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Voting, abortion and guns: Some of the issues Texas Democrats are zooming in on ahead of November

Patricia Ledbetter of DeSoto holds a sign supporting women's rights at the Texas Democratic Party's biennial convention in Dallas.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
The Texas Newsroom
Patricia Ledbetter of DeSoto holds a sign supporting women's rights at the Texas Democratic Party's biennial convention in Dallas.

Democrats in Texas feel they have a real chance of winning several big elections in November, including the governor’s race. But delegates want stronger, more cohesive messaging.

As Texas Democrats work to be more competitive in November, the organization seems to be focusing on some hot-button issues they say will help them win votes.

At the state party’s biennial convention in Dallas this week, access to reproductive health, gun control and voting rights have taken center stage.

Corey Carrasco, a Democrat from Dallas, told The Texas Newsroom he believes the recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court overturning abortion rights could help people get energized.

“I think everything's changed. … It's make or break now,” Carrasco said. “So it's really time to get boots on the ground and get people to realize that there are rights that are on the line.”

He said the party should also focus its message on issues such as the economy, health care, immigration and property taxes.

“I think if we really channel those messages, we hit the demographics that we need, [then] we’ll win,” Carrasco said.

Democrats in Texas feel they have a real chance of winning several big races, including the governorship.

Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat running against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, has been steadily closing the gap between himself and the Republican, multiple statewide polls show.

But a strong message is a must if they want to capture a majority of Texas voters, said Maria Saenz-Rodriguez, a resident of New Braunfels.

She said the current lineup of Democratic candidates is better than in previous election cycles.

“From the top, from Beto all the way down to the ticket, I think we have a very, very good chance … of winning,” Saenz-Rodriguez said at the convention on Friday.

But, she warned of the potential consequences of just focusing on issues like abortion. She said they are important, but also “kind of like distractions.”

“I think we will not be able to prevail just based on that,” Saenz-Rodriguez said.

Many delegates who spoke to The Texas Newsroom acknowledged the need of the Texas Democratic Party to have a clear message and strategy coming into the November midterms.

Ashley Timberlake, a campaign manager in Bryan and College Station, said the party needs to tailor a message representative of specific communities.

“You can talk about gun legislation, you can talk about abortion, you can talk about trans rights — and all of those things are generally going to be winning topics with your base voters,” Timberlake said. “But every base voter also has their own unique community day-to-day needs.”

The Texas Democratic Party has yet to decide on the organization’s new platform.

Delegates will have an opportunity to vote on it on Saturday, before the convention ends.

According to The Dallas Morning News, some planks in a draft platform “call for the state to go to a single-payer health care system within three years; enact a carbon tax, with proceeds used to defray any increase in energy costs and subsidize clean energy technologies; and waive community college tuition for all Texas high school graduates.”

In an interview with The Texas Newsroom earlier this week, Rep. Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said the platform delegates ultimately adopt Saturday will be reflective of what the party cares about, such as access to education, inclusion, gun safety and access to reproductive health.

“These are critical issues that it's important for us to make sure that Texans understand that we're fighting for them,” Hinojosa said.

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.