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Building the Next Wave: Energized By the Midterms, Texas Progressive Groups Look to Maintain Their Momentum 

click to enlarge INSTAGRAM / BETOOROURKE
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Progressives’ work to bring more Texas women, people of color and young voters to the polls helped drive last week’s Democratic victories, and state organizers say they’re stepping up their efforts in advance of 2020.

Despite a narrow miss from Texas’ progressive marquee candidate, Beto O’Rourke, Democrats flipped two U.S. House seats in Texas and made substantial gains in both the state’s House and Senate. That’s a record groups including the Texas Organizing Project and AFL-CIO say they’ll work to compound through continued voter outreach.

“The only way to find the voters that have for too long been underrepresented in the Texas electorate, like young voters and people of color, is to meet them where they are, in their communities and on their campuses, and engage them on the issues they care about,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which tracks the religious right.

The state’s changing demographics, she added, are poised to “take a hammer to the status quo.”

The midterm results suggest that hammer already may be swinging.
Beyond the gains in the both the U.S. House and in the state’s lawmaking bodies, a record number of LGBTQ state lawmakers won races — 14 in total. What’s more, the victories of Democrats Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar sent Texas Latinas to Congress for the first time.

Dems also took down some of the state’s most reactionary lawmakers, including state Representatives Ron Simmons, author of the anti-transgender bathroom bill, and Matt Rinaldi, who once called ICE on immigration protestors in the House.

“Hundreds of thousands of working families, people of color, women and young people in cities across our state voted to send a clear and historic message that Texas is changing,” said Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Action Fund. “We will no longer be ignored, and when it comes to the issues we care about — like earned paid sick days, good safe jobs, immigration reform and quality accessible healthcare — we will hold politicians accountable.”

Especially important to the midterm victories were the votes of Texans ages 18-29, organizers said. Early voting data from Texas showed a 508 percent growth in the youth vote since 2014.

The majority of millennials (59 percent) either align themselves with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, according to recent data from the Pew Research Center. In contrast, only 32 percent identify as Republicans or GOP-leaning.

In addition to reaching out to new communities, progressive groups will need to show the voters who cast their first ballots in 2018 that Democratic wins had an impact, said Brianna Brown, deputy director for Texas Organizing Project.

“We have an obligation to show voters that their votes made a difference,” she said.

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