The Democratic party has had a stronghold on state and local politics in El Paso, TX for more than a decade. But the El Paso County Republicans are working to reach the region's voters.
There were more than 100 people at the El Paso County Republican debate watch party. The atmosphere was fun and festive, it felt less like a political gathering and more like a county fair.
There were food stalls vending 'Donald Dogs' and 'Pence Popcorn', a guy welcoming people in an Uncle Sam outfit, they even put up comedic displays making light of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's recent political gaffes.
“We are having a debate watch party and we are going to have fun when we do it." El Paso County Republican Chair Adolpho Telles said “We have Hillary in jail. We have her in there guarded with an individual around bars and she has got an orange suit on but again it is all in fun." "The cell phone use and her email issue, anyone else in her position would have gone to jail.”
Telles said their debate watch parties are well attended, but said broader reach in El Paso has been trickier. According to the U.S. Census bureau El Paso County is more than 80% Hispanic.
“Dealing with Latinos and Hispanics is an issue. What we have been focusing on is a couple of things" Telles said. "People need to be aware of what the values of the two parties are.”
He says Republicans maintenance of Christian values and advocacy for small business should be resonating with Hispanic voters. But Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's rhetoric over ending US/Mexico trade deals and building a wall along the border may have overshadowed that appeal.
“If he cuts off trade deals, it is not going to just disadvantage this region it is going to disadvantage the United States” Telles said. “I am not sure the wall is the right answer, but I think border security is a serious concern. “
Still El Paso County Republican voter turnout actually went up to more than 7% in during the primary. It was only 2.7 percent in 2012. Turnout in El Paso County also rose for Democrats.
Telles says the debate revealed a more articulate and presidential Trump more palatable to voters in El Paso.
“Trump was not my initial candidate' Telles said "There were things he did during the primary that I
thought were inappropriate. But if you listen to what he is saying now it is a different position.”
Telles says Trump performed well beyond his expectations. According to a CNN poll; 62% of voters who watched the debate deemed Hilary Clinton the winner.