Bud Kennedy

April 15, 2014

Former opponent Madrigal to help with Davis’ South Texas troubles

If the Fort Worth Democrat can’t win 60 percent or more of Hispanic voters, she can’t win.

Fort Worth state Sen. Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign has all kinds of problems, but she’s working on one.

Davis met privately last week with Democratic primary runner-up Ray Madrigal, and the Corpus Christi Democrat has agreed to help Davis’ struggling campaign in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, he said Tuesday.

Madrigal, a small-town municipal judge and an opponent of abortion, defeated Davis in two of Texas’ largest Democratic counties, a dire development for a campaign that needs 60 percent or more of the Valley vote.

In a poll released Tuesday, Davis had support from only 43 percent of Hispanic voters statewide, with 24 percent still undecided between her and Republican Greg Abbott.

Madrigal, who was quoted during the campaign as saying Texans “don’t see Wendy Davis as a leader, especially Catholics,” said Hispanics should support her and better education funding.

Hispanics shouldn’t vote for Abbott over abortion, he said: “A lot of clinics are shutting down. I think that’s done. The Legislature took care of that.”

For Davis, the primary results were a comedown for a much-ballyhooed Democratic organizing effort focused mostly on urban Texas.

She lost Hidalgo County, Democrats’ sixth largest, to Madrigal and drew 17,000 votes, the fewest for any Democratic nominee in 24 years.

By comparison, 2002 nominee Tony Sanchez won the primary with 37,000 votes.

On the other hand, the last nominee to lose Hidalgo County was Ann Richards, who trailed Jim Mattox in 1990.

She went on to be governor.

At the University of Texas-Pan American, 40-year political science professor Jerry Polinard called Davis’ numbers a “real warning sign.”

“This was a serious reminder that she needs to focus her campaign on the ground game, the door-to-door stuff,” he said.

Davis’ campaign launched a Spanish website March 17, almost two months after Abbott.

“Candidates tend to take South Texas voters for granted,” Polinard said, “but I hear there is more work going on now.”

Forty years after his first campaign — then as a La Raza Unida Party candidate for a county peace justice court — Madrigal said he wants Davis to win because Hispanics always get left out.

“People don’t like the redistricting and how we never seem to gain,” he said.

Abbott “is always suing the federal government,” Madrigal said.

“For us, the only rights or benefits we’ve ever had came through the federal government. We don’t want to go backward.”

Madrigal said it won’t help Abbott that his wife, Cecilia, is the granddaughter of immigrants from Monterrey, Nuevo León. Abbott has said she would be the state’s first Latina first lady, meaning since Texas won independence from Mexico.

“I’ve never seen her at a Hispanic event,” Madrigal said.

“You would think if it meant something for her to be the first Hispanic first lady, we would have seen her in the community before now.”

South Texans will definitely see more of Davis.

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