As the GOP makes inroads with South Texas voters, political ad spending is soaring
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South Texas has become a new political battleground in the state. It’s probably too early to call the region for the GOP in the upcoming midterm elections, but the party’s been making strong gains among Latino voters there. Democrats have historically been able to count on almost monolithic support without allocating a lot of resources to the region. But that’s changing.
Ahead of the November elections, both political parties are spending unprecedented amounts of money on political ads in South Texas. After recent national elections showed more Republican support than ever in the Rio Grande Valley, its voters are now hearing ads targeting issues like border security and the oil and gas industry.
Oil and gas is a big employer in the region, so this strategy makes sense, according to Mark Kaswan, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“People hear ‘transitioning away from oil and gas’ and what they hear is that they’re coming for our jobs,” he said. “And so that actually has a very significant impact.”
The Republican onslaught has Democratic candidates in the area asking state and federal party officials to send more money and personnel to the region.
Carmen Perez, communications chair of the Webb County Democratic Party, has definitely noticed the Republican Party ramping up its presence there.
“I did see a lot of resources being funneled into the area in general,” Perez said. “There was a lot of print being distributed, and they did have people going door to door. And so it’s a challenge. And it’s something that I hope no one takes for granted ever again, in South Texas.”
According to campaign finance reports, Republicans outraised Democrats this summer in three of the five congressional districts in South Texas.
But the Democrats have purchased some attack ads of their own, like one that’s airing in McAllen focusing on abortion bans and women’s health care access.
“There is just an amazing amount of money being spent,” said Jon Taylor, chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “You can’t pass any TV station in which there’s not a commercial.”
Taylor said both parties seem to be recognizing that South Texas voters are not a monolith — they’re certainly not just going to vote for Democrats because that’s what their families have always done.
“Texas politics is going to be Latino,” he said. “There’s no ifs ands, or buts about that. The question is, what is the shape and the ideology going forward? That’s a whole different discussion, and one that I think needs to be really addressed.”
Taylor said political consultants and strategists who study what issues and platforms sway voters in the area are going to make plenty of money going forward.
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