The seemingly endless quest by Texas Democrats to turn the state back in their direction after more than two decades of almost exclusive Republican control is already gearing up for 2018. But based on some of the results from 2016, there may be reason for a hint of optimism among Lone Star State Dems. According to a recent analysis of last year's results by the Texas Tribune, several Republicans--both in Congress and the state Legislature--were victorious despite Hillary Clinton winning their district.
That list includes some Houston-area lawmakers, including Congressman John Culberson and State Reps. Sarah Davis and Dwayne Bohac. That isn't surprising, considering Clinton won Harris County by double digits over Trump, and Dems knocked off Republicans in the contests for Harris County Sheriff and District Attorney.
When it comes to Harris County, Republican leaders aren't sugarcoating it. "We got our butts kicked in Harris County and we're very aware of that," says Michael Joyce with the Republican Party of Texas. "And we're putting a bullseye on Harris County in 2018."
Harris County GOP Chair Paul Simpson agrees that last year was rough, but believes it was an outlier. "Harris County in 2014 had the best results for Republicans in a decade, then we did very well in 2015 in the city elections, and then it swung against us in 2016," he tells KTRH. "But it was really an anomalous year due to the top of the ticket."
The top of the ticket, of course, was the polarizing Donald Trump, who brought out many Democrats to vote against him but also left many Texas Republicans hesitant to support him. Simpson believes that many of those lukewarm Republicans will be won over by the new president. "We're confident that as President Trump and the Republican Congress enact conservative reforms, that a lot of those Republican voters will come back home," he says. That may be happening already--a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey showed Trump with an 81-percent approval rating among Texas Republicans.
"I hope the Democrats think everything is going their way and take it easy, because I think we'll be able to come back strong in 2018," says Simpson.