Sunday, January 20, 2008


This is going to take more than one person by surprise, check this out:

Will 2018 produce the first Hispanic governor of Texas?

12:00 AM CST on Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mercedes Olivera

If Rafael Anchía had any higher political goals in Texas other than being a state representative, he just got a major boost from the February edition of Texas Monthly magazine.

Titled "El Gobernador," Paul Burka's lengthy piece starts with a hypothetical story from the magazine's 2018 edition, written right after a November election in which Republicans have been relegated to "semi-permanent minority status" in Texas and the state's first Hispanic governor has been elected.

Yup – or should I say, – you guessed it!

Mr. Anchía, D-Dallas, is the first gobernador of Texas elected, according to the story.

The writer also comes back to the present with a dose of sobering statistics – the changing demographics of the state that ultimately will transform the political landscape of Texas.

The demographic projections made by Texas' former state demographer Steve Murdock over the past several years are right on target – Latinos are swiftly becoming the state's largest ethnic group, even without immigration. By 2020, Hispanics could represent 46 percent of Texas' population.

So Mr. Anchía, a transplanted Latino from Florida – a state where Latinos are integrated and excel at all levels of society – seems like an obvious choice.

And, although the voting numbers for Hispanics leave much to be desired, time will also change these as greater numbers of U.S.-born Latinos assimilate and follow the same cultural trajectory as all immigrant groups before them.

Mr. Anchía's story is no different.

He is the son of Basque immigrants, and his family history is profiled in Mr. Burka's piece, revealing a few surprises.

Mr. Anchía had planned to follow his father's footsteps onto the jai-alai court. The sport originated in Spain's Basque region, where his father was born. His mother is the daughter of Basque exiles who immigrated to Mexico, where she was born.

And Mr. Anchía seems to have inherited much from his Basque roots, including a streak of independence and a drive for equality.

He seldom talks about his Spanish ancestry – preferring to focus on his constituents, many of whom come from Mexico or are of Mexican heritage.

Mr. Anchía admits he is flattered by the piece but sees himself only as a metaphor for the larger picture.

"I think Paul Burka is right that we will have a Latino governor by 2018 – whether it's me or someone else," he said Friday.

Mr. Anchía's interest in education, neighborhood and voting rights issues, coupled with his ability to extemporize on the house floor, has propelled him onto a platform of his own.

For his work in the Legislature, Texas Monthly named him Democratic Rookie of the Year in 2005 and one of the Ten Best legislators in 2007.

In 2006, he was elected chairman of the board of directors for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

This high-profile position at the nonpartisan organization offered Mr. Anchía an opportunity to spread his wings on the national stage, after having refrained from seeking the Dallas mayor's seat when Laura Miller decided in 2006 not to run for re-election.

Although he had numerous calls from Latino, black and Anglo community leaders urging him to run, in the end, he said his family came first.

His wife, Marissa, gave birth to their second child that summer. After talking with former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, who advised him to seriously weigh all the alternatives, Mr. Anchía opted not to run.

Last year, he worked with business leaders in Texas to defeat measures targeting illegal immigrants and small businesses.

Now, he's looking to 2012, when the data from the next U.S. census will be quantified and released, and the dust on redistricting battles will have settled.

The article lets the broader community know the coming impact that Latinos will have on the state's politics, he said.

"It also lets Latinos know that they have a significant electoral potential that remains underutilized," he said.

Basques are not considered to be Hispanic, neither ethnically nor culturally, Basques are... well, how to say it... Basques. By the way, Mr. Burka, how about saying bai which is how you say yes in Euskara, the Basque language.

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