Tag Archives: turn texas blue

An Orange Rally with Blue Roots

Yeah ok… As a Democrat and someone who didn’t go to UT-Austin, I have to admit that I would have preferred a different set of colors for the Stand With Texas Women movement. What’s worse is having the Anti-Choice counter attack steal our blue. Not cool.

But the irony of yesterday’s Stand With Texas Women’s Rally in downtown Houston? It may have been orange from the outside, but you could feel some serious energy within to Turn Texas Blue.

The crowd started off reasonably strong… 200 or so people standing by the Discovery Green stage, mostly trying to stay out of the punishing sunlight, signing petitions and rapidly buying their burnt orange shirts. You could tell that the people showing up in Houston had just left work (like me) and were tired from the busy day they had already experienced.

But as soon as the crowd got word that the Stand With Texas Women Tour Bus was pulling up, new life seemed to take over the crowd. They suddenly found a collective Second Wind, and the strength to stand and shout at Discovery Green park. And finally, after another brief delay, the real rallying started. Texas’ newest political rockstar Wendy Davis, accompanied by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and State Senators Sylvia Garcia and Rodney Ellis of Houston, Jose Rodriguez of El Paso, and Kirk Watson of Austin. What felt like a few hundred people dispersed around Discovery Green swelled quickly to 1,000 as we condensed near the stage in a veritable sea of orange.

Cecile Richards kicked things off…

“It’s wasn’t just that Gov. Perry and some of his allies in the Legislature ended the women’s health program and cut more than 130,000 women in Texas off of preventive care, but now the Legislature is considering a bill that would force dozens more health centers in this state to close their doors making it even harder for women to get care and ending access to safe and legal abortion.”

The crowd definitely cheered at times, but also listened intently to each person at the mic. Like the above, it “felt” different… maybe because it wasn’t technically a political rally, but because this was a group of Texans that were putting up a fight. But no one was lost to the fact that this was a Democratic affair. State Senator Garcia, with Wendy Davis standing directly behind her, got the loudest cheer of the night.

“Instead of Texas women always having to fight our Governor, maybe it’s time for a Texas woman to BE our Governor.”

Yeah, that was basically all it took to make that group happy. And that’s when it hit me… Texas’ conversion to a swing state is happening right before our eyes. Even a couple years ago, Democrat and Leftist forces would have never put even a dime into something as intricate as a bus tour in Texas. When the 2011 legislature decimated our education budget (Wendy Davis’ first filibuster), most of the media wrote it off as “par for the course” in Perrystan. But now in two short years… who am I kidding… 4 short weeks… We’re standing here rallying and recruiting activists like we’re just west of Florida’s I-4 corridor. This is the stuff that I remember watching all across the country in 2010 and 2012. Every time Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi said something even halfway controversial, the other side had a bus ready to go. And for the GOP, they barely need an excuse to wait. But in Texas politics? Complete dormancy.

The Bus Tour is evidence that Texas Democrats are beginning to put the puzzle together. If the GOP continues to suppress and oppress, then it’s up to Democrats to not sit silent, but stand up and fight. Keep shining the light on GOP atrocities and tie these events into voter registration. Work hard to wake up the massive group of disengaged people out there. And if that can happen, they’re going to roll right through the orange patch, and turn Texas blue.

Rule Number 1– Never Underestimate Wendy Davis

Until one week ago, most people in the United States had never even heard of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis. I’ll even wager that most Texans didn’t know who she was. But they’re sure starting to find out now. In that 168 hours, her Twitter account skyrocketed from 1,200 follower to upwards of 127,000. She’s been interviewed by every national news network under the sun, and even gotten major write-ups in international papers like the Guardian and Le Figaro. It’s sufficient to say, that over the last week, she became a Democratic superstar and a national sensation.

