Hispanics face challenges in elections, etc.
Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo’s defeat in the Republican primary might have surprised some folks, since incumbents who hugely outspend their challengers usually win.
That’s particularly true for members of the Texas Railroad Commission, who are well-positioned to hustle campaign cash from the oil and gas interests they regulate.
But that’s definitely not a given in Republican primary elections if the incumbent is Hispanic, challenged by one or more Anglos.
Carrillo of Abilene has been on the Texas Railroad Commission since Gov. Rick Perry appointed the former Taylor County judge to a vacancy in 2003.
When he sought election to the job in 2004, Carrillo had reason to worry. Xavier Rodriguez, who Perry had appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in 2001, was beaten for the GOP nomination in 2002 by Steven Wayne Smith.
That was one Anglo; Carrillo faced three. And indeed, they narrowly denied him a majority. But he led into a runoff with Robert Butler. And in the more sparsely attended second round, Carrillo prevailed, with 62.7 percent.
So it seemed there was less concern six years later. Carrillo’s opponent was little-known David Porter of Giddings, and Carrillo raised more than $600,000 to Porter’s less than $30,000.
Shortly after the polls closed, it was obvious Carrillo was headed for pasture. The early voting results showed Carrillo with just over 40 percent. By the time final unofficial returns were in, it was down to 39.3 percent.
On a primary ballot which also included a nonbinding referendum on whether to require showing a picture identification card to vote (hint: potential Mexican illegal aliens), that won 92.9 percent approval, Carrillo can be forgiven for thinking his last name may have nixed him.
“Given the choice between ‘Porter’ and Carrillo – unfortunately, the Hispanic surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover, although I did all in my power to overcome this built-in bias,” Carrillo told supporters in a letter.
His term is up at the first of the year.
In another down-ballot race over in the Democratic primary, Hector Uribe enjoyed the opposite effect of a Hispanic surname. He bested Bill Burton of Athens with 51.7 percent of the vote.
Uribe ran up totals of three to four times as much as Burton in counties where Hispanics make up a large percentage of the population, like Cameron (Brownsville), Hidalgo (Harlingen), Nueces (Corpus Christi) and Bexar (San Antonio).
Uribe’s success in those counties was also helped by the fact that most Hispanics who vote choose the Democratic primary over the Republican. In the GOP primary, Carrillo lost handily in those same four counties – because most of the Republican votes there are cast by Anglos.
Burton did better than Uribe in most heavily Anglo counties. But Uribe, a former state senator from Brownsville who had the endorsement of organized labor, also benefited from having a group that had him on their push cards and as part of the get-outthe vote effort.
Another Hispanic beneficiary of labor’s work and her surname was Linda Chavez-Thompson of San Antonio, a former national vice-president of the AFL-CIO. She won the nomination for lieutenant governor with 53.1 percent against two Anglo competitors – including former Travis County District Attorney and state ethics enforcer Ronnie Earle, who got 34.6 percent.
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Something in a Name . . . Carrillo wasn’t the only candidate inconvenienced by surname in the GOP primary. Longtime Nueces County Republican insider Mike Bergsma, who had the endorsement of all the party heavies, was upset by Ron McLain, who moved to Corpus Christi a couple years ago from the Dallas area. McLain’s 7,281 to Bergsma’s 4,612 surprised everyone -- including McLain. That’s 61.2 percent.
McLain almost certainly was helped by the flood of new GOP voters, who considerably exceeded even the county’s turnout in the 2008 presidential year.
The Republican establishment was also disgruntled to find their chairman-to-be is a trial lawyer – a species many Republicans think should be hunted down with dogs.
McLain shares the Tea Partiers’ desire to downsize government and several other social issues. But Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times quotes McLain as quizzical how a party that supports an unborn fetus’s right to life can be for limits on people’s right to sue for damages.
“Calling on these governments for tort reform legislation which caps . . . pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, physical impairment, death, is calling on governments not to secure, but infringe on our right to life,” Powell quoted McLain. “Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t comprehend how we stand to gain liberty by giving it up.”
For the record, Bergsma didn’t suffer because of a Hispanic surname. The name is of Dutch origin.