The most recent year when a Democratic gubernatorial candidate won all 254 counties in Texas.
Garry Mauro, top Clinton ally in Texas, tells reporters: "No, we're not a battleground state and we shouldn't be a battleground state."
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) August 23, 2016
Despite recent polls showing Democrat Hillary Clinton within single digits of Republican Donald Trump in Texas and reports of rising voter registrations among voters who could swing Democratic, all but the most hopeful Democrats admit that the state is not competitive in 2016.
Yet, the state is quite competitive compared to its solid-blue past. Fifty years ago, a Democratic governor won a third term by winning every county across the state, a feat never done by a Republican. Allan Shivers received at least 80% of the vote in all but four counties: Dallas (79%), Gillespie (78%), Kendall (78%) and, oddly, Zapata (60%). In fact, Democrats often recorded 254-county (or so, depending on what year certain counties were formally organized) sweeps in the first two thirds of the 20th century.
In 1952, the struggling Republican Party’s convention delegates met in Mineral Wells, where they nominated all but one Democratic nominee for the statewide offices, including Gov. Allan Shivers (There is a long and interesting story behind this, but it’s beyond the scope of this post.). Shivers received 75% of the vote against himself.
Two years later, Shivers received 85% of the vote in the general election. Republican Tod Adams barely exceeded 10%. Not a single Republican was elected to the Legislature. But there was a spark that would, eventually, begin the Republican Party’s journey to turning Texas ruby red.
In Dallas Co., voters elected a Republican to represent them in Congress for the first time since Reconstruction. Running for the seat vacated by the retiring Joseph Wilson (D-Dallas), Bruce Alger defeated former Dallas Mayor and Dallas Co. Democratic chairman Wallace Savage, 53%-47%. He became the first Republican sent to Congress by Texas voters in a general election since 1930 (Ben Guill, a Republican from Pampa, won a special election in 1950 but lost the general election to a Democrat.).
Alger was re-elected four terms before losing the 1964 general election to Earle Cabell, who resigned as mayor of Dallas to run for Congress.
Alger died last year. His obituary in The Washington Post is worth a read.
Mr. Alger voted against public housing, integration efforts, Medicare, subsidized school lunches and increases in Social Security. He called the Peace Corps a form of creeping socialism.
In 1963, while speaking to a consortium of conservative groups in Washington, Mr. Alger called for the United States to get out of the United Nations, to drive the communists from Cuba and to ban any official recognition of communist states. He said Congress should be required to balance the budget and recommended the adoption of a “flat tax,” in which people of all income levels would pay the same tax rate.
Many of those themes continue to be bedrock conservative principles and have underscored the growth of the tea party movement in recent years.
And the Texas Republican Party for decades before the Tea Party’s emergence.