To: Interested Parties
From: Kory Kozloski, DCCC Political Director
Date: August 13, 2019
Subject: DCCC:Texas Early Investments Creating Historic Opportunity
Since day one of the 2020 election cycle, the DCCC’s strategic investments have recognized the energy and opportunity in Texas and 15 months from Election Day, we’ve already had a clear impact in previously ruby-red Republican strongholds. The DCCC’s field organizing, digital advertising, and research efforts have already contributed to three high-profile Texas retirements, setting up DCCC:Texas to play a major role in turning Texas’s homegrown energy into congressional wins in 2020.
In 2018, Democrats defeated two longtime incumbents in Texas, including the former Chairman of the NRCC. Following these critical wins, the DCCC announced in January 2019 that it would go on offense in six districts in Texas, expanding the battlefield even further into the state.
Immediately following the announcement of the DCCC’s six targeted seats, reports began to surface that Republicans in Washington were “freaking out” and “increasingly worried that some of the targeted incumbents are not taking these re-election races seriously or may end up retiring.” One Republican strategist said Republicans were “concerned, worried, fearful” that Texas Republicans would not be able to hold onto districts with rapidly growing and diverse populations.
In April, the DCCC expanded its focus on the state and announced a new DCCC:Texas Headquarters led by native Texans to capitalize on the proven grassroots energy in the state. DCCC:Texas will ensure that the DCCC will be ready to drive grassroots energy early, not react to it late in the election cycle. Learning from the DCCC’s successful West Coast strategy in 2018, the DCCC put six senior staffers in Austin and grassroots organizers in key communities across the state, allowing our team to be close to campaigns, volunteers, and activists, and give them the tools they need to respond to Texans on the ground and mobilize voters in 2020.
In addition to its physical presence at DCCC:Texas, the DCCC has devoted strategic resources to holding Texas Republicans accountable for their Washington agenda, forcing them to grapple with the tough reality of running a contested campaign for the first time in years.
Retirement Watch List
In February 2019, the DCCC added four Texas Republicans to our Retirement Watch List, and ramped up the pressure with geo-targeted digital ads in their districts. Since then, two Texas Members on the Watch List have announced their retirement, Rep. Olson and Rep. Marchant. And while the DCCC’s famed Retirement Watch List’s wasn’t prepared for the retirement of Rep. Will Hurd – neither were the Republicans. One Republican strategist went so far as to say the impact of Hurd’s retirement “almost can’t be overstated.” The “TEXODUS” had a number of immediate impacts: three election forecasters moved TX-23 from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic” and the Cook Political Report rated TX-22 and TX-24 as “Toss Up.”
Beginning in March, the DCCC’s March Forward program put field managers on the ground in the key suburbs of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. These field managers are engaging activists and volunteers ahead of 2020 to build and modernize the grassroots infrastructure needed to protect and expand the majority. To date, DCCC field managers in Texas alone have met with over 260 volunteers and held nearly 40 organizing events across the state.
The same day that Rep. Chip Roy single-handedly blocked a bipartisan deal on disaster relief, the DCCC released a digital ad holding him accountable. When Roy followed that up with a vote for higher taxes on Gold Star families, the DCCC’s digital team made sure his constituents, many of whom are parts of military families, knew that too.
Crucial to connecting with voters in Texas, the DCCC’s digital program is already doing targeted Spanish language outreach, including Spanish language ads in TX-23 in the weeks before Congressman Hurd’s retirement. That ad highlighted Hurd’s failure to put the safety of migrant children ahead of his loyalty to his party in Washington. This targeted Spanish language outreach will continue throughout the cycle as a key focus of the DCCC’s Cycle of Engagement program.
Our offensive push into Texas means Republicans who have never faced competitive elections are undergoing the first public vetting of their long political careers. Already in 2019, the DCCC has deployed researchers across Texas to comb through public records and collect documents that can only be accessed in person. DCCC researchers worked to uncover new information on Reps. Marchant, McCaul, and Olson that would never have been found without this on-the-ground research project. These research projects will continue throughout the cycle in every targeted district in Texas.
