'Battleground Texas' Launches New Multimillion Dollar Effort to Turn Texas Blue

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Texas is finally receiving its moment in the national sun.

For all the sweat and money that Texas Democrats and their allies have poured into the state over the years, a big missing ingredient has been national interest in Texas.

Sure, as Bill Clinton said, “There's no state in the country that votes less like its demographics than Texas.”  

But with cities the size of states (Harris County by itself would be the 15th largest state) and with multiple media markets, Texas was always too big, too expensive, and too hard compared with the other pressing priorities of national donors.

As a result, Texas for 30 years has languished near the bottom in voter turnout – finishing dead last in 2010. While one poll by LatinoDecisions estimates that nearly 60% of Hispanic voters in Colorado were contacted about the 2012 election, the same poll found that only about 25% of Texas Hispanics were.

But the good news is that the signs are that Texas' days as a perpetual bridesmaid are coming to an end.

One of the most promising signs came today in the announcement that former Obama for America national field director Jeremy Bird with support from national Democratic and progressive donors is launching Battleground Texas, a new organization that Bird told POLITICO “will make Texas a battleground state by treating it as one.”

According to POLITICO:

“Battleground Texas,” plans to engage the state's rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles. Two sources said the contemplated budget would run into the tens of millions of dollars over several years – a project Democrats hope has enough heft to help turn what has long been an electoral pipe dream into reality.

True to the Obama campaign's model in swing states, Bird said:

“Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters – and as importantly, by mobilizing Texans who are already registered voters but who have not been engaged in the democratic process.”

And the good news is these efforts dovetail nicely into substantial work already being done in the state with low-propensity voters by partisan organizations as well as non-partisan groups like the Texas Organizing Project, Mi Familia Vota, and Texans Together.  Those efforts also are expected to increase in coming years.

While Texas may be big, the lessons of places like Colorado and New Mexico is that big change is possible over several cycles (and sooner than you think).  But engaging non-regular voters means starting earlier and year-around civic engagement.  And it also means more research and polling to understand the complex and incredibly diverse population of Texas.  All that's expensive.  But with national funder interest, the resources needed to do that kind of work may finally be available in Texas.

It's not hard to see why national interest has started to shift to Texas.  By many estimates Hispanic provided the decisive margin of victory to President Obama in Colorado, Nevada, and Florida – each states where President Obama lost the Anglo vote.  

In Texas, by contrast, there are some 2.3 million registered and eligible African-Americans and Hispanics in just the state's 11 largest counties who are considered unlikely voters.  Of those, only 782,580 (34%) voted in 2008. And in 2010?  Only 68,883 voted.  That's less than 3% turnout and a fall off of almost 714,000 in a state that Bill White lost by 631,086 votes.

And it's important to stress that while talk about Texas usually and inevitably focuses on Hispanics, more than 60% registered voters in Dallas and Harris counties are considered unlikely voters under common models.

That's opportunity galore.

And from a national perspective as one national donor said in Washington recently when calling for a “moon-landing commitment to Texas”:  Texas is checkmate.

And with prolific San Antonio fundraiser Henry Muñoz taking over as finance chair for the Democratic National Committee, a deepening of ties of Texas with national sources of money will only increase.  

That's only further good news for Texas progressives.


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  1. Women and Hispanics Drop the Ball

    I know this is totally Politically Incorrect BUT I would like to point out, numbers wise, it is WOMEN and HISPANICS who are failing Texas and themselves by not voting Democrat solidly in EVERY election in Texas.

    This state would have been “Blue” long ago if Women and Hispanics consistently voted for the party which protects and furthers their interests most consistently – THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

    As a WHITE MAN I find it shocking that so many Texans of the Female and Hispanic varieties are so 1. brainwashed or 2. so lazy that they fail to get themselves to the polls and VOTE or if they do they so totally clueless they fail to vote Democrat.

    • “Lazy” is in the eye of the beholder
      For any specific Texas woman or Latino to be 'lazy' in a given election, there would have to be a chance that their individual vote could make a difference in electing an official that would then in turn have a possibility of enacting policies beneficial to the voter. As any political scientist/non-political junkie Texan will point out, voting is irrational.

      So perhaps women and us Latinos have been lazy, but given the quality of the Texas left-of-center political infrastructure, it seems that a lot of our base was acting rationally, not lazily.  I don't like it, but we need the correct diagnosis to field the appropriate cure.

      The quality of the state and local parties, Texas progressive groups, and the quality of the Democratic candidates all contribute to getting voters out of strictly rational mode (“my vote doesn't make a difference”) and into seeking the expressive benefits of collective action (“I am looking forward to going to the booth because I like my team and I want to give them a chance to win”).  That's why the possibility of sustained investment to replenish Texas liberal infrastructure is promising: we might have the resources to build enduring voting habits.

      Btw, I hear and understand your frustration, but the word 'lazy' is fairly loaded in terms of discussing Latinos. Use it if you wish, but some folks might stop listening once they hear that word tossed out.

      • Exactly. (Woman here)
        I've lived in 3 areas in Texas since 1999 – Austin suburbs, Dallas suburbs, and now Fort Worth. Every time I've been presented with a good Democratic candidate, I've supported and voted for them. It's very sad that there have been times when there was no actual candidate for whom I could vote!

        And I agree with your assessment of the word “lazy” – its use in this context is reprehensible.

        • Lazy Could Also Apply to White People
          Lazy could also be applied to white people.

          Sadly the truth is the majority of Hispanics DO NOT vote.

          Time off from work could be an obstacle, however, people who choose NOT to vote are, in my opinion, LAZY. It doesn't matter what color or gender they are.

          Kneejerk accusations of racism are often counterproductive, especially when directed toward someone who has voted Democrat consistently their whole life, working for the state and local party, belonged to a trade union for the last 25 years, marched in anti-war protests for 3 wars now, participated in the Central American Solidarity movement in the 1980s trying to prevent a US invasion of Nicaragua or El Salvador, protested against Apartheid in the 1970s, worked in AIDS advocacy in the 1980s etc. .

          To be called “racist” by someone whose “radical” credentials don't much fgo beyond reading Noam Chomsky or leaving an internet comment is, at the least, funny as Hell and at the worst just self-serving rather than liberating in any sense of the word.

          You kids are going to have to pull your heads out of your asses if you are ever going to achieve anything in the sense of a “mass” movement.

      • yikes
        Yeah smooth move, WHITE MAN.  Way to blame it on irrational women and lazy Mexicans.  Weird that they're not more motivated to work with you…

      • Lazy was a Poor Choice
        My use of the word “lazy” was a poor choice though I personally do not judge people to be “lazy” based on their race.

        There are alot of knnejerk PC people who, personally, have done nothing to advance the cause of Leftism or Progressivism. Their only contribution is to jump on the Easy Targets based on something as subjective as poor language choice on an internet comment thread.

        Impotent against real Institutional Racism and Classism they choose to bully the easy marks while choosing not to risk their personal freedom or professional careers by enganing in real meaningful protest against authority and power.

        Most people would call them “cunts”, though I suppose that term is regarded as sexist. Perhaps if I call them “assholes” everyone will be happy? As though I personally care about your fucking happiness or feelings.

    • Women and Hispanics Drop the Ball
      As a woman and an active vote, I can assure you that many of us are not lazy nor are we brainwashed.  I live in Collin County and was shocked and appalled to find that many of the open seats at the last election were white male Republicans running UNOPPOSED. I did my part, but the democratic party is not doing theirs.  I will always vote for anything other than the right wing, but I have to be given the choice.  

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