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TWO VIEWS: Texas Democrats promised a ‘blue wave.’ It was a ripple

By Ryan Brannan in the Austin-American Statesman

Two lessons this runoff election taught us: voter turnout – or lack thereof – means the “blue wave” we were all told is coming, isn’t; and moderate Republicans winning Texas House races puts a bigger spotlight on the speaker’s race next legislative session.

Voter turnout was down across the board. On the Republican side, two of the runoff victors won with just over 2,000 votes. In a state where each district consists of more than 167,000 Texans, those numbers are miniscule.

As low as voter turnout was for Republicans, voter turnout for the Democrats was worse – and could spell disaster in November.

The largest vote-getter in the Democratic House runoff election was Sheryl Cole in a hotly contested race in East Austin – and she won District 46 with 4,967 votes, or roughly 3,000 fewer votes than the biggest Republican vote-getter, Cody Harris in District 8. That margin seems wider when you learn that five of the 14 Texas House runoff election victors won with fewer total votes than the margin between Harris and Cole.

The big-ticket item for Democrats in this election was the gubernatorial runoff between Lupe Valdez and Andrew White. This election could have been a key signal for Democrats — and the party’s future in Texas. Valdez checks a lot of boxes for the social issues being pushed by her party, and White represents a younger, fresher look.

With the future of the Democrat Party on the line, their base showed little interest. Even with a gubernatorial race on the Democrat side, the Republicans cast about 500,000 more votes.

The Democratic runoff election for governor had the fewest ballots cast since 1920. While the population of Texas swells, Democratic support statewide appears to be waning. In 1920, 449,000 democrats voted in the gubernatorial run-off. In 2018, only about 415,000 did.

With Valdez winning, we are almost guaranteed a social wedge issue strategy.

Elizabeth Custy