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Gilberto Hinojosa

More on the TDP 2020 audit

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final report, but I don’t have a clear idea of the objectives from this story.

[Unsuccessful State House candidate Brandy Chambers’] election night confusion mirrors the second-guessing going on within the Texas Democratic Party, the members of which received every advantage they hoped for in 2020 — enough campaign cash to keep pace with a well-funded GOP, a polarizing candidate at the top of the Republican ticket and historically high voter turnout — but still gained virtually nothing.

The early diagnosis: A national push to avoid in-person campaigning because of the pandemic was ruinous, especially with Latino voters who are key to the party’s fortunes in Texas. Early polls were skewed against conservatives and gave Democrats a false sense of security. Republicans effectively characterized calls to defund the police as a threat to public safety. And the party’s message did not connect with the average voter worried about recovering from the economic hurt inflicted by COVID-19.

Texas Democrats believe the lack of in-person campaign events and door-knocking especially hurt them come Election Day, as Republicans continued to meet with voters.

“This was probably the most difficult thing that we faced — the most impactful thing in our election,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “You had the Republican Party engaged in all of these races in a massive canvassing campaign and bragging about it. … We were left at a very, very severe disadvantage.”

Hinojosa said President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign had advised down-ballot candidates to avoid in-person events and that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued similar rules for its candidates, threatening to withhold funds from campaigns if they went door to door.

About two months before the election, Hinojosa said, he’d heard concerns from congressional candidates and organizers who said they “were having a hard time reaching Hispanic voters by the phone. … They really needed to be freed to knock on doors.”

But the national officials wouldn’t budge, he said.

A DCCC spokesman confirmed that there was a nationwide policy directing candidates not to canvass in person during the pandemic but denied that the organization threatened to take away funding from Texas Democrats if they persisted.

[…]

The members demanded 12 action items to move forward, including changes in senior leadership, the creation of a 10-year strategic plan and a request for assistance from states where Democrats had successfully run campaigns this cycle.

“The ultimate goal was ‘let’s start a conversation.’ It was not meant to be petty or divisive,” said Jen Ramos, a member of the state party’s executive committee and co-author of the letter. “We just decided that we’ve got to be firm about this but also really have a means to healing.”

[…]

“Republicans were talking about how we could keep you working,” [SDEC member and letter co-author Kendall] Scudder said. “Democrats were talking about shutting the economy down. Democrats were being the most responsible, but sometimes you don’t love the parent who spanks you. You love the parent that buys you candy.”

Scudder said the party must improve its communication with minority voters and stop pushing only issues that “we ascribe to them as important,” such as immigration for Latino voters or criminal justice reform for Black voters.

[Committee co-chair Chris] Hollins said the committee will meet soon to settle on an initial list of objectives. Revamping party messaging is at the top of his list, too — especially as it relates to the specific identity and goals of the Texas Democratic Party and how they differentiate from those of more liberal states.

See here for the background and some more information about the letter. While it’s important to really understand what happened and learn from it, I hope this committee looks forward at least as much as it looks back. Every election is unique in its own ways, and I think the conditions of 2020 are especially singular. We already know that there’s no debate about issue of in-person campaigning – everyone agrees it was a net negative, and no one has any plans to try it again, so it’s not like this is some new ongoing advantage the Republicans have gained. Figure out what if anything was good about the other forms of campaigning everyone did, recommend ways to build it into future campaigns, and more on.

As far as the messaging stuff goes, I feel like it’s the post-2004 election all over again, though at least this time we won the Presidency. So much time and effort and money and think-pieces were spent on What The Democrats’ Message Needs To Be and How Do We Connect With Those Bush Voters and so on, and then Hurricane Katrina happened and public opinion turned sour on the Iraq War, and Democrats dominated the next two elections. I’m not suggesting that things will magically turn around and get better, nor am I saying that the post-2004 effort had no lessons for us, but I am saying that events can and will shape the political environment in substantial and unforeseeable ways, and that’s why we need to be looking forward as much as possible, while doing everything we can to make the opportunity we have in front of us – fixing the economy, successfully rolling out the COVID vaccine, getting people back to work, protecting our democracy, and more – so that the future environment is as filled with recent positive achievements we can point to as possible. Nothing succeeds like success.

