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By W. Gardner Selby March 16, 2012

Texas Democratic Party says Texas has 668 Latino elected Democrats, 60 elected Latino Republicans

Heads up: Another Bush is raising his profile.

As noted in a March 3, 2012, Texas Tribune news article, attorney George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush, has been pitching afresh for a group he helped found, the Hispanic Republicans of Texas.

"Politics is in my blood," the Tribune story quotes Bush as saying in a story about the group's political action committee.

But Rebecca Acuña, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, sounded skeptical of the PAC’s chances of helping Republican Hispanics advance. Acuña told the Tribune: "They are delusional if they think they’re making any inroads with Latinos. In Texas, there are 668 Democratic Hispanic elected officials to the 60 in the Republican Party."

Do Hispanic Democratic elected officials so greatly outnumber their Latino Republican counterparts in Texas?

Looked entirely like it -- at first.

To our inquiry, Acuña sent us portions of a 2011 directory of Latino elected officials compiled by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which describes itself as the nonpartisan leadership organization of the nation's more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials.

The chart provided by Acuña says that of 2,520 Hispanic elected officials in Texas in January 2011, 668 were Democrats and 60 were Republicans, matching the figures aired to the Tribune. Two school board members were counted as Independents.

According to the chart, 496 elected Latino officials in Texas held nonpartisan offices, mainly serving in municipal government or on school boards, and another 1,294 Latino elected officials, also mostly serving on school boards or in municipal offices, were listed as "no party stated."

And how does NALEO gather all this?

A methodology section of the 2011 directory says the NALEO Educational Fund has regularly attempted to tabulate Latino elected officials since 1984. For the 2011 check, NALEO staff contacted each identified official by phone or fax to ask whether they were indeed Latino, the group says.

"The phone verification process proved invaluable," the methodology section says. "Many individuals having Spanish surnames were in fact, not Latino. Conversely, other individuals with non-Spanish surnames were identified as being Latino."

Rosalind Gold, a senior director for the NALEO Educational Fund, told us in a telephone interview that how officeholders self-identify has proved pivotal. "We very much rely on self-identification in determining who is and who is not Latino," Gold said.

By email, Martha Recio, a NALEO research assistant, confirmed the figures cited for 2011.

At our request, NALEO also composed a chart showing its identified party breakdowns for Texas Latino elected officials for 2001 through 2011.

The group’s determinations of party affiliations have been incomplete because, Gold told us, so many local offices are filled in non-partisan elections; such candidates do not run as party nominees. In each of the years, at least 68 percent of the Latino elected officials tabulated by NALEO were not identified by party affiliation.

Also, Gold said, if the group could not verify an officeholder’s party membership by telephoning their office, it did not attempt to do so by tapping other sources. NALEO doesn’t have resources to do that, she said. Sometimes, too, Gold said, an officeholder declined to discuss his or her party membership.

We asked Gold if it’s fair to make comparisons limited to its counts of Republican and Democratic Latino elected officials when most of the group’s identified Latino elected officials are not identified by party. Gold replied that this is the kind of context NALEO provides when discussing its counts. "We say that of the elected officials we were able to verify affiliation for, here is the party breakdown," she said.

Back to the Texas counts: Among officeholders tabulated as Democrats or Republicans, the share of Democratic elected officeholders dropped from 32 percent in 2001 to 20 percent in 2010 before reaching nearly 27 percent in 2011. The relative share of Latino Republican officeholders was .7 percent in 2001, escalating to .9 percent in 2010 and 2.4 percent in 2011, according to the group.

With so many party affiliations not nailed down, we wouldn’t blame anyone for ruling out comparisons of results for different years. That misgiving aside, though, it looks like the ratio of elected Hispanic Democrats to Republican Latinos in Texas has narrowed. The NALEO counts suggest there were nearly 45 Hispanic Texas Democrats per Republican counterpart in 2001, 34 in 2005 and 11 in 2011.

Our ruling

The Texas Democratic Party’s spokeswoman correctly cited two figures from the 2011 NALEO directory suggesting that Latino elected Democrats in Texas greatly outnumber their Republican counterparts.

Still, this claim is missing substantive context -- that NALEO did not determine the party memberships of most Latino Texas officeholders. If this were done, the Democratic-Republican ratio might change.

We rate the claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, charts, "Texas" and year-by-year counts of Latino elected officials in Texas, by party affiliation, 2001 through 2011 (provided by NALEO on March 5 and 6, 2012)

Telephone interviews, Rosalind Gold, Senior Director of Policy, Research and Advocacy, NALEO Educational Fund, Los Angeles, March 6 and 7, 2012

Texas Tribune, news article, "A Young Bush Works to Nurture Hispanic Roots Within the Republican Party," March 3, 2012

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Texas Democratic Party says Texas has 668 Latino elected Democrats, 60 elected Latino Republicans

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