By Jeffrey L. Boney
In 2002, Republicans took control of the Texas House of Representatives – breaking a 130-year string of Democratic dominance on the state.
After taking control of the Texas House of Representatives, the first thing newly elected Texas Republicans did was engage in a major partisan redistricting effort that completely changed the course of Texas politics. As a result, Republicans gained six seats during the 2004 elections, which led to them having the majority in the Texas House for the first time since Reconstruction.
As of 2018, Texas Republicans still control the House and Senate in Texas, as well as control of all the statewide offices. This has had an impact on federal elections also, in that Republicans have continued to have a stronghold on winning important U.S. Congressional and Senate races.
Texas has also been a consistent and reliable state when it comes to the Republican nominee for president. Not since 1976, when Jimmy Carter defeated Republican Gerald Ford, has a Democratic candidate for president carried the state.
There has been a lot of chatter over the past several months about whether Republicans may be losing their grip on Texas as a reliable “red state” and there are several candidates in Texas that have many Republicans worried.
So could Texas really be in play for Democrats this November?
Based on a recent letter sent to his supporters, 17-year incumbent U.S. Congressman John Culberson (R-TX) seems to think so. Rep. Culberson is in a dogfight here in Texas, against his Democratic opponent, attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, and he is desperately appealing to his supporters for help. In the first few paragraphs of the letter, Culberson, who has served as the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 7th congressional district since 2001, states the following with some points of emphasis being bolded, underlined and italicized by him:
The National Democrat Party has made me one of their top targets.
They know if they turn District 7 blue, they turn Harris County blue. If they turn Harris County blue, they turn Texas blue.
If the Democrats win District 7, that means we would lose our principled conservative leaders in Harris County and in Texas. But it doesn’t stop there – if we lose District 7, we lose the House to Democrat control – if the Democrats turn Texas blue, we will never elect another Republican president in our lifetime.
This November, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be up for grabs, making this one of the most crucial midterm elections in recent memory. 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be regular elections, while the other two seats will be special elections, where the winner will serve a six-year term from January 3, 2019, to January 3, 2025. If Democrats are able to successfully flip 23 Republican-held House seats, while holding on to all of their current seats, they will take back the House in 2018. Things are even closer in the U.S. Senate, whereby Democrats only have to successfully flip two Senate seats to take it back.
There are several close Congressional races and an extremely tight Senate race in Texas that have gotten lots of attention of many people nationally, and the outcome of these races could mean the difference between Texas remaining in Republican control or the opposite.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) seems to believe that Texas is in play, but is more concerned with ensuring there are voices in Washington D.C. who can hold President Donald Trump accountable. Sen. Booker made a stop in Houston to show support for Fletcher, and for the Democratic nominee for Senate, current U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), who is running against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.
“If we flip the House and Senate, it is a check and balance on a president whose White House is in chaos right now and is swirling around corruption. Multiple people around this president have been indicted, convicted or are under investigation, and even the president himself is under criminal investigation,” said Sen. Booker. “So if there is any moment in history that we need someone to provide honorable checks and balances to this president, we need someone like Lizzie Fletcher and other strong leaders to go down to Washington to be able to do so.”
In a recent poll conducted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), it found Fletcher to be neck-and-neck with Rep. Culberson, with her trailing him by only 2 points – 45 percent to 47 percent. That is within the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error, which has many political observers paying close attention. The fact that Fletcher reported that she had raised over a $1 million back at the June 30th filing deadline raised a few eyebrows as well.
As it relates to the race involving O’Rourke, he is also within the margin of error in recent polling, as a NBC News/Marist Poll shows O’Rourke only 4 points behind Sen. Cruz – 45 percent to 49 percent 45 percent. On top of that, O’Rourke has been consistently raising more money than Cruz by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, while touting his unwillingness to take PAC money from anyone. His strong candidacy has caused many top Republicans, including President Trump, to become more actively involved in this hotly contested race. If O’Rourke were to win in November, he would be the first Democrat to win a statewide seat in Texas since 1994.
A victory by O’Rourke would be a blow to the Republican Party, both statewide and nationally.
Another race that is being looked at nationally is the race for Texas’s 14th congressional district involving Democratic nominee Adrienne Bell and her opponent, incumbent Randy Weber (R-TX). Bell recently received two major endorsements from former President Barack Obama and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Bell, who is one of the many African American female candidates that are on the ballot in November, served as a Texas field staffer during Obama 2012 reelection campaign and is running for a seat that is in play, based off of numbers and demographics that have been analyzed.
The impact of winning U.S. Congressional seats in Texas will have a huge impact on national politics as a whole, including the presidential election in 2020. These races in Texas are too-close-to-call, but if the response to the Democratic candidates in Texas by Republicans across the country is any indication, the tides could very well be changing come November 6.
This article originally appeared in the Houston Forward Times.