Texas Democrats Don’t Have A Serious Candidate For Texas Governor
Texas Democrats apparently don’t have a serious candidate for Governor next year:
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrats haven’t won a Texas governor’s race in nearly three decades, but a booming Hispanic population and the party’s dominance of the state’s largest cities have made them willing to invest in the contest to keep hopes of an eventual resurgence alive.
After high-profile candidates lost decisively in the last two elections, though, the party now finds itself in unprecedented territory for the 2018 ballot: with no major candidate to run.
Democratic leaders haven’t yet lined up a substantial name to represent the party and its message despite months of trying. Any continued faith in a Democratic turnaround in Texas is now colliding with pessimism that it will happen anytime soon.
“If they didn’t have somebody running for governor it’d be a symbol that they’ve given up,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.
And the lack of a serious 2018 candidate, following the dismal showing of the Democrats in the 2010 and 2014 governor’s races, could make it harder to capitalize later if the political climate improves, as the party expects.
“You run the risk of looking irrelevant,” Rottinghaus said.
Ann Richards, elected in 1990, was the last Texas Democratic governor. Since then, the state has shifted far to the right along with most of the South. The party’s chief strongholds now are congressional and legislative seats representing much of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin. No Democrat has won a statewide office since 1994, the longest losing streak in the nation.
Still, eager to keep its brand and statewide organization alive, the party has never failed to field a candidate for governor since Reconstruction. Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said it hasn’t given up on 2018.
“We’re going to have an authentic, dynamic candidate running for Texas governor, and that announcement will come at an appropriate time in the fall,” Garcia said.
Wendy Davis, the Democratic state senator who lost by 20-plus points to Republican Greg Abbott in 2014 even after drawing nationwide financial support for her much-publicized, 12-hour filibuster opposing tough anti-abortion measures, said any candidates this year probably wouldn’t have much of a public profile.
“It’s going to take some time, obviously, to build up excitement around someone who, at that point in time, might be fairly unknown,” Davis said.
Right now, the only declared candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2018 is Jeffrey Payne, a Dallas businessman who apparently has never run for elective office before. Meanwhile, other high-profile potential candidates, such as former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and former Mayor of Houston and 2010 Democratic nominee for Governor Bill White have all declined to enter the race. The last Democratic Governor of Texas, of course, was Ann Richards, who lost her re-election bid to George W. Bush in 1994. In fact, there are no former Democratic Governors of Texas who are still alive, with the last such survivor being former Governor Mark White, who died just a few days ago. For her party, 2014 Democratic nominee Wendy Davis, her decisive loss to Greg Abbott in 2014 makes it seem unlikely that Texas Democrats would back her again, and there’s no indication that she’s interested in the position.
Presumably, the party will find a nominee before next year, but the fact that nearly every high-profile Democrat in the state has already taken themselves out of the running, the odds that nominee will have any chance at all against Abbott seem slim indeed.