Monday, June 11, 2012

Hispanic to lead Texas Democratic Party

Gilberto Hinojosa was overwhelmingly chosen to lead the Party in the predominantly Republican state.
By Chris Tomlinson, The Associated Press

HOUSTON, TX -- Texas Democrats elected the first Hispanic to the state chairman's position Saturday, a move indicating that the party aims to play a greater role in the Republican-dominated state.

On the final day of the state convention in Houston, delegates overwhelmingly chose Gilberto Hinojosa to lead the party for the next two years. Hinojosa is a former judge, county party leader and member of the Democratic National Committee. He is replacing Boyd Richie, who has led the party since 2006.

Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis, a state senator whose district is considered vulnerable, was among the other party leaders who addressed the convention Saturday. She challenged delegates to spread the word that big changes are needed in Austin.

"The agenda of those in control of the Texas Capitol today is one without vision," Davis declared.

"They are not concerned with the Texas of tomorrow -- whether our children are prepared for college, whether our workforce is healthy, whether our young people are equipped to compete for jobs, or whether employers will stay in Texas or new employers will even want to bring jobs to Texas.

"Instead, for those in charge in Austin, theirs is an agenda driven by ideological extremists who want to pull the ladder of opportunity and prosperity up behind them," she added.

"Theirs is an agenda that will bring this great state to its knees."

Hinojosa, a native of Mission in South Texas, takes over a party that has not won a statewide election since 1994 and does not control either chamber of the Legislature. But the state's evolving demographics favor Democrats, with non-Hispanic whites now making up less than 50 percent of the population.

In the 2010 election, more than 85 percent of minorities voted Democratic.

"We as a party need to realize that there are more of us than there are of them," Hinojosa said. "We believe that everyone in this great state deserves an equal chance ... and we can only do that if we win elections."

Hinojosa, 59, said Democrats need to believe that they can win elections and stop allowing Republicans to define them as unpatriotic. He said Republicans were the ones who carried out un-American policies by cutting funding for public education and women's healthcare and by opposing civil-rights protections for all sexual orientations.

'Coalition builder'

Fort Worth state Rep. Marc Veasey, who is in a runoff for a Democratic nomination to Congress, welcomed Hinojosa as someone who has experience working at the national level and organizing the grass roots of the party.

"His election is historic and besides that, Gilberto is a good guy," Veasey said. "He is a coalition builder; he gets along with a broad group of people."

Hinojosa has promised to change the math on Texas elections.

In the May 29 primaries, twice as many Republicans cast ballots as Democrats, but, overall, fewer than 20 percent of registered voters showed up. Turnout among Texas Hispanics has never matched that in other states with significant Latino populations.

"There is no independent issue out there that has caused this to happen," Hinojosa said. "They are not going to go out and vote for anybody if they are not engaged, no matter how dynamic of a leader you've got running. ... As a party, we have to engage them and offer strong candidates."

Hinojosa was the first in his family to attend college, at the University of Texas-Pan American, and graduated from Georgetown University Law School.

Texas Democrats also approved a platform that for the first time explicitly calls for equal marriage rights. Same-sex marriage is banned by a state constitutional amendment.

Earlier in the convention, Democrats representing Texas in Congress spoke and tried to rally the party base ahead of the November elections.

Rep. Al Green of Houston called for equal rights based on sexual orientation, a $10-an-hour minimum wage and equal pay for women.

Staff writer John Gravois contributed to this report.

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1 comment:

  1. One day in the Future Texas will be a Swing State


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