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Democratic Politics In Texas Heads Back To Its Grass Roots

Two Texas Democrats who made great headway as candidates-- organizing around progressive values and outperforming expectations-- were Mike Siegel and Julie Oliver. Today the two of them launched Ground Game Texas, a new grassroots organization focused on engaging and mobilizing voters across Texas through year-round direct voter contact, and a sister national voter engagement organization, Register2Vote. Watch the video above, in which Julie and Mike highlight Texas Republicans’ attacks on voting rights and their attempts to divide voters, and stressed the urgency of fighting back with year-round voter contact and engagement with voters on popular issues. Ground Game Texas will focus on engaging voters community-by-community, partnering with statewide and local organizations on deep-canvassing efforts, petition drives, and ballot initiative campaigns. They just had their <>first big victory<> over the weekend, when Junior Ezeonu, running on an energetic progressive platform, ousted a 12-year Republican incumbent who ran a racist, right-wing smear campaign.

Their announcement press release this morning emphasized that "Ground Game Texas launches with the backing of the national voter registration organization, Register2Vote, and will invest more than $1 million to knock on more than 1,000,000 doors in its first year. Ground Game Texas has already begun hiring organizers and is partnering with local organizations across the state to highlight popular ballot initiatives and special elections across Texas."

Julie, executive director of both organizations: “At Register2Vote we believe real change happens when voters are engaged through their entire political lifecycle-- from registration all the way to the ballot box. In 2020, organizers in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere demonstrated the power of grassroots organizing and potency of popular progressive policies like a $15 minimum wage, marijuana legalization, and the expansion of Medicaid. To re-create that success in Texas we need an all-hands-on-deck approach that brings together local organizations to meet voters where they are. We’re proud to launch Ground Game Texas to be a part of that change."

Mike, political director of both organizations: "Throughout our careers and in our campaigns for Congress, Julie and I have both seen firsthand how critical face-to-face voter contact is to enacting change. In the face of unprecedented attacks on voting rights, racial justice, LGBTQIA equality, the movement for climate justice, and more, we need to organize and fight on the issues that matter most to Texas voters. Ground Game Texas will organize and mobilize voters community-by-community, collaborating with partners on the ground to meet voters at their doors, hear their concerns, and highlight popular issues that are on the ballot. That’s how we ensure every voter is engaged in the political process."

Texas' go-to political reporter, Patrick Svitek, writing this morning for the Texas Tribune noted that "Some of Democrats’ biggest regrets about the 2020 election in Texas had to do with organizing. It was not consistent throughout the cycle-- and usually isn’t in any cycle. It was supplanted by TV ads at the end. And it was hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, with the backing of the state’s most prominent Democrats, two former congressional candidates are trying to turn those regrets into action."

In an intreview, Mike told him that "There’s no off years and there’s no off cycles, and folks need to stay engaged year-round." Mike made it clear that the GOP has been organizing year round while Democrats tend to just get involved in presidential years. He and Julie hope to change that. Please consider visiting the Blue America page dedicated to taking back Texas by clicking on the thermometer above and contributing to Ground Game Texas. Julie noted that "[The DCCC] doesn’t really invest in this sort of infrastructure building that Mike and I did in our campaigns. That strategy is so different between the DC strategy and the Texas strategy... The DC strategy doesn’t really work here in Texas, so we want to do year-round organizing."

Ground Game Texas will organize Texans around issues rather than candidates, with a focus on what Siegel and Oliver are calling “workers, wages and weed” — issues like raising the minimum wage and legalizing marijuana that poll well but are not reflected by Republican policymakers in the state. A February University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that 60% of registered voters in Texas support legalizing some amount of marijuana for any use. A similar number in April expressed support for increasing the federal minimum wage.
The group expects to throw its weight behind local ballot initiatives, which often involve a lot of ground work such as collecting signatures for petitions to put the issues on a ballot. Siegel said he has already had conversations about proposals in 10 cities-- places like Mission, Bedford and Elgin. The leading ideas there, he said, are decriminalizing marijuana and creating funding for climate jobs.
Ground Game Texas is beginning at a time when the state’s Democrats are seeking to capitalize on their party’s mobilization around the latest legislative session, which ended late last month after House Democrats staged a walkout that killed Republicans’ priority election bill. But Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to bring it back in a yet-to-be-scheduled special session, and Democrats are working to channel their troops’ energy in the meantime.
...[T]he launch video for Ground Game Texas urges progressives to fight back against the “most conservative Texas legislative session in recent history.”
Ground Game Texas is launching with the support of three of the best-known Texas Democrats: Juliбn Castro, Wendy Davis and Beto O’Rourke, who said in a statement that the new group “is going to meet Texans where they are at to listen to them about the issues that matter most.” And it starts with an advisory board that includes Davis; rising-star state Reps. James Talarico of Round Rock and Jasmine Crockett of Dallas; and longtime party stalwarts such as former Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower and Texas AFL-CIO president Rick Levy.

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