The districts on the DCCC battlefield in Texas represent rapidly changing communities that were once at the core of Republicans’ dominance in Texas. These districts are growing rapidly, and with that rapid growth they have become increasingly diverse. At the same time, the suburbs, which rejected President Trump’s agenda in 2018 have responded similarly in Texas. The combination of changing demographics with the rejection of President Trump and the Republican party’s toxic agenda has changed the entire political climate in Texas. By targeting districts that Democrats came within 5 points of carrying in 2018, we position ourselves to accelerate these natural realignments and force key retirements in the process.
American Community Survey data confirms the changing electorate in these districts, with African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities growing more rapidly than the district populations overall.Polling conducted in early April of 2019 shows one more feature of the influx of new voters; longtime incumbents like Congressman Marchant have watched the strength of their once loyal base be diluted. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that, by a 20% margin, voters in TX-24 were ready to vote for change rather than support Marchant. Four months later, Kenny Marchant retired.
Texas’s 10th Congressional district stretches from the greater Houston suburbs to areas north of Austin. The district is growing and has strong minority compositions, with African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos making up a combined 30.0% of the district’s eligible voters. It is more educated than both the state and country, with 38.6% of residents holding a college degree.
The 2018 cycle showed evidence of shifts in demographics and voter attitudes, as Beto O’Rourke won the district with 50.2% of the major party vote. The 2018 congressional candidate won 47.8% of the major party vote, more than 7 points higher than 2016’s congressional support and 12 points higher than 2014’s congressional support.
Texas’s 21st congressional district runs from Austin to San Antonio and stretches west into the Hill Country. 45.4% of residents hold a college degree, making the district more educated than the state and nation. The district has a sizable and growing Hispanic/Latino population (23.8%), with African American and Asian American Pacific Islander communities growing at higher rates than the district overall.
The 2018 results are a continuation of trends in this district over a number of cycles. Obama won just 38.8% of the major party vote in 2012, while Clinton earned 44.8% in 2016, and O’Rourke narrowly lost the district with 49.9% in 2018. Congressional candidate Joseph Kopser earned 48.7% of the major party vote in 2018, nearly 10 points better than the candidate in 2016.
TX-22 (OLSON – OPEN)
Located in the southern Houston suburbs, Texas 22 is a suburban, highly educated district that mirrors the types of districts Democrats flipped from red to blue in 2018. 45.2% of the district’s population has a college degree, and African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American Pacific Islander communities comprise 50% of the district’s eligible voting population.
The changing demographics of this district, combined with the retirement of Pete Olson, make this seat a top pick up opportunity for Democrats in 2020. Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost this district in 2018 with 49.7% of the major party vote, after Clinton earned 45.9% in 2016 and Obama earned 37.1% in 2012. Democrat Sri Kulkarni won 47.5% of the major party vote in 2018, 7 points higher than 2016 and 15 points higher than the 2014 candidate.
TX-23 (HURD – OPEN)
Texas 23 spans southwestern Texas, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso, roughly 820 miles along the US-Mexican border. The district is majority Hispanic/Latino (62.7%) and has voted for Democrats in recent cycles. Beto O’Rourke carried the district in 2018, earning 52.5% of the major party vote and Clinton won it in 2016 with 51.8%. Congressional races over the past several cycles have been very close, including in 2018 where Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones came within 926 votes of defeating Will Hurd. The district is one of three remaining districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 held by a Republican in Congress.
TX-24 (MARCHANT – OPEN)
Encompassing the suburbs between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas’s 24th district is highly educated, with 44.8% of residents holding a college degree. The district has a strong composition of voters of color, with African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Asian American Pacific Islanders making up a combined 36.0% of the district’s eligible voters.
The district has shifted significantly toward Democrats in recent elections, with Clinton earning 46.7% in 2016 compared to Obama’s 38.6% in 2012. In 2018, Beto O’Rourke carried the district with 51.8% of the major party vote, while the 2018 congressional candidate earned 48.4%, holding Marchant to his closest margin ever in this district.
Located north of Austin, Texas’s 31st district is suburban and has strong and growing minority communities of color, with African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos making up more than 30% of the district’s eligible voters. In 2018, Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost the district, earning 49.0% of the major party vote, while congressional candidate MJ Hegar earned 48.5%. Hegar overperformed the 2016 and 2014 congressional candidates by 10 points and 15 points, respectively.