I don’t think any of us on Power Line has commented on the outcome of the runoff election to fill a vacant seat in the Texas House. That race pitted Democrat Frank Ramirez against Republican John Lujan. The Republican won by a little more than two points.
Why is this worth noting? Because the district in question, located in San Antonio, is heavily Latino and, until last night, pro-Democrat. Joe Biden carried it by 14 points last year.
According to this report in the Texas Tribune, Lujan, a veteran firefighter, former Bexar County sheriff’s deputy, and owner of an IT company, centered his campaign on the issues of public safety, including border security, and jobs. Ramirez ran a negative campaign in which, according to the same report, he “sought to make Lujan answer for his support from Gov. Greg Abbott and [for] the staunchly conservative turn the state has taken this year under him.”
To this end, Ramirez campaigned with Beto O’Rourke and other prominent state Democrats. The point was driven home, but apparently did not have its intended effect.
In a statement, the Associated Republicans of Texas declared that Lujan’s election “marks the beginning of Republicans winning Democrat-held seats in South Texas in the 2022 election cycle.” However, this report in TexasMonthly attributes Lujan’s win to low turnout in an off-year election. It notes that Lujan won a special election for the same seat in January 2016, only to lose it in that year’s general election.
Maybe Lujan will suffer the same fate next year when he has to defend the seat. But maybe not. The New York Times senses Democratic “vulnerabilities” among Latino voters in South Texas and suggests that concerns over public safety (homicides were up last year in San Antonio, as they were throughout America) and rising taxes are the main causes.
The Times points out that Republicans have made progress in South Texas since 2016 when Lujan lost at the second time of asking:
Although Mr. Biden won Hidalgo County, which includes McAllen on the Mexican border, by 17 percentage points last year, it was a considerably closer contest than Hillary Clinton’s 40-point victory. In nearby Zapata County, Mr. Trump won by five points.
The decline among progressives in majority Latino enclaves has pushed the G.O.P. to expand its base beyond an overwhelmingly white political coalition, buoying them to challenge Democrats on their turf. The Republican National Committee now runs offices in San Antonio, McAllen and Laredo, another border city, to court more Latino voters.
“Republicans are doing a much better job at outreaching to Latinos,” said Sharon Navarro, a political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
And Democrats seem to be doing a better job of playing into Republican hands when it comes to Latino voters.