2018 Election

Big Gains for Texas Democrats in 2020?

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We all know how close Beto O’Rourke came to taking Ted Cruz’s Senate seat — just a little more than 200,000 votes (or 2.6%).

By comparison, Ted Cruz won his 2012 race by more than 1.2 million votes and almost 16%.

Not everyone realizes just how close our elections for the U.S. House of Representatives turned out to be, though.

Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher knocked off Republican John Culberson in TX-7.

Democrat Colin Allred knocked off Republican Pete Sessions in TX-32.

Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones came close to unseating Republican Will Hurd in TX-23, a race that still hasn’t been called.

And there are a handful of other races that were blowouts in 2016 — only to become squeakers in 2018.

Republican John Carter beat Democrat MJ Hegar by 3% in TX-31 (after winning by 21.9% in 2016).

Republican Dan Crenshaw beat Democrat Todd Litton by 7.4% in TX-2 (after Republican Ted Poe won by 24.6% in 2016).

Republican Michael McCaul beat Democrat Mike Siegel by 4% in TX-10 (after winning by 18.9% in 2016).

Republican Pete Olson beat Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni by 5% in TX-22 (after winning by 19% in 2016).

Republican Chip Roy beat Democrat Joseph Kopser by 2.8% in TX-21 (after Republican Lamar Smith won by 20.6% in 2016).

Republican Kenny Marchant beat Democrat Jan McDowell by 3.2% in TX-24 (after winning by 16.9% in 2016).

Republican Roger Williams beat Democrat Julie Oliver by 8.9% in TX-25 (after winning by 20.8% in 2016).

Keep in mind, too: These districts are heavily gerrymandered to ensure that Republicans win. This year’s election bent the Republican gerrymander without breaking it — but Democrats will take another shot in a couple of years.

I hope many of these Democrats will consider running again.

Beto O’Rourke likely won’t be on the ballot in 2020 to fill the sails of House candidates in Texas. But Democrats will have several things going for them as they seek to win some of these close races in two years:

  • An Unpopular President: Trump will be on the ballot in 2020 most likely, and his approval ratings are unlikely to rise higher than the low 40s. After all, we’ve enjoyed record unemployment and a strong economy his first two years, and he still can’t climb into the mid-40s.
  • The Economy: Speaking of the economy, it’s likely to get worse by 2020. I’m not cheerleading against the economy — it’s just that it can’t get much better than it is right now
  • Credibility: The candidates who made things close in the races listed above established credibility for Democrats. Volunteers are likely to be more engaged in 2020, fundraising is likely to be easier in 2020, candidate recruitment will be even more robust in 2020. It’s going to be a good year to run as a Democrat.

Also, we still don’t know who will run for Senate against John Cornyn in 2020. It likely won’t be Beto O’Rourke, but it could be another Democrat who is willing to put in the time and energy needed to build on the in-roads O’Rourke made in 2018.

As Democrats, we should be getting ready to support these candidates right now. And, if you’re at all interested in getting involved, consider running for one of the seats listed above — or in other state and local races.

In 2018, Democrats proved they could be competitive in Texas. In 2020, it’s time to start winning.

It’s going to take lots of organizing and lots of hard work.

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