Abbott Teams With RNC to Reach Hispanic Voters

Greg Abbott at El Pato restaurant during a campaign stop in McAllen on July 15, 2013.
Greg Abbott at El Pato restaurant during a campaign stop in McAllen on July 15, 2013.

HOUSTON — Attorney General Greg Abbott, the GOP front-runner for governor, is getting help from the Republican National Committee to reach Hispanic voters in Texas.

At a press conference here on Wednesday, the RNC announced the launch of the Texas Hispanic Engagement Team, a statewide grassroots outreach initiative aimed at wooing Latinos. Jennifer Sevilla Korn, the RNC's deputy political director, said the party's efforts to reach Hispanics would include visits to churches and Hispanic chambers of commerce as well as phone banking in Hispanic communities.

The initiative would also establish a permanent GOP Hispanic outreach effort in the state, she said.

“We are no longer going to come in six months before an election and leave when it is over,” Sevilla Korn said.

Former state Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg — who switched from the Democratic Party in 2010 — will serve as chairman of the initiative. The team is starting its efforts in San Antonio, where it has already hired two field directors, before expanding into other areas of the state.

Abbott, who was on hand at the RNC’s announcement in Houston, reiterated his opinion that Hispanic values align more closely with Republican beliefs on social issues and economic matters.

“We have not seen Hispanics switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party,” Abbott said during his remarks. “This is a one-way street that we’re driving on down the pathway toward a more powerful future for the great state of Texas.”

The RNC’s initiative mirrors recent efforts by the Abbott campaign and the Texas Republican Party to reach Hispanics, whom the party has recently struggled to win over nationally.

Abbott, who said at The Texas Tribune Festival last month that he's aiming to win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, has made multiple stops in cities with large Hispanic populations, including Houston, McAllen and Corpus Christi. Abbott also frequently mentions on the campaign trail that his wife, Cecilia, is of Hispanic descent.

The Texas Republican Party also recently launched a new voter identification and registration effort aimed at minority groups that don’t typically vote Republican.

Democrats, meanwhile, dismissed the new initiative, saying Republicans would continue to struggle to win over Hispanics in the state because of differences over major policy issues like immigration and health care.

"DC Republicans can pour money into Texas, but they can’t buy the Hispanic vote out here," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement, adding: "We see where the Tea Party has led Republicans in our state — and how they spend their primaries fighting over who can be the most anti-immigrant. The problem with the Republican Party and Hispanics is a policy problem, something no marketing campaign can fix."

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