I guess that’s what a well-publicized 13 hour filibuster can do for you. When you get #StandWithWendy trending on Twitter, your name becomes known. And sure, I agree with Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post… Wendy Davis shouldn’t be praised solely because of one filibuster. But it seems that the national media has done what they typically do.. focus on the event to build the person, instead of starting with the person to build the event. And as the national media’s attention shifts, they have started to sour on Davis’ prospects, partly due to a new PPP poll that predicts a slim chance of her making it to the Governor’s mansion. Luckily the GOP is going right along with them on this, and that will prove to be a big mistake. People need to know that Wendy Davis isn’t your bargain basement politician… she’s a real political fighter, with real guts.

Wendy Davis is someone that has beaten the odds her entire life. She was a poor, single mother at the age of 19, with no college education. But even then, Davis saw that her life could be more that her immediate surroundings. She put herself through community college, earned a scholarship to Texas Christian University, graduated with High honors, and went on graduate from Harvard Law School. All the while, raising a family. When she finally decided to run for State Senator of District 10, Davis once again faced a tough road. As a Democrat in a solidly Republican district, she beat the male, Republican incumbent Kim Brimer in a nail-biter race. Also worth noting, her former City Council seat is currently held by the wildly popular LGBT politician Joel Burns.

So that’s how Davis became a State Senator in 2008. Most GOP operatives blamed her victory on the “Obama wave” (eventhough John McCain clearly won her district) and saw Davis as a novelty that would be easily beaten in 2012. They of course thought wrong. Senator Davis won reelection in 2012 from a during a bitter campaign battle. Here’s an excerpt from the Texas Tribune’s 2012 election night article…

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, narrowly clung to her seat on Tuesday night, fending off Republican state Rep. Mark Shelton in the most-watched legislative race of the Texas election…

Her win kept Republicans from coming within one vote of the two-thirds majority needed to render Democrats virtually powerless in the upper chamber. And it gave hope to Texas Democratic Party officials, who see Davis as a rising star and a potential a statewide candidate.

The Tarrant County district was hardly a certain bet for either candidate. It has traditionally leaned Republican: Gov. Rick Perry won the district in the 2010 gubernatorial race; U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won the presidential vote there in 2008.

“I think it’s really a reflection of people wanting a bipartisan voice,” she said. “People rose above partisanship in the way they voted tonight. They voted for integrity, for a fighter.”…

Clearly with Davis, HD10 has started some new traditions.

But what happened with the previous races is critically important for Texas Democrats, and national Democrats to understand… thanks to the make-up of HD10, Wendy Davis is well-practiced for a statewide race. Her district is virtually a microcosm of it, and she has figured out what Democrats need to do in order to win there. That’s why you’re not going to see her spewing hardcore “left-wing” ideology. Instead Davis carefully speaks about Texas values, and limited, but effective government. She has carefully crafted a message that allows her to appeal across party lines and political philosophies. This is exactly why I wrote back in February that Davis is the top Democrat prospect for a statewide victory. She’s a pro at this stuff.

So I have to agree with Andrew Kaczynski over at BuzzFeed… winning statewide is “not likely” for a Texas Democrat…

But thankfully… Texas is a state that never cared for “likely”. Senator Davis, the ball is in your court.

For more opinions, check out Off the Kuff and Texpatriate on this.

Texoblogosphere: The Week of May 27th

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes their legislators get to go home soon as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff doesn’t profess to know whether Rick Perry will run for Governor again or not, but he does know that Greg Abbott would not be any improvement over him in the Governor’s mansion. The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes their legislators get to go home soon as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Williamson County does it again! WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts on the latest outrage from the GOP in Williamson County, Religious test for constable applicants in Williamson County .

A Dick decided to run for mayor of Houston. Like THAT’s newsworthy. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs decided to blog about it anyway.

Darth Politico is back with some Memorial Day musings about how we treat our veterans and that not all those who die because of war are killed in combat.

DosCentavos celebrates the death (for now) of the latest Republican attack on the poor– drug testing for TANF beneficiaries. He does support some sort of test for Lege members.

