“2uen thouqk the city was predominately Latino, all the power was in the hands of the Anglos.” We Al. LAW OFFICES OF Martin H. Boozer i`I ATRIMONIAL LAW Creative so il:ions for one of life’s most difficult problems. 902 Rio Grande Street 512. 476.7500 _I Board Certified Fanidy Law Initially she was an activist on issues from civil rights to domestic violence. When Berriozabal was elected to the San Antonio City Council in 1981, she became the first Mexican-American woman to win the job in a major Texas city. Now she’s taken up water conservation. Berriozabal remembers the political climate in the ’60s, when San Antonio’s Chicano movement began in earnest. “It was young men and women who started another revolution that changed Texas forever,” she says. “The generation of young people who are in the Legislature right now are the heirs of all that history.” Early political awareness and middle-class status seemed to spark Martinez-Fischer’s interest. He watched his father’s failed bid for county commissioner from perches in their family restaurants. “I was sort of raised in politics,” he says. When Martinez-Fischer was 14, his father campaigned the old-fashioned way, cold-calling voters from a phone book and driving through neighborhoods passing out fliers. “When kids reach that station in society, they can look back at where they came from and understand their roots, and then they can look forward at what’s outside of their reach,” Villarreal says. “You need to be able to get up on that hilltop and see both sides.” There’s no guarantee Democrats will hold on to the city. In the most recent election, overall turnout hovered around 34 percent, with estimates even lower for Hispanic voters. The GOP tidal wave that overtook the rest of the country hit Bexar county as well. Republican John Garza’s victory over state Rep. David Leibowitz came out of nowhere. Leibowitz soundly beat Garza in 2008 by 14 points, and Leibowitz was one of the only representatives facing a Republican opponent. At the local level, Republican candidates won positions for justice of the peace and county clerk, as well as every contested state district court race. “I think right now it is very difficult for me to predict where the Latino community in general is going to go in politics,” says Berriozabal. “Sheer numbers are setting an environment where the numbers will be there [to create political change].” But whether and how Hispanics will vote is far from certain. San Antonio is already 60 percent Hispanic, and if the community voted in large numbers and for the same candidate, they would be a decisive voice in electoral politics and policy. Democrats are now soul-searching and debating why they lost at so many levels in Bexar County. A slate of talented candidates isn’t enough, says Russell. “They alone can’t do it,” she says. “If we don’t figure out how to get people to vote, [Democrats] are not going to get elected.” Meanwhile, Republicans in the area took lessons from their 2008 defeats. “What’s new [to Republican strategy] is really what’s old,” says Curt Nelson, Bexar County Republican chair. “We really had a coordinated effort in our ground game.” As Nelson points out, Bexar County has often gone Republican in gubernatorial and presidential races. National media consultant Lionel Sosa says there’s room for Republican support to grow. He should know. From his home in San Antonio, Sosa has spent the last 30 years crafting Republican messages geared to the Hispanic community. He worked on major races from U.S. Sen. John Tower’s victory in 1978 to George W. Bush’s presidential win. His strategy isn’t complicated. “The Latino will respond greatly to whatever candidate reaches out the most and in the most effective way,” Sosa says. Outspend your opponent in Hispanic outreach, go to events, and your party ID rarely matters. “While it’s true that [a Latino] tends to identify as a Democrat,” Sosa says, “the Latino will certainly respond to a Republican message.” When candidates invest equally, though, Sosa acknowledges the Democratic candidate has the edge. Guerra sees the same trends. “There is a shift, primarily because Republicans have started actively recruiting Hispanics as candidates,” Guerra says. The city’s long history of progressive political organizing has faltered, and according to Berriozabal, that type of organizing is integral to a healthy political culture. “The voter has to make a connection between her reality, her life and this thing called politics,” says Berriozabal. Russell and Berriozabal say organizing is the best way to make connections and create agendas that will make people engaged and empowered. This year, Republicans did that better than Democrats, but neither party has a clear hold on the city. Russell hopes the Democrats will use the loss to step back and come up with new approaches. She and Berriozabal say the longterm winner will be the party that works with communities to create political agendas. If the Democrats can foster more community organizing and work more with groups on the ground, the women believe the activists and the politicians can strike a winning balance. “Yes, we elect the people, and they have to do their job inside the system,” Berriozabal says. “But government moves when the people move outside.” And moving outside the system is a San Antonio tradition. CI WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG Your spouse won’t listen?
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