Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
I believe most of you know I live in Texas. Right after the mid-term election in November, 2018, I ventured some thoughts on the national scene. Here are some observations about my home state
For the last 40 years or so, Texas has been the bulwark of Republican presidential elections. You could put Texas in the GOP column from the very git-go.. Today, It has not turned true blue, or even a dark shade of purple Yet, but the trend is alarming. Some statistics from the 2018 elections:
* Senator Ted Cruz defeated Beto O’Rourke, the darling of the Democrats, by only 2.3% out of 8.3 million votes cast. In 2010, he won by high double digits.
* In my Congressional district (the 21st), the Republican candidate won by about the same margin. This seat has been held by a Republican since 1978.
* In Tarrant County (Fort Worth), heretofore a staunch Republican/Tea Party county, the Democrats defeated an incumbent state representative, state senator, and the congressman who was the Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. The vote went from plus 9% Republican in 2016 to -0.6% in 2018.
*Every major metropolitan area saw the Democrat vote exceed the Republican vote, as happened in 2016. However, suburban counties outside Austin, Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth also moved toward the Democrats.
* Statewide, the Republicans lost 12 seats in the state house of representatives and 2 in the senate. The Republicans still control both chambers but only by one seat in the senate, which could have a major impact on legislation this session.
* Governor Abbott won re-election by about 11.9 percent against a very weak, poorly funded opponent. In 2014, he won by 20% against a popular, well-funded opponent. The Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, won by only 4.9 percent, way below his margin of victory in 2014.
* The population of Texas continues to surge. It is estimated that 1400 people move to Texas every day. Do they go to the metropolitan area or the rural areas? San Antonio has 66 people move there every day. Where are the Democrats the strongest? Where the population increase is the greatest.
* Every Republican Court of Appeals judge running against a Democrat lost. Every Republican judge in Bexar County (San Antonio) with a Democrat opponent lost.
* From 2000 till 2017, the percentage of white, non-Hispanic Texans fell from 52.4% to 42.0%. Hispanics voted for O’Rourke over Cruz 64-35. In Dallas County, Hispanic turnout increased 86%.
I could pile statistics on statistics but the picture is clear. The Democrats dream has come true; Texas IS a battleground state. By 2024 at the latest, if this trend continues the Democrats will elect someone in a state-wide election for the first time since 1994.
Is the situation hopeless for the GOP. Absolutely not. But, the Republicans must hitch up the wagons and go to work at the grassroots level. No longer can we count on the preponderance of non-Hispanic whites to carry the day. We must reach into ALL segments of Texas and bring to them a winning message. NOW.
Which also means we must carry a winning message. The Texas GOP must find a way to divorce itself from the stigma of racism and misogynism that hangs over the Trump presidency. We need to brag about the jobs and quality of life and opportunities that Republican leadership and governance have produced over the last decades. The Republican issues must be those issues that the vast majority of Texans are passionate about. Not constitutional carry or transgender bathrooms but low taxes and jobs and schools and public safety and equal opportunity. We must get back to those principles that have marked Republicanism for generations. The infatuation with the far-right has failed. Let’s return to the “Big Tent” of Ronald Reagan and lead Texas forward for future Texans.