Progressive candidates running for Congress want abortion rights, gun control, and expansion of voting rights
Democratic leaders in the Lone Star State vowed to turn Texas blue by running on progressive social change during the kickoff of the 2022 Texas State Democratic Convention in Dallas on July 14.
Thursday’s event featured Democrats running for Congress and doubled as a fundraiser. It marked the first time in four years Texas Democrats have met in person due to the pandemic. Delegates from across Texas will decide on the party’s platform and elect a chairman. They will also hear from Beto O’Rourke, their nominee to run against incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this fall.
Democrats hope to win more state and national seats by championing abortion rights, restricting gun ownership, and expanding voter rights, which they claim are being suppressed by Republicans concerned with voter fraud. Democrats are also working to keep Latinos in South Texas voting blue, which would benefit O’Rourke in his race against Abbott.
Democratic Congressman Colin Allred, endorsed by progressives such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is up for reelection in the northeastern suburbs of Dallas.
The District 32 incumbent said “extremists” were currently in charge of Texas politics. He believes Democrats can win the state’s 40 electoral college votes if the party sticks together.
“We are on the verge of a change,” he told the audience.
Allred, a former Tennessee Titans linebacker, pointed to his success in beating Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions in the 2018 general election. During the 2020 midterms, he will face Republican challenger Antonio Swad, founder of Pizza Patron and Wingstop Restaurants Inc.
Abortion rights took center stage with the candidates at the convention. Democrats believe it is an issue that could help them motivate their base as they battle to overcome negative voter sentiment caused by crushing inflation under Biden.
Greg Casar, a former Austin City Council member, known for progressive policies such as defunding police, is running for Congressional District 35, which includes much of Austin. In November, he will face former Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen on the Republican side.
Casar, backed by Democratic socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), said he favors passing legislation to protect abortion rights.
He applauded President Joe Biden’s suggestion to ditch the filibuster and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. Casar favors packing the Supreme Court.
Democrats have suggested conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court lied about their position on Roe v. Wade and criticized Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife for communicating with former President Trump’s team during the run-up to the unrest on January 6.
“Maybe we should talk about looking into impeaching or removing members that lie under oath or whose family members want to overthrow the U.S. government,” Casar said of the justices.
Democrats feel they can gain traction on gun control issues after a recent slate of mass shootings, including a deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, this spring.
State Rep. Jasmine Crockett is the Democrat’s nominee for Texas Congressional District 30 in southern Dallas. She gained prominence as one of the state lawmakers who broke quorum in protest of Texas Republicans tightening voter ID requirements. She pushed bills to reform policing, expand voting options, and loosen drug laws in the state.
Crockett and others promised to continue fighting political redistricting lines drawn by Republicans that Democrats fear will shift power away from their party.
“Let me be clear; we have the numbers in the state of Texas. This isn’t a matter of turning Texas blue; this is a matter of pulling the blue out,” Crockett said.
She is almost assured of victory in the heavily Democratic district of Dallas when she faces Republican businessman James Rodgers. She would succeed U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who is retiring after nearly three decades of service.
Crockett blamed Texas Republicans for not acting strongly enough to deal with gun violence in Texas after the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso.
“This blood was on the hands of the Republicans,” she said. “The fact is they had a chance.”
She told the audience she has spoken to many Republicans who believe in the Second Amendment but think current policies have gone too far. She encouraged Democrats to work with common-sense Republicans on gun control and favored a ban on “assault weapons.”
“You know, one thing I want to happen is for the rest of the country to see what Texas really stands for,” she said. “Right now, you know what they’re seeing is Greg Abbot, what they’re seeing is terrible policies as it relates to the trans community, as it relates to reproductive rights.”
Michelle Vallejo, a small business owner, running for Texas District 15 on a progressive platform, believes South Texas is Democratic at heart.
She believes having tough conversations with family members about issues such as abortion and finding common ground on issues is the way to win.
Vallejo is running against Monica De La Cruz, who won the Republican primary and has a chance of flipping the district red.
“It is an honor of a lifetime to be fighting in one of the most competitive House races in Texas and also nationwide,” Vallejo said. I’m going to need the help of every single one of you to win my race.”
Vallejo does not believe South Texas Latinos will follow Trump and the “radical right” if Democrats own the field by knocking on doors and calling voters.
“It is up to us to reclaim our power, to reclaim the Latino vote,” she said. “I know we are in a fight.”