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Red Dawn: Why SA is the GOP’s Best Bet for the Future

Photo: Callie Enlow, License: N/A

Callie Enlow

Bexar County GOP chairman Robert Stovall with state Rep. Joe Straus at the grand opening of the Bexar County GOP headquarters last week


While newbies like me might have thought San Antonio was a Democrat oasis similar to Austin’s “blue dot,” that’s not terribly accurate. In fact, as a city we voted for George W. Bush (as president) both times, and in 2006 we voted Perry back in office. We’re also home to a few pretty prominent Republicans, notably Speaker of the State House Joe Straus, U.S. Senator John Cornyn and state senators Donna Campbell and Lyle Larson.

“Bexar County is purple with a bluer tint,” said Jones. Henson noted, “I think with the strong military presence, it’s not as if there’s no conservatives in San Antonio.”

Rounding out the list of SA’s potential benefits to the GOP are its proximity to Austin (it’s so much easier to look like you give a shit if the drive is under two hours), its growing exurbs and revitalized(ish) urban core, its geographic location as “the gateway” to the increasingly important South Texas region and the megachurch muscle recently deployed to unexpected near-success during the non-discrimination ordinance vote.

Thus it makes Bexar County a largely Hispanic urban center that might just be winnable for the GOP, and, as Morgan said, a great place to experiment with Hispanic outreach tactics that can then be employed in less GOP-friendly areas of the state. As Zapata told me, “We have to look at where we can have the biggest impact.”

First, the GOP will need to make up the ground they lost in the previous election cycles. Nationally, that’s a lot. While Bush garnered 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, McCain received 31 percent in 2008 and Romney a miserable 27 percent last year. They’ll also have to contend with the already well-established local presence of Battleground Texas, a Democrat-affiliated group committed to getting out the vote, especially among minorities. In October, the Texas Democrat Party also rolled out ¡Pa’Delante Tejas!, a Hispanic outreach group.

Even before Battleground, locally the Democrats “did a great job of defining the GOP,” said Stovall, recalling the “stop the Republican War on Women” signs and the casting of opposition to Mayor Castro’s signature Pre-K 4 SA plan as a something like a Republican war on children. He notes those signs appeared mostly south of Hildebrand, and admitted that in the same area there was very, very little in the way of more conservative signage to counteract those messages.

He almost chuckled. “Imagine yourself driving past those signs for four months … are you gonna [then] pull the lever for the GOP?”

Reframing the Republican Party locally as one that doesn’t just exist for people living north of 410 will take a lot of effort, even if Bexar County is one of the “easier” places to try to convert. Many of the people I interviewed were not at all convinced outreach can move the dial significantly with the Hispanic population without some serious national and state-level course correction on issues like immigration, the state’s controversial Voter ID law and getting more Latinos to run for office as Republicans (this is the mission of Bush’s Hispanic Republicans of Texas group).

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