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BGTX 2.0

They will have a lot to prove, let’s just leave it at that.

Battleground Texas, nearly a year after it and Wendy Davis were crushed in an uphill governor’s race, officially has launched an effort to re-brand itself in light of new — and some old — challenges. The group aimed at breaking Republican dominance in Texas announced this week “strategic shifts that will allow us to expand on the work of the last two and a half years.”

The leadership and staff changes, which touch some of its most senior jobs, are an undeniable acknowledgement that Battleground Texas wants to re-focus. Nothing will match the hype it saw during its first few months of operation, when veterans from Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and senior Texas Democratic strategists teamed up to transform the state. Battleground Texas obviously is not the same organization, and plenty of people are glad that is so, but this marks the best chance yet for a meaningful pivot.

To start, the changes include a new advisory board whose membership is a nod to the support it needs from Democratic constituencies and politicos across the state, from the Brownsville mayor to a labor leader, from community activists to a well-heeled angel investor.

A few big names in state Democratic politics also are joining the board, including former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro. Some original backers are staying with the organization, such as Houston lawyer Amber Mostyn and Jeremy Bird, the Obama 2012 field chief. The founding executive director, Jenn Brown, also an Obama loyalist, will become the board’s chairman, traveling to Texas periodically even as she takes a new job in Washington, D.C.

[…]

Whomever is chosen to replace Brown will have one of the hardest jobs in Texas politics: set a new vision, work with a new advisory board, keep existing talent and ramp up recruitment efforts. The structure, or what’s left of it after 2014, remains, but the new executive director has the opportunity to start relatively from scratch. That is a tall order for anyone, which makes it even more difficult to see how someone without roots in Texas Democratic politics, who is willing to be there for years, is worthy of the job at this crucial moment.

What also matters now, in a positive sense for Battleground, is that the staff shuffle includes the promotion of several folks who started as volunteers and organizers. Many of them have Texas ties, or they have worked in state politics since 2013. An El Paso native is the new political director, for example, while the training director who worked through the 2014 gubernatorial race will be the new field director.

That is the kind of long term, bench-building effort the group’s founders have said inspired them to launch the outfit.

I’ve seen plenty of commentary on this elsewhere, and I will leave it at that. My point in posting about this is simply that the original vision of BGTX was to increase Democratic turnout in Presidential years to the point where Texas would competitive – a battleground state, if you will. It would be nice if someone were to put some effort into that for next year. I don’t care who – BGTX, the TDP, the Clinton/Sanders/Biden campaign, anyone else – just that someone works to make it happen. See, for all the dominance that Republicans have had in this state, the little secret is that their turnout level in Presidential years has been basically flat since 2004:

StateTurnout

The same is true if we just look at Harris County:

HarrisCountyTurnout

There was that big jump in 2008 for the Dems, then a slight backslide in 2012 (it was smaller in Harris County), while GOP turnout dipped a bit in 2008 then rebounded to 2004 levels in 2012. I’m convinced some of that is because President Obama drew a non-trivial number of crossover votes in 2008 – if you combed through the precinct and county data like I did, it was easy to spot – but not in 2012. Even with that interpretation, however, Democrats at best broke even in 2012. A 2008-style improvement is highly unrealistic, but some kind of bump would be nice to see. It won’t make the state competitive, but it would at least suggest we may be on the right path, and it would greatly help with reclaiming the legislative seats we lost in 2014 and with turning Harris County blue. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, I don’t care who would get the credit for that. I just care that there would be credit to claim, and not fingers to point.

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