My viewpoint in that paragraph is affected greatly by this WaPo story about the national Democratic reckoning; it’s where the post-2004 parallels occurred to me, because so much of the language was familiar. Again, I agree there’s a ton of value in auditing what just happened so we can understand what went well and what did not, and what we can learn from each. I just don’t want to get too bogged down in that, because what we do now, over the next 12-18 months will, I guarantee you, have a bigger effect on the 2022 election. If we’ve made progress in making people’s lives better, and we’ve been up front about taking credit for it, which is one trick from the Trump playbook that we really do need to appropriate, then we’ll be in good shape.

One last thing, which I have not seen mentioned in any of these “what did Dems screw up in 2020” stories is the effect of disinformation, propaganda, and fake news on voters’ behavior. We are seeing the effect of the constant barrage of bullshit coming from Trump and too many Republican leaders to count in the lawsuits, the increasing threats of violence from riled-up fringe types, the outrageous legislation being proposed around the country, and so forth, but that barrage began well before the election, and it’s being aimed at immigrants and people of color as well, with the same dispiriting effect. There was plenty of evidence of this occurring before the election, and I personally believe it’s a key part of the explanation for why Trump did better among Latinos and Asian-Americans than he had done before. Any strategy to improve Democratic performance, whether in Texas or nationally, has to take this into account. We can’t stop the liars from lying, but we can and we must figure out a way to blunt the effect of that lying. If that’s not a pillar of our plans going forward, then those plans are inadequate and not meeting the moment.

TDP will review what happened in the 2020 election

I support this.

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?

– Do we have a strategy for the medium-sized metro areas and the Black voters in rural areas? If not, why not?

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.

Abbott delays primary runoffs

So this was originally going to be a post about what various groups have been advocating for the primary runoffs. And then Greg Abbott went and pushed the runoffs back to July without addressing any of the other concerns that had been raised. So here’s my post about that, and then because I spent a lot of time writing the other post, I’ve included that beneath the fold, so you can see what would have been.

Texas is postponing its May 26 primary runoff elections to mid-July to help prevent community spread of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Friday.

State officials had been trying to decide whether to convert that election to an all-mail-ballot, but Abbott on Friday said the state will instead move the election.

“Holding the runoff in May would cause the congregation of large gatherings of people in confined spaces and cause numerous election workers to come into close proximity with others,” a statement from Abbott’s office said. “This would threaten the health and safety of many Texans.”

The election will be moved to July 14 with early voting starting on July 6.

[…]

Some lawmakers had been pushing Abbott to convert the May runoff election into an all-mail election. Because the turnout out is typically low, they said Texas could easily get ballots to people who want to vote in the runoffs.

I mean, this could be adequate. Lord knows, we all hope that we’re finished with social distancing and coronavirus is more or less under control by then. If it’s not, though, then what’s Plan B? I can understand why Abbott might have wanted to take the easy way out, but he doesn’t really have control over that. Hope for the best, I guess. Anyway, read on for what this post was going to be. The Trib has more.

(more…)

Don’t wait on Joaquin

We may want him to, but Rep. Joaquin Castro probably isn’t running for Governor.

Rep. Joaquin Castro

Exiting a summit on citizen diplomacy Tuesday at the Texas Capitol, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, was trailed by a handful of reporters.
“Something tells me you didn’t come to hear a speech about international affairs,” Castro said.

He was right.

The reporters were there to once again ask whether he would consider running for governor in 2018.

It has become a somewhat tired ritual. But with no hint of any formidable Democratic candidate ready to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, reporters have little else to work with, and for Castro, as for his twin brother, Julián, the only day more nettlesome than the ones on which they are asked about their future political ambitions, will be the day when reporters stop asking about those ambitions.

[…]

Last week, Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa stirred the ashes of hope that Joaquín Castro might run in 2018 in search of faint embers.

