Texas Democrats shatter voter turnout record in ominous sign for GOP


The traditionally Republican stronghold could be a battleground state in 2020.

Democrats turned out in record numbers for Tuesday's primary runoff in Texas, doubling turnout from 2018.

Nearly one million Democrats (955,735) voted Tuesday, according to the secretary of state's office, far surpassing the previous record of 747,000 set in 1994.

The record-setting turnout "showed that Texas Democrats are fired up and are ready for change," Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a press release on Wednesday.

Texas has not voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since Jimmy Carter carried the state 44 years ago. Republicans currently hold all major statewide offices, control both chambers of the state Legislature, occupy both U.S. Senate seats, and make up a majority of the state’s House delegation.

But election experts see an opportunity for Democrats in 2020.

"It's pretty clear looking at the data that Texas is a swing state in the 2020 election," CNN polling expert Harry Enten wrote on Sunday.

In June, Bob Stein, a political analyst for KHOU, said Republicans were in danger of losing the state.

"I'm not ready to predict Democrats will win Texas," Stein said, "but it won't surprise me" if it happens.

An average of state polls since late June show Donald Trump with a slim 0.2% lead over presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Biden "effectively erased" Trump's previous polling lead in the state, Louis Jacobson, an election expert, wrote in U.S. News and World Report on Thursday.

Beyond the race for the White House, Texas also has one of the nation's most-watched Senate races.

On Tuesday, Texas Democrats nominated Air Force veteran MJ Hegar to take on incumbent Republican John Cornyn. Cornyn has held the seat since 2002 and currently leads in statewide polling.

If Hegar wins, it would be the first time since 1988 that a Democrat has won a Texas Senate seat. In 2018, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke came close, garnering national attention in his bid to unseat Republican Ted Cruz. O'Rourke visited all 254 counties in Texas, raised $80 million, and both "turned Democrats on" and "made Republicans nervous," according to the Texas Tribune.

O'Rourke lost by less than 3 points, but sparked Democratic enthusiasm across the state along the way.

Democrats are also hoping to expand their House majority by targeting several suburban seats in Texas. The party's House campaign arm opened an office in Austin in 2019, announcing six targets to flip from Republican control.

"There is unprecedented energy across our great state, and Texas Democrats are putting in the hard work to turn Texas blue in November," Hinojosa said in his statement.

Texas is not the only traditionally Republican state where Democratic enthusiasm is surging.

In June, more than a million Democrats voted in the Georgia primary, surpassing the number of Republican voters and breaking the party's record set in the 2008 primary.

Georgia, which has not supported a Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1992, is rated a toss up by Cook Political Report.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.