Gilberto Hinojosa has made history in the Lone Star State…
The 59-year-old Mexican American politician has become the first Latino elected by the Texas Democrats to the state’s chairman’s position, a move indicating the party intends to play a bigger role in the Republican-dominated state.
Hinojosa, a former judge, county party leader and member of the Democratic National Committee, was overwhelmingly chosen to lead the party for the next two years by delegates on the last day of the state convention in Houston. He’ll replace Boyd Richie, who has led the party since 2006.
The Mission-native takes over a party that hasn’t won a statewide election since 1994 and doesn’t control either chamber of the Texas Legislature. But the state’s evolving demographics favor Democrats, with non-Hispanic whites now making up less than 50 percent of the population. In the 2010 election, more than 85 percent of minorities voted Democratic.
“We as a party need to realize that there are more of us than there are of them,” said Hinojosa. “We believe that everyone in this great state deserves an equal chance … and we can only do that if we win elections.”
Fort Worth state Rep. Marc Veasey, currently in a runoff for a Democratic nomination to Congress, welcomed Hinojosa as someone who had experience working at the national level and at organizing the grassroots of the party.
“His election is historic and besides that, Gilberto is a good guy,” Veasey said. “He is a coalition builder; he gets along with a broad group of people.”
Hinojosa has promised to change the math on Texas elections. In the May 29 primary vote, twice as many Republicans cast ballots as Democrats, but, overall, less than 20 percent of registered voters showed up. Turnout among Texas Hispanics has never matched that in other states with significant Latino populations.
“There is no independent issue out there that has caused this to happen,” Hinojosa said. “They are not going to go out and vote for anybody if they are not engaged, no matter how dynamic of a leader you’ve got running … as a party we have to engage them and offer strong candidates.”
Hinojosa was the first in his family to attend college at the University of Texas-Pan American and graduated from Georgetown University Law School.