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CentralTexas Gardener KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires and educates. KLRU-produced programs that air statewide on klruo Texas PBS stations include Central Texas Gardener, Texas tv and beyond Monthly Talks and The Biscuit Brothers. Check your local listings. “When. saw the word `Kingpin’ plastered across Senator Bush’s face, I knew the Democrats were doomed:’ “I don’t care if it’s a cliche,” Rubio’s voice boomed across the square. “Si, se hizo!We did ityou did it! The Democrats threw every slimy tactic they could at your governor and senator, they raised more money for viral attacks than any state campaign in American history. But you said no to old-style gutter politics. And now it’s official: Texas is America’s Latino Republican stronghold for at least a generation to come!” On Nov. 5, nobody but paid Democratic officialsand not even many of themwould argue with that assessment. With Bush, Guzman and Gonzales leading the way, the Republicans solidified their hold on most state offices and the Texas Legislature, where they gained an 18-seat majority in the House and an eight-seat edge in the Senate. Perhaps most encouraging of all for the GOP, more than one-third of the 53 Latino Republicans elected to the Legislature are younger than 40. “They have a deep bench,” lamented former Congressman Julian Castro of San Antonio, the Democrat who lost by a whisker to Bush in the epic 2024 U.S. Senate contest. “They now have a majority of the Latino vote, and no prospect of relinquishing it anytime soon. All we have is a flaming wreck of a party.” Like many prominent Democrats, Castro was outspokenly critical of controversial anti-Bush tactics in the latter stages of the campaign, as well as what he called the party’s “dinosaur” strategiesrelying heavily on expensive media buys and running what Castro called a “pathetic” grassroots get-out-the-vote effort. “Once again, our party ran a 20th-century campaign,” Castro told me on election night. “Nobody benefitted but the consultants.” Asked about the last-minute attacks on Bush, Castrowho declined to attend the Democrats’ “victory party” in Austinwas in no mood to mince words. “It was racist code, pure and simple. For the first time, I was genuinely ashamed of my own party.” The attacks in question, launched in the final two weeks of a bitter campaign by a trial attorney PAC, targeted Bush’s vote for the Marijuana Legalization Act of 2027 and his sponsorship of the Mexico Recovery Plan passed narrowly last March. “When I saw the word ‘Kingpin’ plastered across Senator Bush’s face, I knew we were doomed,” Castro said, referring to the most controversial of the anti-Bush assaults. “The only question is how long it will take, after this embarrassing spectacle, for Democrats to be competitive in Texas againif ever.” Villarreal, Castro, former Gov. Rafael Anchia and other top Democrats were quick to denounce the instantly infamous “Kingpin” attack, which unleashed a flood of last-minute money into Texas Republican coffersand left party leaders on the defensive over what became the nation’s most-discussed political scandal-of this mid-term year. “There was no defending that hundred-pound turd of an attack,” Congresswoman Veronica Gonzales, the only prominent Democrat still standing in the Republican-leaning Rio Grande Valley, said on election night after narrowly fending off her underfunded GOP challenger. “There’s a straight line from those `Coward’ ads against Rick Perry in 2010 to ‘Kingpin’ in 2030. Same people, same stupidity. But I truly never thought Texas Democrats could sink this low.” At the Democrats’ sparsely attended “victory party” in Austin’s Driskill Hotel, buzz continued to circulate on election night about massive defections of Latino Democrats, particularly in the state Legislature, in the wake of what Gonzales called “the biggest gift we’ve ever handed the Republicans. Suddenly we find ourselves the Anglo party of Texas. If anybody had predicted this twenty years agoeven ten yearsI’d have said they were out of their mind.” IT WASN’T SUPPOSED to happen this way. Ever since Republicans seized power in Texas in the 1990s, their Democratic counterparts have eagerly anticipated the day when Latino population growth would translate into a juggernaut at the polls. That day has officially come: For the first time, Latino turnout on Tuesday exceeded that of Anglo Texans, if only narrowly. But for reasons that run far deeper than the “Kingpin” blunder, Democrats squandered their historic edge among Latinoswhile Bush and wrested control of the GOP from Tea Party Anglos and set the stage for this year’s landmark victories. While a plurality of Latinos has long registered independent, as recently as 2022 they voted more than 55 percent for the Democrats’ only governor so far this century, Rafael Anchia. But turnout was low that year, and Anchia’s unsuccessful efforts to pass a state income tax eroded his popularity among Latinos and Anglos alike. In Bush’s narrow Senate victory over Castro two years later, the HRT’s innovative grassroots effort attracted thousands of new Latino organizers to the GOPmany of whom, after Tuesday night, now hold local and Legislative offices. “The Democrats were victims of their mistaken assumptions,” says UT-Pan American professor emeritus Jerry Polinard. “For almost 50 years, they just assumed that Latinos would never vote Republican. They never did the groundwork to boost Latino turnout. Bush and the HRT’s charm offensive undid years of Democrats’ half-hearted courting.” The damage has been greatest in South Texas; while a majority of Latinos in major urban areas still lean narrowly Democratic, Bush’s grassroots blitz in the Valley paid big dividends this year. WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG