Is Texas an Option for Democrats?
DCCC Boosts Focus on Lone Star State With Opening of Headquarters
Fresh off helping to flip two U.S. House seats in Texas in the 2018 midterms, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it is stepping up its focus in the Lone Star State in 2020 by opening a regional campaign office in Austin.
“Texas is ground zero for Democrats going into the 2020 [election] cycle, and we are going to be investing heavily there,” said Representative Cheri Bustos, D-Ill, chairwoman of the House Democrats campaign arm, during an interview with CNN’s “New Day” program.
In a written statement released after her television appearance, Bustos said “in 2018, Texas Democrats proved that they can win in competitive districts.”
As a result, she went on to say, Texas is a state where House Democrats “can go on offense.”
“It doesn’t get any bigger than Texas,” Bustos added.
Last year, Democrats ousted Republican Representatives John Culberson, of Houston, and Pete Sessions, of Dallas, replacing them with Colin Allred and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, respectively.
In 2020, the DCCC is targeting six GOP-held seats in Texas where Republicans won by 5 points or less in 2018. These seats are currently held by Republican Representatives Mike McCaul; Chip Roy; Pete Olson; Will Hurd; Kenny Marchant; and John Carter.
It is also seeking to hold on to the two “critically important” seats won by Fletcher and Allred last year.
Toward that end, the committee previously announced it would install staffers in the suburbs of Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Tuesday’s announcement takes the effort a step further.
The new Austin office will be headed by Texas Democratic operatives Michael Beckendorf and Roger Garza and have an initial staff of seven.
Both Beckendorf and Garza have extensive experience in state politics and congressional campaigns.
Garza was most recently a strategist for Representative Colin Allred’s 6.5 percentage point victory in the state’s 32nd congressional district last year. Beckendorf, meanwhile, served as campaign manager for Representative Kim Schrier of Washington State.
In terms of scope and boots on the ground, the Texas initiative mirrors the strategy the committee rode to victory last year in California, where it successfully flipped seven U.S. House seats.
“This national investment in Texas confirms what we here have known for some time: more and more Texans are fed up with Republicans, lockstep with Trump, who cower in his shadow,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett, the Democrat who represents Texas’ 35th congressional district, stretching from Austin to San Antonio.
“Texas is crucial to maintaining and expanding our House majority, and today’s announcement is a commitment to our grassroots that we’ve got their back,” agreed Representative Marc Veasey, whose district is located between Dallas and Fort Worth. “Texans turned out in record numbers in 2018 for more jobs, better education and expanded access to health care, and I look forward to continuing that momentum in 2020.”
Some Texas Republicans have expressed skepticism over the Democrats’ interest in Texas in 2020, dismissing the flipped U.S. House seats as an aberration attributable to excitement over former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Bustos, however, suggested Tuesday that there was more to House Democrats’ mid-term victory in Texas than reflected in Beto-mania.
“We think [Texas] a great place for Democrats because of the changing demographics,” she told CNN. “I think if you look at the next two, four, six years, the way Texas looks today and what it will look like then will be completely different.”
According to the Texas Demographic Center, which is part of the U.S. Census Bureau State Data Center Program, a newly added category for tracking, the “non-Hispanic Asian” group will be the fastest growing population in Texas over the next three decades, growing five-fold by 2050. The Hispanic population is currently forecast to surpass the white population by 2022, but is not expected to make up a majority of the state population until 2050.
In addition, the Texas Demographic Center believes much of the population growth in Texas will come from the large urban counties of Harris, Bexar, Dallas, and Tarrant and neighboring suburban counties.
By mid-morning Tuesday there was evidence that some Texas Republicans are worried. A visitor to the Texas GOP website was immediately greeted by a pop-up ad that said, “WE NEED YOUR HELP! We’re on Red Alert in Texas – the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting SIX RACES IN TEXAS!!”
The pop-up encourages visitors to sign up for updates before adding, “Together, we can ensure we keep Texas Red!”