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And here are some more posts of interest from Texas blogs.

Hair Balls listens to Steve Hotze’s anti-Obamacare song so you don’t have to.

Brewed And Never Battered thanks everyone who helped pass the craft beer bills this session.

Open The Taps explains what all that craft beer legislation will do for you.

Juanita Jean already has a reason to look forward to 2016.

Sara Inés Calderón offers her perspective on Battleground Texas.

Austin Contrarian reassures his neighbors that Austin isn’t as big as the Census may have you believe.

Jason Stanford explains how the Legislature screwed you this time around.

Better Texas Blog laments that the Lege still doesn’t account for growth in its budget.

Burnt Orange Report (BOR) updates us on the redistricting effort in the city of Austin.

Texpatriate applauds the Lilly Ledbetter equal pay bill.

Paving the Road to Blue Texas: HCDP’s Lane Lewis

I had the opportunity to sit down with Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. We discussed some of the activities of the county party, his thoughts about the renewed interest in Texas Democrats, and the possibilities of Texas Turning Blue. And as he said, talking about turning Texas blue is great, but it won’t get accomplished without decisive, coordinated action. There has to come a point where rhetoric meets the road.

Texas Leftist: Thank you very much for your time today, and I want to say Congratulations on the success of the 2012 elections, and a very exciting start to 2013. Now that we’ve had a bit of time to sleep and reflect, how do you think 2012 went from your perspective?

Lane Lewis: I thought they went very well, and we did what we needed to do. We are in the process of changing the culture of the party. We are creating a culture of organizing for 365 days per year. That’s what our Engage 365 initiative is about. We’re not staffing down after the 2012 elections… we’re staffing up.

TL: The notion of a year-round organization goes right into my second question. Do you think Engage 365 is going well, and will you be close to achieving that goal?

LL: It’s been going very well. We’ve had 3 events so far this year… a food drive, a blood bank, and a community garden project. All three have met or exceeded our expectations.

And let me talk about why these events are important. Some would say “you planted a garden… that’s cute.” But the big picture is to draw a series of bright contrasts between us and the other side. We partnered with a local, small health clinic, selected a plot of land on their property, and created a public space that benefits the life and health of the community. Right behind this future community garden is Booker T. Washington High School. Let’s work with the school to create a gardening club, and get the students involved in community service, as well as an educational opportunity. Republicans want to take away your health care, Democrats want to help you access it. Republicans want to do away with public and recreational spaces, Democrats help to create those public spaces. Republicans want to gut funding for education, Democrats want to build bridges and expand educational opportunities. We’re addressing healthcare, elevating community awareness, and building bridges with educators and community leaders.

You may ask, how do we get people to this event? Simple… we make phone calls, and invite them to the event. “There’s no election going on right now, but we’re creating a community garden in your neighborhood. Would you like to be involved?” and they say “Sure!”. At the same time, we’re cleaning up our voter list. We go to area elected officials to sponsor the event. That way, we’re elevating their profile in an off year, and it’s easier to get them reelected next time.

At the base of the project, we’re leaving a cornerstone that says:

“Engage 365- Community Garden Project for the Indepence Heights Health Care Clinic. Sponsored by the Harris County Democratic Party, and elected officials.”

We leave it there as a permanent reminder for visitors to the clinic. These people [the Democrats] believe so much in your need for these services, that we’ll put our money and our name on it. It’s not just a “cute idea”.

The garden received press coverage from both Univision Channel 45 and the Memorial Examiner, which you can read more by following the links.

TL: Sounds like an investment all the way around, and again a great segway into the next question. Do you feel that Democrats in our county are doing a better job at being on offense? Are we better able to set the political agenda instead of always having to respond to the agenda of the GOP?

LL: Yes, most definitely. We are taking action, and not reaction. Reactions over the long term typically arise out of a lack of leadership and direction. If we don’t know where we are going, then we’re forced to simply react to wherever we are. A great example of action is the new Harris County Democratic Party website. It’s integrated socially with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites. I challenge you to find another county party website in the entire country that is as sophisticated as ours. That, ladies and gentlemen is ACTION… where the rhetoric meets the road.

