, 68 percent of Latinos voted for Harry Reid and helped carried him to victory.) In Washington, Jaime Herrera was elected the state's first Latina Congresswoman in a district that is 7 percent Latino where there was no incumbent.

Texas outcomes resemble this pattern. Bill Flores won in a highly conservative district that is only 20 percent Latino. Clearly, he was not elected by Latino voters. Francisco Canseco was elected from a majority Latino district where Democrats outnumbered Republicans, but had still elected a Latino Republican to Congress from 1999 to 2006. Canseco, thus, may be the only 2010 Latino TPR to have needed some Latino support to win.  

Contextualizing the results of the election strongly suggest that Latino TPRs are not proof of Latinos abandoning the Democratic Party for the Republicans. These victors fully embrace the TPR agenda including its law-and-order approach to immigration reform and its opposition to using public funds to generate jobs. Research shows the Latino public strongly disagrees with these key TPR positions. 

Nonetheless, these victories may be read to suggest that the TPR is not anti-Latino, even though it is hostile to an immigrant-friendly reform of immigration policy. To the contrary, the TRP tent seems open to admitting Latinos as equals so long as they are ideological soulmates. Few Latinos are likely to seek such cover, but its availability is likely to force Democrats to more fully engage issues like immigration reform that disproportionately affect Latinos. 

Failing to do so will cause them to lose credibility among Latinos. Losing votes will not be far behind.

Rodolfo de la Garza, a Columbia University professor of Political Science, has studied immigration, political attitudes and voting for over 30 years. He directed the first national political survey of Latinos and has authored, co-authored and edited 18 books and more than 100 scholarly articles and reports on foreign policy, immigration and political attitudes and behavior.


More in:

Comments [9]

Gary Garcia from Dallas

The Anti-Latino Republican Party and Tea Party do not have the best interest of Texas Latinos... They have a propensity of rolling out a rudimentary knowledge of the Spanish language every election cycle.. in a not so veiled attempt to placate Texas Hispanic voters. Farmers Branch Texas a right wing nut haven suburb of Dallas (which is blue) wants to make it illegal to rent domiciles to undocumented immigrants... They want to deny the basic necessity of shelter to women, children, and men; Not because they can't pay but because they are Latinos... I'm sure they didn't have in mind undocumented Canadians. In my opinion that is racist period. The New Mexico gentleman seems to think that Latinos are on the dole... When the sons and daughters of those maids, waiters, landscape, construction workers, agricultural workers come of age in the next few years we'll see who is on the dole... So go ahead and bring up your 14th amendment repeal argument... in a state named after Mexico... Unbelievable!
A Yellow Dog Latino Democrat forever
Dallas Texas

Jan. 26 2011 11:27 PM
Louis F. Serna from Albuquerque, NM

Well said primo Joseph...! Spoken like a true liberal..! (First attack the messenger, try to reduce them to useless idiots, insult their heritage, and then exault your Liberal position without explaining what it is..??)

I'm afraid you are so caught up in maintaining your Azteca roots that you miss the point...

I, and I think Ms. Lyndie from Colorado are simply saying, don't count us all Latinos as Democrats, just because most Latinos are... Unfortunately, the "Democrat" montra when associated with Latinos, has come to be synonimous with an "easy vote" for Democrats, whether or not they understand what they're voting for..! and they will vote Democrat generation after generation, "because "mi papa era Democrata..!" I think we are both saying, let's break out of this "montra", strive to do the best you can with your life, and break the dependency of the Democratic voting machine... For those who choose to be Democrats (and Liberals), good for you, but don't drag Latinos into the abyss with you, just because they too are Latinos..! Let's all use our brains, do what we think is right, and hope for the best..!

Nov. 12 2010 08:47 PM


TO: Lyndie from Colorado & Louis Serna, Albuq.
I have to assume that either you were born in USA territory or both of you anglonized your first names

Mexicans, Chicanos-Latinos,
Central Americans, So.Americans-LatinAmericans
Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans-Caribbeans, Hispanic-Americans; your parents/You came from somewhere with your divisions of "social classes" and have emulated the Republican way of thinking.

LYNDIE; you say: "we made it/You have not". Therefore remain with your Democrat's mentality
because " I for one threw off the labels and political stereotypes that the media and the educated elite would put on me....I VOTE with my brain, not my skin color".

LOUIS; your comments and assumptions that LATINOS wish-to/ like-to remain largely Demo'ts
to "keep those CHECKS & FREEBIES coming and bank in the confort of depending on the dole" are not only reprehensive, but an insult to all the people of Hispanic Heritage WHOM don't think and act like the likes of YOU, I have this to say:
"He/She who has never had, and comes to have, turns crazy".

