Tag Archives: Texas Democrats

Will She Run? Wendy Davis Answers

Texans, if you’re not watching the new MSNBC program All In With Chris, then you missed some serious breaking news for the state of Texas last night. As I read this morning’s blogosphere, there’s a lot of prognostication about State Senator Davis’ next role in Texas politics. Will she run for Governor, or won’t she??

In an exclusive interview with Chris Hayes last night, she answered the question point blank….

Hayes: There is a Gubernatorial election in 2014. Your state has not elected a statewide Democrat for quite some time. Are you going to run for Governor?

Davis: You know, I would be lying if told you that I hadn’t had aspirations to run for a statewide office. I love this state and it’s been an incredible opportunity to represent it in the Texas Senate. I think the real story will be… will the sentiment of people hold? Will they demonstrate their desire for new leadership in this state? If yesterday was any indication, I think chances are good that is going to be the case.

Here’s the clip.

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An interesting answer which sounds quite familiar. In fact, I discussed this same issue with HCDP Chairman Lane Lewis a few months back. After suffering two decades of defeat for statewide office, Texas Democrats have been caught in a particular political conundrum. Here was Lane’s answer when I asked him about the possibility for statewide candidates…

If we expect a Senator, Mayor or State Rep to put their name out to run for state-wide office, the first thing they will look at is their ability to raise money. The second thing they’re going to look at is capacity for voter turnout. Now the problem is this… the only way they can raise money is if the answer to the second question is already there. The big money isn’t going to contribute without knowing voter turnout and engagement (the answer to the FIRST question) is already in place. So when people ask me “who have we got running for Governor?” my question to them is “How many calls have you made today? How many doors have you knocked on today?” Because if the answer to my question is ZERO, then the answer to their question will most certainly be ZERO. The money will come… the candidates will come when we’re doing our job. That job is to raise a dollar, knock a door and make a call.

Luckily, we know that things are beginning to change in the state. Shifting state demographics are in our favor, even if aggressive gerrymandering and voter suppression are not. Battleground Texas has already made a visible difference with rapid fundraising, organization and training to increase voter turnout. County Democrats across the state are working hard to line up new initiatives and stay active before the 2014 campaign season even begins. And let’s just admit the facts… with Governor Perry waiting less than twenty-four hours to call another Special Session (this time with his Anti-Choice agenda a top priority), the GOP is giving Democrats plenty of fuel for the fire.

Senator Davis has issued Texans a clarion call. Are we ready for new leadership in the state? If so, it’s time to get our act together and work for it. We have to keep raising money, keep knocking doors, and keep speaking out against Rick Perry’s abuses. Don’t let any bad deed be forgotten, or get swept under the rug. There’s 495 days left until the 2014 election. I say we go ALL IN.

30th Time’s A Charm: Can Texas Democrats Win in 2014?

Before any true goal can be realized, it must first be visualized, idealized, and then actualized.

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of buzz about the Texas Democratic Party… lots of talk about how it’s only a matter of time before Texas becomes a swing state. I’ve certainly done my fair share of prognostication too (See here from before the 2012 election and here for afterwards). But now in February 2013, has anything concrete taken shape to make this goal a reality?

The current answer is… kind of. The biggest news out of Texas’ blue prospects is the creation of Battleground Texas, a left-leaning money group that is meant to help revive Lone Star Democrats. The group has pledged to put big money into the efforts, and have an aggressive media presence. If that is their true intent, it seems that they are off to a slow start. There is a website up, but it hasn’t had any activity since January 29th, and the site still lists as “Under Construction. Same for the Facebook page… no updates or activity. Of course, 2013 is not an “election year” in Texas, at least not for state-wide offices, but make no mistake that this is a critical time for political mobilization in the state. The Legislature is convened from now until June, and local elections will be held all over the state this November in cities like Houston. Without a Presidential or Gubernatorial race, it may seem like an off-year. But in my opinion, it’s anything but.