In my opinion, the off years are when it’s important to begin merging the ideas of community organizing with political organizing. That’s when people can say “it’s not just about getting me to vote. It’s about people participating in my neighborhood.” At HCDP we are marrying community organizing– finding solutions to people’s real life problems, with political organizing– getting people to vote, and better understand the importance of doing so.

TL: A very “small d democratic” solution. And that brings up an important point. With all of the crazy debates in our legislature right now… fighting tooth-and-nail to expand Medicaid and meet the growing needs of Texas schoolchildren… is there anything “off” about 2013 for Texans? Do you feel that the groundwork being laid with HCDP can be translated back into political action for 2014?

LL: Well, here’s an example… in 2010, I was the Senate District chair for SD15, and at that time I designed a program called 24/15. I wanted a test some theories regarding Social Pressure voting. So I took my list, and hired a group of CWA workers, and gave them each a co-hort of people on the list. They called the voters every week to give them information about the voting leading up to election day. We informed them about early voting, then found early vote locations that were convenient to their work and their home. We made notes on every call, and when we called the voter again, based our call on the previous conversation. The final call “you gotta promise me that you’re going to go early vote, ok?” until we get a good response from the list. 2010… Democrats got their butts kicked across the country, but in SD15? 62 percent of that list went out to go EARLY vote.

TL: Very impressive. With all of the buzz surrounding Texas Democrats all of a sudden, and many people giving the state party a second look, Harris County is sure to be a major focus of those efforts. As the largest county in the state, with the most potential to tip the scales in a statewide election, what are your goals for the county in 2014 and 2016.

LL: You’re absolutely right. 1 out of every 4 votes cast in Texas come from Harris county. So yes Harris is a player, it’s got to be a player. When Harris county goes reliably blue, Texas goes blue. The state certainly can’t go blue without us. When that happens and Texas flips, there is not an electoral map you can show me where a Republican candidate can win without Texas. It would be GAME OVER for generations. So what are we going to do to expedite that? We certainly need to focus on creating a larger voter share by identifying new voters and building relationships with them. Some reports I’ve read say there are as many as 600,000 non-registered voters in the county. We focus on them, and get even 80,000 to go vote, it’s game over here as well.

TL: Of course besides 2014, we have several local races in 2013, but many of these races are non-partisan. Given that fact, does HCDP play any particular function in these local races?

LL: Yes and no. I have absolutely no intention of placing the party in a position to endorse any municipal candidate… particularly if there is more than one Democrat in the race. However, I do think there is something to be said for providing voters two things. The first is a voter guide to inform voters of which candidates typically vote in the Democratic primary, whether or not they are a sustaining member with the Democratic Party, and to share candidate views regarding important Progressive issues. I think we have a responsibility to provide those things to the voters. I also think that HCDP has a responsibility to assist in the turnout of vote. We can still inform voters of Democratic issues, and use this as an opportunity to update our list with accurate voter information. We can also assist with information about the elections, such as where and when to early vote.

TL: Good to hear that HCDP definitely has an important role even in non-partisan election years. And that brings us to my last question. Maybe it’s too early to talk about 2014, but do you see any major races shaping up?

LL: Nope not yet. No one that is going to step forward that I know of. And sure there are always rumblings, but I don’t report on rumblings. The message here is this… 2013 is an extension of 2014. We cannot sit back and idle by waiting for 2014 to come. So the actions that we take now to increase our voter share are imperative. This is where the rhetoric meets the road. As fun and engaging as it is to sit around and strategize, there are very few political strategists in the world. And we don’t need more political strategists… we need more political WORKERS. Texas is going to turn blue, but it is not going to be an event. It’s going to be a process. And that process requires hard work. If Texans participate in that process, then the event will happen sooner rather than later.

