Lupe Valdez has been the Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate of identity politics and the hopes of the party for inspiring a Hispanic turnout this fall to, at the very least, help down-ballot Democrats win. But if her primary and runoff contest with Andrew White for the chance to challenge Republican Greg Abbott proves anything, it is that Valdez has not so far inspired increases in Hispanic voter turnout. In fact, in some of the state’s most heavily Hispanic counties, voters skipped the governor’s race in the March 6 primary.
During more than two decades of statewide election losses, the Hispanic vote has been perceived as the Democrats’s unrealized potential that never materializes. To create the so-called Blue Wave in this year’s congressional and legislative elections, Democrats need to increase turnout among Hispanic and black voters. But Valdez in the primary was unable to demonstrate an ability to capture Hispanic voters who are already going to the polls.
For instance, in El Paso County, the Secretary of State’s office reports that there were 38,665 Hispanic surname voters who cast ballots in the primary, but Valdez received only 22,375 votes total. There also was a major drop-off between the total number of votes cast in the U.S. Senate or congressional primaries in the county and the governor’s race. In fact, more people in El Paso County voted in the county judge race than in the contest for governor. The way ballots are laid out, that means they voted for hometown favorite Beto O’Rourke for Senate and then skipped the governor’s race, only to continue voting down the ballot for a county judge candidate.
A similar story emerges from Hidalgo County on the border with Mexico. The contest that inspired the largest vote was for the criminal district attorney. Ten thousand fewer people voted in the governor primary than in that hot local race. Additionally, there were more than 41,000 ballots cast in the county by Hispanic surname voters, but Valdez captured only 20,319 votes.
The county judge contest in Webb County drew 4,600 more votes than the contest for governor. (In fairness, the county judge race also outpaced the vote for the U.S. Senate nomination by 4,200 votes.) But with 23,274 Hispanic surname voters casting ballots, Valdez took just 12,191 votes.
Some of this can be written off to the fact all the candidates for governor lacked statewide name identification. However, this also makes it difficult to argue that Valdez will inspire Hispanic turnout against Abbott, even if she did get 42 percent of the statewide primary vote to White’s 27 percent. White–the son of former Governor Mark White—did best in the counties surrounding his hometown of Houston. Neither Valdez nor White so far have looked like the scary opponent living under Greg Abbott’s re-election bed.