There is one absolute certainty in life and in politics: things change. The Texas Senate was not always 19-12 for the dark side…er…Republican side. In the 59th Legislature, Democrats held the Senate chamber 31-0. As recently as the 74th Democrats were 17-14. Like I said, things change.
There is great potential–bordering on inevitability–to pick up Senate seats. We don’t need a miracle, we need money and muscle to change the makeup of the Senate and, ultimately, turn it solidly Blue…not in 10 cycles, but possibly 2-3.
Now, if you follow Texas politics at all, you just decided that I am suffering from severe head trauma. I have gotten the same reaction from everyone…I’ve been accused of worse.
Granted, if you do it right, there is nothing easy about any campaign. There is certainly nothing easy about taking on an incumbent in a gerrymandered district. But, who in the hell said politics was meant to be easy? Personally, I’ve heard enough whining about what cannot be done and what races cannot be won to last me a lifetime. This sitting around waiting for demographics to get right or some other gimmick or miracle is precisely how Democrats could be relegated to the minority for another 20 years.
The conventional wisdom is that Democrats need a miracle to pick up any single seat, much less turn the chamber Blue. The numbers show, this reaction is based more on assumptions rather than any empirical evidence.
Here are some districts that should be immediate targets:
SD9 Kelly Hancock (R) Non-White CVAP*= 47% (272,400) 2012 Total Vote=233,577
SD16 John Carona (R) Non-White CVAP= 47% (288,695) 2012 Total Vote=181,746
SD17 Joan Huffman (R) Non-White CVAP=47.5% (287,575) 2012 Total Vote=238,707
*citizen voting age population
First of all, I am well aware that a sole reliance on non-White voters would mean we need astronomical turnout (except in SD 16 where a mere 35% turnout of non-white voters bests Carona). Non-White voters are a piece of the puzzle–not the panacea some think it is. I am also aware that Romney rolled in these districts, as he did in 20 of the 31 districts.
It is also important to note that the 3 districts hold meaningful populations in counties that are nearly 100% Blue from top to bottom (Dallas & Harris), so we are not exactly talking about a handful of voters scattered across a 37-county district like District 31. We are talking about large concentrations of non-white voters in large, urban counties where active GOTV programs are already in place.
For the sake of comparison, SD 10’s non-white VAP is 47.3%, the 2012 total vote was 287,759, Romney won it in the mid-50s, it has numerous down ballot Democratic officeholders, and it holds a meaningful population in an urban county where active an active GOTV program is already in place. Basically, it looks identical to 9, 16, & 17 on paper. The only difference? We made SD 10 a priority, got a good candidate, dedicated the resources, and made it happen.
These 3 districts have good bones, a good bench, and access to existing infrastructure. For a party that desperately needs to grow its market share, these look like a good place to start. (I can assure you that when the Republicans swiped SD 3 in 1994 and SD 5 in a 1997 special, their numbers didn’t look this good.) With a dash of candidate recruitment, a splash of smart staffers, and a chunk of cash, Texas Democrats can be knocking on the door of a 16-15 minority status…not in 10 cycles, but in 2-3.
The closer the margin in the Texas Senate, the more clout we have as a caucus. The more clout we have as a caucus, the greater our ability to kill bad policies, raise money, and force more seats into play. The more seats we force into play, the more seats we win. It ain’t rocket science.
Hell, if we don’t have the sand to take shots at districts with good bones, a good bench, and existing infrastructure, we need to pack it in. Period.
Winning challenge campaigns (and I have won my fair share) is about picking out a good district and fighting like all hell–not waiting for a perfect scenario or sure thing. If the Senate Caucus members put 10% of the more than $14.5 million they individually held in cash reserves on the January 2013 semiannual report towards organizing and turning out Ds in 9, 16 & 17 it might well be the largest Democratic commitment on the ground for state senate races in Texas history…and it would almost certainly yield positive results in the Senate, as well as up and down the ballot.
Yes, things change. As with most things in life, things don’t change because of a miracle. Things change because folks get their mind right, roll up their sleeves, and make change happen.