Raising Hispanic turnout and support for Democratic candidates obviously requires the kind of voter mobilization that Battleground and other groups are undertaking. This year, Battleground claims to have recruited 32,000 volunteers to register voters and get them to the polls. Registration in the state’s five largest counties is up two percent, even though registration often goes down between presidential and mid-term elections. But success among Hispanics also depends on building organizations that function between elections. Battleground, which is an out-of-state creation, may not be best suited for this task. “Organizations come in for the election, and then they are gone,” Jorge Montiel, the lead organizer for San Antonio’s Metro Alliance, laments.
Success in mobilizing the Hispanic vote also depends on nominating candidates in Texas (and also nationally) who can appeal to these voters. According to several Democrats I talked to, Davis hasn’t “connected” to these voters. In the primaries, she even lost several small counties to a token Hispanic opponent. She is principally known in the state for her stand on behalf of abortion rights—whereas many of Texas’s Hispanics oppose abortion. Democrats urged San Antonio’s former mayor Julian Castro, now the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to run, but he declined, probably one San Antonio political leader speculated, because he feared certain defeat.
Finally, success in increasing Hispanic support for Democrats will depend on what Republicans in Texas and nationally do. In Texas, Republican governors have steered clear of the harsh rhetoric about “illegal aliens” that proliferates among many other Republicans. Abbott boasts a Latina wife. As a result, Texas Republican candidates for state office have gotten about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, which has virtually assured their victory. This year, the Hispanic Bush, George P. Bush, is currently running for Land Commissioner, and if he becomes a leader of party, could keep many Hispanics voting for Republicans in state races.