“He’s never ruled it out,” Hinojosa said of Castro.

So, Castro was asked Tuesday, apropos Hinojosa’s comments, “Are you still considering it?”

“No. I have nothing further to add right now,” Castro replied. “My plan is to run for re-election, as I said when we had a press conference here about a month ago.”

That was Aug. 16, when Castro, also in the Capitol where he served 10 years as a state representative, said to much the same gaggle of reporters, “Well, I have a job right now, and my plan is to run for re-election.”

Castro was asked Tuesday if Hinojosa was guilty of peddling false information.

“The chairman is a great friend and has worked really hard building up the Democratic Party over the last few years, and I’m very appreciative of his work,” Castro said.

Have you ruled out a run for governor?

“My plan is to run for re-election,” replied Castro, now chuckling at the inability of reporters to let it go.

See here for the background. One can twist oneself into knots parsing each word and coming up with Reasons why this isn’t a flat denial, but one would be deluding oneself. He’s not running for Governor, for all the reasons why he didn’t run for Senate and more. Maybe there is someone out there with a decent profile who will (*cough* *cough* Pete Gallego *cough* *cough*), but barring anything unforeseen, I’ll take the chance of looking foolish and saying there’s no there there. He’s running for re-election, and that’s that. Sorry, y’all.

Some people would like Joaquin Castro to run for Governor

The headline to this story says that Rep. Castro “is considering” a run for Governor, but if you read the story you’ll see that my characterization is the more accurate.

Rep. Joaquin Castro

In need of someone to lead the top of the 2018 ticket, Democrats are trying to persuade U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro to run for Texas governor.

“He and others are considering it,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told The Dallas Morning News. “It’s a very big decision for him. It would require him to leave his safe seat in the U.S. House, where he’s a rising star.”

Castro, who will turn 43 on Saturday, has represented the 20th Congressional District since 2013. He served 10 years in the Texas House. He had not responded to requests for comment as of Thursday afternoon.

Texas Democrats have been in search of a 2018 candidate for governor in hopes of beating incumbent Republican Greg Abbott and boosting down-ballot candidates in the Texas Senate and House.

Hinojosa said Democrats hope to compete in 15 to 20 Texas House contests, as well as three congressional seats with Republican incumbents. “All these races would be helped by a strong candidate at the top of the ticket,” Hinojosa said. But analysts say Castro is unlikely to run for governor because there’s not a clear path to victory for Democrats, who have not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994.

[…]

Castro appeared destined to run for re-election to the House, but Texas Democrats approached him late this summer and asked him to be the party’s standard-bearer against Abbott. Several Democrats have passed on running for governor, including Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas.

Hinojosa said he doesn’t know which way Castro was leaning. “I won’t comment on conversations I’ve had with potential candidates,” he said.

Matt Angle, director of the Democratic research group the Lone Star Project, said Castro’s deliberations might lead him to run for re-election, not governor. But he said Democrats will still field a strong challenger. “We will have a candidate for governor that Democrats can feel good about,” he said. “Whether they will have a path to victory, I don’t know.”

I’d love to know who those “others” are that are also considering it. (I’ll put in a plug again for Pete Gallego.) Chairman Hinojosa seems to have a good grasp of the reasons why Rep. Castro may demur – they’re basically the same as the reasons why he’d demur on a run against Ted Cruz, with the added incentive of Abbott having a bajillion dollars to his name and not being the most despised politician not named Trump in the state. Against that, one could argue that the political climate is growing more favorable to the Dems as Trump keeps flailing about and selling out his base, and if Castro had any plans to run for Senate against John Cornyn in 2020, a noble but non-crushing loss to Abbott would be a decent dry run for it. On top of all this are the apparent calculations about Julian Castro’s future, and whether a Joaquin candidacy for Governor and the accompanying non-trivial risk of crashing and burning would hinder Julian’s chances of running against Trump in 2020. As they say, it’s complicated. My guess is that Castro sits it out and we get to see who’s next on the wish list. I imagine we’ll have a clear indicator soon.

UPDATE: In the Statesman, Hinojosa says that Castro “never ruled out” running for Governor. To be fair, neither have I.

Texas Dems look to 2018

I have a few things to say about this.

Just because

A tight-knit group of Texas Democratic leaders traveled to the state capital [in late January] to begin preliminary conversations about the 2018 midterm races.

According to over a dozen interviews with Texas Democratic insiders and national Democrats with ties to the state, the meeting included some of the party’s most well-known figures from Texas including former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Texas Democratic Party Finance Chairman Mike Collier, former state Sen. Wendy Davis, state Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker and state Reps. Rafael Anchia of Dallas and Chris Turner of Grand Prairie.

Their main agenda: mapping out a strategy for the 2018 midterm elections.

The expectations in the room were not soaring but were cautiously hopeful. That optimism was mostly rooted around one person: President Donald Trump.

“I think 2018 will be the most favorable environment Texas Democrats have had in a midterm election in well over a decade,” said Turner, who declined to comment on the meeting. “I think when you look at the actions of the Trump administration just three weeks in, you’re seeing a president with historically low approval ratings in what should be a honeymoon period, and no indication that’s going to change given his divisive actions.”

Trump’s presidency brings together a confluence of several factors that Democrats hope will get candidates over the line: a stronger-than-past Texas Democratic performance last November in urban centers, the traditional backlash against a sitting president in the midterms and an increasingly expected added drag that Trump will create for Republicans.

The Democratic calculation is that in this unpredictable and angry climate, a full 2018 slate could produce a surprising win or two statewide or down-ballot.

[…]

Sources say no decisions were made on whom should run in which slot, nor was that widely discussed. Instead, the emphasis was on ensuring that state leaders would work together to present the strongest slate possible.

And also unlike past cycles, the Democratic planning this term centers on the political climate, rather than on a singularly compelling personality running for governor.

That the meeting happened at the outset of the state’s legislative session was also no coincidence. Democrats sense an opportunity to win over some of the business community, particularly as the “bathroom bill” touted by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick continues to percolate at the state Capitol and as immigration, and particularly Trump’s proposals for a border wall and Mexican tariffs, roil national politics.

Parker did emphasize to the Tribune that the conversations about 2018 are happening throughout the state.

“It’s never going to be about what a small group of people said or do in a room,” she said. “It’s about what the people of Texas tell us what they need. Many of us have committed to going out and having those conversations.”

[…]

Since the Jan. 27 meeting, Julian Castro, the most-speculated Democratic contender to take on Gov. Greg Abbott, has made clear he is unlikely to run statewide in 2018. He all but closed the door on that possibility in an early morning tweet Thursday.

Instead, the most frequently floated gubernatorial candidate is Collier, a 2014 state comptroller candidate. Collier is relatively unknown statewide but impressed several Democrats in that previous run. He has also been suggested as a possible contender to run for lieutenant governor.

It’s the U.S. Senate race that is quickly becoming the center of the Democratic world, in part because of the incumbent, Cruz, and because of the two Democratic up-and-comers mulling runs: O’Rourke and Joaquin Castro.

Both men are in the same 2012 congressional class and are considered friendly with each other.

Democrats in the state and in Congress are closely watching how the two men maneuver around a possible primary race against each other, but the betting money is that O’Rourke is more likely to follow through with a run.

My thoughts:

– Optimism tempered with reality is the way to go. Dems basically have nothing to lose – HD107 was the only Dem-won seat that was remotely close – and plenty of targets that at least appear to be closer after last year. To be sure, there was reason for optimism going into 2014 as well, and we know how that turned out. The difference is who’s in the White House.

– The “tempered by reality” part is the recognition that all the seats we are trying to win were drawn to elect Republicans, and to put it mildly there’s no track record of good Democratic turnout in off years. You have to believe, as I do, that the national political climate is a big factor in how these elections play out, and that 2018 will be different than 2014 and 2010. Different doesn’t have to mean better, but all things considered it’s the more likely possibility.

