Republicans wanting to maintain their stronghold on politics in Texas and even the South Plains have a challenge in the state's changing demographics.
And outreach and image control are top strategies to meet that challenge, Texas Republican Party Outreach Coordinator David Zapata told members of Lubbock's newly formed chapter of the Federation of Hispanic Republicans during a strategy meeting Tuesday.
"I think what we need to do as conservative Republicans, conservative Hispanics, is make sure we put ourselves our there," Zapata said during the meeting in the Schlotzsky's/Cinnabon restaurant at 19th Street and Memphis Avenue.
Hispanics account for about 38 percent of Texas' population, according to the 2010 U.S. census, and the plurality of Texans are expected to be Hispanic by 2020.
That trend is a challenge but not necessarily a defeat for Texas Republicans, even as Texas Hispanics continue voting heavily Democratic.
Zapata noted George W. Bush did well among Hispanic voters in Texas, winning 49 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 1998 gubernatorial re-election and upward of 40 percent during his 2004 presidential re-election.
But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney only carried 29 percent of the state's Hispanic vote in 2012 and Republican Gov. Rick Perry won about 38 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2010 re-election.
Former Lubbock County Commissioner Ysidro Gutierrez said part of Bush's success in wooing Hispanic voters came from pursuing their support -- and speaking a little Spanish didn't hurt, either.
"He joked with them, he talked in Spanish with them as best he could and he showed them respect," he said.
Gutierrez, who lost to Democrat Lorenzo "Bubba" Sedeno in the November 2012 race for Lubbock County Precinct 3 county commissioner, said he helped found Lubbock County's chapter of the statewide Federation of Hispanic Republicans in January to help recruit Lubbock's growing Hispanic population to the Republican cause.
"We are conservative activists and are taking our conservative message to our barrios," Gutierrez said.
Both Zapata and Gutierrez stressed the importance of face-to-face interaction to win over voters.
"If you're not talking with them, someone else will and they'll distort you in ways that aren't true," Zapata said.
Lubbock County Republican Party Chairman Carl Tepper, said patronizing Hispanics by changing political positions or offering seemingly Hispanic-oriented concessions, such as supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants, won't necessarily work.
'There's an argument the Republican Party can amnesty all day long and Hispanics still won't vote for the Republican Party," Tepper said.
Zapata said there's no reason to patronize to win over Hispanic voters.
"I always want to bring it back to the economy and jobs -- to our strengths," Zapata said.
Ultimately, encouraging Hispanics to vote Republican will come down to issues and what Zapata called "basic engagement."
"We need to reach out to people in their communities," he said. "If we don't show up there, the other party is going to show up there."
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