Texas Democrats Stand to Gain From Republican Primary

A couple of years ago most people would not have given a second glance to any election in Texas, a reliably Republican state. This year though, election season in Texas is drawing a lot of big names and the competition is getting heated. Although the big battle this year comes from the Republican primary, for the first time in a long time, the Democrats are mounting a credible opposition that could turn this state blue.

On the Republican side, sitting Governor Rick Perry is seeking re-election for what would be an unprecedented third four-year term. Rick Perry took the reins of the state after the inauguration of George W. Bush as president in 2001. To date he is the longest sitting governor in the state’s history, and with a lack of term limits he can continue to run for as many terms as he chooses.

Perry, however, is facing a challenge from the state’s popular senior Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Hutchison has been the state’s Senator since she was elected in a special election in 1993 to replace Lloyd Bentsen after he became the Secretary of the Treasury for the Clinton Administration. To date Hutchison has received endorsements from former VP Dick Cheney and former president George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush.

The primary has been called one of the great battles for the future of the Republican Party. Perry, a more conservative Republican who openly talked about the possibility of Texan secession, faces a more liberal Hutchison, who considers herself pro-choice. In recent months however, Perry was able to destroy Hutchison’s initial lead in the polls and now leads the race by a comfortable margin. Initially, Hutchison promised to resign from the Senate to more actively campaign for Governor, but went back on her promise, deciding to stay and oppose President Obama’s health care reform bill.

But what does the Republican primary mean for Democrats? All of this infighting among Republicans has allowed Democratic candidates to slowly make their case to the voters. The frontrunner is former Houston mayor Bill White, who had previously planned to run for Hutchison’s seat once she resigned. In recent polling, White has been able to keep up with both Hutchison and Perry; neither of the Republican candidates managed to poll above fifty percent in a state that hasn’t gone blue in a presidential election since 1976.

Despite the progress Democrats have made in Texas, many of the state’s Democrats are planning to cross over to vote for Hutchison in the Republican primary. Hutchison is seen as the lesser of two evils among Democrats and if she vacates her Senate seat there could be a credible campaign to elect a democratic senator from Texas.

Campaign fervor is sweeping Texas and the state is looking bluer than ever. Despite who claims victory in the Republican primary, the Democrats can make real gains resulting from the bloody battle. The ball is now in the Democrats’ court and it is up to us to use the momentum to go forward and help turn one of the largest states in the country blue.

The Texas Primary elections will take place on March 2nd, 2010.

–Zenen Jaimes, SFS ’13