As Democratic White House Hopefuls Debate In Houston, Party Eyes Lower-Tier Gains In Texas

While 10 Democratic presidential contenders debate in Houston on Thursday, the party is eyeing gains farther down the ballot in Texas next year in races for the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislature, party strategists and political experts say.

exas has not elected a statewide Democrat in three decades, and Republican President Donald Trump remains the odds-on favorite to win the state in the November 2020 election.

It is not clear the national Democratic Party is willing to devote the financial resources an all-in statewide effort would require, given Texas’ sheer size and the presence of more promising targets like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Instead, Democrats see an opening in the Texas state House of Representatives, where they flipped 12 seats in the 2018 elections, mostly in suburban areas where voters have soured on Trump’s divisive rhetoric. The party needs to capture nine more seats next year to take control for the first time since 2002. The state Senate is expected to remain in Republican hands.

Taking over the state House would allow Democrats to block Republicans from drawing a decade’s worth of friendly state and federal district maps after the 2020 U.S. Census.

In what Democrats have gleefully termed the “Texodus,” five Texas Republican U.S. House incumbents have announced their retirement, including Representative Will Hurd, the only Republican to represent a district on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Discontent with Trump in Texas’ suburban areas, once a Republican stronghold, coupled with the state’s fast-growing Hispanic population and an influx of college-educated liberals from other states, is paving the way for Democratic gains, a dozen party officials, political strategists and academics said in interviews.

“Because Texas Republicans are currently too lackadaisical ... it is the down-ballot Republican officeholders who will likely suffer most in 2020,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and a Texas native.

In an ironic twist for Republicans, analysts say Texas is attracting liberal state voters because of its low cost of living - it has no state income tax, a feature long prized by conservatives.

Read more from Ernest Scheyder and Joseph Ax at Reuters

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published this page in In The News 2019-09-11 11:33:54 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy