The Texas Democratic Party Has Virtually No Bench-- They Really Need Beto To Come Home And Run For Senate

Beto by Nancy Ohanian

Unsurprisingly, NBC reported that Trump is sinking in the suburbs. And those suburbs include the vote-rich areas around Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso and Corpus Christi. And that helps explain by Texas Republicans are bracing for a drubbing next year. How many Republican incumbents will Trump drag down with him? Melanie Zanona and Laura Barrón-López reported for Politico that "the rash of recent House GOP retirements is just the latest sign of a state party in distress: In last year’s midterms, Democrats flipped a pair of longtime GOP districts, a Democrat came within striking distance of a Senate seat, and more than 50 elected Republican judges lost their jobs. Democrats also gained ground in state legislative races."

Changing demographics and a suburban revolt against President Donald Trump have turned Texas from a conservative bedrock to a major political battleground, especially for House seats. Formerly safe congressional Republicans are facing competitive races for the first time in their careers-- a potential harbinger of Republicans’ future in the state if they don’t adapt quickly.

“If the Republican Party in Texas doesn’t start looking like Texas, there won’t be a Republican Party in Texas,” retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), who represents a key swing district, told Politico. Texas’ Latinos are on pace to become the largest population group in the state by 2022.

Last cycle was “without a doubt a wake-up call to most elected officials,” said Hurd. “Texas is indeed purple.”

...[A]t least eight House seats are in play there, and Sen. John Cornyn is bracing for a competitive reelection race. It’s not out of the question that Democrats could make a play for the state’s 38 Electoral College votes, which would all but clinch the presidency if they were to succeed.

...Keir Murray, a longtime Democratic strategist in Texas, credits Trump for putting the state in play. Democrats expected the state would eventually start to move in their direction as more minorities moved there, but they thought that was still five years away, give or take.

Trump, he said, has “accelerated the process.”

In 2018, 59 percent of female voters went for Democratic candidates, compared with 40 percent for Republicans. That change, coupled with “a browning of the suburbs,” said Murray, is a boon for Democrats.

Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni, who is running to replace retiring Rep. Pete Olson in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District, is focusing on expanding the electorate by engaging with minority communities he said are often overlooked.

...And some of the GOP lawmakers facing competitive reelection battles are ramping up early. Rep. Michael McCaul, who never had a tough race in his Austin-area district prior to last year, has hired a campaign manager and raised $900,000 in the first half of the year, the most he's ever raised in a six-month stretch.

Several vulnerable members, facing their first difficult race in years, have called it quits. Besides Hurd, Olson and Rep. Kenny Marchant-- who each won reelection by less than 5 percentage points last year-- announced their retirements in recent weeks. Olson’s exit opens up a competitive battleground in the Houston suburbs, while Marchant’s district is one of the most diverse in the country. Election forecasters have already moved both races to the toss-up category.

Republican Reps. John Carter and Chip Roy are also on Democrats' target list. The GOP will also try to claw back the seats held by former Reps. Pete Sessions and John Culberson, two longtime Republicans who were wiped out in 2018.

...In the Senate, Cornyn could be in for a bruising race. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s narrow loss to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 gave Democrats hope and Republicans anxiety. In one sign of potential concern about Democrats’ inroads in the state, Trump’s campaign is currently spending more money on digital ads in Texas than in any other state.

Trump may well dig down Chip Roy, Michael McCaul and John Carter in the Austin Area and will make it easier for Democrats to win the seats abandoned by Hurd, Olson and Marchant but the biggie for 2020 in the Cornyn Senate seat. Right now there are 9 declared Democratic Party candidates-- former Congressman Chris Bell, Pastor Michael Cooper, Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards, failed judicial candidate Jack Daniel Foster, Jr., failed congressional candidate MJ Hegar, Berniecrat Sema Hernandez, failed gubernatorial candidate Adrian Ocegueda, civil right activist Christina Ramierez and state Senator Royce West-- and none of them is going to beat Cornyn. Nor is Beto going to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Beto's high point-- according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages, came in early April when his support was at 9.5%. It's been all downhill since then, and now stands at 2.0%, tied with Cory Booker and less than a third of Mayo Pete's!

Over the weekend, the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle published their plea to Beto: Come Home. Texas Needs You. "Our thinking this week, amid all the carnage and grief and finger-pointing," they wrote, "has been in part on Beto O’Rourke, the presidential candidate from El Paso, where 22 people were killed last Saturday. Our sympathy is devoted to the dead and their families, of course-- but Beto has been on our minds, too. We keep coming back to a moment last Sunday when, for a few seconds, all the pretenses that are part of running for president in our age of constant exposure were peeled back, if only briefly. There are times, it seems, in most presidential campaigns when the facades get stripped away like so many layers of paint. What’s left is a human moment, usually fleeting, and not always flattering. But real-- and often more telling than a season of advertisements... Beto, if you’re listening: Come home. Drop out of the race for president and come back to Texas to run for senator. The chances of winning the race you’re in now are vanishingly small. And Texas needs you."

Two years ago, you ran an inspiring race against Sen. Ted Cruz. Sure, you lost. No shame in that. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office since 1994. You chipped away at a wall that wasn’t quite ready to come down. You showed it’s possible.

For too long, Texas officials have had only to consider how far to the right they must go to stay in office. No one is asking whether there might be a good idea or two on the Democratic side of things. We need you, Beto, because Texas badly needs that other view of the world, those differing opinions. You’ve brought us closer to having real, competing parties than any other candidate has, and than any candidate on our radar could.

Would you beat John Cornyn, who is seeking his fourth term? It wouldn’t be easy. You’d have to fight for it, and do better than you did against Cruz. But a lot has changed since 2018-- you had a lot to do with that-- and Trump is no longer rock-solid in Texas. Neither are the Republicans who support him.

Imagine the effect you could have on our state. Ideas get sharper when they’re challenged, when points of view clash. We think Texas will get smarter, and its politics more sophisticated, if campaigns here were a true test of ideas, not one-sided races set to autopilot.

So please, Beto, after you’ve taken some time to mourn the dead in El Paso, consider whether now is a good time to leave one race and join another. Texas needs you back home.

Don't disappoint Texas, Beto. Don't disappoint America. You have plenty of time to show America what you're made of-- and you can run then... not as some New Dem backbencher who didn't get much done, but as the new reborn progressive Beto running for Senate and president has pushed you towards. Dude, here's the answer we're waiting for... performed live by my old friend Alvin Lee and his band at Woodstock 3 years before you were born:

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