The Color Purple: TX Dems Keep Hope Alive

For years, Texas Democrats have been talking about turning the longtime GOP-dominated state blue, with minimal results. But after a 2018 election that saw the Dems make some gains--including flipping a handful of Congressional and state Legislature seats and putting a scare into Senator Ted Cruz--a new Texas Tribune analysis asks if Texas is at least going purple. The report points out that Texas had 10 congressional districts classified as competitive last year, up from just one in 2016. In the Texas House, 31 districts were competitive in 2018, the most in 20 years.

The question is whether 2018 was an outlier, or a sign of a larger trend. Mark Jones, political science professor at Rice University, chalks up much of the shift in Texas politics to what else...the Trump factor. "I don't think we're a swing state yet, and if we are a swing state it is a blip due solely to Donald Trump," he says. "One thing Donald Trump's presence did (in Texas) was bring out a large number of really high quality Democratic candidates, and once they started running, Democrats found out, wow, they can actually be successful."

At the same time Trump was energizing Democrat opposition, many Texas Republicans had grown complacent and overconfident after years of domination. "(Republican Congressmen) John Culberson, Pete Olson, Michael McCaul in Houston...John Carter in Williamson County...Pete Sessions in Dallas, they all were politically out of shape," says Jones. "They hadn't faced a competitive election in years."

As for whether Texas is actually turning blue long-term, Jones isn't so sure yet. "We are becoming more of a purple state, at least as long as Donald Trump is in the White House," he says.

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