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The local and state party perspective

This is the flip side of yesterday’s story about the national Democratic campaign opening an office in Houston.

Hillary Clinton

As long-beleaguered Texas Democrats look toward November, they see opportunity in the fallout from Trump’s rhetoric targeting Latinos and women. Surveys have shown Trump leading Clinton by only single digits in Texas.

“There ain’t enough white males in this state for him to win,” Garry Mauro, Texas point person for Clinton’s campaign, proclaimed when Trump breezed through the state last month.

Mauro in a recent interview expanded on his comments, saying he is not predicting a Clinton win so far ahead of the election but highlighting the encouraging political landscape. He sees no divide with party leaders who are focusing on more realistic goals of down-ballot wins and party-building.

“Considering I was the last person to win a statewide race as Democrat, I’m not stupid,” said Mauro, elected to the last of his four terms as land commissioner in 1994, one of a number of Democratic candidates to prevail that year. “But I do believe that it’s the most encouraging I’ve ever seen the numbers look.”

Texas Democratic Party officials think Trump’s campaign has the potential to help inspire their voters, sway independents, depress or switch Republican votes and, thus, help close their gap with the GOP. That can help them up and down the ballot.

They also are realists.


“We’ve been laser-focused on making sure that we build permanent infrastructure in 2016,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. “Our mantra is ‘Own your home turf, help mobilize your own community and let’s use 2016 as a real permanent infrastructure development year.'”

That mantra is not sexy, but it is crucial, said Democratic strategist Colin Strother.

The party has failed in the past by hanging its hopes on “gimmicks” and personalities dating back to Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez’s ill-fated effort to unseat then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2002, Strother said. Now, he thinks it is on the right track with its focus on the fundamentals.

“You can be Usain Bolt, but if you don’t tie your tennis shoes, you’re not going to beat anybody,” Strother said.

Building infrastructure means candidate recruitment and training; an aggressive communications strategy rooted in “kitchen-table issues” that seeks to showcase the Democratic Party as the mainstream choice; and a focus on strengthening the local party structure.


Mary Beth Rogers, a policy and political expert who was a campaign manager and chief of staff for Texas’ last Democratic governor, Ann Richards, said the party “is wise to say ‘wait a minute’ and to be realistic about what can happen.”

Narrowing the gap with Republicans is a crucial step, said Rogers, as is developing a vision on which the party can grow.

If Clinton can get in the 46 to 48 percent range – from the 41 percent that Obama received from Texans in 2012 – “that gives the party a larger base to work with for 2018,” said Rogers, author of “Turning Texas Blue: What It Will Take to Break the GOP Grip on America’s Reddest State.” That would give it a chance to begin building a bench in 2018 “that can then move into some of the larger offices by 2020,” when statewide posts from the governor on down will be on the ballot, she said.

Such progress builds on itself, including by sparking the interest of donors to national candidates like Clinton, who easily can pick up seven figures on a quick Texas trip for her campaign and national party.

“There are people here who will give money to Democrats. They have to be convinced that they are not throwing their money away,” Rogers said.

It’s generally pretty encouraging, and everyone author Peggy Fikac quotes says the right things. You would be forgiven if you felt some skepticism, given past results and experiences. Ultimately, what matters will be the result. We’ve talked about what some of these things are, and all of them are readily measurable: Improve on Obama’s 2008 vote total. Dominate Harris County. Carry Fort Bend County. Win CD23, at least five legislative seats, and races for the First, Fourth, Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Courts of Appeals. Either we wake up on November 9 and feel good about what happened the day before, and thus about what we have to look forward to, or we don’t. We’ll see how it goes.

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  1. Neither Here Nor There says:

    I expect that the Democrats will carry all county wide positions by much higher margins than they did in 2008. Clinton’s folks started calling on day one, I know I received a call. Maybe the money that my spouse and I donated had to do something with that, but they are calling.

  2. PDiddie says:

    To take exception to Neither, I don’t think that Ann Harris Bennett can pull off the upset of Mike Sullivan. That was a contentious D primary, and the Brandon Dudley caucus has acted like sore losers ever since. And for one more reason, there’s a Green in that race (and Natalie Upchurch will no doubt catch some blame if Bennett loses for the .5% of the vote she will earn).

  3. Paul A Kubosh says:

    I agree with you NHNT. Harris County Republicans are in trouble. Where are they? Where are the local leaders?

  4. brad m says:


    I don’t think Sullivan will win. Top of the ticket Romney was a strong candidate in 2012 vs Obama in which Sullivan (R) squeaked by with a .2% win. Remember Rs vote straight-party ticket and with the dog poo dumpster fire Trump candidate leading the Republican party there are going to be many unenthusiastic R voters.

    By the way, you are mistaken….Bennett doesn’t own Green Party candidate Upchurch’s votes. Nor does Sullivan own the Libertarian candidate’s votes, if there is one. The only one to blame for losing an election will be the candidate themselves.

    Paul K.,

    What do you mean by “Where are they?, Where are the local leaders?”

  5. Paul Kubosh says:

    I don’t see the local leaders and elected officials pushing the Republican brand. Except for the KWTP and the Spring Branch Republicans the Republican party is laying low. I would have liked to see Ted Cruz and the Governor coming into Harris County holding rallies to rally the base. That hasn’t happened.