DALLAS — The last time Democrats won statewide office in Texas, the average retail price of gas was $1.11 a gallon. Needless to say, it’s been quite a while -- 1994 specifically. And that’s one of the reasons the race for Texas Democratic Party Chair is being close watched.
Gilberto Hinojosa says turning Texas blue is not an event -- it’s a process. He’s been chair of the Texas Democratic Party for nearly a decade and no Democrats have won statewide office during his tenure.
But he says his success as chair can be measured in other ways. When he took over a couple of years after the party’s failure in the 2010 elections, he says there were only 47 Democrats in the Legislature.
“Today, we’ve elected in the last two election cycles 67 members to the Texas Legislature, to the House. That’s a 42% increase. If you look at the overall Democratic gains statewide, when I took over, 30% of the people in the state of Texas lived in Democratic controlled counties. Today, 70% of the people live in Democratic controlled counties,” Hinojosa said on this week’s Inside Texas Politics.
Watch the segment below:
Hinojosa says Democrats have come close recently and that’s a sign of progress. He points specifically to Beto O’Rourke’s narrow loss to Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 race for U.S. Senate and President Biden’s gains in 2020.
O’Rourke lost to Cruz by 2.6 percentage points. President Biden won Tarrant County, for instance, by a mere hundreds of votes. But he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in that Republican stronghold since President Lyndon B. Johnson (O’Rourke also narrowly beat Cruz in Tarrant County in 2018).
To put Democrats over the top statewide, though, Hinojosa says national Democrats are going to have to make a decision that Texas is in play and send the necessary dollars.
He claims Republicans spent twice as much as Democrats in 2020.
“We were polling on every state House race and even in the presidential race in 2020 ahead of the Republican party. What they did when they found out about this polling, they doubled the amount of money they were going to spend in Texas, the Republican party did,” said Hinojosa. “The national (Democratic) party has to make a decision that they’re going to invest in Texas for us to be able to win.”
The chair of the Texas Democratic Party will be determined by delegates at the party’s biennial convention July 11-14 in Dallas.