TL: And what about statewide candidates?

LL: 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.

TL: It sounds like quite the job, but Texans are ready. Thank you very much for your time today.

For a previous interview with Chairman Lane Lewis, check out Charles Kuffner’s Off the Kuff article from last year.

Blue Texas: What the National Media is STILL missing

Time to Turn Texas Blue?

It appears that my initial criticisms were a bit premature. Today, much of the news media has been dominated by the roll out of Battleground Texas… a grassroots initiative aimed at making Democrats competitive in the state. Founded by former OFA director Jeremy Bird, the new organization has promised to make a long-term commitment to Texas Democratic causes. Needless to say, this is one Texan that is impressed with today’s events.

But what is far from impressive is the continued mythology held by the national media regarding Texas. When I hear commentators on MSNBC talking about the state, it’s clear that they are NOT familiar with Texans or Texas politics in the same intimate way that they know Florida, Virginia or New York. Take the classic map that MSNBC’s Chuck Todd posted this morning on The Daily Rundown…

He correctly points out that since 2004, Dallas County and Harris County (Houston) have flipped from a Republican majority to a Democratic majority. But his map suggests that Travis County (Austin) is somehow a red county? No… actually Travis county has been majority Democratic since the 1990s!! If we’re going to have a discussion about how Democrats can advance in Texas, it’s critical that we start that discussion with an accurate picture of the state. In 2012, 4 of the state’s 5 largest counties voted blue, including Travis. It may seem like a small thing, but on a national show, it’s important to present factual information.

Another issue continues to pervade national media coverage is the sole focus on demographic (racial) shifts. It’s true that the state of Texas is majority-minority, but it’s also true that plenty of Hispanic voters (the ones that show up to vote) are solid Reopublicans. But Texas will not go blue on any single statistic, and there’s one HUGELY important fact that people do not cover enough.

Not only does Texas have a growing Hispanic and Asian population, but it also has a rapidly-growing URBAN population. The long-held stigma of Texas no longer holds true. The majority of Texans now live in the state’s core urban areas… Dallas- Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. As the state continues to condense it’s population, it also takes on more characteristics of other large cities around the country. Millions of Americans have moved from all over the country thanks to continued Texas job growth, and as luck would have it, they are also bringing their political beliefs with them. And they’re mostly moving to the urban areas. Texas will not become blue by the growth of the Hispanic community alone. But if we can turn blue, it will be due to the confluence of rapid domestic migration AND changing racial demographics. These two trends have to move toward Democrats in tandem, along with an overal increase in voter participation. Groups like Battleground Texas and local organizations have to continue to expose the great travesties that Texans have suffered under Republican governance, like draconian cuts to our state’s education funding, and Governor Perry’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

Like the rest of the nation, the doors to a blue Texas continue to swing open thanks to the continued failings of the GOP. But if we’re going to get there, it is critical for Progressives and the Democratic Party to come to state, talk to voters, and get a better understanding for what’s really going on down here. I invite MSNBC to broadcast some shows from the great state of Texas. Come to cities like Austin and Houston, and meet some of your faithful audience members. Show the rest of the nation that when it comes to turning the state blue, Texas Progressives are ready to rodeo.

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

As Emily Cadik noted in a recent Burnt Orange Report article, Texas doesn’t vote. For the 2010 mid-term elections, the state of Texas had voter turnout of 36.1 percent… dead last in the nation. 2008 was better at 56.1 percent (as is expected for a Presidential election), but that still only ranked at 45th out of 50 in the US.

This isn’t exclusively a “big state” problem. Voter turnout in California is soaring, while New York in 2010 was one of the states lower than Texas. All three states also had Gubernatorial elections at the same time.

This also isn’t exclusively a “red state” problem. Some reliably Conservative states like Mississippi have consistently higher turnout than Texas, though it’s still below the national average.

