Latino publicist with GOP broke with Texas Governor Abbott over Trump, aide Beto O’Rourke
AUSTIN — Lionel Sosa, a publicist who has helped three Republican presidents boost their appeal to Hispanics, has accused Gov. Greg Abbott of being too shy and letting immigrant critics take control of the GOP without a fight.
Sosa even appeared in a TV spot for Democrat Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s nemesis in the November 8 election for Texas governor.
“Abbott does nothing to unite us” Sosa says in Spanish, in a 30 second spot which airs for over a week in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.
“I didn’t leave my party, my party left me,” he said. “That’s why I’m voting for Beto.”
On Thursday, Abbott strategist Dave Carney said the governor has never disparaged immigrants. He denied Sosa’s claim that Abbott’s silence encouraged racial bigotry within the GOP.
“The governor didn’t hit immigrants at all,” Carney said. “Abbott has responded to the open border crisis for the past two years due to local authorities and communities along the border who are overwhelmed by illegal immigrants.
Sosa, 83, is a famous pioneer in the Latin American advertising industry, having helped Fortune 500 companies such as Coca-Cola and Anheuser Busch target Hispanic consumers.
His defection from the party he joined more than six decades ago comes as Abbott himself spent millions on ads aimed at Hispanics. The two-term Republican incumbent predicted he would win the Latino vote. Whereas in some recent pollshe and O’Rourke are neck and neck among Hispanics, and Abbott has a modest lead in a, others show O’Rourke blowing off steam.
Sosa co-founded a San Antonio-based advertising agency that had many national clients. Beginning with former U.S. Senator John Tower in 1978, he helped many Texas Republican politicians create television spots and print ads. The ads played a role in boosting the GOP’s pitifully low share of the Hispanic vote toward respectability.
The leaders he has helped have crossed the 40% mark more than once among Hispanics, Sosa said in an interview. All the chatter among political reporters about former President Donald Trump capturing 28% of the Latino vote in 2020 is missing a key point, he said.
“Hell, he backed off,” Sosa said of Trump.
Former President Ronald Reagan won 34% of the Hispanic vote in 1984; and then-Gov. George W. Bush, 44%, in his first successful run for president in 2000, Sosa said, citing exit polls.
Although retired, Sosa said he continues to produce television ads for select Republicans, such as marketing company founder and Bexar County Commissioner Trish DeBerry. She is a candidate for the position of judge of the county of Bexar.
Sosa, who has produced ads targeting Hispanics for the presidential campaigns of Reagan, former President George HW Bush and George W. Bush, has voted for Abbott in previous gubernatorial elections. But no more, he said.
As he points out in the O’Rourke ad, which also ran as a digital ad for three days last week, Sosa is unhappy with Abbott’s response to the power grid blackout in February 2021.
“He hasn’t proven that he’s completely solved it,” he said of Abbott. “If people think about it, I just want to remind them.”
Carney replied: “Did the power go out in the hottest summer on record, with 11 peaks [temperature] days? Other than keeping the lights on, how can you [Abbott] prove it?”
Economically, inflation is crippling Hispanic blue-collar workers, Sosa said. The COVID-19 pandemic is the main culprit, he said. But politicians like Abbott, not just President Joe Biden, bear some responsibility for the current economic pain for many Texans, he said.
“If he wants to blame Biden, I can blame Abbott,” he said.
At a Fox News town hall in Houston on Wednesday night, Abbott told host Laura Ingraham that Texas had created more jobs since 2018 than any other state. His handling of the economy earns high marks among Hispanics, he said.
“They believe in hard work, in entrepreneurs, and therefore they want a state that creates jobs and a strong economy,” Abbott said.
Sosa said the main reason he became alienated from Abbott, Trump and other prominent Republicans is what he called “racism,” which he said was openly displayed and tolerated in the world. GOP over the past seven years. Sosa said he was upset the governor didn’t reprimand Trump and that others he said stirred up hostility toward immigrants.
“The party changed – the minute Trump said Mexicans were murderers and rapists,” Sosa said, referring to comments Trump made when he announced his candidacy for president in 2015.
“People I used to vote for, I liked what they were saying – thousand points of light, sympathetic conservative unifier, not divisive, all those things that were welcoming,” Sosa said. “The fact that Reagan can grant amnesty to 3 million Mexican workers. Would we do that today? … Reagan was cast aside.
Sosa added: “Abbott is following Trump too closely and he is divisive, like Trump, unnecessarily. You don’t have to divide people unnecessarily. And I just don’t like the direction our top three Republican Party leaders are leading us. He was referring to Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Abbott, however, said to Ingraham he “constantly reaches out and connects with the Hispanic community,” which he says fuels his transport of migrants to northeast cities, the construction of a border wall, and the flooding of South Texas with police and National Guard troops.
“Hispanics, whether you’re on the border or in Houston, in Texas or in North Texas, they don’t want Biden’s or the Democrats’ open border policies,” Abbott said.
Sosa said he didn’t know Abbott very well and could only judge by public actions and words.
“I know he started off as being much more moderate, but then when Trump came along and misled the party, Abbott followed him,” he said. “It’s so sad.”