– Dan Patrick has got to be a better statewide target than Greg Abbott. Abbott has good favorability numbers, and he’s not out there leading the charge for SB6. Mike Collier is the kind of credible-to-business candidate Dems could present as a viable alternative to Patrick to the business lobby. There are many reasons why those guys may stick with the devil they know even as he works against their interests, but at least there’s a chance they could be persuaded. There’s no chance they would abandon Abbott. If I were advising Mike Collier, I’d tell him to put Lite Guv first on my list. Sure, it would be nice to have a candidate with legislative experience running for that spot, but 1) the main thing you need to know as the guy who presides over the Senate is parliamentary procedure, and 2) have you even seen the guy Dan Patrick backed for President? Don’t come at me with this “experience matters” stuff.

– As long as we’re being optimistic, let’s assume Ken Paxton gets convicted between now and next November, and he does not get primaried out. It shouldn’t be that hard to find a decent candidate willing to take that bet. Just make sure that he or she has the resources needed to win the Dem primary in the event a Grady Yarbrough/Lloyd Oliver type decides to get in. The one thing we absolutely cannot do is accidentally nominate a joke to oppose Paxton.

– Having good candidates with sufficient resources to wage active campaigns in the legislative races will have a positive effect on turnout just as having a strong slate at the top of the ticket. This is not an either-or, it’s a both-and.

– Along those lines, the next best way to check Dan Patrick’s power is to reduce the number of Republicans in the Senate. Dallas County Democrats need to find a strong candidate to run against Don Huffines. Dallas County needs to be strong in 2018.

– The story talks about Democratic performance in the urban centers, and that’s important, but the suburbs matter as well. Opportunities exist in Fort Bend, Brazoria, Collin, Denton, and Williamson, and there are also a lot of votes in these places. Part of the strategy needs to be geared towards turning the tide in the suburbs. If nothing else, winning a seat in one of these places really changes the narrative, and serves as a concrete marker of progress.

– At some point, Democrats need to figure out how to translate the message that they have won on in big urban centers to smaller but still sizeable urban centers where they have not done as well. I’m talking about Lubbock, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, places like that. Burgeoning urban centers in suburban and exurban places, like Sugar Land, Pearland, Katy, New Braunfels, Plano, etc etc etc need to be on that list as well. Some of these places already have a Democratic presence on their City Councils and school boards. All of them could use more attention from the kind of people who gathered in Austin to talk about 2018. Who do we have in these places to even present the Democratic message? If such people exist among the local elected officials, support them and help raise their profile. If they don’t, bring in the shining faces we hope to be offering for larger roles and have them deliver it, then find opportunities to grow some local success stories there. I mean, this is what the Republicans were doing in the 70s and 80s. It’s always been a good strategy.

Basically, this was a good start. It’s the right way to think about 2018. Now let’s keep it going.

First, get someone to actually run

I certainly agree that the Democratic statewide ticket would benefit from the presence of a qualified Latino candidate or two or three. Agreeing on that is the easy part. Finding someone who qualifies as qualified and who is actually willing to get into a race, especially if it means not resigning from or not running for re-election to an office he or she would easily hold indefinitely, that’s the hard part.

Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of Cameron County Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic National Committee, said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, one of the best known Latino elected officials in Texas, would make a great lieutenant governor.

“Someone like Leticia brings all the attributes we need for a strong candidate for lieutenant governor. She is smart, she is aggressive, she is not afraid to do what is right,” said Hinojosa, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.

[…]

“The key to everything here in Texas is the Latino vote. That is the make or break, the do or die for the Democratic Party,” Hinojosa said. “If the Latino vote increases by eight to ten percent in this state Texas becomes blue. We would have a Democratic governor, a Democratic lieutenant governor, and every position up and down that ballot. But, unless you increase that vote you are not going anywhere.”

In addition to Van de Putte, Hinojosa said state Reps. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, and Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, would be great candidates for statewide office.

I agree with all this, but someone has to step up and run first. I’m lukewarm on Raymond, but Van de Putte and/or Villarreal would be awesome, for whatever office they wanted. Now how do you make it make it happen?