Is Ted Cruz Latino Enough To Represent Texas Hispanics In Congress?

CORRECTS LAST NAME TO CRUZ INSTEAD OF CRUX - Senate candidate Ted Cruz, of Texas, addresses the Republican National Conventio
CORRECTS LAST NAME TO CRUZ INSTEAD OF CRUX - Senate candidate Ted Cruz, of Texas, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Ted Cruz is still taking heat from critics who say he’s not Latino enough.

The Cuban-American with a southern drawl faced criticism over his level of Latino-ness this summer, after handing Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurt an unexpected defeat during the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison will leave behind. Cruz brushed those criticisms in August, but they refuse to die. The Houston Chronicle reports that Democrats like Gilbert Hinojosa, the party’s state chairman, continue to question Cruz’s “Hispanic credentials.”

“His last name may be Cruz, but there is nothing, not an ounce, about the way he thinks and the way he has led his life that in any way is similar to Hispanics in the state of Texas and all across America … Ted Cruz is as much Hispanic … as Tom Cruise.”

Republican state Rep. Aaron Peña, once a Democrat himself, called the remarks “highly offensive” and “a base attempt to reach the ugliest part of our human nature, to despise people because of their racial and ethnic origins,” according to the Chronicle.

It’s true that Cruz’s positions are generally at odds with the majority of Latinos. In a state where Mexican-American liberals make up the Hispanic mainstream, Cruz has more in common politically with the Cuban exile generation of Miami. He enjoys the full-throated backing of the Tea Party -- not a group that attracts many Hispanics in Texas. He opposes expanding Medicaid in Texas under Obama’s health care reform and calls Social Security a “ponzi scheme.”

Cruz takes strident positions on illegal immigration in a border state where many conservatives are more moderate on the issue. The former Texas solicitor general opposes the DREAM Act, advocates building a border wall and calls President Obama’s deferred deportation policy for childhood arrivals illegal and unconstitutional. By contrast, several national polls show around 90 percent of Latino voters support the DREAM Act, and some 85 percent support a path to citizenship for the undocumented, according to a Fox News Latino poll conducted this year.

But while those views don’t jibe well with the Latinos who make up some 26 percent of the Texas’ eligible voters, according to Pew Hispanic Center, it’s equally true that Cruz’s father was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States. So on the face of it, the criticism simply isn’t factual. Cruz is undeniably Latino, as long as he chooses to identify himself as such.

If Cruz wins his seat -- as he’ll likely do by a landslide -- he’d become the third Latino in the U.S. Senate, joining fellow Cuban-Americans Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fl.). (Cruz may not be the only Latino joining the Senate, however -- in Arizona, Richard Carmona is in a dead heat with conservative Jeff Flake for an open seat.)

Is the legitimacy of Cruz’s heritage fair game in a political campaign? Does holding views out of step with the majority of Latinos make his likely election less important for Texas Hispanics? Let us know what you think in the comments.



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