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So many keys, so little time

Tim Fleck has already covered the story of Hispanic voters abandoning Orlando Sanchez in favor of Bill White, and now today John Williams picks up the ball in a story entitled “Hispanic vote key to mayoral runoff victory”.

Exit polling and other analysis of the Nov. 4 vote shows that White and Sanchez each got just under half the Hispanic votes. State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who finished third, got less than 4 percent.

That is a stark contrast with 2001, when Sanchez got almost three of every four Hispanic voters in his narrow runoff loss to Mayor Lee Brown. That year, Sanchez benefited from excitement among Hispanics who thought Sanchez might be the city’s first Latino mayor.

Two years later, the largest ethnic group in Houston, making up 37 percent of the city’s population, is up for grabs.


Several phenomena contributed to the slump in Sanchez’s Hispanic support since 2001.

First, term-limited Brown is not in the 2003 race. Two years ago, the city’s first black mayor did little campaigning inside the Hispanic community. That left a huge void that Sanchez was able to fill.

White has been more aggressive.

“It’s hard to keep up with White’s money,” said former City Councilman John Castillo, who does Hispanic outreach for Sanchez. “He has created an image that he is a great businessman who can solve the problems Lee Brown created. It’s hard to keep up with that.

“I think what has happened is that Hispanic voting was depressed.”

Sanchez also has had run-ins with Hispanic media on a couple of occasions.

In October, El Día, a Spanish-language daily newspaper, reported that Sanchez supported driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. He later told other media he was misquoted.

Last week, Sanchez clarified his comments in El Día, telling the newspaper the issue of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants needs special examination and that he is looking for alternatives.

His campaign also banned a reporter with Channel 45, a Spanish-language television station, for asking questions about an Election Day flier that invited illegal immigrants to work for the Sanchez campaign.

The campaign has denied soliciting illegal workers, and dismissed the matter as a political dirty trick intended to embarrass Sanchez.

“He’s being treated a little bit more critically by Spanish-speaking media,” [University of Houston professor Tatcho] Mindiola said. “It’s not the same as two years ago.”

Meanwhile, George Strong crunches some numbers and predicts an easy win for White. There’s something that jumps out at me in looking at Strong’s numbers. Here are Strong’s projections:

Assumption: 270,000 voters in the runoff election on December, 6, 2003. 20% are African-American, 12% are Hispanics and of the 68% of the voters are Anglos, and a third of those Anglo voters are Democrats, Gays, Labor, etc.

African Americans: With Sylvester Turner out of the Mayor’s race, but with Ronald Green in a runoff for an At-Large seat we should see a good turnout but fewer African-Americans voting. At total of 54000 votes of which Bill White will get 90% of that vote or 48600 votes and Sanchez the remainder or 5400 votes

Hispanics: A Total of 32400 votes. I believe that Sanchez will get only about 40% of this vote 12960. Bill White would get 60% or 19440 votes

Anglos: A total of 183,600 votes. Bill White should about split this vote with Orlando Sanchez with each getting 50% of the Anglo vote or 91800 votes for White and 91800 votes for Sanchez.

In this scenario Bill White would win big time with 159,840 votes (59%) to Sanchez’s 110,160 (41%) votes

Strong’s assumption that the proportion of Hispanic voters will be 12% is consistent with the 13% proportion that they were in the general election, as the Williams article notes. If so, and if you accept Strong’s projection about black voters, then Sanchez could get every single Hispanic vote on December 6 and still lose by a 140,000 to 130,000 margin, or 52-48%. Seems to me that the key constituency is going to be white voters, and as long as Bill White can be more or less even with Sanchez there, he will indeed coast. In fact, again if you acecpt Strong’s numbers about black and Hispanic voters, Sanchez needs to win over 63% of the white vote to make up the difference there. Given that black voters will be staking White to such a huge lead, maybe they’re the key constituency.

I’m joking a little, but a search through the Chron archives shows that in the 2001 runoff, Sanchez got 72% of the Hispanic vote on a historically high 18% turnout. That almost carried him to victory, and it’s the reason he was the anointed frontrunner in this race from the beginning. The fact that he’s projected to not even get a majority of their votes in the runoff is a big deal, even if the practical effect winds up being nil.

Anyway, I think Sanchez needs to turn out Republican voters, which is presumably why his first public statement of the runoff campaign was basically “Read my lips: No new streams of revenues”. I don’t think he can get enough of them to make the difference, though.

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  1. kevin whited says:

    There simply aren’t enough to make the difference in a city that went for Al Gore. Orlando’s done.

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