Stop me if you heard this one before: Texas Democrats get their asses handed to them in a mid-term election.
Unfortunately for me, I have heard it six times in six midterms. I recall moving to Austin in the Summer of 1994 (man, that was a great summer) and joining the staff of Comptroller John Sharp just in time for the credits to roll on the reign of the Democrat in Texas. Not only did Governor Ann Richards lose, but the so-called Republican Revolution decimated the Congress. We were 7 for 8 on statewides.
Bump in the road. Still have a great bench. Coming back next cycle.
In 1998, we ran a proven statewide winner, four-term Land Commissioner Garry Mauro. He was a FOB (Friend of Bill) and had what was at the time the best database of voters and Democratic activists statewide. He also had a very capable staff of battle-hardened veterans. Unfortunately for former Commissioner Mauro, he was getting on the tracks in front of the W train that was headed full speed for DC. There was no lift at the top of the ticket and the two most important races on the ballot–Lieutenant Governor and Comptroller–lost by the narrowest of margins (68,000 for Lt Guv & 20,000 for Comptroller). We went 0 for 14 on statewides.
But we had a plan.
2002. New guy. You’ve never heard of him. More money than sense. Hispanic. He can self-fund and awaken the sleeping giant of Hispanic voters. A triple threat if there ever was one. Bested Mauro’s margin by a full 8 points…but still couldn’t break 40%. There was no lift at the top of the ticket and the most important race on the ballot–Lieutenant Governor–lost by 260,000 votes. We went 0 for 15 on statewides.
Clearly, we were in a free fall. The so-called “Dream Team” had been a nightmare. I was livid.
On the way home from a campaign watch party at 1am I started making calls. This can’t stand, I said. We’ve got to do something different, I said. Everyone I spoke to over the next week agreed. After raising holy hell for two months for the ouster of then-TDP Party Chair and “mastermind” of the Dream Team, Molly Beth Malcolm, a vote of no confidence was held by the SDEC. I think we got two whole votes, but she resigned a few months later. Mission accomplished? This is the trough of our lifecycle, right. Um, no.
We slept through 2006 with a nice, but weak candidate who had tens of thousands of votes siphoned off by two Independent candidates (29%, by the way). No lift at the top of the ticket. Didn’t matter. When you sleep walk you don’t really care what is going on around you. We went 0 for 15 on statewides.
We’ll get them next time because W won’t be on the ballot. LOL.
2010. New guy. Unless you live in Houston, you’ve never heard of him. FOB. Can raise money. South Texas roots. Can raise money. He’ll make us competitive in East Texas again. Can raise money. In a wave election, former Houston Mayor Bill White got the best percentage of a gubernatorial candidate since Richards (42%), but was widely criticized for being a bad candidate. No lift at the top of the ticket despite a $10 million IE attacking Governor Rick Perry. 2010 made 2002 look like a success. From a near majority in the Texas House in 2008 to a 100-seat majority for the Republicans. We went 0 for 14 on statewides.
Sigh. No one knew what to do and no one really was in a position to complain. We were 0 for 58 in the prior 4 cycles.
2014. New gal. Good news: you’ve heard of her. Bad news: you’ve only heard of her because of her filibuster of a late-term abortion bill. Smart. Attractive. Ignites the base. Can raise money. Great back story. With the support of Battleground Texas and the Obama-ites she’ll swing suburban woman, bring new people to the polls, get the base fired up. No lift at the top of the ticket and the most important race on the ballot–Lieutenant Governor–lost by 900,000 votes. We went 0 for 14 on statewides.
In the words of the late, great Robin Williams in his best performance (The Survivors), “What do we do now, Sonny?”