Republican wave hits Texas Democrats hard

November 4, 2010

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — National Democrats poured manpower and money into turning Texans out on Election Day with the hope of reaching millions of first-time voters who cast ballots for President Barack Obama in 2008.

It didn’t pay off.

Amid a national Republican wave that also washed through conservative Texas, Gov. Rick Perry won re-election, the GOP again swept all statewide offices and Republicans amassed an even larger majority in the Texas House — where the Democratic National Committee’s arm Organizing For America had especially hoped its voter turnout efforts would produce gains before crucial congressional redistricting next year.

The outcome surpassed the Democrats’ worst-case scenario and many Republicans’ best-case predictions for Tuesday’s election.

“Last night’s Texas Republican wins were the result of a national GOP tide and should not in any way be considered an endorsement of their record in Texas,” state Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie said in a statement Wednesday.

Perry, who defeated Democrat Bill White with 55 percent of the vote to White’s 42 percent, said it was just the opposite — that voters believe Republicans are leading the state in the right direction.

“By exercising one of the most precious rights, the citizens of our state have sent a very clear message with their votes,” Perry told supporters at his victory party.

Republican state House gains in Texas were larger than Democrats anticipated, particularly in competitive races in major metropolitan counties like Dallas, Harris and Travis where there had been so many Obama voters in 2008, acknowledged Luke Hayes, Texas director for Organizing for America.

“We’d obviously hoped more would break our way,” he said.

Total turnout in Dallas County was 37 percent of registered voters. It was 39 percent in Travis County, where Austin is located. And in Harris County — where White was mayor of Houston for six years — turnout was 41 percent.

Hayes said he’ll be looking more closely in the days to come at which voters showed up so Democratic organizers can learn more before future Texas elections. “Organizing for America isn’t going anywhere,” he said.

Texas had one of the largest Organizing for America staffs in the nation and sent e-mails on behalf of White. It focused on state House races and was active in the Waco area, where longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards lost his race and Texas House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam was also defeated.

The DNC contributed money to the state Democratic party for staff salaries. Obama visited the state in August for political fundraisers and a rally at the University of Texas. White kept his distance from Obama during that visit and at other times this election season as he made a play for independents and moderate Republicans.

White barely won in Harris County and also squeaked by in Bexar County, according to unofficial returns. He won in Dallas County but Perry won elsewhere in the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties. White took the largest counties along the Texas-Mexico border, but in those places turnout was the lowest of the state’s most populous counties — at 27 percent or less.

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