AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) – When Texas elected Bill Clements to governor in 1978, the first Republican to hold the office since before reconstruction, it laid the groundwork for what would become the most reliable red state in the country for years to come.
Even though Clements lost his next election to Democrat Ann Richards, he opened the door for two decades of Republican gubernatorial leadership in the Lone Star State.
George Seay, finance chair for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaigns and board member of the Associated Republicans of Texas, said Clements’ election started an “irreversible trend” of Republicans’ stronghold on Texas politics.
But then came 2018, when El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke nearly unseated Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
O’Rourke lost by just over 200,000 votes, but his campaign brought Democrats across the state to the realization that after two decades Texas is not the same shade of red it once was.
“The wind is blowing the other direction,” Seay said. “All the money in Texas, which is a Republican money pit, (where Republicans) get money and go and spend it someplace else, now people are waking up to the fact that we’ve got to spend that money right here at home if we don’t want to see the government turn purple, and even blue someday.”
Seay said it’s the state’s demographics, including a nearly 40 percent Hispanic population according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that is making Texas so politically competitive.
“Currently Hispanics vote around 60 to 70 percent for Democrats and the magic number for Republicans is about 40. If Republicans win 40 percent of the Hispanic vote they stay in power statewide forever,” Seay said.
Seay said the rebuke of Republicans at the state-level last election, where Democrats picked up 12 seats in the House of Representatives, showed voters want to see substantive change in policy.
“A lot of people looked at what the Republican legislature and statewide leaders were doing and thought ‘these things have nothing to do with me’,” Seay said.
But this session, Seay said Republicans took a constructive approach and responded to the “protest vote” of the last election.
“The governor, lieutenant governor and the new Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen have been focusing on issues more people care about,” Seay said. “But Democrats are hungry. They smell blood, they see the wind blowing the other direction, and they’re dumping huge resources in Texas.
(Information from KXAN.com)