Campaigns invest in Texas as Democratic primary turns to Houston debates

US Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — “There’s a new battleground state, Texas, and it has 38 electoral college votes,” said former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke during the first night of the primary debates this week.

In November? Possibly.

In March? Absolutely.

The Democratic primary moves towards Texas. The next debates are in Houston September 12-13 and they will have double the requirements to get on stage: 120,000 unique donors and being at 2% in four national polls.

California Senator Kamala Harris already qualified for the Houston debate.

Since Texas is the second-largest primary state after Harris’s home state, the campaigns tapped Austin-based senior advisor Emmy Ruiz.

“Texas is really important to us. We’re really committed to building this infrastructure and we actually started organizing,” said Ruiz.

In the coming weeks, she’ll promote Camp Kamala — online recruiting and training tools — hoping to build a large network of supporters. O’Rourke and Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro already have political networks here. Since Harris leads them in the polls, Ruiz hopes to build a net to catch their supporters if they drop out.

“We have a lot of friends in different campaigns. I know that she has a lot of friends, people who are on the debate stage with her. We want to make sure we’re an accessible campaign for everyone,” said Ruiz.

“To some extent, Texas is a microcosm of the country,” said longtime Republican political advisor Ray Sullivan.

He says the Texas primary will weed out the wannabes from the serious campaigns. It takes a lot of volunteers and donations to win statewide.

“We have approximately 22 media markets,” said Sullivan. “It’s very expensive to communicate on television and to travel the state, you really need a well-honed campaign and a well-funded campaign to compete.”

The Texas primary is next March on Super Tuesday.

There are more than 20 candidates now, but only seven have qualified to be on the stage in Houston: former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Harris; O’Rourke; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Three more are close: former HUD Secretary Castro and businessman Andrew Yang need to do a little better in the polls, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar needs more donors.

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