Of course it’s not like a true Texan to wait around for someone else to get a job done. Texas Democrats are working hard to get ready for 2014 right now. Groups like the Harris County Democratic Party (Houston) and the Dallas Democrats have launched new websites geared for social media organizing, and are off to an impressive start in fundraising. In Harris County, the party is focused on holding year-round events and community efforts, to not only raise money for Democrats to stay competitive, but to keep voters actively engaged year-round.

These are the types of cues that the national Democratic party should take in Texas. In order for this state to turn blue, it’s going to take serious grassroots organizing, just like we typically see in Ohio, Florida and the other “traditional” battleground states.

The other essential factor for blue state success in Texas? Strong candidates. Thankfully, the Texas Democratic bench is looking stronger than ever before. 2014 will bring state-wide races for 3 critical offices… Governor, Senate and Lieutenant Governor. Eventhough some candidates like Julian Castro have decided to sit out 2014, there are still some very capable Texans that can compete in a state-wide race.

One person to definitely watch is State Senator Wendy Davis from Ft. Worth. In a swing district that voted for McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012, Senator Davis defeated a Republican Incumbent for her first trip to the Senate, and won again in 2012. A tireless advocate for Texas public education, she has garnered much attention by mounting aggressive opposition to Republican lawmakers. If Ms. Davis were to run for either Governor or Senator, she has a serious shot, and is my TOP contender for 2014. Make sure to put her on your radar!!

Houston Mayor Annise Parker has garnered an impressive record in her nearly two terms leading the nation’s 4th largest city. She has taken bold steps to help Houston weather the economic downtown, and now public sector employment is being restored. Houston has also been a national leader in job growth during the Recovery, and all signs point continued prosperity for the city in 2013 and 2014. Not only jobs, but Mayor Parker has also worked hard to improve the quality of life for Houstonians through massive investments in the city’s infrastructure, parks and bike trails. She’s managed to do it all through meticulous work on the city’s budget, and partnering with local business leaders. Though Mayor Parker has already committed to run for a third term, Texas Democrats can expect big things from her in the near future.

Equally impressive at the local level is San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. He garnered national attention last year after delivering the keynote address for the Democratic National Convention. Thanks to that, more Americans now know his name. But what they may not know is how hard he’s been working on behalf of the great city of San Antonio, whose voters not only re-elected Castro by a whopping 82 percent in 2011, but approved a landmark new early childhood initiative in 2012. Pre-K for SA establishes city-wide Pre-Kindergarten for all San Antonio kids, and is funded by city taxpayers. It’s sure to be a national model not unlike what President Obama mentioned in the 2013 State of the Union speech. Thanks to Mayor Castro’s leadership, San Antonio is getting is done. Texas Democrats… don’t be surprised if President Obama shows up in Texas soon. And if he does, expect Mayor Castro to be in the vicinity. For the moment, Castro has again committed to run for a 3rd (and final) term as Mayor of San Antonio. With such hearty commitments to Texas’ children, Wendy Davis and Julian Castro would make quite a team on a state-wide ballot.

Mayor Castro’s twin brother is U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro. Though he’s a freshman in Congress, Joaquin is no slouch to Austin politics having just finished a 10-year run in the Texas legislature. He’s built his political career on a solid record of bi-partisan accomplishments, and has lately become a very popular commentator with the national news media. As Immigration reform continues to be a hotly- contested issue on Capitol Hill, we should all expect Congressman Castro to be a key figure. That alone would be enough to put him on the radar for a state-wide office.

I’ll be looking at more candidates later.

Operation Think Swing Texas: More Red in 2012?

So the 2012 contest has come and gone. On this blog I predicted that Texas is a state that is in the midst of rapid changes, many of which were to be revealed in the 2012 elections. I, like many others, expected the state of Texas to become “more blue” in 2012.

So today, it’s time to admit that I was wrong. Texas did not become more blue in 2012… it became more red. Even as states across the country saw noticeable gains for Democrats, the Lone Star State lived up to its name and swung further to the Right. As an admittedly Left-leaning blog, it’s important to present facts as they bear out, and those are the facts of 2012. On the surface, it appears that Texas’ likelihood of becoming a Swing State, well, became less likely.

