What Does Pete Flores Win Really Mean For Texas?

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While Republicans in Texas are breathing a collective sigh of relief today, Texas Democrats in panic mode following the loss of a longtime democratic
state senate seat.

On Tuesday, Democrats lost a largely Hispanic State Senate district, a draw that until recently was nearly a given for the party.

State Senate District 19 covers parts of south and West Texas. The seat became vacant earlier this year when Democratic incumbent, Carlos Uresti, was convicted of several financial crimes and was sentenced to federal prison.

After the Uresti trial and sentencing, Gov. Greg Abbott called a special election where Republican Pete Flores made it to the runoff. Last night’s numbers of 53% for Flores and 47% towards Gallegos seemed to say something, but what?

For one, it said Democrats in Texas cannot get too comfortable.
Despite what pollsters say, the Democrats are disenfranchising even loyal Hispanic voters.

“They don’t own me” says Roy Cantu, a Democrat from near Del Rio. “I don’t like all that the Republicans stand for, but at least they are not playing us (Hispanics) for fools.”

With now 21 of 35 state Senate seats under their control, Republicans can pass any bill that they want out of the chamber, without one single vote from Democrats.

Largely, Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick know this, and in order to pass legislation that they promised their deeply loyal conservative base, they will need every seat they can grab.

Abbott and Patrick got behind Flores for good reason, likely because their political lives depended on it.

Gov. Abbott and his loyal base ran countless social media and digital ads in support of Flores. Abbott, who seems to feel fairly comfortable in his race against Lupe Valdez, engaged dozens of paid staffers to knock on doors in the district 19.

Then there is the Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick army of disciples that jumped into the battle. Patrick slammed thousands of dollars worth of human and media resources into the race.

The seat was so vital to Texas Republicans that U.S. senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz campaigned for Flores in the district—that’s not something you see everyday, even in Texas.

Democratic operatives did come out, but in the force needed to maintain the coveted seat.

“We didn’t vote for a party or ideas, we voted to send a message” Rebecca Fuentes of San Antonio said on Tuesday night. “That message is stop using us Latinos as your bargaining chip!”

But is Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa listening or paying attention? It doesn’t seem so.

Hinojosa said in a statement on Tuesday night that come November, every democrat, needs to go to the polls and candidates cannot take one vote for granted. But likely, that won’t help because Democrats are eating their own and it seems that they like the taste.

“You people have worked to scare Hispanics, to use us in your game and sell our real issues to use in Austin and Washington. Well sirs and ma’am’s we are about to sell you” says Trina Gutierrez of Hondo. “Do you know who is voting? It’s not the people that go to your rallies and join your little clubs. It is people like me, who work at the hotel while you shake hands and pat your backs.”

Gutierrez says she is frustrated and that her and her friends only voted republican to prove that they have a mind.

Frank Melendez is a loyal Democrat in Atasocsa County. He insists that there is a movement to distance Hispanic voters away from the main party.

“Democrats gave blame, blame, blame when they lose a fight. Well, that’s not how Hispanics in Texas work—we get even” Melendez said on Tuesday. “What a better way to show you’re serious than to throw them under the bus?”

Melendez says that the fight over sanctuary cities was all about popular national opinion. Then, when Democrats lost that fight they started in on new district lines and court cases.

Melendez says that the excuses are just not going to work anymore.

“Look, there is a big difference between a ‘Texican’ and a ‘Mexican’ and tonight, we showed them (Democrats) that difference”, he says.

When asked about Melendez’s philosophy, Brian Succoro, a political analyst agrees. “The truth is, in many ways Mexicans from across are of a very similar mindset as Mexican-Americans, but in so many ways they are different.”

Succoro says that Mexican Americans born here in Texas and raised here can be very Trump like on certain issues.

“I look for Democrats to start playing the ‘if you don’t vote Democrat, you aren’t Mexican’ card, and that’s just going to cause a deeper divide”, says Succoro.

A recent poll that showed Beto O’Rourke leading Ted Cruz by 9 points, seemed to suggest a similar leaning. The Hispanic pro-Beto numbers of the poll were lower than expected.

The poll also showed Gov. Abbott with a 19-point lead in his race against Valdez, the former Dallas County and Democrat challenger for Governor.

“No longer are Texas Hispanics going to play these rules. We are smarter and wiser and we will tell them that now and in November” says Jason Valdez if Jourdanton. “I am not going to be manipulated by a national party and I tell my Republican friends that they better do the same. This is Texas! Not Washington!”

And as a word of caution, Succoro says Republicans cannot get too cozy with Tuesday’s results, either. “The vote that elected Pete Flores will abandon you just as quickly as it elected you” he says.

But as for the Democrats, their ship of relying on Mexican voters may have just sailed away, just like their dreams of winning the White House did in 2016.