Over the weekend, Texas Democrats met in San Antonio ahead of this year’s presidential election. A question on almost everyone’s lips was whether this year’s election has set the groundwork for Democratic gains in the state.
The party has long predicted Texas will become a battleground state. But, Democrats can’t agree on whether this is actually the year that happens.
One sign things are changing – at least a little bit – is that Texas Democrats have a rising star in the national party: Julian Castro. Castro, San Antonio’s former mayor, is this year’s keynote speaker. He’s on the shortlist of possible vice presidential picks for the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.
During a press conference he held with his twin brother Joaquin Castro, Julian told reporters he’s not being vetted for that gig –at least not at this moment. anyway. But either way, things are looking good for Julian Castro and he says they might start looking good for Texas Democrats in general.
“This year I believe that for the first time in a long time, Texas is more competitive than usual,” he said.
There a lot of different opinions about whether this is true—even within the party. Julian and Joaquin Castro say there definitely is a possibility here and it just depends on whether Democrats can seize the moment.
“Right now what you have is a reinvigorated state democratic party and county parties that are looking to win races in places where we haven’t won in a long time,” Julian Castro said.
“There is an effort that the party is making to go out and build up that bench,” Joaquin Castro added. “To go find the folks that are going to run for city council, for state rep, for school board seats and build up the bench of folks who will eventually run state wide.”
The background for a lot of this hopefulness has to do with the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee: Donald Trump.
Polling shows minorities in this country, which by the way make up a majority of the Texas population, largely do not like Trump.
And many Texas Republicans – especially those who backed Ted Cruz in the primary—are lukewarm at best about Trump. So, the theory is: this could be the year that the state goes blue. But, of course, there are skeptics.
“I think our time is coming and it isn’t here yet,” said Eileen Mundorf, a convention delegate from Richmond supporting Hillary Clinton.
Mundorf said Republicans have held on to power here for years and she just can’t see that changing right now.
Clarissa Rodriguez, a delegate from Houston, said that’s because people aren’t just going to start voting against their party all of a sudden. Texas still has more Republicans. And Rodriguez says Republicans will support Republicans.
“You’ll have Republicans who are like ‘yeah no I hate Donald Trump, but I don’t want a Democrat in office,’” she said. “So, it’s sad.”
By the way, Hillary Clinton’s state campaign director here in Texas isn’t convinced Texas is a battleground state yet either. But then there are folks like delegate Ray Martin from Huntsville, who is sold on the idea that this is that moment Democrats have been waiting for.
“I think we have the best chance in a hundred years to actually do something,” Martin said. “In two years if we do something today or do something this year –in two years we will have a Democratic governor.
And most of the speeches and merchandise surrounding the convention this year echoed this sentiment.
To be fair, people will point out Democrats have been touting this shift of political power for years. Because of the ongoing demographic shifts in the state, the idea of Texas as a battleground is talked about almost as an inevitability.
As Ray Martin and Julian Castro say, though, this isn’t so much about whether this is finally that moment Democrats have been waiting for – it’s about whether Democrats in Texas will do anything about it.