The head of the Texas Democratic Party has appointed a committee to take a “deep dive” on what went wrong in the November election after a group of executive committee members wrote to him demanding answers, reforms and a shakeup in senior staff.
The chair of the party, Gilberto Hinojosa, said he always intended to convene a formal effort to review the election results, but the news of the panel comes after 38 executive committee members sent him a letter urging sweeping changes at the party after what they described as an “electoral failure” in November.
“Even though we very much disagree with the allegations that are made in the letter, we think it is important to find out exactly what happened in this election because we were just as shocked as everyone else,” Hinojosa said in an interview Monday.
Democrats have since said they were misled by bad polling and lamented their decision to hold off on in-person campaigning during the coronavirus pandemic. Hinojosa cited both those factors in a letter responding to the executive committee members, while saying he agrees that a “complete analysis needs to be done on this to determine what really happened.”
“The Party is committed to conducting a ‘deep dive’ analysis of the election, using outside persons or entities, and partnering with other allied groups to fund it if necessary,” Hinojosa wrote.
The Tribune obtained a copy of the letter that was dated Friday. In it, the State Democratic Executive Committee members raise a host of issues related to the governing body’s relationship with party staff — which appear to predate this election cycle — as well as the party’s role in the November election.
“From messaging to organizing, political data to simple administration, the Texas Democratic Party has dropped the ball and it is becoming more and more apparent every day that our senior leadership is refusing to take responsibility or, more importantly, the actions necessary to resolve the many shortfalls of our party this election cycle,” the letter said.
The letter makes a dozen requests, including a change in senior staff, a “full accounting” of party finances, a “full roster” of party employees and consultants, a “10-year strategic plan,” an “overhaul” of the party’s approved vendors list, outreach to state parties in places like Georgia and Virginia, and a task force on the party’s headquarters.
The letter was organized by two SDEC members, Kendall Scudder and Jen Ramos. A copy of the letter obtained by the Tribune did not include the signees, but Scudder and Ramos said it was signed by 38 members of the 108-member executive committee.
The Texas Signal has a copy of the letter, as well as responses from Chair Hinojosa and other TDP staff. As a general matter, doing a post-election review of what happened just seems like a good idea, even in a year where everything goes your way. A few questions I’d want to see answered:
– How much did not doing in-person campaigning really matter? I actually don’t worry too much about this because it’s a one-time thing, but it would still be nice to try to quantify it in a reasonably rigorous way.
– Along those same lines, what of the not-in-person campaign practices that we adopted as our alternatives were good and useful and worth keeping in some fashion? How might they integrate with and enhance the old-school stuff?
– How did we do with the new voters we registered and the low-propensity voters we targeted? Did we hit the metrics we expected to hit? Where did we over-perform and where did we under-perform?
– Campos mostly credits Beto for the 2018 success. I agree with that to a point, but I’m hesitant to assign too much credit or blame to any one person for any large event. My hope for 2020 had been to build on what Beto had done, to learn from it and to adapt it to the next election. Did any of that happen?
– Do we have enough home-grown campaign managers and consultants, and do they have what they need to succeed? I know that a lot of folks come in from out of state when we have a big field like this year. Some of them are from here but moved elsewhere because elections are seasonal, others are just hired guns. Is there a disadvantage to using out of state campaign people?
I’m sure there are more, but that’s a good start for me. The response from the TDP has been generally well received so far from the letter writers as well. I’m less interested in some of the questions about staff and governance, but by all means let’s study those as well. At the bottom of it all, are we listening to the folks that are doing the real work? Are we learning from our experiences, or is every year its own story in a bottle? Let’s put this time and effort to good use, we have some more consequential elections coming up in 2022.