Voter turnout is a Texas problem. Our voters are disengaged, and misinformed. As long as state campaigns and interest groups practice “uncertainty politics” it will continue to be this way. Besides voter apathy, Texans are plagued by signs that misdirect people to false voting locations, and incorrect times and dates of where to vote. And yes the current legal brawl over voter suppression makes the confusion this year higher than ever.

But just imagine if those voters were more informed and more engaged? Texas would easily be a swing state the like of which the US hasn’t seen. As Nathan Pippenger states in his recent article from The New Republic, Texas isn’t on the radar as a swing state. But Democrats, with all of their challenges can make this happen in 2012. Here’s my plan of how to turn Texas into a swing state.

Go micro.

Texas is huge, but when it comes to elections, it’s not as big as you think. 8 million Texans voted in the 2008 election, representing all 254 of the state’s counties. But as of the 2010 census, over half of all Texans live in just 13 of these counties, concentrated around the major urban areas. 12 of the 13 were “in play” for Democrats in 2008.

Prioritize.

2008 also saw a huge sea change in the state. Some counties went so heavily for Obama that they can now be considered “reliably Democrat-leaning”… El Paso, Travis (Austin), Dallas, Webb, Hidalgo and Cameron… along with other portions of the Rio Grande Valley. Let’s consider these counties as Tier 1 targets for Texas Democrats. Gains made in the 2008 election should be kept and defended. We should be making sure democratic candidates are well-represented in the local media markets, signs and volunteers. It’s critical that these counties remain in the blue category not only for 2012, but to strengthen current networking for future elections.

Tier 2 we’ll consider these “swing” counties. These flipped to vote for Obama by a smaller margin such as Harris (Houston), Jefferson (Beaumont) or Bexar (San Antonio). But you can also consider other counties that held for McCain, but by a rapidly decreasing margin… Hays, Fort Bend, Williamson and Nueces (Corpus Christi). Texas Democrats should work hard to keep Harris county in the blue and try to flip Hays, Williamson or Fort Bend. If one of those were to flip in 2012, it would mark the first time a substantial suburban county went blue. The impact of this could not be understated because it would show that Texas follows the same model as any other swing state… The cities become heavily Democratic, rural areas lean Republican, and the election battle is fought and won in the suburban counties.

So now we’ve taken the vast 254, and narrowed it down to just 12 counties. These also happen to be the state’s most populous areas. If Texas Democrats ever win all 12 of these counties, we are swing state, and possibly a BLUE state.

Turnout, turnout, turnout.

This is the really super hard part, but it can be done. The one thing we also know from 2008… Democrats like to vote early. If voters are well informed of the early and absentee voting practices of each county, they’ll be more likely to vote, and Democrats will have higher turnout. Here’s where the confusion and misinformation part becomes crucial. Certain political forces are hard at work in the state to make sure that lies persist about voting practices. Democrats should be waging all-scale war on these phonies, and getting into neighborhoods to correct and inform. If we push and publicize early voting, it gives people more options and better ability to get to the poles. Keep in mind that early voting is a relatively recent practice… elderly citizens may not understand what it is. They see the one election day, and think that’s the only time they can vote. We have to change this.

Rankings don’t lie. The non-voting population in Texas is staggering…

Fort Bend county… 300,403 registered; 205,931 voted; 94,472 didn’t vote

Travis county… 609,230 registered, 402,832 voted, 206,398 didn’t vote

Dallas county… 1,206,797 registered, 742,980 voted, 463,817 didn’t vote

Harris county… 1,892,656 registered; 1,188,731 voted; 703,925 didn’t vote

Seriously, the main game is moving to these 12 counties. In the 4 largest listed above, we know that 1.4 million people didn’t vote. Obama lost Texas by 940,000 votes. If Democrats focus on registration and information, this problem can be solved, and we can eradicate GOP majorities in these counties. As red as the state may look on paper, the real population and political power centers around the major urban areas. If we can maximize voter turnout in the 12 target counties, Democrats will win the state.

So fellow Leftists… who’s ready to Think SWING?