Calling Latino voters an untapped resource, Democratic Party leaders urged their members Saturday to launch a door-to-door offensive to engage Hispanics on issues such as job creation and immigration.
"Hispanics in Texas are a game-changer," said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. "This is how Texas becomes blue."
Texas Democratic voters gathered Saturday in downtown Fort Worth for a symposium aimed at engaging Hispanics, who account for roughly 38 percent of the state's 25.6 million residents.
Hispanic voters tend to vote Democratic, and boosting the numbers who head to the polls could radically alter the national political landscape, Democratic leaders say. But doing so will require time and work.
"There is no magical key, no message that will get us to the polls," said Mary Gonzalez, who was recently elected to represent El Paso in the Texas House of Representatives. "What works is voter contact."
Chuck Rocha, a native Texan and Democratic strategist, pointed to polls showing Latino voters care about the economy, jobs and immigration.
"We all need a job. We all need healthcare," said Rocha, a contributor to MSNBC. "We all love our kids and this country."
Issues such as the Dream Act, which allows young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, and the Affordable Care Act, which will provide insurance to millions, could help the party capture more Hispanic votes, said Texas state Rep. Armando Walle of Houston.
Republican lawmakers upset some Latino voters this year with a new state law that requires voters to show a photo ID.
Many Hispanics argue that the requirement discriminates against minorities, who are less likely to have a driver's license and can have a harder time getting one.
They were also angered by a new Arizona law that allows police to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.
To draw voters, Democrats touted the Promesa Project, a grassroots effort to reach out to young Latinos using social media and face-to-face meetings. The project will select 10 fellows across the state and train them to organize their respective communities and college campuses.
Among the party's major priorities will be educating Latino voters about Republican Ted Cruz, a Tea Party-backed candidate who beat out Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the U.S. Senate race, leaders said. Cruz, a Cuban-American, will face Democrat Paul Sadler in November.
"We will remind them why Ted Cruz is disconnected from the Texas Latino experience," Walle said.
Injecting a bit of humor into Saturday's meeting, Rocha said pundits and policymakers increasingly discuss the Latino vote.
"The Latino vote has become the chupacabra," he said, referring to the legendary creature. "Everyone's talking about it, but no one has seen it."
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