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Will The 2018 Elections Be A Dream Come True For Texas Democrats?

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

Is Texas turning blue? That's the question, dream and lie (depending on your point of view) being discussed across the state.

It's the dream of Democrats, who haven't won a statewide office in Texas since the early '90s. It's a big lie, say Republicans, who argue support for President Trump has been more positive in Texas than in most of the country.

Got questions for Ben about the elections? Email him at, and he may answer them in an upcoming column.

But journalists and political pundits still ask the question. So why ask?

Texas is deeply red. Election after election has backed that up. Republicans hold all statewide elected offices. The state Senate and state House are dominated by the GOP. In the Senate, Democrats have no power to shape legislation, because of their low numbers and a lieutenant governor who has made a point of changing Senate traditions to sideline the minority party.

The assumption has been – and remains for now – that a win in the GOP primary for statewide office means a win in November.  

Oh, and then there's the money. Gov. Greg Abbott has enough money in the bank to launch a presidential campaign. If (when) he wins the Republican primary, he'll be able to fly anywhere in the state and blanket it with ads. As you continue down the Republican ballot, the money follows.

And yet, Democrats still think they have a shot, because of what some predict will be a political one-two punch.

Punch one: Money. The GOP has a giant advantage in statewide races. BUT, farther down the ballot, the playing field is a little more level. That's especially true when you look at the races for the U.S. House, where Democrats have the money to make serious runs with legitimate candidates.

Punch two: Even in races where there isn't a bunch of cash on hand, there's enthusiasm. Democrats are running more candidates in more races than the party has in a couple of decades. There's a Democrat running in every congressional race.

Here's a bonus punch: Democrats are also hoping to capitalize on a lack of Republican enthusiasm. Abbott won in 2014 by about 20 points. Sen. John Cornyn was re-elected that year with a 27-point gap over his Democratic challenger. But in 2016, Donald Trump won Texas by only 9 points (52 percent to 43 percent).

I know, 9 points isn't really that close. But considering how poorly Democrats have done in the state over the last 30 years, losing by single digits is something for the party to celebrate. And the party is hopeful that the lack of enthusiasm for the Trump administration will translate to depressed GOP turnout.

Now, that's a lot of “ifs.” If this happens, and if this happens, and then maybe if THIS happens, Democrats could win some races. But even if those “ifs” become reality, the state probably won't become blue.

Maybe Democrats pick up a few seats in the Legislature and in Congress. Maybe Republicans stay home because of something President Trump tweets in the days leading up to the election. Maybe Democrats get a whole lot closer than the 20-point rout dished out by Abbott in 2014. Maybe Texas turns a little less red.

But Republicans could still hold all or most of the statewide offices. The Texas House and Senate could still be packed with Republicans. And the priorities of the 2019 legislative session could easily look a lot like they did last time – no matter how much blue is added to the state. 

Got questions about the primaries? Send them to KUT’s TXDecides project.


Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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