Candidate recruitment season is on.
For Texas Democrats, the road out of the political wilderness winds through Dallas County.
It’s here, in the Republican strongholds of the north, west and east, that Democrats hope to unseat up to seven GOP lawmakers.
Their operatives were in Dallas this week to interview potential House candidates, raise money and plot strategy to flip the turf made fertile by Hillary Clinton, who walloped Donald Trump in Dallas County. Clinton won seven Texas House districts in Dallas County that are represented by Republicans.
“The 2016 elections showed us that voters reject the tone and rhetoric of Donald Trump and the Texas Republicans who support him,” said Cesar Blanco, co-chairman of the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee. “Dallas County is ground zero in our fight to win seats now held by Republicans.”
Along with Blanco’s visit, Texas Democrats on Wednesday held a fundraiser at a private home in Dallas, hoping to convince donors that 2018 could be a successful election cycle.
Along with Dallas County, Democrats are targeting Republicans in House Districts 134 and 138 in Harris County and House District 136 in Williamson County.
Republicans hold a 95-55 advantage in the Texas House, and Democrats concede that they can’t retake control of the chamber in one election cycle.
In 2008, when Democrats gained four seats in Dallas County, they came within two seats from retaking the House for the first time since 2001.
But they were clobbered in the 2010 midterms. And the subsequent redistricting process resulted in Republicans solidifying what were once swing districts, including several seats in Dallas County.
As with the previous decade, population trends in urban areas have created opportunities for Democrats to break through.
In 2016, Democrat Victoria Neave beat incumbent Republican Kenneth Sheets in District 107, which includes eastern Dallas County.
More encouraging for Democrats, Clinton, their presidential nominee, won in seven Republican House Districts, including the GOP-dominated turf that includes Preston Hollow and the Park Cities.
Blanco said the House Democratic Campaign Committee is hoping to build on Clinton’s success.
On Wednesday, he met with several potential Democratic candidates for House, including Dorotha Ocker, who last year came within one percentage point of beating incumbent Republican Matt Rinaldi in House District 115 in far northwest Dallas County.
The rematch between Ocker and Rinaldi will now be one of the most watched races in Texas.
I’ve discussed Dallas County before, and it is indeed a target-rich environment for 2018. Some of those targets, like Matt Rinaldi in HD115 and Cindy Burkett (author of this session’s unconstitutional anti-abortion bill) in HD113, are more vulnerable than others. I presume the list in the story is a partial one, as there are several other districts that deserve strong challenges – right here in Harris County, that includes HDs 135 and 132, along with HD26 in Fort Bend. For now, the important thing is identifying potential candidates and getting them off to a good start. No time like the present for that.