‘Battleground Texas’ – Candidates adapt to shifting trends in Texas

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“There’s a new battleground state: Texas.” Beto O’Rourke made that declaration during night one of the Democratic presidential debates in Detroit.

“And it has 38 Electoral College votes,” O’Rourke added, emphasizing the political importance of the Lone Star State.

A few events this past week in Texas underscored the possibility of the state to be in play during the 2020 election season.

Three Texas Republicans resigned from Congress in the span of one week. Pete Olson, Mike Conaway, and Will Hurd all said they will not run for re-election.

“You know, being in the minority is a frustrating experience,” Midland Republican Conaway said at a news conference announcing his retirement. His district is a traditionally Republican seat.

But Olson and Hurd represent districts considered toss-ups before their resignation announcements. Now, those districts could lean toward Democrats.

“I think Will Hurd is such an important one for the Republican Party and Texas,” said James Barragán, politics reporter for the Dallas Morning News. He noted that Hurd is the only African-American Republican in Congress.

“One thing he said a lot was the Republican Party needs to be open to diversity, to be open to people from different backgrounds,” Barragán said. “He made a name for himself as a type of dissenting voice from President Trump, but one that still represented conservative values.”

Texas Republicans also lost an influential member at the State Capitol. State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) announced plans to step down effective September 30th.

Zerwas chaired the House Appropriations Committee. That made him one of the key players in determining the state’s budget. It could be a challenge for Republicans to hold his seat.

“It’s one of the most diverse districts you’ll find,” explained Jeremy Wallace, politics reporter for the Houston Chronicle. “Just like with members of Congress, there becomes a reality of holding onto districts that are changing demographically every day.”

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