Texas Tribune columnist Ryan Murphy put together this interesting compilation map comparing the 2008 and 2012 elections. The map doesn’t show which side ultimately won a particular county, but only compares if the county voted more Democratic or more Republican than it did in 2008. If you’ll recall from my earlier post on the subject, the counties to watch are just a small group within the greater state area. So how did they fair?

Tier 1- the “reliably Democratic” counties: Three of them went more red in 2012- Dallas, Travis and El Paso. Three of them (all in the Rio Grande Valley) went more Blue in 2012- Webb, Hidalgo and Cameron. An important reminder here… Obama still won all of these counties, but Mitt Romney gained on John McCain’s 2008 vote total. The county where Republicans got the greatest gains? Travis county, which garnered 24,999 more GOP votes than in 2008.

Tier 2- the “Swing” counties: Six out of seven counties went more red in 2012- Harris, Bexar, Jefferson, Hays, Williamson and Fort Bend. The lone, and surprising standout was Nueces County (Corpus Christi) which, though still won by Mitt Romney, went more Democratic by 1,366 votes.

So these are our cold, hard facts. According to the voters that made their voices heard, the Texas of 2012 is more red than the Texas of 2008.

Now here’s the silver lining for Democrats and Liberals… the missing ingredient that Mr. Murphy fails to address? VOTER TURNOUT. 82,511 fewer Texans voted in 2012 than did in 2008. Now for a state the size of Texas, that’s not a huge number. But when you consider how rapidly the state is growing, it suggests that a whole lot of people sat out during the 2012 election.

Take the Liberal island of Travis county for example. The GOP got 24,999 votes in 2012 over 2008, but that was a larger share of a smaller pie (forgive me… tomorrow is Thanksgiving after all) as there were 11,124 fewer votes cast in Travis County. Yet there were 26,070 more registered voters than over 2008. Now is it fair to assume that all of those voters that sat out would have went for Obama? Of course not, but it would bear realism on the theory of an enthusiasm gap among Democrats, while many in the GOP were very anxious to vote.

Now in Harris county, we know this to be the case. Republicans were clearly more enthusisastic to vote than Democrats. Here’s how you can tell…

2008 was the first time Harris County has voted majority Democratic since 1964. Though it was by a slim margin of just 19,099 votes, the move was still a seismic shift for the county, whose population is almost equally split between the city of Houston and it’s close-in suburbs. Democrats made this happen through a huge two-fold push of registration and early voting. That’s what allowed them (well us) to best the well-funded Harris County GOP.

Unlike the immense bumbling we saw from Reince Priebus and the national GOP, Harris County Republicans watched and learned from the Democrats. In 2012, they vowed not to make the same mistake twice. Seeing great confusion from a state attempt at voter suppression, and already waning Democratic enthusiasm, the local GOP ceased the moment in 2012. They drove out their base to the polls, and made sure that they voted early. Early voting records set in 2008 were shattered in 2012, mostly thanks to a huge effort by Republicans, who cleared almost 100,000 more early votes on November 6th, and overtook the Democrat early voting machine by 11,651 votes.

So they spent huge sums of money, and organized more than ever before. And it STILL wasn’t enough to catch the Democrats in Harris County. Official totals show that President Obama bested Mitt Romney by 971 votes. Democrats may have slumped in early voting, but they turned out on Election Day.

The final kicker… overall turnout for Harris County was down from 2008… just under 1 percentage point, and 3,938 fewer Democrats voted. Meanwhile the gap between registered voters and those who showed up to the polls also increased by 34,474 which means in 2012, there were still 738,399 registered voters that didn’t vote. Some people forget that at 4.2 million people, Harris is actually larger than 3 battleground states! But the battle is definitely happening here.

To sum up… Texas Democrats may look at these numbers, see how “red” they’ve become, and get discouraged. But the battle is FAR from over in the Lone Star State. The key to swing state status is now as it has always been. Texas Democrats will win if overall voter participation increases. What we just saw in Harris County will be the new rules for the nation in 2014 and 2016. The GOP will re-group (as they should), and they will start appealing to a broader base. So for the Left, the key is to make every vote count. Keep up registration drives and continue to stress early voting. The very second we sit back and let the machine go idle, that’s when the GOP will make their move. Congrats on all the hard work Texas Democrats. Now let’s saddle up, and keep riding toward that blue sunset.

