It has been 30 years since a Democrat was last elected to a statewide office in Texas, and Republicans have held a majority in both chambers of the state Legislature since 2003.
“The last time we elected a Democratic governor was 1990,” Carroll Robinson, Texas Southern University law professor, told Texas Monthly. “We haven’t had a majority in the Texas Legislature for more than twenty years. We have got to get back to the business of winning votes.”
Frustrated with the three-decade-long streak of failure within the party, the longest such drought among state parties nationwide, Robinson and former agriculture commissioner nominee Kim Olson contested the position of Texas Democratic Party Chairman against incumbent Gilbert Hinojosa in 2022.
Ultimately, Hinojosa managed to secure another victory, even though a significant portion of party members believed it was time for fresh ideas and renewed energy, with half of the delegates opposing his candidacy.
Under Hinojosa’s leadership, the momentum of the Republican party has been unmistakably on the rise. The 2020 general election marked a setback for Democrats as they failed to unseat Senator John Cornyn or regain control of the Texas House. Subsequently, the Eighty-seventh Legislature in 2021 witnessed Republicans strategically redrawing congressional and legislative districts, intensifying gerrymandering. During that session, Republicans swiftly pushed through a slew of controversial bills, including those restricting voting access, permitting Texans to carry loaded handguns in public without a license or training, and incentivizing the reporting of individuals assisting in abortions after six weeks of pregnancy by offering a cash bounty.
Most recently, during the 88th legislative session, despite having a record $32.7 billion surplus and receiving an additional windfall of $6.4 billion in October, lawmakers weren’t able to use the money to address issues both parties have long wanted to fix, like property tax cuts.
They also failed to pass a comprehensive education bill and missed crucial opportunities to enhance grid resilience.
“Both the good and bad of this session was that we had all the resources in the world to make a difference, and in so many areas we fell way short. That’s a disappointment,” said Trey Martinez Fischer, Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair.
Political observers see a need for Democrats to take more bold action to become more politically relevant.“Democrats have Stockholm Syndrome after so many years in captivity,” said Brandon J. Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “They’ve forgotten how to be a majority party and exercising that muscle is the only way to get back to being in the majority.”
As dissatisfaction simmers within the state Democratic Party, Democratic delegates must grapple with the pivotal question: Can Hinojosa deliver the elusive triumph that has evaded Democrats for nearly thirty years—a win in the governorship, lieutenant governorship, attorney generalship, or any other statewide elective office?