'We're not built for statewide victory': Texas Democrats seek 'relevance' after midterms routing

'We're not built for statewide victory': Texas Democrats seek 'relevance' after midterms routing

After decades of writing off Texas as a lost cause, Democratic strategists began to feel more optimistic about their prospects in the Lone Star State when, in 2018, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke came within striking distance of incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas’ 2018 U.S. Senate race. Democrat O’Rourke lost that race, but only by about 2 percent — which was a shocker in a state where Democrats were used to double-digit losses.

In 2020’s presidential election, President Joe Biden lost Texas by 6 percent. Democrats were observing a pattern: Republicans still had the advantage in statewide races in the Lone Star State, but that advantage had shrunk to single digits.

Then came the 2022 midterms, which found O’Rourke taking on Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas’ gubernatorial race — and losing by 11 percent. Now, according to reporting in the Daily Beast and the Dallas Morning News, Democratic strategists are licking their wounds and wondering how they can regain the ground they appear to have lost in the Lone Star State.

READ MORE: Here are 5 of the GOP’s biggest 2022 midterms disappointments

Journalist Ursula Perano, in an article published by the Beast on November 21, reports, “For years, Texas Democrats have believed their state is on the precipice — perhaps just one more election cycle away — of turning from red to blue. But in 2022, for the second straight election, Texas got redder…. There were some assumed perks to O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso who’s repeatedly garnered national attention; he had widespread name ID and an already built-out database of supporters.”

Perano adds, “He knew how to run a campaign — and he dominated the primary. But even as Democrats nationally overperformed, and Democratic candidates in South Texas quelled the anticipated red wave in the House, O’Rourke did not.”

Joel Montfort, a Texas-based Democratic consultant, told the Beast, “We were hoping Beto would bring big coattails this go around. None of that happened.”

Some parts of Texas are very Democrat-friendly. Democrats dominate major urban centers like Houston, Dallas, Austin and El Paso, and they perform well in some congressional districts in Texas. But when it comes to statewide races, Democrats struggle in the Lone State Perino.

READ MORE: 'Catastrophic embarrassment': Mitch McConnell pilloried after Democrats clinch Senate majority

Jon Mark Hogg, founder of the Texas-based Democratic political action committee, 134 PAC, believes that Democrats still have a chance to make progress in Texas — although it won’t happen overnight.

Hogg told the Beast, “This is a long-term struggle. This is not something that you're going to get done in 2024, 2026. We need a long-term plan.”

Nationally, the 2022 midterms were much better for Democrats than many pundits were expecting. Republicans obtained a small majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but Democrats kept their majority in the U.S. Senate and won gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin and other states.

Nonetheless, seeing O’Rourke lose to Abbott by 11 percent was a major disappointment for Democrats, as was Texas’ lieutenant governor’s race. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick defeated his Democratic challenger, Mike Collier, by 10 percent.

Ali Zaidi, who managed Collier’s campaign, told the Dallas Morning News, “The undeniable fact is that we’re not built for statewide victory. We are at risk of becoming a party in search of relevance.”

Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, believes that Democrats still have the potential for future gains in his state. But as Zaidi sees it, Texas Democrats who perform well in blue districts aren’t doing enough to help Democrats in statewide races.

“The folks that are most pessimistic about statewide victory in Texas are incumbent Democrats,” Zaidi told the Morning News. “They are our Achilles heel.”

READ MORE: 'Where woke goes to die': Why Florida is now a red state

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