Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is drawing national headlines for his incredible campaign for Senate against Ted Cruz, as its combination of grassroots energy, social media know-how, and fundraising prowess has turned the race into a dead-heat. Less prominent, but no less important, are a handful of local and statewide elections that could pry Texas away from the iron grip of the GOP’s furthest right fringe.
Republicans have been able to enact their radical, inhumane agenda in states across the country by winning state government trifectas. Currently, they hold governorships and both statehouses in 26 states — and in some places, democracy is even more of a distant memory. In Texas, for example, the GOP holds a supermajority in the state senate that allows them to simply ignore all Democratic proposals and pass bills without any debate. That’s been catastrophic for working people, women and minorities in the state, where Medicaid has not been expanded and the right to choose eroded.
The situation seems dire, but as O’Rourke’s campaign is showing, Democrats in Texas are energized and ready to turn this red state blue (or at least purple). Just as Ted Cruz’s hold on his Senate seat is in danger, the GOP is at risk of losing its State Senate supermajority, which stands at just two seats. The Texas Tribune this weekend highlighted several winnable races, including what is already turning into a nasty, smashmouth matchup in district 10, the North Texas district once represented by Wendy Davis.
Beverly Powell, a real estate agent who has served on school and college boards for decades, won a tight Democratic primary race. She’ll face off against Sen. Konni Burton, who is a loud, rude prototypical member of the far right Tea Party. When Powell won the primary, Burton greeted her with a nasty letter that, ironically, highlighted all of her own deficiencies. Burton lambasted Powell for expanding Medicaid expansion, a woman’s right to control her own body, and making sure public schools don’t become racially and economically segregated. The horror!
Powell is indeed in support of expanding access to healthcare, financing public education instead of private school vouchers, and making college more affordable. None of these positions are radical, unless you live in a state that has been so dominated by a political party that’s run by corporations and far-right religious organizations.
This is a winnable race — again, Wendy Davis represented the district until 2015 — and Powell can use all the help she can get. You should also keep an eye on Nathan Johnson, a composer and small businessman who is running against Sen. Don Huffines in the Dallas area, and whoever winds up winning a runoff primary to take on Houston-area Sen. Joan Huffman.