The Republican National Committee has opened a Hispanic Community Center in the border city of Laredo as it looks to woo Latino voters in the upcoming 2022 election and beyond.
Laredo, with a population of nearly 260,000, is just across the border from the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
According to the RNC, the center forms part of a multi-million-dollar campaign to engage voters in Laredo, in which more than 95% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino in origin. The center is the first of its kind in Texas.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Texas RNC Co-Chair Tommy Hicks said that the center's goal is to "start conversations" with the community in Laredo and "try to continue to grow our party as large as we can among all Americans."
"Laredo is a very important community for us as the border community is extremely important for us at the Republican Party," he was quoted as saying in local media outlets.
The opening of the center in Laredo comes just months after Republicans celebrated a mayoral victory in another majority-Latino border city, McAllen. Former local Republican Party chairman Javier Villalobos beat a Democratic Party-backed candidate by 206 votes to win.
Several senior state Republicans - including Governor Greg Abbott- hailed the victory as a sign that many local Latino voters are shifting towards the Republican Party, continuing a shift that became apparent during the 2020 Presidential election.
An LPO source with long-standing ties to the Texas Republican Party said that the party is confident that it will be able to gain more support among Latinos in South Texas.
The source noted that in June, Associated Republicans of Texas, a GOP-affiliated political group, announced it would target six Democratic state House seats in South Texas.
The source added that South Texas - including many predominantly Latino communities - is a "great opportunity" for Republicans.
"It seems to me that the Democrats' messaging just isn't striking a chord with lots of Latinos, especially those of us in Texas," the source said. "They're playing from behind a bit."
A second LPO source with knowledge of Republican plans for 2022 - and who also asked to not be named - said that "Republicans share the same values as many people in these communities, socially and economically. That's going to be key as we head towards 2022. The Democrats have taken these communities for granted too long and have been a bit too confident."
Webb County, which includes Laredo, voted over 60% for now President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
The RNC's Hicks, however, said he is confident that Laredo con go Republican in the next election.
"I think the Republican Party stands for opportunity, right to life, freedom and that is what all Americans value," he was quoted as saying by the Laredo Morning Times. "If you look at what the Democratic Party has been doing for the past eight months, it's government control and socialism, and that is something that is so outside the mainstream for the people of Laredo and also for all Americans."
"We are already on our way as we are very confident and we are really excited about this," he added. "This is going to be one of our number one focuses here in Texas and across the country."
In April, a detailed post-mortem analysis of the 2020 election released by the Democratically-aligned Equis Labs found that a "fear of socialism" and the left was among the primary reasons that some Latino voters cast their ballot for the Republican parties, alongside the economy and "realignment along lines of gender, education and ideology."
Giancarlo Sopo, the former Director of Rapid Response for Spanish-language media of the Donald Trump campaign, said that these messages are likely to form the core of Republican outreach efforts to the Latino community in the 2022 and 2024 elections.
"I think it's very important that the [Republican] Party continue communicating this blue collar, conservative message," he told LPO. "That clearly resonated with a wide cross-section of the Latino electorate and other demographic groups as well."
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