Inauguration time is always a good time to be optimistic.
Texas Democrats haven’t had a lot to cheer about in recent years.
As San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is quick to remind you, the political score in Texas is 29-0. In favor of the Republicans.
That means 29 Republicans in statewide offices; zero Democrats.
But amid the glitz and glamor of the second Obama inauguration, celebratory Texas Democrats — including Castro — are beginning to think that they might just have a pathway to political competitiveness in the Lone Star State.
“I’m telling you: In six to eight years, Texas is going to be a Democratic state,” Castro told several hundred enthusiastic Democratic partisan feasting on beef brisket at D.C.’s popular Hill Country Barbecue joint.
Five new Democratic members of Congress — including three Latinos and an African American — are giving party activists reason to hope that they can compete in Texas sooner than the pundits are now predicting.
“It’s not going to be pretty. It’s not going to be easy. But it can be done,” said freshman Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.
Of course it can be done, and I’m as big a believer in it getting done as anyone, but it sure would be nice to know there’s a plan out there somewhere to actually do it. We know what the elements are – money, organization, voter registration, message, outreach, etc etc etc – but who’s working on it? For a change, there may now be a real answer to that question.
National Democrats are taking steps to create a large-scale independent group aimed at turning traditionally conservative Texas into a prime electoral battleground, crafting a new initiative to identify and mobilize progressive voters in the rapidly-changing state, strategists familiar with the plans told POLITICO.
The organization, dubbed “Battleground Texas,” plans to engage the state’s rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles. Two sources said the contemplated budget would run into the tens of millions of dollars over several years – a project Democrats hope has enough heft to help turn what has long been an electoral pipe dream into reality.
At the center of the effort is Jeremy Bird, formerly the national field director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, who was in Austin last week to confer with local Democrats about the project.
In a statement to POLITICO, Bird said the group would be “a grass-roots organization that will make Texas a battleground state by treating it like one.”
“With its diversity and size, Texas should always be a battleground state where local elections are vigorously contested and anyone who wants to be our commander in chief has to compete and show they reflect Texas values. Yet for far too long, the state’s political leaders, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., have failed to stand for Texans,” said Bird, who recently founded a consulting firm, 270 Strategies. “Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters — and as importantly, by mobilizing Texans who are already registered voters but who have not been engaged in the democratic process.”
One Democrat close to the planning process said the group intended to bring in “top campaign talent to Texas” for a long-term organizing push. Strategists filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission to create Battleground Texas earlier this month with that goal in mind.
“It’s going to take a sustained effort and we’re going to have to prove ourselves over time,” the Democrat said. “We need to have the talent in state to build something real over time and make the environment such that you can look someone in the eye and say, ‘You can run statewide and you can win,’ or you can tell a presidential candidate that you should really consider putting resources here.”
Another strategist tied to Texas called the project a “very positive effort to try to put together a pretty broad grass-roots organization to try to identify and ultimately mobilize progressive voters.”
“There’s a realistic view that that will take more than one cycle,” the strategist said. “None of this stuff is ever real until you’ve got money.”
That all sounds good, and I’m happy to hear about it. There are many questions to be asked about this – Who’s actually running it? Where’s the money coming from? What are the short and long term goals? How can you be sure this will last beyond the next election cycle? – but it’s a start. It will help that the bench is deeper today than any time in recent memory. The Castro brothers, Marc Veasey, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Gallego, Wendy Davis – any of them will be a fine statewide candidate when they’re ready, and they aren’t the only ones on the horizon. If they have sufficient infrastructure behind them their eventual tasks will be much easier. Eye on Williamson, BOR, Burka, Trail Blazers, and the DMN have more.