More Opportunities for the Texas GOP

Dr. Malcolm Cross

The Texas Republican Party continues to show strength among Texas Latinos.  Moreover, it has the opportunity to acquire new leadership to grow its support among Latinos and others even more.  But how well the GOP can continue to maintain its position as Texas’s dominant party remains to be seen.

Especially noteworthy is the recent election of a Republican mayor in McAllen.  South Texas is both heavily Latino and heavily Democratic.  The fact that McAllen’s new mayor, although elected in an officially nonpartisan election, is known to be a Republican shows that the GOP’s unexpectedly strong showing among Texas Latinos in 2020 was not a fluke.  Rather, it shows that the GOP can continue to be competitive and possibly even dominant despite the shrinkage of its Anglo base.  Latinos are both the largest and the most rapidly growing voting group in Texas.  If the GOP is to continue to thrive it must get more Latino voters.  The results show that at least a large enough minority of Latinos remain receptive to the GOP, given its support for traditional family values, law and order, the fossil fuel industry, and limits on illegal immigration.  Retaining the support of Anglos while expanding its support among Latinos may prove to be the GOP’s formula for future electoral success.

GOP efforts to win more Latino support may also benefit from the decision of Justice Eva Guzman to resign from her seat on the Texas State Supreme Court.  Exactly why she did so is not yet known, but her resignation has prompted speculation she may seek the Republican nomination for state attorney general in next March’s primary.  She already has the distinction of being the first Latina to have won statewide office.  Should she be nominated and elected Attorney General as a Republican, she will further strengthen the GOP’s claim to be Latino-friendly, to its electoral benefit.

The resignation of Texas GOP state chairman Allen West affords another opportunity for the GOP to grow its support not only among Latinos, but with other voters as well.  West’s resignation will allow the GOP state executive committee to select a new chairman (or chairwoman) who can replicate the success former chairman James Dickey had in reversing GOP slippage among voters in 2018.

In the 2018 election, the GOP lost numerous seats in the state House of Representatives.  Moreover, while all the Republican statewide executives won their re-election bids, their victory margins were smaller than the margins by which they were first elected in 2014.  

But former Chairman Dickey was able to halt Democratic inroads into GOP strength with a variety of strategies, including more effective ways to recruit candidates for office, find and register more potential Republican voters, and find and get Republican voters to the polls in 2020.  His efforts, as well as the unexpected popularity of former President Trump’s platform among Latinos, contributed to the unexpectedly strong GOP showing which halted the pro-Democratic trends of 2018.

Allen West’s resignation is coming less than a year after the GOP’s ill-advised decision at last year’s state convention to replace Dickey with him.  Given the brevity of West’s tenure, his potential success as a party builder will never be known.  But his decision now gives the state GOP’s Executive Committee the opportunity to fill the vacancy he leaves with the most effective kind of leader—a political technician who, like Dickey, can master the technology needed to help candidates with fundraising, issue research, public opinion polling, advertising production, and other means of running effective campaigns for office.

Of course, future GOP success in Texas is not written in stone.  At the national level and in other pats of the country, Democratic leaders, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as important state party leaders, such as Stacey Abrams, have succeeded in strengthening national and state Democratic Party organizations.  There’s no reason why their strategies and tactics can’t be duplicated by Texas’s Democrats.  Moreover, Republican bungling of the winnable Georgia senate races can undermine arguments in favor of GOP competence.

But success with Latinos today, and the opportunity to find a new party leader, at least increase the probability that 2022 will be yet another Republican year in Texas.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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