A focus on the Texas State Legislature: Democrats planted the Battle Flag in Texas months ago

By Alberto Morales

AUSTIN Texas (Texas Insider Report)  Think nationally act locally. Its a lesson all smart parties heed. Despite the inordinate attention paid to Congressional & Presidential Elections capturing and maintaining control of State Legislatures matters a lot.

In that spirit I continue my efforts to analyze partisan trends in Texas surely now more timely than ever coming on the heels of the Trumps recent campaign event in Dallas.

Lone Star Realignment


My previous post focused on whether Texas should be considered competitive in next years presidential contest. What Trumps team sees in their internal numbers must mirror public polling which should worry them: According to Real Clear Politics average the president trails Vice President Joe Biden by 3 points in Texas. ​

Historically the time a president dedicates to campaigning a full year before an election is minimal. Presidents typically try to pass signature legislation.

Needless to say Trumps constant visits to Texas tell us all we need to know: Hes nervous which means the Lone Star State is in play for the first time in decades. And not just in statewide elections but in state legislative races too.​

Same Story Different Legislative Battle

I promise to return my attentions to the White House but this week I shift my focus to the Texas State Legislature. Cutting to the chase the pick-up opportunities in Austin align like never before. ​

A strong coordinated campaign aimed at registering the states 2 million unregistered Latinos and activating the 1.7 million registered non-voting Latinos could benefit the Democratic Partys legislative committees the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee across the board. Smart investments should yield dividends at every level.​

To back up my claims that the state legislature can be flipped from red to blue next year during a recent panel Latino Decisions co-founder Matt Barreto and I discussed the 19 state house districts in play for Democrats in 2020.

All but a handful of these seats are clustered either near Dallas or Houston.


Heres what we know about these 19 state house districts:​

  • First they are competitive. In the 18 most competitive of the 19 seats the Democratic nominees lost by a combined average of 4423 votes.
  • In his 2018 Senate bid Democrat Beto ORourke carried 9 of the 19 districts and in the 10 he didnt carry his average losing margin was just 3311 votes.​
  • Second the districts contain thousands of unregistered or inactive Latinos. We estimated the 19 districts include more than 182000 unregistered Latinos an average of nearly 10000 per district.
  • Meanwhile we estimate another 157000 Latinos were registered in 2018 but did not vote in these contests. ​

Imagine if even half of those combined 340000 Latinos were registered and/or mobilized to vote in 2010.

  • Thats on average more than 17000 Latinos per district.
  • Holding other factors constant imagine further that Democratic State House Candidates in 2020 win a very conservative 70 of their votes.
  • That would yield a net gain of 40 70 minus 30 of 17000 or roughly 6800 net Democratic votes per district.

Those kind of margins are more than sufficient to swing most of these 19 districts. Keep in mind Democrats only need nine net seats to reclaim the House majority the lost during Tom DeLays dark reign. ​

Whether in presidential Senate U.S. House or state legislative contests the electoral realities are the same:

Getting Latinos registered and moving the newly-registered and existing registered Latinos to the polls can change everything.​

Take Back the State House Own the Foreseeable Future ​

Why is recapturing at least one and possibly both Texas state chambers so important in 2020? In a word: redistricting. ​

Its been nearly 20 years since the Democratic National Committee had a strategic initiative aimed at launching grassroots campaigns in support of balanced state legislative districts. Working under the leadership of then-Chairman Terry McAuliffe we organized around town halls that ultimately produced fairer maps in states like New Mexico. This came during the pre-social media era when our organizing tools were less sophisticated than they are today. Imagine the possibilities today!​

There are five two-year legislative cycles every decade. But the only elections that count for 10 years worth of legislative are those that end in year zero.

The DCCC planted the battle flag in Texas months ago. So now is the time to go all-in. Waiting for longer-term demographic changes to kick in means wasting another decade.

Thats too much time to waste.

Other posts in this series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3A and Part 3B.


Albert Morales is Senior Political Director at Latino Decisions. His years of experience working as a senior official with the Democratic National Committee spans three different DNC Chairs & one stint with the Democratic Governors Association. He tweets from @al_morales.

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