An opinion writer argues gender bias in the Texas Democratic Party leaves out qualified Latina candidates

“They have been out of power for at least a generation, and in that time they should have been developing a bench, both male and female, of potential candidates. And that bench just does not exist. And that is unfortunate.”

By Kristen CabreraOctober 8, 2021 8:39 am, ,

There’s been plenty of chatter about Beto O’Rourke and even Matthew McConaughey, when it comes to possible candidates in the 2022 Texas gubernatorial race. But so far, no high-profile Democrat has announced plans to run against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

In a recent opinion article for the Guardian, Carlos Sanchez says the supposed lack of candidates is actually a sign of failure by the Texas Democratic Party to lift up its pool of talented and qualified female and Latina candidates whom he says are fit for the job, including El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.

Sanchez is director of public affairs for Hidalgo County, Texas. Listen to the interview with him above or read the transcript below to learn more about why he argues the Texas Democratic Party is “pigeonholing” Latina candidates who have much broader appeal than party leaders might assume.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

Texas Standard: You posed a specific question in your article for the Guardian about whether Texas is ready for a Latina gubernatorial candidate. That would be a departure from what has historically been a male-dominated position in Texas, would it not?

Carlos Sanchez: I would push back on Texas’ history, particularly Texas’ Hispanic history. Because of laws that have emanated from Europe, and specifically, it’s a term called primogeniture – in England, you always gave land entitled to your first born son; in Spain, you gave land entitled to your first born child. And that distinction really had an impact on the new world and colonization. So, the eastern part of the United States has been male dominated and remains so. But in the Southwest, where Spain colonized the country, you have an acceptance, generally, of women in power because the laws provided for that at the time. And so my argument, to this day, is as we look to candidates to oppose Gov. Abbott, there’s this automatic looking at the male candidates, and I’m saying, “Why don’t we look at some female candidates?

Well, why don’t we? Let’s do that right now: tell us; give us some names. 

One name that I threw out there was Congresswoman Veronica Escobar from El Paso, who ironically succeeded Beto O’Rourke when he gave up his seat in Congress to run for the U.S. Senate. And I acknowledge in my column that the type of Latina that I am asking for or calling out  consider – we had a Latina last time around when Gov. Abbott was running for reelection; that was Lupe Valdez, the former sheriff from Dallas County. The problem with Sheriff Valdez is her experience was almost completely law enforcement. She did not have the type of public policy chops that someone like Congresswoman Escobar would have. And this becomes particularly critical as Abbott seems to be laying out a national issue in his statewide campaign, specifically immigration and border security. And I think someone who has the knowledge and the expertise of a Congresswoman Escobar could really have an interesting discussion that goes beyond the fear tactics that are so often associated with border security discussions.

Should the Democratic Party be doing more outreach to Latina candidates? It sounds like you’re suggesting that this is an area of opportunity that has not been explored, in part, because of a certain bias that’s baked into Texas politics. 

That would be my assertion, and I think when you say, “Have they explored it?” I imagine they have. The key here, though, is have they developed it? And that, I think, is the problem with the Texas Democratic Party as it exists today. They have been out of power for at least a generation, and in that time they should have been developing a bench, both male and female of potential candidates. And that bench just does not exist. And that is unfortunate.

If you look at the democratic side, you often hear people say, well, the number of high-profile candidates rather sparse. You’re saying that the Democratic Party itself needs to do something about building up its “bench”?

Absolutely. It’s only rather sparse because up-and-coming public policymakers have not been promoted, have not been given front and center stage. Congresswoman Escobar was given the opportunity several years ago to do the counter response to President Trump’s State of the Union speech. However, the opportunity was to do it in Spanish, and again, that’s kind of the pigeonholing that I think limits the potential of a Latino or a Latino candidate. It’s always kind of pigeonholing them to, let’s deal with the Hispanic electorate by speaking Spanish, and I think that’s a false assumption.

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