New state chair will face uphill battle for Texas Democrats
With the primary over and run-off nearly two months away, each of the state's political parties will meet this weekend and regroup. For Democrats, that means picking a new leader to take charge of a party that hasn't won a statewide office since 1994.
"If you're running for the Democratic Party chairman's race, you're running to build a party from scratch," said Matt Glazer, executive director of progressive advocacy group Progress Texas, who says the sweeping defeats of Democratic candidates in 2010 have gone far to exacerbate many Texas Democrats' frustrations.
"There's this pathology of pessimism that's entrenched after 2010," said Glazer. "We've got to change the dialog. We just had the most conservative, out of touch, socially conservative legislative session that we've ever seen in our entire lives, and it didn't fix any real problems. So it means that we need to start winning state House races, state Senate races, and we need to start really moderating the house."
Glazer's appraisal is shared by Cameron County Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa of Brownsville. With current chair Boyd Richie opting not to run for reelection, Hinojosa is considered by many the insiders' pick to assume the mantle of leadership at the party convention in Houston.
"I think what the Republicans have done has been devastating to the future of this state," Hinojosa told KVUE. "The massive cuts in public education this last session have hurt us, have hurt us not in the present only, but for the future and have put us in a situation where it's going to be very, very difficult for us to structurally make the changes necessary to put us back on track towards developing the talent that this state needs to become a strong, economically vibrant state."
Texas used to be a stronghold for Democrats, but over the past 20 years that role has reversed. In the May 29 primary election, more than 11 percent of voters turned out, but only 4.5 percent, about 600,000, of those voted for Democrats.
"The turnout numbers in the State of Texas are abysmal," said Glazer, who lays part of the blame on Republican-led redistricting and voter identification efforts that have both wound up in federal court. "We rank 50th out of 50, and the only thing we can do right now is start getting people to show up."
"I believe that the numbers are there," said Hinojosa. "I believe that if you look at the demographics in this state, the people that fall within the natural constituency of the Democratic Party far exceeds those that would fall within the natural constituency of the Republican Party. Our problem as a Democratic Party is that we've been so fractured for so long, and there's something of a self-fulfilling prophecy out there that we've not been able to get out of this funk that we've been in for the last 20 years."