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Republican Shows Up, Wins Hispanic Votes

4:52 PM, Jul 30, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Republican Andy Vidak, the newly elected California state senator from Fresno, won a heavily Democratic and Hispanic district in last week's special election. The Washington Times reports that Vidak succeeded because he and other local Republicans showed up:

Fresno cherry farmer and cattle rancher Andy Vidak, who is fluent in Spanish, said he captured the state Senate seat in last week's closely watched runoff vote by connecting with Hispanic voters with a "common-sense" approach that focused on job creation, affordable energy and opposition to big government. He even cooked menudo, a cow-stomach soup and a Mexican favorite, at a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event at the Bakersfield fairgrounds where 10,000 Hispanics turned out.

He got a big assist from other GOP officeholders and hundreds of Spanish-speaking Republican volunteers going door to door, making pitches in Spanish where necessary in the 60 percent Hispanic district. Mr. Vidak also managed to create a little political daylight from hard-liners in his party on the issue of eventually granting citizenship to illegal immigrants.

"We talked to them in their homes, where they are most comfortable on the issues that matter most to them: improving the economy, lower taxes, less government interference with small business," Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen said.

Republicans looking to win more Hispanics might do well to follow the path Vidak and other Republicans have taken in Hispanic-heavy districts and states:

“You’ve got to go to the events,” says Blake Farenthold, the sophomore Republican congressman from Corpus Christi. “You’ve got to do the same sort of outreach to Hispanics that you do to any other group. They want to see their congressman.”

Farenthold was first elected to the House in 2010, defeating a 14-term Democratic incumbent in a district that was 70 percent Hispanic and bordered Mexico. The race was close—within about 800 votes—but Farenthold appealed to white and Hispanic Democrats alike by arguing that their party had moved too far to the left on issues like abortion and health care. After redistricting, he’s in a much safer Republican district, but 49 percent of his constituents are Hispanic. Farenthold, echoing a common Republican talking point, says Hispanics in his district are naturally conservative, particularly on social and cultural issues. The GOP could do better, he says, if they made that argument to Hispanics directly.

“You just show up and be part of their community,” he tells me, but immediately shakes the idea away. “It’s not even ‘their’ community, it’s the community.”

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