As long as anyone can remember, the South Texas counties that make up the Rio Grande Valley have been two things: Hispanic and blue-as-the-big-sky Democrat. In Hidalgo County, along the Rio Grande, the locals say a Republican hasn’t won a countywide office in recent memory. Even though Republican governors have led Texas for two decades, their best showing among Hispanic voters was in 1998 with George W. Bush, who didn’t even win half.
But this year, Republican nominee Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general, has set out to break Bush’s record by making the rapidly growing Hispanic vote — and the Rio Grande Valley — central to his campaign. The day after Abbott announced his candidacy in San Antonio, he was in McAllen, on the Mexican border. He has visited the area 14 times during the campaign, most recently for his first debate with the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Wendy Davis.
He has also aired six Spanish-language TV ads, including one featuring his Latina mother-in-law that premiered during the Mexico-Brazil World Cup match in June. (“His values are our values. Faith, family and honesty,” his sister-in-law Rosie Phalen says in the ad.)
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