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If you can flip a district, then you can flip a state

south_texasThis past weekend I provided my thoughts about whether Sen. Wendy Davis should seek a statewide office or stay where she’s at, the later being my preference. I won’t rehash the logic here in this post. Instead, I’d like to focus on one key point I made in the post regarding Battleground Texas and the role I see it playing as we advance towards the November, 2014 election. Since I don’t really see any real solid play in the statewide races, other than maybe some down ballot races, I suggested BGTX would be better suited to focus on district races, working with city/county groups after the primaries. My take is that if you can flip a district, then you can flip a state. If you can’t flip even one, then there’s work to be done.

But, to start with, BGTX is figuring out how they play in Texas politics, especially in terms of turning it blue. In a recent entry by Josh Baugh in his political blog at the Express-News, he dug more into the role BGTX sees themselves playing moving forward. “Their efforts are under way, and they’re honing in on competitive seats across the state and will push to register millions of would-be voters who currently aren’t on the rolls,” said Baugh in the entry.

Both founder Jeremy Bird and executive director Jenn Brown see the process as one that will take several years to bring to a truly statewide competitive level. It means building infrastructure, much as I’ve described, and testing the strategy on some key races.  The bigger question is will the bucks keep rolling in to sustain that marathon race, especially with a state Democratic Party that has been in decline since Ann Richards left office, and possibly before that.

The biggest challenge with Texas Democrats is that those who have been around a while remember being the dominant party, even if that party was infused with Republicans looking for a home. The younger Democrats haven’t seen any real traction and are itching for a victory. Both those scenarios breed a group of folks who want to see action at the statewide level now and not later. They need to be fed with some real victories, especially after watching their representatives being trounced in both the House and Senate in Austin for two sessions.

That’s why this district-first strategy makes more sense for both BGTX and the statewide party. It allows the organizations to focus on some key swing districts that might be ripe for flipping and stems the tides in the legislature to avoid any more sessions like we’ve seen the past four years. Having a more balanced legislature will hopefully prevent more hard right turns from those bodies.

But this also means that Texas Democrats will have to have patience with the organization and understand this strategy and its importance. It means they can’t blame the groups when nothing comes in statewide, but provide support where needed, including financial support. My guess is if the Republican Party starts to see BGTX and the TDP gaining ground in some swing districts, those become the precursor battles for the statewide one, with them pouring the resources in to cut off the early wins.

The real question is where those key swing districts are that should be tackled and what resources will come into play. The first, of course, is Davis’ own senate district, where it is expected Republicans will mount a strong challenge, much like they do with Doggett all the time. I would also contend that Sen. Donna Campbell’s district is vulnerable, especially after her strong move on some tea party issues. But I’m sure there are others around the state, which I’ll be looking for in the coming weeks as the third session comes to a close.

However, if they can’t flip even a few swing districts, then the entire strategy needs to be called into question. That’s really the test for the organizations. While I agree that statewide may be too much to ask of them for 2014, working to change the color of a few districts shouldn’t be that hard. If it is, maybe we need to relook at who’s running the shows overall. I don’t think a free pass should be given for something as small as that.

Yes, this sounds more and more like wartime strategy, with tactical wins and strategic victories. But, after all, isn’t that what Texas politics has become, with more lines being drawn in the sand than there is sand around the Alamo?

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