Josh Chafetz has questioned some of my implicit assumptions in the comments on this Matt Yglesias post. I had expressed my skepticism of the recent DMN poll that gave a 10-point lead to John Cornyn over Ron Kirk and a 15-point lead to Rick Perry over Tony Sanchez.
Josh makes the following assertion about Hispanic voters and the likelihood that they will vote as a monolithic bloc:
Or, to look a little closer to home, consider the 2001 Houston mayoral race. There, conservative Hispanic Orlando Sanchez lost by less than 1.5 percent to incumbent Lee Brown. And, as the Houston Chronicle article I just linked to notes, "Sanchez cobbled together the same coalition of conservative whites and Hispanics that put Bob Lanier in office in 1991." Lanier is white -- suggesting that Sanchez wasn't simply attracting the Hispanic vote because he himself is Hispanic.
But it's also true that the Orlando Sanchez example is exactly what Tony Sanchez is hoping for. Here's an excerpt from a Chron story written on November 26, 2001, by Lori Rodriguez, a few days before the runoff between Orlando Sanchez and Lee Brown:
And on Nov. 6 in Houston, Orlando Sanchez , a first-generation immigrant from Cuba and a Republican, drew more than 60 percent of the mainly Mexican-American and historically Democratic Latino electorate in his bid to be the city's first Hispanic mayor.
From the venerably Mexican-American barrios of the east side to the more integrated Latinos in middle-class enclaves, a majority of Hispanic voters shrugged aside partisan ties and political ideology to cast a vote for ethnic pride, for ``La Raza.''
"Some of them considered the politics, saw the last name and said `that's good enough for me,' " says University of Houston political scientist Adolfo Santos.
"Sanchez certainly let everybody know that he's a Republican and conservative."
In the first flex of Hispanic muscle in the early 1970s, Mindiola served as Harris County chairman of La Raza Unida, a political third party forged from the ranks of disgruntled Hispanic Democrats. For decades, he has monitored the community's political maturation via exit polls in key races; the most recent was District I, Houston's first Hispanic -majority council seat.
Of 233 Hispanic voters in the district surveyed on Election Day, 62 percent voted for Sanchez , 25 percent chose Brown and 11 percent went with Councilman Chris Bell, who was eliminated from the runoff. More tellingly, in a city where the mostly Mexican-American Hispanic political establishment energetically opposes Sanchez , 72 percent of Hispanics voting for Sanchez identified themselves as liberal or moderate Democrats.
"District I tells us that party loyalty doesn't mean a damn thing when you get to vote for one of your own," says [Tatcho] Mindiola, [director of the University of Houston's Center for Mexican-American Studies]. "It tells us we don't care what our leadership is doing, we're going to vote for a cousin.
Obviously, Tony Sanchez will need a much higher percentage of the Hispanic vote than Orlando Sanchez got. I believe the hope is for 75%. Given that more Hispanics are Democrats to start with, that's a smaller hill for him to climb.
Again, I'm not saying this will happen. I'm saying it's what Tony Sanchez is trying to make happen. If he drives the turnout, he'll reap the reward.Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 22, 2002 to Election 2002