A direction on the road ahead for Texas Democrats

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Election 2012, Good Stuff at 1:44 pm by wcnews

Despite the overall election outcomes for Democrats in Texas, there were a few Democratic election successes in Texas in 2012. While these results are no “game change” yet, they could lead to one in the future. The success seems to have been built through a well financed and sustained effort of contacting the campaigns likely, or persuadable voters, with a populist message, and then getting them to the polls for early voting and election day.

This awesome analysis posted by Harold Cook on how Democrat Pete Gallego won his race for Congress, Rotkoff: Texas Democrats know how to win – we already are.

The formula was simple: the right message + innovative targeting + good old-fashioned field operation = a Gallego win.


First, we ditched the message recommended by a now out-of-business pollster, that Pete should focus on his background as a prosecutor and run as Mr. Law and Order. Instead, we started talking about the issues that Latino Democrats in Bexar County, South Texas, and El Paso really care about: protecting Social Security and Medicare for our seniors, and providing educational opportunities for our kids.

Second – it wasn’t quite Project Narwhal – but working with the teams at AMM PoliticalGQR Research, and the Pivot Group we implemented a truly innovate candidate support model, and worked off the best field and mail targeting I’ve ever seen.

And you know what? It turns out that when you to talk to the right voters with the right message, you can win an election nobody thinks you will.

That same mantra served Pete well in the general election: find the right voters and talk to them about the issues that make a difference in their lives.

Also this article on a $600,000 effort in Bexar County that produced great results, Massive ground game boosts Bexar Democrats.

Trial lawyer and über Democrat Mikal Watts financed the effort this year, making it the most lavishly funded GOTV campaign ever mounted through Vote Texas. Watts had contributed $500,000 by the time the final pre-election campaign report was filed, and Daniels said Watts gave another $100,000 in the final days of the campaign.

The operation circumvented the Bexar County Democratic Party headquarters and chairman, an approach pioneered by Daniels and Lukin Gilliland Jr. in the 1990s.

Adelante Strategy Group partners Christian Archer and Cuauhtémoc “Temo” Figueroa organized the effort on the ground. Notably, Figueroa was the National Latino Vote Director for the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign. And he ran a 2010 grass-roots effort in Nevada for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which became the model for the Bexar County program.

Voter contact began late last summer. The targets were 125,000 “soft Democrats” who voted in the 2008 Democratic primary but aren’t consistent Democratic voters.

Figueroa directed a team of 50 workers that went door-to-door for months. Phone banks also were used to push voters to cast early ballots.
Archer said more than 60,000 of the targeted voters cast ballots early.

A well-financed project that started over a year before election day. Even Harvey Kronberg mentioned it recently.

But a little noted relatively low-budget effort in San Antonio demonstrated what Democrats have to do to capitalize on demographic shifts that are making a difference elsewhere in the country.

A wealthy contributor kicked in $600,000 to build a ground game that spent months identifying 125,000 so-called soft Democrats who voted in 2008. The organization made multiple contacts and, according to a San Antonio Express News report was so successful, almost half of those targeted showed up to vote early.

Democrats had a blowout year in the San Antonio area and that $600,000 may have been the best utilized Democratic money in the cycle.

Turnout drops dramatically in non-presidential years, so Texas will probably still be solidly Republican in 2014. But a barely noticed effort in San Antonio may have built the roadmap to a future two party state.

The Texas Democrats also made minimal gains in Congress and the state House, Texas Democrats Gained, if Only a Little, in 2012.

Democrats still do not have any statewide officeholders — and their numbers in those races were dismal. But they held their ground in the state Senate, gained seven seats in the Texas House, split the four new seats in Congress and wrested another one away from the red team. The rebound from the disastrous 2010 election was not dramatic, but a gain is a gain.

I’ve seen little analysis of how Wendy Davis won her reelection in the Fort Worth area. The campaign consultant for her opponent Mark Shelton has received blame for running a bad campaign. But the truth is Davis just ran a better campaign.

The Democrats in Texas need to go back to a message like this in order to succeed in the future.

In the century in which we live, the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.

The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.

The Republican Party has made its nominations this year at the dictation of those who, we all know, always place money ahead of human progress.

For some reason too many voters in Texas still see the Democratic Party in Texas as the party of elites and the greedy. Part of the reason is because not enough Democrats have been telling them it’s the GOP that now wears that mantle in Texas.

Further Reading:
Why Texas Republicans won’t win over Hispanic voters.

Hispanic voters, as it turns out, are smart. They overwhelmingly support Democrats because we believe in educating their children, caring for their elders and ensuring that their family has health care. They know that Democrats support the Dream Act and that we don’t believe that wasting $7.3 billion on a border wall is the answer to immigration reform.

As the Hispanic voting population continues to increase in Texas, so too will the turnout rates for the community. We’ve seen how grassroots organizing efforts in Colorado and Nevada increased Latino turnout and transformed those states blue. A similar effort in Texas will reap equal rewards. That work will occur alongside the continued rise of elected Democratic Latino leaders. Julian and Joaquin Castro, Juan Garcia (assistant secretary of the Navy), Rafael Anchia and Leticia Van de Putte are just a few of the promising leaders in the Democratic Party.

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