ELECTION JOURNAL Hispanic Vote: Hey Claytie, 6-Que Paso? Clayton Williams and the Republicans predicted that 1990 would be the year they would finally make significant inroads into traditional Democratic consituencies. Good `ol boy East Texas, the line went, wouldn’t vote for a woman, and would be attracted to Williams’s rural roots. And Hispanics, the GOP asserted, would be drawn to Williams by his macho tough talk, his rudimentary ranch-Spanish, and the conservative “family values” with which Republicans have been trying to woo Hispanics \(whom they consider more socially conservative than the particular, Republicans thought the party’s anti-abortion position would entice many Hispanic voters, most of whom are Catholic. Republican Party officials first contended that they’d get 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, then, a month before election day, boasted they’d snag fully half of it. It was all for nada. Williams won only 19 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas. That was slightly up from the 14 percent Republicans captured in the last two gubernatorial contests, but far below GOP expectations. The usual percentage of Hispanic votes for a Republican candidate, said University of Texas professor of government Rodolfo de la Garza, is 25 to 28 percent. What happened? First, though Williams ran an extensive media campaign in South Texas, featuring him asking for votes in Spanish, the Midland oilman’s tonterias hurt him in Hispanic areas just as much as in the rest of Texas. His discourtesy to Richards in the now-notorious incident where he refused to shake her hand might even have hurt more among Latinos because Hispanic culture generally places women on a pedestal. Another factor was certainly the Democrats’ extensive efforts in predominantly Hispanic areas. “We were down there two years ago, organizing, planning, getting everything ready,” said Richards Hispanic coordinator Ninfa Moncada. She and Austin state Representative \(and Richards campaign panic elected officials, and Moncada worked hard to involve local leaders in South Texas and El Paso in planning the campaign strategy. “We ran a grassroots campaign, they ran a media campaign,” Moncada said. “That was the difference.” However, Unity ’90, the statewide Democratic campaign effort, did run one extremely effective radio commercial \(co-produced by Austin state Senator Gonzalo Barrientos and, fun at Republican “hypocritos” who quadrennially descend on Hispanic areas with a sombrero full of promises that they never keep. At the end of the ad, a voice portraying Williams says, in bad Spanish, “Oh, yeah. Me, your Republican candidate for governor, can sing with the mariachis and speak Spanish more better.” Campaign strategies aside, however, Ann Richards was simply a more appealing candidate for Hispanics. She had a long record of involvement in minority issues, and a documented history of hiring Hispanics at the state Treasury, and she stood for positions that were important to Tejanos. By contrast, Williams’s standard reply when asked why Hispanics should vote for him was that he’d met his wife in a Mexican restaurant. Moreover, the GOP approach was fundamentally flawed, according to Professor de la Garza. “Republicans always assume that Hispanics are more conservative than they really are because they [Republicans] link social values such as religion and family to political values and the role of government,” he said. “Republicans don’t understand that the policy issues that Hispanics care about like education require governmental support. Hispanics can be very family-oriented, but want government-supported programs,” said de la Garza, who received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to study Latino involvement in the 1990 elections. The Richards and Democratic Party platforms promise such programs: aid for colonias, opposition to English as an official language, equalizing financing for rich and poor school districts. This is not to deny that some Hispanics feel that the Democrats take their vote for granted. “The Democrats have not been good to Mexican Americans,” said Roberto Villareal, professor of political science at the University of Texas at El Paso. “There have been no rewards for us, no high-level political or party appointments.” In San Antonio, for example, the number of Hispanics identifying themselves as Democrats has dropped sixteen percent since 1982. But the presence of Dan Morales on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for attorney general, and extensive campaigning on Richards’s behalf by former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, who is revered by many Hispanics, probably helped persuade Spanish-surnamed Texans that the Democratic promises were much more likely to be fulfilled than those of the other party. The result: Richards received almost 200,000 Hispanic votes twice the number of votes that made up her margin of victory, according to Robert Brischetto, executive director of the Southwest Voter Registration Project. That factor alone should give Texas Hispanics a lot of influencia in the next Governor’s administration. BRETT CAMPBELL Louise Palmer provided research assistance for this article. Public Opinion: Pollsters and Politicians Much time and attention may be lavished on public opinion analysis these days, but polling is still very much an inexact science. This was particularly apparent here in Texas, where the major polls hit and missed on key statewide races. As Clayton Williams has discovered, comfortable poll ratings won’t necessarily win you the race, even when they are released just days before the election. The Texas Poll, sponsored by Harte-Hanks Communications, gave Williams a seven-point lead over Ann Richards, based on a poll conducted between October 20 and 28. The Gallup Poll and The Houston Chronicle Poll showed Ann Richards trailing 41-45 and 3944, respectively. The Eppstein Poll was the only one to indicate that the race would be close; a poll completed on October 21 showed the two candidates in a dead heat at 38 percent each. The final poll, completed by voters on November 6, had Richards ahead by 2.5 percent of the vote. The variances in numbers reflect the fact that the governor’s race was hard to predict, for pollsters, voters, or even seasoned campaign managers. Clayton Williams’s most damaging gaffes happened for the most part during or after the last polling periods before the remarks had a chance to be absorbed by the public. Bob Slagle, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said that regional polls completed in selected Congressional districts showed that Richards’ popularity surged among likely voters during the end of October and beginning of November. Another theory is that large numbers of Texans, disgusted with both candidates because of extensive negative campaigning, remained undecided \(and therefore unEppstein Group put an interesting twist on the race by polling voters on a hypothetical situation: If, rather than Williams and Richards, the gubernatorial candidates were George W. Bush and Henry Cisneros, for whom would you vote? Cisneros won, gar 20 NOVEMBER 22, 1990
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