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Three takeaways from the 2022 Texas Democratic Party convention

 Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate running for governor, greets people during the 2022 Texas Democratic Party convention in Dallas.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate running for governor, greets people during the 2022 Texas Democratic Party convention in Dallas.

The party is focused on winning in November. Democrats hope the current energy they’re seeing in Texas will continue and help them be successful at the polls.

Texas Democrats say there’s enough momentum to flip the governor’s seat and make some gains in the state Legislature.

But, many acknowledge it’s an uphill battle — one that can only be successful if Texans who traditionally vote Republican cross over to the Democratic side this midterm election.

This was the mood permeating the Texas Democratic Party’s biennial convention last week in Dallas.

"We need to talk to everybody,” Jasmine Crockett, a Dallas Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives who is running for Congress, told convention-goers. “We gotta talk to common sense Republicans that know that what we are seeing right now — this isn't the Republican Party. This is some Trump something that's going on."

With that outreach, Crockett said it’s possible for Texas Democrats to win in November.

Betting on local races

One of the main topics at the convention was the importance of focusing on the congressional races such as Crockett's. But Democrats are also targeting local elections, such as county commissioner and school board races.

Erica Lawrence, the president of the Democratic Club of The Woodlands, said local party leaders need to continue educating voters about these smaller elections in order to make gains in the long term.

“Many people don't even realize that there's an upcoming election on the ballot, especially if it's just a local election, which is where a lot of our elected officials get started,” Lawrence said.

Building a so-called “blue bench” is another item Democrats seem to be focused on.

During the first day of the convention, people had the option to join a day-long training from the National Democratic Training Committee on how to run successful campaigns.

“It’s all about local organizing to me,” said Daniel Yates, a college student from Weatherford who attended the training.

“The best way to do that is to make sure that the party has good candidates who know what they are doing, running in every part of the state, even if those parts of the state are extremely red,” Yates said.

Riding the momentum wave

Democrats are also betting on what they see as momentum to win in November.

This energy has been fueled in part by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to strike down Roe v. Wade, as well as the latest statewide polls showing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is gaining ground on Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

Additionally, during the last fundraising period, O’Rourke raised $27.6 million — that’s $2.7 million more than Abbott raised during that time.

O’Rourke said the latest poll numbers show it’s possible to win.

“Not only is this possible, not only has this been done before, but it is happening right now,” O’Rourke told the convention in Dallas on Friday night, adding that Democrats need to reach out to marginalized communities and help them participate in the November election.

Still, it’s an uphill battle for Democrats. Texas’ last Democratic governor, Ann Richards, left power in January of 1995. Since then, Republicans have served in the state’s highest political office.

Of note: Despite Democrats' talk of momentum, that was not enough for the delegates to approve a party platform.

The last day of the convention ended without a platform approved since there was not a quorum.

In contrast, last month Texas Republicans approved a sweeping platform that rejected the results of the 2020 presidential election, and called homosexuality an “abnormal lifestyle choice.”

Pressure on the national Democratic Party

One of the biggest speeches at the convention was given by Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock.

The lawmaker took to the main stage and said the party was “the only thing standing between this country and fascism.”

Talarico then proceeded to slam the National Democratic Party for not spending money in Texas.

“Those national Democrats are comfortable on the coasts and comfortable with the status quo,” Talarico said. “But there's something about living in a red state that makes you scrappy, because Texas Democrats know how to fight.”

Talarico also called on President Joe Biden to protect the freedoms of Americans.

“Be a little less Washington and a little more Texas,” Talarico said. “Meet this moment before it's too late.”

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.