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Hispanic Republicans settle into the Texas House

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March 31, 2011

Representative Aaron Pena (R), one of the six Hispanic Republicans in the Texas House

By Jimmy Ardis

AUSTIN, Texas: After the November 2nd general elections Hispanics went from having zero Republican representation in the Texas House of Representatives to having six members. The six Hispanic Republicans include five newly-elected members and one, Representative Aaron Pena, who switched parties after the election.

This shift has brought about a change in the dynamics of the Texas Legislature that has critics paying close attention. "In the 2010 Texas gubernatorial race, 61 percent of Latino voters chose Bill White, the Democrat, over Republican Governor Rick Perry, according to the Pew Hispanic Center."[1] For Republican lawmakers representing predominately Hispanic districts, this leaves room for conflict.

The Republicans have formed an 11-member caucus consisting of Hispanics and House members who represent districts with a high percentage of Hispanics. The first order of business for this group has been to take a collective position on the controversial issue of Voter ID. The bill, meant to deter fraud, would require voters to show photo identification to vote. While some say the law, if passed, would be detrimental to low income citizens, the Hispanic Republicans unanimously support it. Pena, Chairman of the Hispanic Republican Conference said, "This is not a racial or ethnic issue. It is an issue of voter confidence in the system."[1]

Although they seem to stand in line with their fellow Republicans so far, future legislation affecting the Hispanic population will continue to test the Hispanic Republicans.

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