Having a Hispanic Name Can Affect Candidates In Republican Primaries

Some races show that a candidate with an Anglicized name fares better than one with a Hispanic name.

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 23, 2016 1:45 pm,

Seven statewide offices are up for grabs in Texas on March 1. One race some might see as a test for whether candidates with Hispanic surnames pay a price when they choose to run for office.

Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune, says the question crops up every few years. The contest for the Republican candidate for Texas Supreme Court Justice between Eva Guzman and Joe Pool, Jr.

“In Republican primaries , when one candidate has an Anglicized name and the other one has a Hispanic name,” he says, “it often accrues to the benefit of the person with the Anglicized name.”

Ramsey offers as an example now federal judge Xavier Rodriguez, who lost a state Supreme Court seat to Steve Wayne Smith in 2002. Over time, “low information” races in which neither candidate has significant name recognition tend to see this effect, Ramsey says.

He says this is an argument, rather than a documented effect. “It’s hard to throw out other factors,” Ramsey says. “In a low information race, when voters don’t know anything else, the only thing they know is the names.”

The difference with someone like Sen. Ted Cruz is that he’s running in what Ramsey calls a “high information” race, because it’s the race every news outlet is following it. When he first came on the national political scene in 2012, Ramsey says Cruz was at the back of the pack, running against several well-known contenders with Anglo names.

“Cruz made a story out of himself and turned a low information race into a high information race,” he says. “Everybody was talking about this race all over the country, not just in Texas.”