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Mike Siegel: A Progressive Texas Is Rising

In four Congressional districts, candidates are pushing the Democratic delegation to the left

-by Mike Siegel

The most progressive City Councilman in Texas will now be a congressman. A rising star from Laredo pushed Henry Cuellar into a runoff. In the Rio Grande Valley, a new progressive leader has an opportunity to claim the Democratic nomination. And in Dallas, one of the leaders of the Texas Legislature’s 2021 voting rights walkout is poised to win the runoff.

Four seats in Congress-- all moving in a strong progressive direction.

After everything we’ve been through in Texas, last night meant a lot. On a newly gerrymandered map; after a 2020 cycle that saw too many defeats for left-leaning candidates; after two plus years of COVID quarantine; after a legislative session that saw everything from anti-abortion bills to anti-trans bills and attacks on public education itself-- last night meant a heck of a lot.

On March 1, 2022, Texas elected its most progressive federal representative in recent history-- maybe since Reconstruction. With a massive 45% margin of victory, Greg Casar-- a labor activist who organized his first strike when he was 21; who was later elected as the youngest Austin City Councilman ever; who organized the statewide fight against the 2017 anti-immigrant law, Senate Bill 4; and who championed paid sick leave and marijuana decriminalization and housing reform and more-- absolutely dominated his primary campaign against three other Democratic candidates, including a sitting state representative. Greg is now the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Texas 35th, which runs from Austin to San Antonio, and is guaranteed election in November.

In South Texas, with her opponent under indictment, Jessica Cisneros will advance to a runoff in Texas 28. Although many of us would have liked Jessica to win outright, her strong showing pushed Cuellar to his first runoff ever. This despite Cuellar’s family running a massive patronage network in the district seat of Webb County. We now have ten weeks, until May 24, to bring all of the support from around the country to help Cisneros finish the job.

In the Rio Grande Valley, Michelle Vallejo has made the runoff in Texas 15, despite only having three months to build a campaign. Backed by borderlands activist group LUPE Votes, Michelle ran on a platform of Medicare for All and $15 per hour minimum wage, pushing back against the right-leaning trend in that part of Texas. A first-time candidate, Michelle has built a devoted following through strong debate performances and relentless grassroots organizing.

And in north Texas, Jasmine Crockett finished first in the Texas 30 primary to replace retiring Eddie Bernice Johnson. Most recently a Texas House Representative, Jasmine was one of the young leaders who pushed the largely moderate Democratic caucus to walk out during last summer’s terrible attacks on voting rights. She’s an activist who first won office with support from groups like Our Revolution North Texas, and she won the backing of a broad coalition of progressive organizations to take a commanding position.

In four Congressional seats, Texas is moving left. Democrats lost in redistricting, but progressives won last night.

Three of these candidates-- Casar, Cisneros, and Vallejo-- are strong supporters of Medicare for All. Casar and Cisneros were endorsed by Bernie; all four were endorsed by Warren. The Working Families Party played a major role in helping all of the candidates. Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats helped Casar and Cisneros, and AOC and Warren came to Texas to help the two as well.

Some in the conservative wing of the Texas Democratic Party were just waiting for any of these candidates to fail. They were sorely disappointed!

For those of us who are committed to the long-term project of changing Texas politics, last night was a major step forward. A Congressman Casar will be able to project organizing muscle beyond his Central Texas seat, and nurture a growing ecosystem of candidates and officeholders at multiple layers of government. Crockett is near-guaranteed to win her runoff, and she will be a dynamic presence in replacing Congressman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who was a 30-year incumbent and relatively disengaged from local organizing. The two heavy lifts in front of us-- getting Cisneros over the top in Texas 28 and boosting Vallejo’s chances in TX-15-- will provide a further opportunity to bring investment in grassroots organizing in key parts of the state.

We didn’t turn Texas “blue” last night by any means, but if we’re able to deliver Texas’s electoral college votes for a Democrat in 2028 or 2032, we’ll look back at tonight as one of the major signposts on the path to victory.

TEXAS UPDATE: From Howie, who has visited Texas several times

This morning, the NY Times noted that "There were also signs that it can be perilous for Republicans to cross Mr. Trump. Representative Van Taylor, a two-term incumbent from the Dallas exurbs who voted to confirm the 2020 election results and for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol, was in danger of being forced into a runoff as votes were still being tallied early Wednesday. Mr. Taylor outspent his competitors nearly 10 to 1." In fact, Taylor will have to fight it out with extremist nut Keith Self in a runoff:

There's more to the Van Taylor story than the Times analysis though. Presumably seeded by Self or one of the other Trumpist candidates in the primary, Breitbart ran a mind-boggling hit piece exclusive the day before the election: 'Isis Bride' Says Texas Congressman Vaan Taylor Paid Her To Keep Quiet About Affair. This might have helped a Democrat under the old lines-- where the district had an R+6 PVI (and Trump beat Biden just 49.8% to 48.7%) but after redistricting, Taylor represents an R+23 district. The story-- believable or not-- is pretty horrific and you can read the whole ghastly mess at the link just above. It is adequately summed up though with this screen shot of texts Breitbart ran on Monday:

And one more thing-- see that little thermometer above? It's a live link to an ActBlue Turning Texas Blue page where you can help make sure the progressives cross the finish line in the runoffs and in November. Please give it a click and consider contributing.

1 Comment

Mar 03, 2022

been hearing about tx turning blue now for at least 30 years. it's redder now than ever.

maybe this is another symptom that can explain why Marvel and DC movies are about all that you can find any more. when your reality sucks, you resort to fantasy.

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