|McALLEN, October 13 - South Texas voters will not see much of Republican statewide candidates during the primary election season because there are not that many votes up for grabs.
This is the view of Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jerry Patterson, who paid a visit to McAllen last Monday. As a result of not visiting South Texas for town hall meetings or debates during the primary, GOP statewide candidates are missing out on an opportunity to engage with border region voters and learn what issues are most important to Hispanics. It is not something Patterson is happy about.
In an interview with reporters at The Patio on Guerra restaurant in McAllen, Patterson, the current land commissioner, was asked how his campaign was going. “I am getting strong grassroots supports from constituents such as gun owners, concealed hand gun license holders, veterans, coastal residents. We have a pretty strong grassroots campaign.”
It was pointed out that these segments of the population are very prevalent in South Texas. Patterson responded: “It should be good territory for me but the problem is this is a primary election and in the Rio Grande Valley, in South Texas, in the Trans-Pecos, if you are going to vote for your judges, district judges (you vote in the Democratic primary). There is not much of a Republican primary vote down here. There are a lot of Republican voters down here but there is not much of a Republican primary vote down here.
“That is why we do not see… unfortunately as long as any particular part of Texas votes in the primary consistently for one party you won’t see them (candidates from the other party in the primary). You will see them in the general election, though. I will be back in the general election. There are a lot of votes down here, a lot of Republicans. There is not a majority but if you ignore the Rio Grande Valley you do so at your own peril.”
Patterson’s admission that Republican statewide candidates will not visit the South Texas border region much during the primary season will disappoint many of their supporters. The Republican Party nationally is making a big effort to reach out to Hispanic communities. Yes, a number of GOP statewide candidates will come to places like McAllen and Mission and Harlingen for private fundraisers. For example, Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is running for governor, will have a fundraiser in Mission in a couple of weeks. But a fundraiser is not the same as a debate or a town hall meeting.
Many Republicans in South Texas believe that if their statewide candidates did start to visit heavily Hispanic areas more often and interacted more with the community, the Republican Party would not need to rely on hiring people to do “Hispanic outreach.” The Republican National Committee announced such a project last week.
Patterson said he would do his bit to engage with heavily Hispanic parts of Texas by speaking candidly and in depth on immigration issues. When it was pointed out that this was a federal issue, not a state issue, Patterson said he realized this but wanted to prove a point to Republicans.
“I am talking about immigration because I want to prove that Republicans can talk about immigration in an honest and forthright manner and still get elected,” Patterson said. Asked if this was happening at the moment, Patterson said: “No, it is not. But, if I win this race as the guy who spoke straight talk on immigration, people will go ‘wow.’ All those who look to run for Congress and say, ‘I know what I want to say but I cannot say it,’ they will have the ability to say it. You just have to stop the stupid rhetoric and the bumper stickers.”
Patterson said others who are running for lieutenant governor in the Republican Party are “copping out” of the immigration debate by “hiding behind clichés such as secure our borders, no amnesty, build a fence.” Patterson said he is against amnesty and he believes in securing the borders.
“Where it makes sense and where it does not interfere with the property rights of the border property owner, yes, fences make sense. But, you have got to do more than that. Don’t hide behind the clichés. Don’t hide behind the bumper stickers. Don’t hide behind the rhetoric. You’ve got to be specific. I am the only candidate who is specific on this and most of the other issues. The others are all kind of waiting and not saying anything. If you do not say anything you cannot say anything wrong. I am the only guy saying anything.”
Patterson said an important part of his immigration plan is implementation of a guest worker program.
“We need that because right now we have got de facto amnesty. We got 12 million folks here - whatever the number is - they are here illegally and we just go, ‘ah, don’t want to talk about it.’ There are those who say we need to deport 12 million people. Well, we can’t do that, it’s just impossible. Well, what do we do? Do we just ignore them? How do we fix that?” Patterson asked.
“My proposal is we determine who is here and productive and we allow them a legal method to do that, i.e., guest worker and then the ones who are not productive and are the coyotes, the narco-traffickers, the guys that drive drunk Friday night and kill three or four people going the wrong way down the freeway, we have to separate that population from those who are helping Texas and America. Those who are not helping Texas and America need to be gone.”
Patterson was asked about two specific parts of his immigration plan - bilingual ballots and birthright citizenship.
On the latter, Patterson said he does not support unconditional birthright citizenship. He said conditions need to be set. “What are the conditions? Does one parent have to be a citizen (in order for their U.S. born child to be granted citizenship)? Do both parents have to be citizens? Does one parent have to be a legal resident? Do both?
“We are the one few developed nations that has unconditional birthright if you are born here. If you do not have a connection you have to have to have some method by which you can say, I want to be an American citizen and I am willing to do something for it. It maybe that I am willing to serve in the Armed Forces or it may be that I am willing to learn about this country and take an exam. Just to say, you were born here, you are a citizen, I do not support that.”
As for bilingual election ballots, Patterson is opposed. “If you are a citizen of the United States you should be conversant in the language. I will give you a classic example of that. If you look at Estevan (Stephen) F. Austin, he was an empresario. He had a license from the Mexican government to get folks to settle in Texas, which was then Coahuila-Texas. In order to be successful in business, Stephen F. Austin had to be able to read, write and speak the language of commerce, which was Spanish. If you look at his correspondence it was written in Spanish. He took the view, if I am going to be successful in this gig I have got to learn the language. If you are going to vote you ought to be voting with a ballot in English. What is my name on the ballot when the ballot is in Spanish? Jerry Patterson. How hard can this be?”