BEAUMONT, Texas — Texas Democrats are trying to do something in 2020 that they haven't done since 2001 — regain control of the Texas House. And if they're successful, it would be the biggest political shakeup in the Lone Star state in nearly two decades.
Texas has 150 state House races on the 2020 ballot. Around 30 of those races are considered competitive by the two parties.
In 2019, democrats picked up 12 seats. The party still needs to pick up nine seats to control the chamber.
The political ramifications for controlling the state House is exponential. The party who controls the chamber in 2021 will have a larger say in the redistricting process.
“For control of the state legislature and how the congressional delegation is drawn over the next decade, it’s very important that we do all we can to win the statehouse now so both parties have a seat at the table,” state Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic caucus, told Politico.
Democrats are looking at areas Beto O'Rourke won or lost by single digits during his 2018 ill-fated U.S. Senate run. Many of those areas are suburban areas of Dallas, Austin and Houston.
Democratic strategists on both a local and national level were left to regroup after a bitter defeat in a special election for House District 28 in November.
Democrat Eliz Markowitz lost to her republican challenger by 16 points. That district, in Houston, was one democrats thought they would be more competitive.
Big names like O'Rourke campaigned alongside Markowitz. Major 2020 presidential contenders like Joe BIden, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg also threw their names and support behind Markowitz.
In addition to leading redistricting, a democratic controlled house would also mean a Democratic speaker and democrats chairing powerful House committees.
Similar to the U.S. House, the Texas House would face a Republican-led Senate and a Republican governor.
Texas party leaders are looking at what certain democratic presidential nominees will mean for down-ballot races like the contentious Texas House seats up for grabs. There's some concern among Texas democrats that a polarizing candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could impact voter turnout.
“We should be more worried about a moderate candidate in a highly polarized environment,” Tory Gavito, co-founder and president of Way to Win, a group that organizes progressive donors and strategists, told Politico. “We have the deepest well of young voters and voters of color — who is the best candidate that can turn them out?”
The most recent poll for the Texas Democratic Primary from the Texas Lyceum shows Biden and Sanders at the top. Warren, Mike Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg are trailing.
“It would be silly to say that it doesn’t matter who is at the top of the ticket, but I’m not sure what we’re seeing isn’t more structural than about any individual candidate,” said Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Lyceum poll.