Republicans bet on Hispanics to win votes

Republicans pinned their hopes on a nationwide slate of Hispanic candidates, seeking to gain a foothold with Latino voters for the midterms that some had predicted would produce sweeping Republican victories.

The verdict was mixed.

While the party’s House candidates made modest gains among Hispanic voters in 2022 compared to 2018, several Latino Republican hopefuls in high-profile races lost.

Overall, the lower house will see a net gain of at least eight Latino members, seven of them Democrats, according to a count by the US organization of Latino officials, NALEO.

With the additions, the Republican Party will now have 11 Latino members in the House of Representatives, while the Democrats will have 35, and there is a race with a Latino Democrat yet to be determined, NALEO said. That will bring the total Hispanic representation in Congress to 11%, compared to 19% for the Latino population in the United States.

“Obviously it’s not the result that many of us were hoping for, but it’s encouraging,” said Wadi Gaitán, director of communications for the conservative Iniciativa Libre group, which mobilizes Latino voters in support of Republicans.

There were losses in Texas and Virginia, where Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger defeated Republican Yesli Vega, the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, in one of the most expensive and competitive contests in the country. Vega, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is a former police officer who co-chaired Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s coalition of Latino voters last year.

In South Texas, Democrats clung to two of the three districts heavily fought over by Latino Republican candidates.

Republicans scored a victory with businesswoman Monica de la Cruz winning a newly redrafted district. But in a rare contest between two Latino congresswomen in a Democratic-leaning district, Republican Rep. Mayra Flores lost.

Flores, who made history in a special election earlier this year by becoming the first Mexican-born congresswoman, said the predominantly Hispanic region has always been conservative, with a focus on faith and family values, which benefits his party.

“The future of South Texas is Republican. We did not back down,” Flores said. “Little by little, we are going to have greater impacts.”

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott garnered a slightly higher percentage of Latino voters in 2022 compared to four years ago: 35% versus 42% this year, according to AP VoteCast, a broad survey of nearly 3,400 voters in the state.

In Florida, Republicans increased their Latino representation in the House with Anna Paulina Luna, a Trump supporter of Mexican descent who won a district.