After graphic images of Congressman Joe Barton of Texas emerged on the Internet, the Washington Post reported over the weekend that Barton had warned a woman that he would report her to the Capitol police if she revealed the photos. Before this episode, Barton had announced his plans to run for reelection in 2018. Now he’s one of several Texans yet to file formally for reelection and, more broadly, a reminder that there are still two weeks left for filing.
Some say that 2018 could be a good year for Texas Democrats – but where are they? Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune, says Democrats haven’t filled the top of the ticket yet, but there’s still time.
“They’ve got two weeks to put together, or at least to announce, statewide candidates and serious candidates for the big offices that are up in 2018,” Ramsey says. “They haven’t done so yet. They haven’t really generated any conversation or interest yet, with a couple of exceptions, and it looks like it’s almost like they’re giving up.”
Ramsey says that the six open seats in the Texas Congressional delegation should be an opportunity.
“It’s potentially a good year for Democrats,” he says. “Everything’s right except for the list of candidates.”
Democrats will have at least one high-profile campaign, though, with Congressman Beto O’Rourke running against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.
“You would say this is a very long-shot race, except that six years ago we were calling Ted Cruz a very long-shot race and he got into the U.S. Senate,” he says.
Ramsey says that ultimately one of the biggest problems facing Texas Democrats is that they don’t have a candidate for governor.
“Unless you build the top of a ticket, it’s hard for down-ballot candidates to get the voters that they need to prevail,” he says.
Is the Texas Democratic Party stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy of statewide losses?
“I think there’s some truth to it but I also think that there’s a truth underneath all of that talk,” Ramsey says. “The fact is that the Democrats have not won statewide office in Texas since 1994, and losing becomes a habit just like winning becomes a habit. The Republicans have this great win streak going, the Democrats have this terrible losing streak going, and until you break it, that’s the situation. The same thing was going on, when I was a young reporter, with the Republicans. They couldn’t break in, and in 1978 this Republican named Bill Clements finally busted through the Democratic hold on statewide offices and slowly eroded in favor of the Republicans after that. Democrats are hoping to repeat that history.”
In the case of Congressman Joe Barton, Ramsey says it’s too soon to guess what his next move will be following the photo scandal.
“It’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t hurt him politically,” he says. “I think he could probably survive it in that district. Whether he wants to try or not, we’ll know in two weeks.”
Written by Jen Rice.