If Democrats want to turn Texas Blue in 2020 or 2022, they have to start with a strong and diverse statewide ticket in 2018. They need candidates from rural Texas as well as the suburbs and big urban cities. They need both progressive and moderate candidates. They also need an "old school" coordinated campaign like the one that elected Ann Richards governor along with a statewide slate of Democrats in 1990.
Next year, Democrats need a successful entrepreneur running for governor to lead the ticket and carry a message that the lifelong government employees seeking statewide office on the Republican ticket don't have the ability or vision to lead Texas into the future.
In addition to a strong statewide ticket, Democrats must run strong candidates for county judge and county commissioner seats all across the state, but especially in West and East Texas.
Relying on the current court battle over redistricting to possibly pick up one or two new congressional and state legislative seats will not be enough to turn Texas Blue.
If Democrats don't retake the Governor's Mansion in 2018, they will be shut out of the redistricting process in 2021 and will have to depend, once again, on the federal courts (after years of litigation) to remedy any improper redistricting issues.
Electing a Democratic governor in Texas in 2018 would help Democrats retake Congress and help increase the number of Democrats in the Texas Legislature. It would make a major difference in bringing more forward progress to the daily life of all Texans.
Some Democrats assume that even greater demographic changes in 2022 will mean statewide wins; that may not necessarily be true. Though most Democrats don't want to talk about it, there are real and serious tensions and divisions within the Democratic coalition. We’ve most recently seen evidence in the San Antonio mayor's race and in the past, in Houston and in state and local election results on LGBTQ issues. Democrats need strong statewide leaders to help bridge and heal those divides before they become irreconcilable.
Texas is a big state and it takes time to travel and build political and personal relationships statewide. No Democrat in Texas now has such a base of support across the various constituencies within the party. The first person to realize that it may take two (or more) cycles to build such a base may well turn out to be the next leader of the Democrats.
A winning national ticket in 2020 with a Texan on board could help turn Texas Blue in 2022 or 2024. But that will require strategy, fundraising and building a multi-racial base of support statewide and nationally between now and the middle of 2019 at the latest. No Texan is likely to be on the national Democratic ticket in 2020 if the party doesn’t believe the state is in play as a possible pick-up opportunity.
Turning Texas Blue (and getting on the 2020 ticket) will also require Texas donors, small and large, investing the kind of money that was spent in the recent Georgia congressional special election. Donors and party leaders must start a 2018 statewide coordinated campaign and run it through at least 2024, essentially an eight-year effort.
Finally, Texas Democrats must also focus on winning back the state’s two seats in the U.S. Senate. Sens. Cruz and Cornyn are unpopular statewide — not because of President Trump, but because they have failed to represent the best interest of all Texans in Washington, D.C.
Democrats can win. But to win, they can't be afraid of losing. Democrats have to understand that to turn Texas Blue they must invest and support candidates over more than just one election cycle. Democrats can no longer afford a "one-and-done" candidate and campaign strategy. Winning takes time — to build coalitions, increase name identification, raise funds and get a message out.
It's time for Texas Democrats to win again. It’s time to get started.