Frank Santos is a political and public relations strategist based in Austin, Texas. He spoke to KUT News by telephone to give his take on the role of Latinos on the 2010 midterm election.
KUT News: What are you reading from these results?
Santos: Well, the board ran a poll before the gubernatorial primary to see here in Texas to see what Latino attitudes were. And back then, in March, we found that although 63 percent of Latinos identify with the Democratic party, 56 percent described themselves as conservatives. What we were seeing is that Latinos are conservative, and that if they're communicated to, they're really up for grabs by either party.
KUT News: Was Governor Rick Perry able to communicate effectively to Hispanic voters?
Santos: It's interesting, because you kind of have to put Texas up against other states where immigration was a major issue. Look at the Harry Reid/Sharon Angle race in Nevada. Ninety percent of Latinos there are not Democrats, but Reid will probably get upwards of that amount voting for him because of the aggressive and vile ads that Angle put out on immigration. Contrast that against Texas where Rick Perry took the right approach on immigration, which is to separate the two, homeland security and push the immigration issue to the federal level where that needs to be taken care of. I think Latinos felt that the rhetoric wasn't high, so he didn't have any of the issues surrounding that. I think his Latino votes are going to be really high.
KUT News: How important will it be for future candidates in Texas to seek the support of Hispanic or Latino voters?
Santos: I think it's important. I think you also have to look nationally, and see what's occurred in other states. We also have historic elections in New Mexico, Nevada and Florida, where we have two Latino governors, the first female Latino Republican governor in the United States. We have a Latino governor in Nevada, and we have a Latino US Senator in Florida. I think that's going to empower many Latino conservatives to give the Republican Party another chance to say they want to bring Latinos into the party. I do think it's going to change that dynamic. It's certainly promising.