Your predecesors/You came on the PLANE but let the visa expire?

Crossed the Rio Grande?

Left the island on a boat with one hand in front & the other on the back "foot on dry land"?

Born of "legals or illegals" in USA mainland or its territories?

You said: "we have acchieved the American way, our values are more reflective of a "conservative point of view", we are educated and understand the issues, candidates and ideologies therefore we are REPUBLICANS!

In case you haven't NOTICED, so have WE Democrats!

The fundamental reason is you pretend to be....

WE simply ARE! Democrats were, are and forever will be part of the SOLUTIONS!

One More Thing: Do not Kid yourselves thinking or believing that republicans are begining to see the likes of you as "ideological soulmates". To Them...
YOU ARE & WILL ALWAYS BE HISPANIC IMMIGRANTS! With all the baggage it implies!!!


Nov. 11 2010 09:11 AM
Lyndie from Colorado

Since I became of age to vote, I did my research and realized that my values were more reflected by a conservative point of view. Hence, I became a registered Republican. I did not allow the fact that I am Latina label to me as a Democrat for life. I got out and got informed. As much as the media would have the general populace believe, not all Latinos are Democrats. At least not the ones with the initiative to actually go out and inform and educate themselves on the issues, candidates, and ideologies. What I find amusing are the voices who claim to speak on the behalf of the "Latino community" always want to villify anyone who breaks the mold and votes non-Democrat, like there is something wrong with them. I think that herd mentality, as if a voter cannot be trusted to think for themselves, is far more dangerous. I think many Latinos are finally waking up and realizing this and throwing off the labels and political sterotypes the media and the "educated elite" would put on us. I vote with my brain, not my skin color.

Nov. 10 2010 06:43 PM
Louis F. Serna from Albuquerque, NM

Intersting article... lots of statistics and a seemingly neutral position on elephants and donkeys, and which way Latinos voted and how they're likely to vote in the future. With your apparant knowledge of Latino hisotorical voting record and predictable patterns of voting... your article seems to assume that Latinos will always have a Democrat "montra" over them... and those who break away from that are likely rebels (ala tea baggers), who will regret breaking away as they will be "on their own" when they "go Republican". More assumption that Latinos should remain loyal Democrats and keep those checks and freebies coming and bask in the comfort of dependency on the dole... Isn't it time for Latinos to start breaking out of that dependancy, tighten up their belts, do a cajones check, and venture out on their own in business and entrepreneurial ventures to make them sulf-sufficient instead of generational dependency on Democrats and the occasional bone they are tossed to keep them in line? Isn't it time for Latinos to break out of the generational pattern of Democrat dependancy..? In exchange for what..? How about a little encouragement to Latinos to start carrying their own load... perhaps in the future this may open doors for them and present opportunities toward a proud NEW future... as Latino Republicans..!

Nov. 09 2010 04:34 PM
Hector M. Flores

Another election cycle or two and Texas
will be Blue before they know it!

Seven counties in Texas could change the
electoral dynamics to make it blue.

If Chicanos and others do not vote in sufficient numbers we have no one to blame but ourselves in Texas!1

Great article Dr. Garza!

Nov. 09 2010 04:23 PM
Spicy Joker

The DemocRATs are FINISHED in Texas. We'll make Republicans out of Hispanics yet.

Nov. 09 2010 02:04 AM

Very good and insightful article. It will probably be a while before a Latino constituency can be recognized among the Republican party. In comparison to the past however, the evidence appears to show a growing number of Latino voters admitting (to use one of the descriptions at the beginning of the article) that they share many of the Republican party's views. It will be interesting to see how it turns out over the next few decades as more and more Latinos in this country identify themselves more and more as third, fourth or fifth (...n'th) generation American. I only mention that due to the immigration perspective that appears to be swaying many Latinos here in America today.

Being Latino doesn't automatically imply (and should never really) that a person is a Democrate or anti-Republican. That's an assumption that far too many people make unfortunately. Yes, there is a large majority of Latinos who do identify themselves as Democrate, but the percentage appears to not be as high as it did in the past.

Thank you for such an insightful article Rodolfo!

Nov. 08 2010 09:15 PM
Bert Buzan from Fullerton, CA

My old San Antonio school chums complain that Canseco really cut into the younger mejicano vote against our friend Ciro.

Any truth to that?

Nov. 08 2010 07:53 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at



Supported by