story by: Yol-Itzma Aguirre
Texas politics have often been favored as solely a Republican sport…however, this year things have changed. The Democratic era under Governor Ann Richards has long been revered as one of the golden eras of Texas but for many of us this was before our time or maybe you are simply new to politics. In any case, the 2018 Midterms had historic wins, flipped long held Republican seats, shattered antiquated political ideals, ignited young people and marked the beginning of the end of Texas as a solid red state, we have gone purple. Here are the Latinas and Latinos that are changing the face of politics in Texas.
United States Senate
Although Robert Francis O’Rourke (who is 100% Irish for clarification) – better known as “Beto” – would become the celebrity of the Texas midterms, it would be the Latinas that actually made history…herstory. Starting with O’Rourke’s own primary race for United States Senate, where Sema Hernandez, first Latina to ever run for U.S. Senate, a self described Bernie-crat from the Houston area, SWEPT the votes across South Texas. With only a quarter of the spending amount compared to her opponent (O’Rourke), Sema was still able to lock in 220,000 votes. That is an enormous feat for a first-time candidate. Although she came up short in the primary, the impact she made rippled all the way to the general election. Make no mistake, Sema is someone to watch and has already announce her bid for 2020.
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My father voted for me today, he brought me to tears. My mother called me from Florida & sending love our way. My grandparents are so proud. I was born in Texas, lived in Florida for 17 years of my life. To make my parents & grandparents proud is overwhelming. I'm joyful & hopeful. I'm not sure how this #ElectionDay #TexasPrimaries will go. Whatever happens, I'm not going anywhere. #TexasStrong #VoteSema
United States Congress
In Texas, both parties maintained most their same seats, with the exception of two flipped districts that went from Red to Blue. Although neither of those two seats are held by a Latino/a, there were still plenty new faces. Among them were, Rick Treviño who did not make it to the general, but who absolutely rallied the people in one of the most highly anticipated primary races – the Texas 23rd Congressional – and was the only Latino candidate in this race, to advance to the run-off. Benjamin Hernandez would be one of two millennials to run for United States Congress in the general election. The other young newcomer, was rising Democratic political star, Eric Holguin. Holguin brought in an impressive 35% of the vote in his general election and has already partnered up to launch a new organization.
THE STATEWIDE TICKET
Miguel Suazo was another Democratic favorite who fought the good fight, beating out his competition in the primary Suazo went toe-to-toe with another Latino, Republican incumbent Land Commissioner, George P. Bush. Against the odds, Suazo came close within an impressive 10-point margin and was also one of the youngest to ever become part of the Democratic Party ticket, opening the doors for younger people to run. Matt Piña was another young Latino throwing his hat in the ring for Texas Land Commissioner representing the Libertarian Party. Piña previously also ran for a San Antonio City Council position and is currently running for San Antonio Mayor.
Then there was the historic gubernatorial race of Lupe Valdez, first Latina to ever become a Sheriff in Texas (Dallas County) who then went on to run for governor. Her race was often overshadow by media outlets solely focusing on O’Rourke, never giving her the credit she deserved as a history-maker. Leading at the top of “the ticket” Lupe Valdez broke the political glass ceiling, becoming the first openly gay person and Latina – of EITHER political party – to win the nomination for Governor, beating out 7 men to win her Democratic primary. Her campaign stump speech often ended with “we are going to win this uphill battle” and she couldn’t have been more accurate, “uphill battle” it was. Incumbent Governor Greg Abbott had more than $43 million ready on hand, compared to Valdez’s numbers coming in just under the $1 million mark and yet she almost came within a 10-point margin, much closer than Senator Wendy Davis did in her 2014 gubernatorial race.
First Latinas of Texas
There were tough losses on the statewide ticket but with the bitter comes the sweet and there were equally some very important wins on election night, including the two Latinas who WON, solidifying their names in the history books. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of El Paso and Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia of Houston have become the first Latinas to represent Texas in the United States Congress. Along with their own victories they are also part of a herstoric 116th Congress, setting the record for most females ever elected and the most diverse members elected as well.
Not to be forgotten, some of the youngest in the TX legislature, also had plenty to celebrate as Diego Bernal , Victoria Neave and Mary González all won their re-elections and welcomed newest representative Jessica Gonzalez to the leaders club!
2018 saw some very close races in the Texas House and there were also many new faces that emerged to lead the fight. Here are some of the game changers we hope to see run again.
The Future of Texas
Texas not only saw a shift in new candidates but also new organizations that were formed in order to inform and get out the vote. With every single candidate on both sides of the aisle trying to capture the “Latinx Vote” it was inspiring to see young Latinx leaders grab the reins themselves and create a movement.
Social media and artist played a huge role in the election process as well. It will be interesting to see how these two communication mediums will evolve in the 2020 races.
The 2018 midterm elections have changed how we are perceived on the national stage, Texas is now in the game and up for grabs. We may not have gone completely blue but one thing is undeniable, the days of being a “solid red” state are OVER.