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Everybody wants the ‘Latino vote’ in Texas. But what do Latino voters want?

A voting site at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Fort Worth.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Public media reporters from across Texas are asking Latino voters what issues they're thinking about most heading into Election Day on Tuesday, November 8.

We're talking to dozens of Hispanic voters before the November midterms about the top issues on their mind — including what they want from candidates and their state government. We'd love to hear from you too!

Hispanics are now the largest ethnic demographic in Texas, comprising some 40 percent of the population. And candidates vying for seats in November have noticed.

Republicans have invested heavily in courting Latino voters. The Republican National Committee created several so-called Hispanic Community Centers across the state, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke recently visited the Rio Grande Valley with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta.

But what do Latino voters want?

The Texas Newsroom – a collaboration between NPR and public radio stations across Texas – wants to find out. Reporters from across the state have been asking Latino voters what they hope candidates know about them and their community, along with what they think elected officials should prioritize. Reporters have spoken to people at Astros games in Houston, the Barbacoa and Big Red Festival in San Antonio, and the gubernatorial debate in the Valley. Those interviews have been featured in stories around the state, and we’ll continue to roll them out ahead of Election Day.

What voters have told us so far.

Like other voting blocs, Latinos in Texas are not single-issue voters. While campaigns often focus on immigration, especially on the state’s southern border, it’s not the only issue at the forefront of some voters’ minds. Recent polling from the Pew Research Center shows that immigration is one of the key issues for Latinos – but so are education, gun control, reproductive rights and the economy.

On a recent visit last Friday evening at the Bishops Arts District in Dallas, Vicente Reynoso and his partner Ofelia Gonzalez said gun rights, housing and immigration reform top their list of concerns heading into the November elections.

Gonzalez said it’s time Texans stop embracing the attitude that nothing can be done on gun reform.

“It’s not an excuse anymore to just be like, ‘Oh, we can’t do anything about it’ or for us to be like ‘Texas is Texas. We’re going to keep on being us,'” she said. “We got to get it under control. I just think it’s pretty ridiculous the way we’re going about things right now.”

Reynoso, who described himself as a centrist gun owner who supports the Second Amendment, thinks lawmakers search for an easy fix instead of addressing gun reform proposals

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“There needs to be common sense gun laws. There is no reason I should be able to walk in (to a store) at 18, wait 15 minutes for a background check and walk out that same day with a firearm (and) unlimited amounts of ammo,” he said. “I think we keep trying to put band-aids on these very deep issues that we just keep painting over and painting over every few years. I think we need to get to the root of these causes.”

On immigration, Reynoso said he’d like candidates to go beyond the broad argument for immigration reform with realistic policy solutions.

“They never really make it clear exactly what they’re going to do, they just say immigration reform,” he said. “Give a clear plan, don’t just throw it in peoples’ faces and expect us to eat it up because it happens every four years.”

Gonzalez added that she’d like to see fewer people priced out of their current housing due to increasing costs.

“The amount of people that are being left without places to live because of the skyrocketing rent, people that have been in their apartments forever that now can’t afford to live where they have always lived,” she said. “I don’t know what can be done about that necessarily, but I just think it’s gotten out of control.”

For Patricia Mares, 44, a project manager from Spring, Texas, reproductive rights and school safety top her list of priorities.

“We need to be talking about the safety of our kids in schools, and I think we need to be talking about equal rights for women,” she said.

Mares said there is a long list of issues to choose from but she has school-aged children and believes in a woman’s right to choose. She’d also like candidates to be honest about their plans instead of offering quick fixes that don’t necessarily address an issue.

“We need to focus on, how do we fix things at their core, versus maybe telling people what they want to hear,” she said.

Camila Turrubiartes said her stance on abortion solidifies her support for Gov. Greg Abbott. Turrubiartes is originally from Mexico but has been in the United States for 30 years, she said. The Texas Newsroom spoke to her at Dallas’ Plaza Latina.

“I am pro-life, and I am in favor of abolishing abortion completely. Right now I support Gov. Greg Abbott and in reality I think he’s doing a good job,” she said in Spanish.

Turrubiartes said Texas is right to secure its border.

“We are all welcome, but also if President Biden is the one creating all this then there should be a little more help for Texas. Abbott can’t do everything,” she said.

Turrubiartes aligns with moderates and with Democrats on guns.

“There are a lot of guns, and I am against guns. In reality, there are a lot of assaults” occurring, she said.

For Anjel Perez, who spoke to the Texas Newsroom at Plaza Latina, the state’s power grid is on the top of his list of important issues. In 2021 more than 200 people died during a days-long storm that crippled the state’s ability to supply most of Texas with heat and electricity. Democrat Beto O’Rourke has made the issue a hallmark of his campaign, and voters like Perez agree more needs to be done.

“There were a bunch of deaths that could have been avoided if our power grid had been better,” he said. “A bunch of people died because of the cold, and others died because they had their generators inside and they died because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Little kids died, and it is just horrible to see.”

Perez also thinks immigration is a key issue, but he isn’t worried about border security. He said instead that the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who are fleeing violence or oppression in their home countries need more resources once they get to the United States.

“They are just here waiting and they are not getting their (needs met). These immigrants, they come here seeking asylum, but they don’t get fair representation,” he said.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, Pablo Arauz Pena and Andrew Schneider contributed reporting to this story.