Texas governor: GOP needs ‘tone of respect’ toward Hispanics

Texas governor: GOP needs ‘tone of respect’ toward Hispanics
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) says the Republican Party can win over Hispanic voters, even on immigration enforcement, if only they would approach the country’s fastest-growing minority group with a tone that differs from President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE’s.

In an interview Sunday, Abbott said his reelection campaign is focusing heavily on building inroads to the Hispanic community in Texas. Abbott, who scored 44 percent of the vote among Hispanic voters in 2014, is heading back to the Hispanic- and Democratic-heavy Rio Grande Valley in the coming days.

“One thing that we know in Texas is that tone matters,” Abbott said. “Everybody deserves to be respected, and I think that the same goals that the president is seeking to achieve can be achieved with a tone of respect and dignity. There’s a righteousness in the cause of safety and security for our country that can be achieved by using the right tone.”

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“We constantly are involved in letting the Hispanic community know that they are an essential, vital component to the future of Texas,” he said.

As governor, Abbott has taken a hard line on enforcement of immigration laws. He signed a measure that would punish cities and counties that act as sanctuary jurisdictions, which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, by withholding state grants.

But Texas depends on Mexico, and other Latin American countries, for a substantial portion of its trade.

Abbott has told members of the Trump administration that he does not favor building a physical wall along the entire border with Mexico, pointing to remote and mountainous parts of the Texas border that runs through a national park. He said Trump has come around to the same conclusion.

“As I hear the president, his articulated vision now is not to build a solid wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. As I hear the president talk about it, it’s the way a lot of Americans talk about it,” Abbott said. “That is, build a wall where a wall is appropriate, and use other security mechanisms where a wall is not appropriate. But the goal is to ensure that we do have a secure border, that we protect our sovereignty, and that we control illegal immigration.”

Weeks ahead of the state’s primary, Abbott faces a handful of Democrats vying for the right to challenge him in November. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and investor Andrew White, the son of former Gov. Mark White, lead the field, though none have the financial resources Abbott can bring to bear. At the end of the last reporting period, Abbott had more than $40 million in the bank.

Abbott said his campaign would spend much of that money building a field operation intent on reaching into minority communities, to build a long-term political infrastructure that can help his party.

“Part of our job is to help others to win, and a part of that is to build an enduring Republican Party in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “If we spent $43 million on TV advertising, that would be powerful, but it would evaporate in the second or third week of November. By building a ground game, it will be a political infrastructure that will continue on for multiple election cycles.”

The campaign plans to employ about 140 field staffers by Election Day, an Abbott spokesman said later — 50 more than they employed in 2014. A program known as Abbott University has trained 4,800 volunteers already, including 150 in the Rio Grande Valley and 30 in heavily Democratic El Paso.

Still, he acknowledged, the history of midterm elections argues the GOP will face a difficult year, especially with a president whose approval ratings are well below average.

“The party out of power always gains ground in midterm elections,” Abbott said. “There’s always going to be challenges in situations like that. Our goal is to be able to minimize that historic effect.”