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Awakening The Sleeping Giant: Why Latinos Should Back Wendy Davis For Governor of Texas in 2014

by: Omar Araiza

Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 09:45 AM CDT

Senator Wendy Davis' announcement to run for Governor of Texas in 2014 has sparked a renewed sense of life and energy to the Texas Democratic Party. Millions of people from across the state and country are keeping a close-eye on Texas for that first glimpse of the state's long -- but seemingly inevitable -- journey to blue.

Davis' personal history of overcoming great obstacles -- elected twice in a swing district that's considered a microcosm of Texas, where Mitt Romney won easily last November -- has proven, time and again, that underestimating her can be her opponents' biggest mistake.

Davis outworked her opponents in Tarrant County every single time and successfully assembled a coalition of Hispanics, African-Americans, female voters and moderate Republicans to champion races that seemed certain to end in defeat.

Davis, a single mom who worked her way up from a trailer park to make it through Harvard Law School, has a large populace appeal. Her commitment to overcoming poverty by means of hard work and education is a personal story Hispanics in Texas -- the state's largest ethnic minority and continuously growing demographic -- understand very intimately. Her commitment to education, access to healthcare, and equal economic opportunity and pay for all are issues that directly affect and matter to Hispanics.

Considering the massive energy, previous successful minority outreach and populace appeal behind her: Is Wendy Davis the candidate that can finally awaken the sleeping giant that is the Latino vote in Texas?

Read more below the jump.

Davis is key because there's energy behind her. Latinos are key because there's potential energy in their numbers.

According to the 2010 census, the Hispanic demographic in Texas has dominated population growth by almost 3 million during the previous decade, and it's safe to assume that numbers have only continued to expand. Like elsewhere in the country, Hispanics in Texas vote overwhelmingly in favor of the Democrats.

Republicans have the wind at their backs; the party has had a choking grip on the state's leadership for well-over two decades. They'll be fighting this one from high ground, with millions of dollars, a solid election infrastructure, and a voting base that is known to consistently show up during midterm elections. But Davis and the Democrats in Texas have the energy of hope, the spoiler kind of energy, the kind that trumps all business-as-usual.

The wildcard in all this is the Latino vote. There are enough potential Latino votes to turn Texas blue. But in order for this to happen, Latinos have to be convinced to go to the polls. This is not as easy as it sounds. Latinos in Texas have a reputation for not voting.

Internal Democratic voter data show that in South Texas alone, the state's region with highest percentage of Hispanics, there are about 360,000 Latinos who are registered to vote but have not voted or voted in only one of the past three general elections. The Texas Democratic Party predicted that the vast majority -- somewhere near 330,000 -- would have cast their votes for Democratic candidates in 2012, had they been convinced to show up at the polls.

In the overall big picture, South Texas voters are a considerably important chunk of the 2.1 million Latinos registered to vote statewide who've cast ballots in at least one of the past three election cycles, especially when you consider that 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White lost to Governor Rick Perry by about 600,000 votes.

Battleground Texas and other progressive organizations are working the grounds.

Battleground Texas has been actively successful at registering voters since the team first began earlier this year. Since Battleground Texas launched eight months ago, the response has been tremendous and volunteers from all across the state have been working hard to turn Texas blue.

Battleground Texas has already deputized more than 3,000 voter registration volunteers, hosted a 14-city listening tour that was met with standing-room-only crowds in nearly every part of the state, and built a digital Facebook following that outpaced the Republican Party of Texas in just 78 days.

The team also initiated a fellowship program for Latino community leaders in order to ensure that the next generation of Latino leaders have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed and play prominent leadership roles in the future of the Democratic Party. The organization's ties with the Latino community has continued to grow over the past year.

Rising national Hispanic figure, Mayor Julian Castro, sent out a message through Battleground Texas stating his full support for Davis:

"I'm going to do everything I can between now and next November to make sure she gets to the Governor's Mansion," said Castro after meeting with Wendy Davis in a San Antonio event.

U.S. Congressman and former Texas state Representative, Joaquin Castro, has also stated his intentions to help campaign for Davis. She has also received the endorsements of EMILY's List, Annie's List, and the Texas State Teachers Association.

Republicans have consistently worked against Latinos.

In an effort to build a 'grassroots infrastructure," the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced Monday it is adding Hispanic field and state directors in seven states with large Hispanic populations, including Texas.

While 44 percent of Hispanics voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, 31 percent voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008.  The number went down to 27 percent in 2012 for Mitt Romney.

Republicans in Texas aren't doing so hot either. Their anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric, and their malicious attempts to strip our community from our right to vote doesn't exactly sit very well with Latino voters.

Our first Texas Hispanic U.S. Senator, Ted Cruz, has launched an all-out war against the Affordable Care Act despite almost 60 percent of the uninsured in Texas are Hispanic, representing over 3 million people. On top of that, 22 percent of Hispanics in Texas will remain uninsured because of Governor Rick Perry's refusal to expand Medicaid.

Because of Republicans' refusal to compromise with Democrats, the sequester cuts meant 4,410 kids in Texas weren't part of Head Start this year. Because of Republican lawmakers' refusal to cooperate (including our GOP delegation from Texas), over 4,000 of Texas's poorest children did not have access to Head Start this fall, the majority of them Latino and minority children.

Among the women that will be most heavily impacted by the Texas GOP's anti-abortion legislation will be women of color and women living in rural communities, particularly Latina women. The GOP's stringent abortion bills disproportionately affect Latinas -- the ethnic group with the highest teen pregnancy rates. These were crucial points Wendy Davis and other members of the Legislature fought hard to include in the debate, but were women's issues ultimately of little importance to Republicans.

To sum it all up: Republicans have used our community's issues, such as immigration, to build animosity against Latinos and excite their voting base. They have repeatedly attempted to prevent our children from receiving a proper education, and continue to fight to restrict our access to proper healthcare, including women's reproductive health. To make matters worse, because of failure from the Supreme Court to uphold the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in the state are now also going after our right to vote.

The truth of the matter is, Latinos and our community's needs will never truly be embraced by the Republican Party. Not until the party diversifies and quits attempting to impose dominance against minority groups. That time is not now, and our vote is not theirs.

Latinos deserve better.

Wendy Davis -- and Leticia Van de Putte, potential Latina Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor -- have both proven they can stand up and fight for issues that deeply concern our community. Our children deserve a good education, our families deserve access to proper health, and our  entire community deserves leaders that will not use our people as negative means to excite their voting base. Latinos simply deserve better.

Wendy Davis has successfully assembled coalitions of voters in the past that included Latinos in her senate district to help her win elections.

Latinos in Texas can help her win again.

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