LOSING WITH LATINOS?
Newsweek|December 31, 2021
In the race for Texas governor, Beto O'Rourke's own words are being used-sometimes deceptively-against him
ADRIAN CARRASQUILLO

In A JUST LAUNCHED RACE FOR GOVERnor viewed as uphill by Texas political strategists, former Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke's biggest obstacle in the hunt for Latino votes may not be incumbent Republican Greg Abbott, but his own previous statements.

Social media posts from Latino conservative activists and Trump supporters have been going after O'Rourke on guns, using his statement during his brief presidential run that Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

Those kinds of comments are being amplified on social media. According to social media tracking tool CrowdTangle, a video of O'Rourke being confronted over his support for gun control by a Trump-supporting Latino man in a cowboy hat named Robert Longoria yelling, “Don't come back, we don't want you here! garnered 1.2 million views. Five of the top 10 posts about O'Rourke over the last month on Facebook are about the confrontation.

Latinos rely heavily on social media for news. According to recent polls of Latino parents in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California by the progressive advocacy group Unidos US, their top sources of information are Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

The grip the social networks have on Latino voters as some of those voters have become Republicans is particularly concerning for Democrats who saw Spanish-language social media campaigns play an outsized role in Florida. It's clear that 2020 was a wake-up call and Florida was a warning, San-Antonio-based Democratic strategist Joaquín Guerra tells Newsweek.

During his brief presidential run O'Rourke said, Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

“They're going to try to get Beto with guns, some of it due to his stances, said María Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino, a nonprofit dedicated to getting Latinos to register and vote. Kumar, though, says the real danger for O'Rourke lies in his statements being misrepresented or exaggerated. “The challenges with disinformation are the moment you need to clarify nuance, that is when they get you, she says.

SPEAKING UP

Opposite: O'Rourke at a rally outside the state capitol in Austin this June on a controversial voting bill. This page, from top: Texas Republican John Cornyn at a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on social media's influence on the 2016 presidential election; an abortion rights protest in Austin in September; and Voto Latino CEO María Teresa Kumar.

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