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For more than one hundred years, the Democratic party had a virtual lock on politics in Texas. That wall came down in a 1961 special election won by a 35-year old college professor named John G. Tower. A solid Goldwater conservative, Tower was the first GOP United States Senator from a Southern state in the 20th century and he continued to serve for 23 years. The party has held Tower’s seat continuously since his retirement in 1984.

Tower’s success was due partly to his aggressive outreach to a growing segment of the Texas electorate, the many voters of Hispanic background. By appointing key staff members who worked with the community between elections, holding “pachangas” or campaign parties in Hispanic neighborhoods, and being responsive to the needs and ambitions of all Texans, Tower was able to obtain substantial support from Hispanic voters in his four elections.