Texas is very much in play in next year’s midterm races.
When Texas is discussed in 2018, most of the attention is devoted to Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the young El Paso Democrat whose incredible grassroots campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz could be one of the party’s only shots to retake the Senate.
But one of the less noticed stories unfolding in Texas is how Democrats are recruiting hordes of state and local candidates to run up and down the entire ballot.
The deadline to file to run for office in Texas was Dec. 11, and the Democratic bench is far stronger than anyone ever expected.
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) December 12, 2017
This is an enormous field of candidates. To put it in perspective, in 2016, Democrats only ran candidates for 89 seats in the Texas House of Representatives and 10 seats in the Texas Senate. And Republicans, who dominate the state, are actually contesting fewer congressional seats than Democrats are.
For a while, it looked like Democrats would have no notable challenger to hard-right Gov. Greg Abbott. But at the last minute, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the first openly gay Hispanic sheriff in America, stepped up to run. Democrats also have a challenger to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was behind the failed push for a bigoted "bathroom bill," in former comptroller nominee Mike Collier.
Texas voters are not as far to the right as many people might assume. Trump actually had a smaller margin of victory there than he did in Iowa, and some polls have found his approval rating in the Lone Star State underwater. For years, low voter turnout and gerrymandering in Texas have produced politicians more conservative than the state as a whole.
Democrats’ newly aggressive push could not come at a more critical time. State House Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican who blocked many of Abbott’s worst ideas, is retiring. If he is replaced with a partisan ally of the governor, the only hope to put any check on GOP power is to erode their majority in the state legislature.
The deluge of candidates in Texas sets the stage for a down-ballot revolution like in Virginia, where Democrats, through sheer force of numbers and turnout, gained over a dozen seats in the House of Delegates in November.
Democrats have learned from the past. They are ready to fight everywhere and fight hard, all over the country, to serve the people and to stand for those who need a voice.