A newly elected Latino Republican mayor set to represent an 85% Latino town in Texas believes many Latinos are “opening their eyes” after years of supporting Democratic candidates.
“Well, during the past election, it’s amazing what happened here in South Texas,” said Javier Villalobos, who is set to represent McAllen as mayor. “I think, generally, the Hispanic community is very conservative, yet, traditionally, they voted Democrat. It’s amazing what happened this past election. I think our numbers as far as conservative voters were up by substantially. We finally, finally have competition in South Texas. So I think it’s going to open up the doors for a lot of people.”
Villalobos, who previously served as chairman of the Hidalgo County GOP in South Texas, signaled optimism that the GOP is now making headway with the traditionally Democratic constituency in the region.
“Down in South Texas, it’s a little bit different,” Villalobos said. “Like I said, traditionally Democrat, however, they are, a lot of individuals, including older individuals that have forever voted Democrat, are opening up their eyes, accepting different ideas, both social and economic. And that’s amazing. We will have some — I always tell everybody, competition is good. It has been traditional Democrats of South Texas have been ignored a lot of the times, it won’t happen anymore. We expect next election that we will have the same type of results. We have candidates now running for Congress when a lot of times it was very difficult to field a candidate down here, especially local elections. I think things are going to be changing.”
Villalobos won last week’s runoff election against Veronica Whitacre, with 51.11% of the vote, continuing a trend of gains in a region the GOP once found little success.
But much of that began changing during the 2020 election, with former President Donald Trump flipping five Hispanic-majority Texas border counties to his column. Zapata County, which is 94% Hispanic, had not gone to a Republican since 1920.
The new optimism in South Texas has Republicans hopeful that they can make inroads with a group once thought to be reliable Democratic voters throughout the country.
“If you look at these poll numbers, Hispanics all across the county are Republicans,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Sen. Rick Scott said. “If Republicans reach out to them, we’re going to win.”
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Original Author: Michael Lee