Texas Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Has a New Tactic: Spanish
Texans who visit Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's newly launched Spanish-language website, targeted at Hispanic voters, will see a new version of his campaign logo: Abbott Para Gobernador.
Abbott and his expected Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, are both courting the Hispanic vote in a state that’s reliably Republican despite its growing minority population, which tends to identify with the Democratic Party. The gubernatorial hopefuls have both made campaign stops in South Texas and appeared on Spanish-language television, but the Abbott campaign’s Spanish-language website is the first during this election cycle.
The campaign is hoping the site will give Abbott an advantage with Hispanics by creating a new way to communicate with voters.
“This website will provide another platform to communicate my message of creating jobs, improving our education system and making our communities safer," Abbott said in a written statement. “Together we will live up to the ideal that any child of any background has a chance to smile, to hope, to dream and to achieve — not because of their ZIP code, their heritage or their family history, but because we live in a Texas that includes all.”
Davis does not currently have a Spanish-language campaign website. Campaign spokesman Bo Delp said it's in the works but gave no timeline for when it might go live. Additionally, Delp shot back at Abbott's outreach efforts.
"Greg Abbott is out of touch with Latinos in Texas — his ideas aren't any better in Spanish," Delp said.
Abbott's Spanish-language website, vota.gregabbott.com, resembles his English-language site but includes some differences. For example, the homepage and biography page on the Spanish-language site feature a family photo of Abbott, his daughter and his wife, Cecilia — whom Abbott has frequently mentioned on the campaign trail as being of Hispanic descent. The attorney general appears by himself in the English-language version.
Abbott has said he's aiming to win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in November. Exit polls indicated that Gov. Rick Perry received 38 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2010. Given Texas' shifting demographics, the fragmented voting bloc is said to become central to future elections as Hispanics, who today make up 38 percent of the state's population, are expected to make up a plurality of the state's population by 2020.
The Abbott campaign also has a Spanish-language Twitter account, which was launched in 2012. But until the debut of the new website on Monday, the account had not been updated since October.
For politicians like Abbott and Davis, who are not Spanish speakers, Spanish-language websites can help them reach voters who prefer to consume political information in Spanish. That's likely between one-third and two-fifths of Hispanic voters, according to Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.
Spanish-language campaign websites are not common in Texas, where fewer than a third of eligible voters are Hispanic, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. No other candidate for governor or lieutenant governor currently has a Spanish-language campaign website.
“That’s reflective of the lack of attention that most politicians, at least in Texas, pay to Hispanic voters that would prefer to interact, as well as consume, political information in Spanish,” Jones said.
Abbott isn’t the first Republican to launch a Spanish-language website, though.
During his re-election bid in 2010, Perry's campaign launched its own Spanish-language version of its website, which was accompanied by a mostly Spanish Twitter account and Facebook page called Tejanos Por Rick Perry. The website of his Democratic opponent, Bill White, included some sections translated into Spanish, including his biography.
Both websites are now inactive.
The Texas Democratic Party has a Spanish-language website that mirrors its English site. Battleground Texas, a Democratic group working to increase voter turnout and make Democrats competitive in the state, had a Spanish-language site until last week. The Spanish version of the site has since been taken down.
The Republican Party of Texas, which is counting on an engagement team to reach out to Hispanic voters during this election cycle, does not have a Spanish-language website.
Several state senators running for higher office, including Davis and candidates for lieutenant governor Sens. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, have Spanish-language pages as part of the Senate’s official Spanish-language website.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is seeking to hold his post as the presiding officer of the upper chamber, also has a Senate Spanish-language page.
Jones has said that Spanish-language campaigns are especially effective among infrequent voters who aren't highly engaged in politics and are considered prime targets for get-out-the-vote efforts, but that some candidates might not consider Spanish-language websites to be as effective as targeted Spanish-language radio and television advertising.
“Clearly, the campaigns are telling us it’s not worth the trouble,” Jones said. “Whether that’s just because they don’t believe it’ll have a positive impact or there’s no one on the campaign that speaks Spanish well enough to do it.”
In the past, both Republican and Democratic candidates have campaigned in Spanish — either through political video advertisements in Spanish or interviews on popular Spanish-language news networks like Univision and Telemundo, which many Hispanic voters “rely heavily on,” Jones said.
Since announcing their candidacies, both Abbott and Davis have appeared on Conexión Texas, a public affairs show that debuted last year on Univision stations around the state. Neither candidate spoke in Spanish during the interviews, and their answers appeared in Spanish subtitles on screen.
The candidates have yet to release Spanish-language campaign videos during this election cycle.