Is a Candidate’s Name a Factor?

Invariable an election always brings out the Hispanic vs. Anglo debate. Although Rick Perry won the election in the State of Texas, in El Paso Tony Sanchez prevailed. Was the last name a factor or was the outcome a result of party affiliation? An analysis of the last four elections attempts to answer this question. The 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2002 elections were analyzed to determine if a pattern existed. The methodology used was to select the highest-ranking race that featured an Anglo last name against an Hispanic last name. In the case of the 2001 city elections, the mayoral candidates were equally balanced between the two groups. To properly analyze the name factor, the party affiliation aspect was also incorporated. In a city that traditionally votes a Democratic ticket, it was imperative that the party aspect be incorporated into the analysis in order to determine if this is a significant factor. Unfortunately, the 2001 city elections also threw another wrench into the analysis, the fact that city elections are supposed to be non-partisan while at the same time, the 1998 elections also created another dilemma, in the United States Representative 16th district race, the Democrat Silvestre Reyes was challenged by Stu Nance, a Libertarian. There was no Republican candidate. Because of the traditionally low voter attention that the Libertarian party generates, this race was discarded because it would distort the overall analysis. The 23rd District Race between Henry Bonilla (R) and Charlie Jones (D) was selected instead, it also happened to be the only race that highlighted an Hispanic Republican versus an Anglo Democrat.

The action of voting is different for every individual. A voter will vote based on pre-conceived expectations or notions of the electoral process. In a community with low voter participation, the act of voting falls into three major categories. The first is the educated voter, a voter who takes the time to analyze the issues, question the candidates and place an informed vote. This individual will not be swayed by political rhetoric spewing from the local media. Unfortunately, this voter’s presence in the local elections is minimal at best because of the community’s lack of educational background. The second type of individual that is prevalent in our community is the first-time voter who celebrates his recent US naturalization by exercising their newfound right. This individual would fall into two smaller categories; one is the informed voter that takes the time to analyze the issues before making a selection as in the voter above or the most likely scenario, a voter who is for the party that is perceived to have made immigration into the country easier, the Democratic Party. This voter would then fall into the majority of the El Paso voting trend, the vote for the perceived party that supports the local community the best – the Democratic Party, making this voter a member of the majority, the third category of voter. Because most individuals would lie in order to look good to others, asking the voter for the reasoning behind their vote would not provide an adequate analysis of the last name factor. This leaves us with analyzing the past elections.

Looking at the 2001 city elections, one might determine that the last name was a factor in the race. With all candidates equally split by name, the results would tend to indicate that the name was a factor. By accepting this, we assume that no other factors influenced the electorate’s actions. For example, one candidate might have had undue support from the only local print media in town. By supporting one candidate, the print media would have influenced the outcome of the race, canceling the name factor completely. Other factors such as “face” time and perceived wrongs would tend to skew the results.

At first look, it seems that the last name determines an election outcome in El Paso. Ask almost anyone in our area and the first thing they tell you is that they either vote based on last name or they know someone who votes that way. The perception of last name is so pervasive in our community that it has become a perceived fact. Self-styled political analysts and the media are responsible for this perception. Talk show hosts and TV reporters always allude to the ethnic factor in all political races. The perception can probably be traced to the Hispanic activists in the Democratic Party bemoaning the sad political state in our community. In their attempt to galvanize a greater electoral response, the Hispanic activists have created a perception of Anglo versus Hispanic mentality in the community. Any political rally will usually allude to the name issue as a determining factor when selecting candidates. Public humiliation of those who would dare vote against the color of their “skin color” is commonplace in the area. The disfranchised electorate will always look to blame someone for the perceived wrongs imposed on them, in the case of the city or county, the race card is always thrown as the cause of the problem.

Although contrary to accepted dogma, the past elections draw out another factor that seems to determine election results, the party affiliation. By looking at the “straight ticket” vote, the Democratic Party label seems to ensure a wining outcome to the person wearing the label. The only exception to this was the 1998 Bonilla versus Jones race. In that race, Bonilla ran as a Republican and eventually won the race. Interestingly, the outcome seems to indicate a name factor until the Hispanic versus Anglo factor is analyzed in that race. Of the four elections analyzed, this race had the closest outcome to the name factor, essentially canceling this factor. Because the Republican candidate ultimately won the race, it would seem that party affiliation was also not a factor. It can be argued that this race was an enigma in the outcome and therefore should not be included. Ultimately, the inclusion of this race tends to show that election outcomes cannot be traced to name alone. By looking at the last decade of mayors for this city, it can also be argued that the community would tend to ignore the name factor while casting their votes, as more Anglo names have led the city then Hispanic surnames.

Ultimately the factor that most likely affects an election outcome is party affiliation. With an electorate turnout of less then 30% and a 35%+ tendency to vote “Straight Democrat”, the prevailing factor is a propensity to vote for the Democrat label on the candidate’s name. Other factors continue to come into play, but this community has proven itself the ability to overcome name as a basis to vote, unfortunately, the community still needs to work on the electorate participation and the tendency to assume that the party offers all the answers.