The Latino vote surging in Texas

There's no suspense about the outcome of the Texas Republican primary, but the future of elections there might change with its population.

Tess Vigeland: Primary season is almost over. Really. Texas holds its primary tomorrow. It was supposed to take place in March and if it had, the Lone Star state might have had more influence on the race for the Republican presidential nominee. But the primary was delayed after several advocacy groups argued early electoral maps marginalized Latinos.

Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: In a couple of decades, the majority of Texas will be Latino. Today, Latinos make up 38 percent of the state's population.

Tatcho Mindiola runs the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston.

Tatcho Mindiola: Culturally, economically, I think we're a big influence in the state. We lag politically.

The state of Texas is solidly Republican. A Democrat hasn't won statewide office since 1994, and Republicans have controlled the Texas House and the Texas State Senate for a decade now.

Lydia Camarillo is with the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

Lydia Camarillo: Since it's a red state, few dollars are invested by any groups to turn out any types of groups, much less Latinos.

Republicans aren't worried about losing Texas, and Democrats don't think they have much of a shot at winning it. But Camarillo says that if Texas Latinos were to vote in big numbers, they could put the state in play nationally.

Camarillo: We believe that Texas is an important state. It's 36 electoral votes.

Second only to California. And that would be good news for Democrats. Latinos tend to vote for them by a 2-to-1 margin. Groups like Camarillo's run voter-registration drives, but Tatcho Mindiola at the University of Houston says it's not that easy.

Mindiola: The second step is then you have to get them to the polls.

And so far, turnout has been a challenge. James Henson directs the Texas Politics Project. He says Latinos do have the potential to be a powerful voting bloc in Texas, but Democrats can't take them for granted. Latinos might leave the Democratic Party as their own demographics change.

James Henson: You know, middle-class and upper-class Latinos begin to peel off, in some ways, to the Republican Party.

And that could ensure Texas stays a red state for years to come.

I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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