By Lauren Caruba
Gov. Greg Abbott told a group of conservative Hispanics that they were the future of Republican politics in the state, signaling in a Saturday speech his intention to once again court Latino votes in the 2018 race.
“The first Hispanic governor must be a Republican,” Abbott told the audience of about 200 in San Antonio.
“We are running to win the next generation,” he added. “You are that next generation.”
The governor’s remarks came at a Hispanic Leadership Conference hosted by his reelection campaign at the Norris Conference Centers. It featured a series of panels, closed to reporters, on political outreach, appointments and the media.
Abbott connected with Hispanics when elected in 2014, garnering an estimated 44 percent of their vote. He ran ads on Spanish-language television channels that featured his wife Cecilia, who would become the first Hispanic first lady of Texas, and his mother-in-law, who immigrated to Texas from Monterrey, Mexico.
Abbott invoked that history again Saturday, joking that his ability to win over the Latino electorate was due to support from his wife’s large extended family.
But much has changed in the years since, including the governor’s support this year for Senate Bill 4, the controversial legislation that would criminalize so-called sanctuary cities and allow police officers to ask people about their immigration status. Now disputed in court, the bill became a flashpoint in the politics of immigration, with Democrats saying it was a “show me your papers” law that encouraged racial profiling.
“If you are a Republican candidate for governor or a Republican candidate for high office in Texas, you have to rebuild your connection to the Hispanic community every election cycle,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “You can woo Hispanics in a campaign, but then in governing you alienate some of those same Hispanics, including conservative Hispanic leaders.”