On Election Day in November, Democrats throughout Texas waited with hopeful anticipation. High early-voter turnout, current political developments and altering demographics fueled one burning query: Could the state truly turn blue this cycle?
By midnight, the answer was a powerful no. Then-President Donald Trump easily carried Texas, by 5.6 percentage factors. And whereas Democrats gained one seat within the state Senate, they did not choose up a single seat within the state House, nor win any of the competitive US congressional races in Texas.
Still, Trump’s lead in Texas was the narrowest for a Republican presidential candidate in years. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state by sixteen points. In 2016, Trump received by 9 points.
Conventional knowledge suggests that such a downward development for Republicans may spur the get together to adapt and turn into more average. But that hasn’t been the case in the almost seven months because the election. Republican leaders right here feel extra emboldened than ever to push forward with conservative priorities, embodied by the Texas Legislature, which is about to conclude its most conservative sessions in recent memory.
Similar to different Republican-led states which have pushed major conservative initiatives this 12 months, the Texas Legislature, which meets as quickly as every two years, has handed a invoice that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected and one that eliminates the permit and training requirements to hold a handgun.
And with only some days left within the session, lawmakers are nonetheless attempting to push an election overhaul with new voting restrictions and laws that would ban the instructing of critical race concept, among different agenda objects.
The state is altering demographically and is about to achieve two congressional seats within the upcoming redistricting process, due to the state’s fast inhabitants growth over the past decade. While some Republicans are on edge about the future of the get together, a lot of its state leaders see the GOP’s success in Texas final cycle as a mandate to proceed moving to the best.
Republicans also tout the gains that Trump made within the typically Democratic stronghold of South Texas, flipping a number of counties that voted for Clinton in 2016 and making huge inroads in others. Of the 17 counties that Clinton gained in 2016, Trump took again seven of them. In Starr County, alongside the southern border, for instance, Trump had lost to Clinton by 60 proportion factors. But in 2020, he misplaced to Joe Biden by only 5 share points in the same county.
“For every Karen we lost in the suburbs, we gained a Julio,” mentioned one GOP operative in the state.
‘I don’t wish to be roadkill’
Lt. Col. Allen West walked throughout the road of an affluent neighborhood in a Dallas suburb, followed by a throng of supporters who gathered at a fundraiser to meet the previous congressman who’s now chairman of the Texas Republican Party.
He got here outdoors for an interview — CNN had been initially invited to the event however was escorted off the property upon arrival — as dozens of donors surrounded him. He was there to talk to The Southlake Families PAC, a group that funded school board candidates who opposed teaching important race principle in a local election that gained national attention.
West, who helped spearhead the GOP agenda for the legislative session, pushed again at critics who think the Legislature is shifting too far to the right. He pointed to the droves of people shifting to Texas from historically blue states like California, New York and New Jersey as examples of the party’s success in coverage.
“Texas is a strong, profitable, constitutional conservative red state,” he stated.
As for issues that the agenda would possibly push away middle-of-the-road voters, West used an old political trope.
“You know what my dad taught me?” he mentioned. “I grew up in Georgia. He mentioned the one thing in the middle of the street is roadkill, and I do not wish to be roadkill.”
It’s a sentiment underwritten by Trump’s still influential and unabashed style. Many of the state’s leaders, who’re up for reelection next year, are keenly conscious of the facility he continues to hold over the get together, especially with potential endorsements.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, who could soon be dealing with a main problem from Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, is among the many former President’s largest allies. He helped lead a lawsuit alleging election fraud in four states that was finally rejected by the Supreme Court.
Trump said in a press release that he’ll be making an endorsement within the major race, which Bush is predicted to hitch next week. Even Bush, whose household, important of the former President, has been routinely maligned by Trump in current years, has shown help for him.
“I like them each very a lot,” Trump mentioned within the assertion Tuesday. “I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the good folks of Texas in the not-so-distant future.”
Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen still loom large nationwide and here in Texas. For his half, West attended a “Stop the Steal” rally in Dallas after the election and refuses to acknowledge that Joe Biden got extra votes than Trump.
When asked 3 times about the election leads to November, West responded with the identical rigorously crafted answer: “I imagine that there have been unconstitutional actions that led to nefarious things that happened in five battleground states.”
‘It’s a very bizarre place to be in’
Democratic state Rep. Donna Howard has been representing the Austin space within the Texas Legislature since 2006. She fought onerous this yr against the abortion invoice, and she or he joined fellow Democrats onstage late Tuesday night to have fun one of the few victories her get together had this yr: running out the clock on a bill that would forestall transgender college students from taking half in on sports groups that aligned with their gender identities.
“We’ve simply swung completely to the best,” she stated, standing exterior her workplace underneath the state Capitol and reflecting on the previous few months of the legislative session. “It’s been like steamrolling of all these red meat wedge points and never centered on what we got here in right here to deal with.”
Howard acknowledged Texas continues to be a pink state however was amongst those that had expected Democrats to do higher right here within the 2020 election, especially after they carried out nicely in the state in 2018 and Beto O’Rourke got here near defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.
Like many Democrats, Howard argued that her get together suffered in 2020 from adhering to social distancing guidelines and never doing the type of in-person door knocking and grassroots politicking that can be so efficient. They’re already targeted on making an attempt to regain momentum for the 2022 midterm elections.
“The blue wave is growing,” she mentioned. “But I do not know when it’s really going to get right here.”
That’s in giant part as a result of primaries are king in Texas. Very few state lawmakers have competitive common elections, so courting the base is still the main goal for many politicians.
“There’s no real political incentive for those within the state House or within the state Senate, who’re Republicans, to do something but appeal to the base,” stated Brendan Steinhauser, a veteran GOP strategist within the state.
“They’re not having to essentially wage a aggressive general election campaign, and so until that changes — and we’re seeing developments that that’s going to occur — I assume you’ll continue to see this out of our state Legislature,” he added.
Steinhauser ran the marketing campaign for Michael Wood, an anti-Trump Republican who competed and lost in this month’s special election to exchange Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Arlington. Wright died from Covid-19 in February, and Trump endorsed his widow, Susan Wright, who has superior to a runoff this summer for the ultimate election.
While many Republicans, like Allen West, think that Trump steered the party in the best direction, some conservatives, like Steinhauser, are involved that as the voters in Texas becomes youthful and more diverse, Republicans will have issues.
For Steinhauser, that fear of a blue wave down the road is very actual.
“We discover ourselves having been very profitable within the final cycle, but also kind of worried about the long-term future of the party, nervous about demographic adjustments,” he stated. “It’s a very bizarre place to be in.”