“For all the talk of turning Texas blue, it got significantly redder” began our wrap-up of the 2014 general election, which we published three years and a day ago, one day after Attorney General Greg Abbott defeated Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) by 20 points. “Despite all the fundraising success and Battleground Texas’s efforts, Davis not only failed to achieve the vote percentage of Bill White in 2010, she also failed to achieve Tony Sanchez’s vote percentage in 2002.”
Davis won just 19 of the state’s 254 counties. She failed to break 20% of the vote in 125 counties. Yet, she was the best performing statewide Democratic candidate on the ballot.
The average Democratic candidate for statewide office received 37% of the vote. That included an Agriculture Commissioner candidate, Cleburne rancher Jim Hogan, who literally raised no money and did no campaigning. Despite more than $40M in contributions and an active grassroots organization behind her, Davis received just 138K more votes statewide than Hogan did.
Nationally, and in Texas, the 2010 election was a reaction to the first years of the Barack Obama presidency. The wave of new, enthusiastic Democratic voters who had turned out in 2008 to elect the nation’s first African-American president receded completely, leaving Texas much, much redder in its retreating wake.
Seven years later, energized by a Donald Trump presidency they loathe, Democrats nationally sense a wave coming their way. Elections in Georgia, New Jersey and Virginia on Tuesday could be an early indicator of its potential strength. Even in Texas, the Democratic faithful see signs that give them hope. Fields of candidates are running for Congress and raising significant amounts of money, at least relative to prior election cycles. Democratic legislative candidates are already running for more Republican-held seats than in 2016, and the official filing period has not even begun.
Yet, the top of the ballot looks a little thin. There are candidates running, but star power is lacking.
At a Voto Latino Power Summit in Austin on Sunday, former San Antonio Mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro admitted, “it has been a tough cycle to recruit candidates” to run statewide in red Texas. Castro himself is 99% sure he will not run for governor, and his brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), earlier this year passed on a challenge of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R).
As far as we can tell, seven people have announced they would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is considered by national pundits to be one of the, if not the, safest incumbent seeking re-election in 2017.
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