The story of the 2022 midterm election results looks familiar for Texas Democrats. GOP candidates continued to shut out Democrats from all statewide offices. But party officials do find some optimism in the actual numbers.
Jamarr Brown is executive director of Texas Democrats. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What’s your overall reaction to these results?
Jamarr Brown: While we wanted the results to be different, to be better, we are thankful to all of the statewide candidates who put themselves up. It’s a huge endeavor to take on, especially in a state like Texas, where you have to have tons of resources, where we also were navigating an election where the voting laws have changed, where voters were fatigued by all of the attacks by Texas Republicans.
But I think the important piece to highlight is there were significant gains in some key parts of the state where there was a seat flipped in Collin County, where a Democrat has represented Collin County in the state house for the first time. If you look at the Dallas Commissioners Court, there was a flip also there. Even if you go to the Rio Grande Valley, we were able to hold all of those counties blue for [Democratic gubernatorial nominee] Beto [O’Rourke]. So along the border, we were still able to have strong Democratic strongholds also as well, in addition to our urban and some suburban areas.
So the work that continues today, even — that’s why I’m up early — because that work still continues of how we still have to message to voters in the future, how we want to continue to deepen and build our bench of candidates to run not only on the local and county level, but also at the state level. But I’m grateful to all of those candidates from Beto to Mike Collier, Susan Hays, Rochelle Garza, down the line, you know, for putting up that fight, especially in a state where there were surmountable odds.
» TEXAS ELECTION 2022: See election results for statewide and congressional races
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke was considered a very exciting candidate when he ran for Senate in 2018. What type of statewide candidate do you think Democrats need to break through what has been a red wall in Texas for decades?
Well, we think that we’re going to look forward to the future. And again, like I said, I thank Beto for all he’s done, because he has done a lot to organize, mobilize and inspire millions of Texans. But what we’re continuing to look for is younger folks, candidates of color, working families. People that come from different industries. And so a lot of that has happened. We have a lot of that representation in the statehouse. We have a lot of that representation at the county level. If you look at Harris County, where we have Lina Hidalgo, who’s holding on as well, where we have Teneshia Hudspeth, Christian Menefee, you know, just some different names of people that are serving and they’re gaining that government experience. And I think that that’s the work that we are continuing to do to make sure that we are building for the future across Texas and making sure that we think about candidates that look like Texas, that represent Texas.
Those are things that we’re looking to to the future. But I don’t want to take away and discount the work that the folks that did run in 2022 did, because they really, really, really mobilized and inspired and galvanized millions of people when we face very difficult challenges and issues in the state.
What do you see as the work that still needs to be done to make inroads for your party?
We’ve told people that we have to keep up the fight. And what that means is candidate recruitment. What that means is still organizing precincts and training and then also continuing to deepen opportunities to galvanize and amplify our message, especially in communities of color and in suburban and even rural communities also as well. And this is all on an initial analysis. Again, there’s deeper work to be done.
And in a political state such as Texas, it is massive, and it does take, incrementally over cycles, to continue to build. And so every time folks run, every time we have elections, we’re able to see those gains and build on those gains. And so we will be doing that through 2023 and 2024 and every year, so forth. And that’s how you gain political and governing power in the state to really advance the issues we care about.
What’s your message to Democratic voters who may be feeling a little bit hopeless?
I plead with you to never give up. Ann Richards said that the end of the campaign is not the end of the world. And so folks will need to rest, recharge, debrief, strategize. We’re going to do all of those things. But we have to keep up the fight. Women across Texas still face extreme abortion bans. Families are going into the winter wondering if the grid is still working. We still need to improve our public education system. We still need to raise teacher pay. We still need to fight for voter rights. And so we don’t have the bandwidth to give up right now. Because we know that Texas Republicans are only going to get more extreme and it’s going to take more of us to organize so that we build the numbers in order to defeat them at the ballot box.