While Democrats on the national stage celebrated winning the U.S. House last Tuesday, Texas Democrats were unable to bring the “blue wave” to the Lone Star State. In spite of this, Democratic candidates were able to get within striking distance of Republicans who were once considered unbeatable.
Even though no Democrat has been elected to statewide office in Texas in 24 years, Andrew Herrera, president of University Democrats, said he thinks that is about to change. Herrera pointed to the progress made by the campaigns of Beto O’Rourke and Julie Oliver, who ran for U.S. Senate and House seats respectively, as inspiration.
Herrera said if Oliver could make up 12 points compared to the last Democrat who ran in her district, Democrats can expect bigger gains in the future.
“Imagine what we could do over several (elections),” government junior Herrera said. “The Democratic Party really took itself seriously this election. We’ve never really competed at all in Texas midterm elections just because we’ve always told ourselves the national climate isn’t there and we don’t have a good Democratic brand.”
In Travis County, voters between the ages of 18 and 35 are now the largest voting bloc, according to county data. Michael Orona, the political director for Julie Oliver’s campaign, said he thinks college students will be pivotal for future Democratic wins.
“Campaigns in the future should get on campus as early as possible,” Orona said. “I think we should have gotten on campus maybe a year before, and I think students just want to be talked to. The current congressman (Roger Williams) and Senator Cruz, they don’t do that.”
Jacob Springer, a field organizer for Democrat Joseph Kopser’s campaign and founder of the group Students for Kopser at UT, said students are more motivated now than ever to get involved in political campaigns.
“Students as a whole are becoming more involved in the Trump era,” said Springer, a government and political communications sophomore. “The nation as a whole wasn’t focused on politics when Barack Obama and George Bush were in office because their presidencies were a lot quieter. Now, politics is all-encompassing in every single person’s life, so I think students sought out campaigns as much as campaigns sought out the students.”
However, Springer said Democrats need to continue to produce quality candidates if they want to continue to increase student voter turnout and turn Texas blue.
“Texas is not blue yet,” Springer said. “I wouldn’t even say that it’s completely purple, but it’s going that way. In this cycle, we showed up at national presidential levels, and that’s what made us closer. The next step is to continue to produce these extremely prominent and well-liked candidates on the Democratic sides.”
Herrera said Democrats can win more elections going forward by continuing to focus on issues and not divisive figures such as President Trump.
“There’s no difference between 2018 and any other year,” Herrera said. “The issues that we’ve seen brought to the forefront are issues that we’ve been struggling with for decades. Just because we don’t have some political punching bag on the other side of the aisle doesn’t mean that we can’t focus on these issues and rally people around them.”