While two members of this board are card-carrying members of the Texas Democratic Party, we all believe that this State would be better off with some Democratic leadership as a counterbalance to the Tea Party dominated Governor’s office and State Legislature. Accordingly, this board has been pleased to see many organizations popping up over the years which promise to “turn Texas blue,” and we always hope for competitive elections.
Texas, like all the other States in the old Confederacy/Bible Belt, were formerly one-party States run almost exclusively by Democrats. However, a mixture of party realignment and Conservative focus on social issues shifted the States to nearly exclusive Republican rule. While States like Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama may never again see a Democratic Governor, Texas is a special exception because of its changing demographics. While Caucasians may always have a stranglehold in the aforementioned States, Texas is already a minority-majority State, and will soon be Latino majority. This provides a special opportunity for Democrats in this State.
That being said, the inevitable Democratic majority in Texas will be comprised of a coalition of heavily Latino counties stretching from El Paso to Cameron (Brownsville) and the big cities. Never again will the majority of Texas’ counties be shaded blue on election night. Never again will the majority of Texas’ Caucasian voters pull the lever for the Democratic Party.
This highlights a sobering reality that almost no liberals in this State are willing to expect: It’s going to get worse. Like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes, the Democratic Party in Texas still has a few rungs down the ladder to descend towards. The image below is every Texas county represented by at least one Democratic District Judge. While most of these counties either host big cities or majority Latino populations, about 43 do not.
These counties will shift Republican at the District Court level, as will many, many more in the eastern and central parts of the State at the county level. Simply put, the Texas Democratic Party’s purging of the old guard is not yet complete. This board was very pleased when Gilberto Hinojosa became the Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, as it represented one of the key steps needed in transforming the State leadership. However, just last year, the party had a Chairman from Young County and a Senate nominee from Rusk County, two counties that should have been abandoned by the limited resources of the Democratic Party long ago. Many counties, still with remnant Democratic District Attorneys, County Judges, Sheriffs and County Commissioners, will see landslide victories for the Republican Party in the future.
Further, as much as organizations such as Battleground Texas may have riled up voters, all of their efforts will be in vain if they fail to find candidates. Even a 99% Latino State will still swing Republican if the Democrats are too lazy to file for office. Recently, a blogger in Dallas boasted of the five State Senate districts that he deemed to be “in play” in the next few years, and it included SD17 in Harris County. If the district is competitive, no one would know. Democrats were too lazy to run a single candidate against Senator Huffman in 2012, and it looks like that may be the case again in 2014.
Barry Smitherman, a Railroad Commissioner, recently announced his plans to seek the Attorney General’s office, while Senator Dan Patrick officially threw hit hat into the Lieutenant Governor’s race. The two became the 21st and 22nd candidates, respectively, to enter the fray for the Republican Primaries next year in Statewide office. That number for Democrats is zero. The number of Democratic candidates even publicly discussing the idea is a lonely 1, and that individual is Kinky Friedman.
Four Statewide Republicans ran unopposed last year, and an equal number will likely remain without opponent next year as well. Instead of just waiting for the State to change, Democrats must actively work towards attracting adequate candidates and competently campaigning. On paper, Bill White and Paul Sadler were terrific candidates. On reality, on the campaign trail, they were terrible.
Democrats should not squander the rare opportunity gifted to them by the SB5 cluster last Tuesday. Preserving safe, legal access to abortion is not an extreme liberal position. In fact, 70% of this country opposes overturning Roe v. Wade. The conflict could provide an invaluable wedge issue to attract women voters.
Maybe it won’t be so bad if Wendy runs, though.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz of Boston, Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew S. Romo of New Orleans.