Texas Democrats lament loss of national party investment

Texas Democrats lament loss of national party investment

In 2020, national Democrats were pouring money into Texas like never before, fueling efforts to take control of the state House of Representatives, flip a slew of congressional districts and unseat a Republican U.S. senator who had been in office for two decades. There was even long-shot talk of President Joe Biden winning the state.

Just two years later, Texas Democrats are increasingly frustrated that those national reinforcements haven’t come this cycle, even after they made significant statewide gains in the 2020 presidential election. Instead, they see national Democrats going all-in to protect Senate incumbents and gain ground in once-red states like Arizona and Georgia.

“The trends in Texas clearly show we’re moving closer and closer to turning blue, and it really has come down to a question of money,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party. “I think this is something that the national party has to determine, whether or not they’re going to continue to put Texas second on these funding issues.”

EXCEPTION: Beto O’Rourke and Gov. Greg Abbott hit record $200 million in Texas governor’s race

National Democrats say they are investing in Texas, especially in the three South Texas congressional races where Republicans are spending big in an effort to flip a traditionally blue region of the state. But many of them also acknowledge that last year’s redistricting process has eliminated almost all of Democrats’ opportunities to make inroads in red districts. 

As the GOP gains momentum across the country, national Democrats are left scrambling to protect seats they already hold and forced to prioritize races in other states that have already proven that they can flip blue.

“Every dollar you spend in Texas that you are less certain about is one less dollar you spend in places like Georgia and Arizona and Wisconsin, where you have demonstrated there is more of a winning coalition that is evident and that is available to you — and that is the bind national Democrats are in when they are considering those investments,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

Part of the issue is that the big national campaign arms for both Democrats and Republicans tend to prioritize keeping incumbents in office, rather than making big plays in states where they could make gains. In Georgia, for example, Democrats are fighting tooth-and-nail to keep U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in office — an effort that will likely trickle down to Stacey Abrams’ second bid for governor and a host of down-ballot congressional and legislative races.

Democrats don’t have a similar incumbent to protect in Texas, and it’s not a state where national groups could just throw a little money and make a difference. It’s a state that requires serious investment across 20 media markets and two time zones.

“It’s not like you can just come in with some piddly little buy in Texas,” said Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “There’s just not enough room for Texas in the budget.”

Still, Democrats say they believe Texas is on a similar trajectory to states like Arizona and Georgia, where Democrats have recently won big statewide races after years of GOP control. But it’s still a ways behind. Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Texas in three decades, though the margins have gotten smaller in recent years.

“It’s like a chicken and egg scenario. You have to prove your worthiness for the investment,” said Abhi Rahman, a Democratic strategist who has worked for both the Abrams campaign in Georgia and Beto O’Rourke. “The investment isn’t there right now. I think it will be there, because I think it will be a necessity.”

Texas Democrats’ frustration peaked earlier this month when the Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC canceled scheduled ad reservations in the 15th Congressional District, statistically the closest federal race across Texas this year. There, Democrat Michelle Vallejo is facing a formidable opponent in Republican Monica De La Cruz, and most political watchdogs have rated the race “likely Republican.”

In two other South Texas districts, incumbent U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen are fighting for their political lives. Though Republicans’ statewide margins narrowed in the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump made significant inroads among Latinos in border counties — and the national party seized on that momentum. 

The Republican National Committee has opened several field offices across South Texas, and other national groups have flooded the congressional races with money and resources. It’s an effort that Democrats have not been able to match neither this year, nor for the past decade, even as election returns gave them hope of establishing Texas as a battleground state.

Monica Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the organization “is fighting to win all three South Texas races, and we’ve spent more than $7 million as part of that effort, from our robust on-the-ground organizing program we kicked off this spring to hitting the airwaves to deliver our message to voters.

Cliff Walker, a former deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party who co-founded the progressive firm Seeker Strategies, said that while the dwindling resources for Democrats in the 15th District are disappointing, it’s not necessarily a sign that national groups are forever giving up on Texas. He acknowledged that it could be harder to win the district again if Democrats cede it to Republicans this year, and redistricting has made the terrain more difficult overall — but “it is not the job of the DCCC to flip the state of Texas in 2022, 2024.”

“This seat is winnable, but it’s plain to see this is a tough environment for Democrats,” Walker said. “The president is upside-down, inflation is where it is, the fact that we are competing at possibly an even Senate and maybe only 15 seats lost or 20 seats lost in the House — it could be much, much, much worse.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *