A Congressional debate at San Antonio’s Palo Alto College made history Tuesday, as the candidates in the tight race spoke solely in Spanish. Rep. Francisco Canseco, the Republican incumbent, and his challenger, Democrat Pete Gallego, a state representative, debated in the hour long event, which was sponsored by AARP Texas and Univision.
Those in the audience of more than 200 people who did not understand Spanish used headsets to listen to English translations of the candidates’ comments, which covered topics including border security, social security and Medicare.
Hispanics make up the fastest growing population in Texas. The district is 66 percent Latino, with 53 percent of the residents speaking a language other than English at home, according to the most recent census, said a story in the Los Angeles Times.
The idea of using Spanish in political campaigning has become common in everything from local races around the country to the presidential campaigns. Both President Barack Obama and his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, have made extensive use of Spanish in their campaigns — airing Spanish-language ads on television, radio and online, as well as participating in forums on Univision, where the moderators focused many of the questions on topics of interest in the Latino community.
Moreover, the Democratic National Convention livestreamed its gathering in both English and Spanish — a first for a presidential convention. The practice speaks to the necessity many candidates feel to appeal to Latinos in whatever language best gets their message across. Hispanics have grown to be 52 million in the United States; 21 million are said to be eligible to vote. Of those, political experts say some 12 million may cast their ballots in November.