AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Democrats appealed to the Latino community in Texas during much of their campaigning in the months leading up to the election. While Latinos and Latinas in urban areas ended up casting their ballots for projected President-elect Joe Biden, many in rural areas voted for President Donald Trump.
Now, Latino advocacy groups and Texas Democrats are explaining how the Biden administration can earn the trust and support of these voters, especially in the Rio Grande Valley.
“I think there’s just a lot of initiatives that the administration can take to start getting back the confidence of Latinos in South Texas,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said.
“Immigration is not the issue only for Latinos, not least in the entire state of Texas,” Hinojosa said, commenting on how much national Democrats depend on that issue in particular to win over the entire Latino community.
“Latinos in semi-rural areas, like in McAllen and Laredo, and in little towns, like Raymondville, can be more conservative and have the same values actually, especially in social-cultural values in terms of supporting the police, supporting the military,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Garcia added that the left-leaning idea of “defunding the police” did not resonate with the Latino community in the Rio Grande Valley.
“If you look at South Texas, many, almost every Sheriff is a Latino sheriff. Law enforcement is, you know, some of the biggest employers as customs and immigration officers,” Garcia said.
He also said Biden’s messaging about moving away from fracking, and toward renewable energy resources, did not sit well with this part of the population.
“A large portion of that population works in the oil and gas industry,” Hinojosa agreed.
“Our party is extremely environmentally conscious, we want to fight climate change. But we also need to recognize these jobs, and this put food on the table for Texans. And without jobs, you know, they can’t pay their mortgage in their house or their car payments or put gas in their car, put food on the table, buy clothes for their children,” Hinojosa continued.
He said the Biden administration needs to focus on being careful about the messaging of moving toward renewable energy, and reassure Texans working in this field they will still have a job when that shift happens.
Garcia said communication as a whole needs to be a goal for the incoming administration.
“We can’t take Latinos for granted. You got to have the message, especially in the economic-populist message, raising the minimum wage, getting health care insurance to cover more people, providing help to small businesses, mom and pop shops,” Garcia said.
On behalf of Democrats’ campaigning efforts, Hinojosa said the fact that his party avoided in-person canvasing due to the pandemic was a hinderance in these regions.
“I believe that it is very difficult to communicate with Latino voters by telephone or by texting. They expect you to go see them, to knock on their doors to talk to them. And that didn’t happen ’till the very end,” Hinojosa explained.
Hinojosa added the Biden administration will need to focus on a few key factors to earn these votes back.
“Their biggest number one priority is health care, they need to make sure that their family has access to health care. And that issue has to be addressed specifically to them in a way that is tailored to their specific needs,” Hinojosa said, also adding that education is equally important.
“National Democrats need to recognize how important that is to Latinos, you know, that is a saying, you know, the biggest inheritance that you can leave your children is a good education,” Hinojosa said.