Lone Star State at the Eye of the Election Season Hurricane
DALLAS -- This year conservatives seem to be waking up to a sleeping giant in their midst. Hispanics now make up 11 percent of all eligible voters nationwide and in Texas they account for more than a quarter.
Nationally more than 25 million Latinos are eligible to vote and that has conservatives taking notice.
The LIBRE Initiative is a new national conservative non-profit that hopes to win the hearts and minds of Latinos.
Encouraging the Vote
On a recent Tuesday night in a Dallas hotel conference room, young Hispanics armed with coffee, soft drinks and cell phones are working a phone bank designed by LIBRE.
The goal: identify key issues for Hispanics this election season and encourage the vote.
CBN News recently sat down with Daniel Garza, a former White House appointee under George W. Bush and the current executive director of LIBRE.
"We launched the LIBRE Initiative because we felt that the Left, progressive organizations who believed in collectivism and socialism lite were dominating the conversations in Latino communities across the country," Garza explained.
"We wanted to make sure that there was a pro-market, pro-free-market, limited government voice in that discussion," he added.
Garza said he's trying to make up for the long absence of conservative engagement in the Hispanic world.
"I think the conservative movement ceded outreach to the Left and now they're paying a heavy price and so I think you're seeing a shift, almost seismic in the way that conservatives and the Right have now re-engaged with the Latino vote," he said.
Lone Star State
LIBRE has targeted eight states, with Texas as a clear priority. It's a daunting task because the Left has been putting money and top talent into the Lone Star State for several years via the organization Battleground Texas.
With Texas now holding 38 electoral votes, many believe the GOP will lose its road to the White House if it fails to win the state.
Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and new author of a book on Hispanic American titled "A Race for the Future," told CBN News that Battleground Texas represents a significant threat to conservatives.
"They understand that if Texas becomes a liberal state -- that is it. We live in a liberal country for the forseeable future. Conservatives need to wake up to this and understand that Texas is a battleground right now," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez and a growing number of conservatives are making a case that not only is it important to reach Hispanics -- but how.
"I think conservatives need to extend to Hispanics an inclusive message of opportunity and say 'the American dream can also be yours. Progressive liberal policies have put you in a hole, have conditioned far too many immigrants to see the government as benevolent,'" he said.
Believe it or not, immigration reform is not the top issue for Hispanics.
A Pew Research Center poll this year found that it's education and jobs. It's another reason why the LIBRE Initiative believes its message of economic freedom is a winner.
"At the end of the day, Latinos have not rejected market ideas, conservatives principles, biblical values. It's just that the Left has dominated the conversation for so long that when the Right doesn't engage -- they win," Garza said.
LIBRE recently helped to organize a Tuesday night community meeting at Iglesia Fuente de Vida, a church north of Dallas in Carrollton.
Speakers talked about police relations, parenting and civic engagement. Afterwards, LIBRE organizers gathered names and numbers and then encouraged people to vote. Political experts know that turnout is a huge obstacle with Latinos.
For example, in 2012 just 38 percent of eligible Hispanic voters turned out in Texas, compared to 60 percent of white eligible voters.
Both parties say youth is one reason. Many Hispanic voters are young and youth generally vote at lower levels than other age groups.
Cultural background is another issue.
In Houston, Dave Welch, executive director of the U.S. Pastor Council, trains Hispanic pastors to help their congregations understand the process.
"They come from countries where they have no voice; they have no vote. The government is the enemy so they come here and they have no basis in understanding what self-government really means," Welch explained.
Back in Dallas, Jose Galvez gets it. A former candidate for local office, he urges Latinos to take the next step and get involved in politics and government.
"You're here. You migrated to the U.S. for a purpose -- to better yourself, to better your family. So if you're not planning on going back to your home country and you're here -- make it count," he said.
For both parties, the Latino electorate represents a potentially huge prize, but only if this exploding population decides to make its voice heard.