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AUSTIN, Texas – Beto O’Rourke, who is facing off against Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in November’s election, said that the rightward shift of Latino voters in recent years is partly due to a disregard for the demographic by Democrats.
“Candidate Biden didn’t spend a dime or day in the Rio Grande Valley or really anywhere in Texas, for that matter, once we got down in the homestretch of the general election,” O’Rourke told a crowd at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday. “You got to be locking eyeballs with the people that you want to fight for and serve and whose votes that you want to win.”
Despite losing the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump carried 38% of the Latino vote, a 13 percentage point increase over the level of support that Republican candidates received from that group in the 2018 midterm elections, according to Pew research data.
O’Rourke also said that Trump offered a “very strong, compelling economic message” during the last presidential election.
“It was literally one syllable one word, it was ‘jobs,’ and he kind of offered a false choice: ‘I can either keep you holed up in your house during this pandemic, or I can open up all places of employment and prioritize the economy,'” O’Rourke said Saturday. “What did we have on our side? Nothing.”
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The trend appears to have continued in the past two years. Mayra Flores, the first Mexican-born congresswoman to serve in the House, flipped a House seat red during a special election in June for Texas’ 34th Congressional District, which has historically been a Democratic stronghold in south Texas.
Two other Latina women – Cassy Garcia in the 28th Congressional District and Monica De La Cruz in the 15th Congressional District – are also running as Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections.
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Rep. Tony Gonzalez, R-Texas, who represents a district that spans more than 800 miles along the US-Mexico border, said that the rightward shift of Hispanic voters will continue.
“We’re going to be winning races that no one thought we’d win before. And how are we going to do it? By leaning into our conservative values,” Gonzalez told Fox News Digital on Saturday. “This is just the start of the future of the Republican Party. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Polls in recent weeks show O’Rourke as an underdog in his race against Abbott, but the Democratic candidate pledged not to make the same mistakes as others from his party.
“I am making sure that we do not commit the same sin as some Democrats before me have committed, which is to take voters of color, Black voters and Latinos, for granted,” O’Rourke said Saturday.