The ABCs of the GOP: E is for

Extinction

For all of the craziness that has gone on within the national GOP, things have been pretty standard here in Texas. After all this is one constant in the world of American politics… Texas is reliably REPUBLICAN. Now the largest state to carry that title, and certainly the one with the most political clout.

But one thing you learn very quickly living in the “Patron State” of the GOP… things aren’t always how they appear to be. If you listen carefully, there’s a stampede happening down here in Texas. And it threatens not only the political structure of Austin, but the Republican Party as we know it.

Texas Republicans are losing the demographic race. With each year, the state of Texas loses white citizens, and gains in minorities (mainly Hispanic), who tend to vote Democrat. If projections are correct, 2010 was the last Census that Non-Hispanic whites will even be the majority in the state. Literally any minute now, the single largest racial group will be Hispanic.

Rather than embrace this new reality and try to engage the rapid growth and Conservative possibilities within the Hispanic community, the Texas GOP has chosen to fight it tooth and nail. With the 2010 Census the state was awarded a whopping 4 new seats to Congress. It’s a massive reflection of the population swell. But despite the fact 65% of the states population growh was Hispanic, Texas Republicans cooked up a Redistricting process that somehow produced 3 new “majority white” Congressional seats. Only one seat will go to a very new (and very convoluted) majority Hispanic district. After an aggressive and painful court battle, there is a temporary ruling in place through the November elections. Unlike years past, the Hispanic community definitely took notice in the redistricting brawl, resulting in a surge of Democratic voters.

Along with the racial and ethnic pendulum shift, it’s no secret that Texas is also rapidly becoming more urban. Of the more than 4 million people that Texas gained between 2000 and 2010, more than 1/3rd of them were in just six of the state’s 254 counties… Harris (Houston), Dallas, Tarrant (Ft. Worth), Bexar (San Antonio), Travis (Austin) and El Paso. The same 6 counties, along with their immediate suburbs, also grew rapidly more diverse.

In the 2008 election, five of these six counties voted for Obama. This is typical for most urban areas across the country, but it’s less typical for Texas. With the state’s population clearly shifting to urban areas, it does not bode well for GOP prospects. If the trends hold, the GOP may have already lost Texas’ major cities… for good. 2008 was also the first time in Texas history that more than 3 million votes were cast for a Democratic candidate. That’s an increase of almost 700,000 Democrats from the 2004 election, and the most significant increase among the Democratic electorate in Texas. It’s just an example of the massive potential there is to be harnassed in Texas.

So is anyone surprised by the growing efforts to purge Texas voters? These actions have been unprecedented in states like Florida and Pennsylvania this year, but Texas takes the cake. The Houston Chronicle reports that 1.5 million residents are in danger of losing their voting rights unless they provide additional documentation to the state to prove that they are legal Texans. Interesting that the state of Texas, already having cut 5 billion dollars from a very needy public education system, somehow finds the funding to ensure that its voters are who they say they are by shifting the burden of proof to them. Oh, and costing the taxpayers more money in postage, records checks and verification time.

Even beyond the natural demographic shifts, let’s not forget that Republicans continue to alienate potential voters thanks to social issues… especially on immigration reform, and GLBT equality. Rather than try to be leaders and recognize the shifts within our country, the GOP has decided to “double down” on backward policies like DOMA, self-deportation and being firmly against the DREAM Act. With anemic growth prospects among it’s own ranks, Republicans have now been forced to court and legitamize the Religious Right as their only hope of beating Obama and the Democrats. Think about it… if Mitt Romney were HALF the respectful politician that John McCain were, would he really need to continue to engage Donald Trump? 2010 was the year that this painful coalition between extremists and Republicans formed, and thanks to Mitt Romney, they have now walked the plank. If changes aren’t made within the party soon, the only GOP signs we’ll be seeing will be in History books.