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By W. Gardner Selby December 12, 2011

Texas GOP chair says more Hispanics have won statewide office on the Republican ticket than as Democratic nominees

Questioning how a panel of San Antonio federal judges redrew legislative districts that had been passed into law by the Republican-controlled 2011 Legislature, the Republican Party of Texas also challenged the idea that the judges protected Hispanic voting rights.

Republican Chairman Steve Munisteri said in a Dec. 5, 2011, email blast that the court "seems to fail to take into account the fact that more Hispanics have been elected statewide on the Republican ticket than on the Democratic ticket."

Wait a sec.

We recall that Texans elected Democrat Dan Morales, a San Antonio state representative, as attorney general of Texas in 1990. He won re-election in 1994. No other Latino candidate has been elected to a statewide executive position.

In the judiciary, Texans elected Democrat Raul Gonzalez to the Texas Supreme Court. He was initially appointed to the highest Texas civil court by Democratic Gov. Mark White in late 1984 before becoming the first Hispanic elected statewide in 1986. He stayed on the court through 1998.

So, have Republicans elected more Hispanics to statewide office?

Refresher: There are 29 statewide elected posts -- two U.S. Senate seats, six executive-like positions (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state comptroller, land commissioner and agriculture commissioner), three seats on the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the energy sector, and nine seats each on the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.

By email, Munisteri told us that he based his count of Hispanic winners on Texas state directories listing elected officials. Munisteri said he identified only two Democrats of Hispanic descent elected to statewide office -- Gonazalez and Morales, who did not seek re-election in 1998 and ultimately served prison time for financial misdeeds.

Latino Republicans elected statewide have included Al Gonzales, who won a race for the Texas Supreme Court in 2000 before joining George W. Bush in Washington, and Tony Garza and Victor Carrillo, who won Texas Railroad Commission races in 1998 and 2004, respectively. Garza later resigned to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Also, Munisteri noted, Republicans David Medina and Eva Guzman were each elected to the Supreme Court. Medina and Guzman, both initially appointed by GOP Gov. Rick Perry, won election in 2006 and 2010, respectively, according to election results from 1992 through 2010 posted online by the Texas secretary of state’s office. Both are currently on the nine-person court.

Carrillo attempted to win another term last year, but lost his party’s nomination to David Porter of Giddings, who went on to win the seat. After the primary, Carrillo said his Hispanic surname doomed him, writing supporters: "Early polling showed that the typical GOP primary voter has very little info about the position of Railroad Commissioner, what we do, or who my opponent or I were. Given the choice between 'Porter' and 'Carrillo' — unfortunately, the Hispanic surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover although I did all in my power to overcome this built-in bias," according to a March 3, 2010, news article in the Austin American-Statesman. That article also quoted an unidentified Republican official saying Carrillo tumbled because he didn’t energetically campaign.

Notably, too, Latino candidates have occasionally been appointed to statewide offices only to lose at the polls. The late Lena Guerrero, an Austin Democrat, lost her 1992 bid to remain on the Texas Railroad Commission to Republican Barry Williamson. In 2002, Republican Xavier Rodriguez, appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Rick Perry, was defeated in his party’s primary by little-known Stephen Wayne Smith.

Also, Texas Democrats have nominated multiple Latinos for statewide posts who went on to lose, in great part because Republicans have won every statewide contest since 1996. Defeated Democratic nominees include Senate nominees Victor Morales and Rick Noriega, gubernatorial aspirant Tony Sanchez, land commissioner nominees Richard Raymond and Hector Uribe, Supreme Court nominees Margaret Mirabal and Linda Yanez and four-time Court of Criminal Appeals nominee JR Molina.

Side note: Perry named Elsa Alcala to the Court of Criminal Appeals in May 2011 to a term through 2012. She has filed her candidacy for election next year to a full six-year term.

So, the tally comes out to five Republican Hispanics elected statewide and two Democrats.

End of story?

Not entirely. Munisteri’s omits some important context about Texas politics: No Democrat, regardless of ethnicity, has won statewide office for 15 years. Put another way, no Latino Republicans won statewide until after every statewide Republican nominee started prevailing.Conversely, Democrats weren’t electing many Hispanics when they dominated Texas politics, either. We rate Munisteri’s statement Mostly True.

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Texas GOP chair says more Hispanics have won statewide office on the Republican ticket than as Democratic nominees

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