Thursday, November 09, 2006

Good signs...

A Democrat has not held statewide office in Texas in over a decade. The days of Ann Richards and the Texas Democrats are distant memories.

But, you know, everything old will be new again...

It looks like there are signs of life for the Texas Democratic party. Small signs, to be sure, but indicatations that the party is gaining strength nonetheless.

The Houston Chronicle has two interesting articles today about the Democratic signs of life: Warning for GOP in Harris County and Democrats Turn Dallas County a Shade of Blue.

From the first -
Harris County Democratic and Republican officials have looked at Tuesday's local election results and they agree: The GOP-dominated county government could be recaptured by Democrats as soon as 2008. ...

In an election when many ethnic minority voters didn't vote, Republican judicial candidates on the bottom half of the Harris County ballot won by an average of fewer than four percentage points — 52 percent to 48 percent.

The average margin four years ago was more than nine points.

If minority voters had been energized, as they might be in the 2008 presidential year, it could have been a Democratic sweep, some analysts said.

They point to Dallas County, long a GOP stronghold, where Democrats claimed every countywide seat elected Tuesday. ...

But the demographic trends are long-term: The Hispanic population is booming and the Anglo population is not.

"The Republican Party is not attracting minority voters the way it should. I've been saying this for 10 years," [Republican County Commissioner Steve] Radack said. ...

Rice University political science professor Bob Stein said an immediate effect of Tuesday's local and national results could be interest from talented Democrats who realize they have a legitimate chance to be elected next time around. ...

But the demographic and political trends seem clear.

"Doomsday is coming," said UH political science professor Richard Murray.
This is a good sign for Democrats in Texas and Harris County...but it should be tempered with the caveats suggested in the article - this year in Texas was unique because of the 5-way Gubernatorial race and the national winds of Iraq and Republican corruption impacting so many voters.

Now the Dallas County story -
The home of glitzy restaurants, million-dollar condos and six-figure Neiman Marcus holiday baubles has a new distinction that has nothing to do with its oversupply of Hummers and BMWs.

Dallas County still calls its historic courthouse Old Red, but on Tuesday it went "blue."

A national wave of Democratic voting and changing demographics swept Republicans out of power in the county as the GOP surrendered 42 judgeships, the district's attorney office and the county judge's seat.

"Dallas has become a very competitive two-party county and very sensitive to changes in the national political mood," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. "The difference in this election was that more Democrats came out and more voted a straight party ticket."

Wilson said demographic changes gradually have been turning the county of 2.3 million residents more Democratic. Hispanics, who locally have traditionally voted Democratic by a two-to-one margin, have continued to move into the city and aging inner-ring suburbs such as Irving, Grand Prairie and Garland.

Meanwhile, white middle-class residents who tend to vote Republican have continued to move to Collin County suburbs such as Plano and McKinney, while middle-class blacks, who lean Democratic, have moved to suburbs such as Lancaster in southern Dallas County.

Finally, he said, urban revitalization in the city center has brought young singles who also tend to vote Democratic.

Cal Jillson, another SMU political scientist, said he and others expected Democrats to slowly gain offices this year, in 2008 and 2010 because of those trends. "Instead, the national trend brought them in all at once," he said. ...

It will take at least one or two more cycles of Democrats holding gains before the county could be called safely Democratic, Wilson said.
More good news. One key thing that both articles address - the long-term story is already written. Demographic changes in Texas are happening - and happening so fast - that over time this state will be turning back to the Democratic party.

Kind of explains the Right's irrational xenophobia.

It is a long-term process, but the Democratic Party is growing at the grassroots level. And - if it's not getting old yet - I want to give another tip-of-the-hat to Howard Dean. This is what the 50-state plan is all about - grow the grassroots party in every state, regardless of how red that state may be. Overtime, those investments are going to pay massive dividends.

Today, Dallas County, tomorrow, Harris, the next - Austin. Texas Democrats are coming back.

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