Democrats look to gain ground in Texas
POSTED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 10:55am
UPDATED: Thursday, April 22, 2010 - 4:05am
With congressional redistricting looming, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said it plans to spend a record amount of money in several states, including Texas.
The national committee, which provides financial support to Democratic candidates in state legislative races, will spend $20 million in an effort to take control of 21 legislative chambers in 17 states, a spokesman said.
The states slated to receive the money were chosen because their legislative chambers either have the potential to become Democratic or face the threat of losing control, according to a memo by committee Executive Director Michael Sargeant.
The committee identified Texas as having the possibility for a Democratic takeover in the state House, which has 73 Democrats and 77 Republicans.
Other states that will see the influx of committee money include Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire and Tennessee.
Legislatures across the country will be redrawing the lines of congressional districts in upcoming sessions. The practice occurs every 10 years after census data is collected. Political parties in power benefit because they can draw district lines in their party's favor. Redistricting will have added importance in Texas because the state is expected to pick up three or four seats in Congress.
In Texas, the state Senate is solidly Republican, but Democrats hope that having a majority in the state House would allow them to create a record of their intent. That record is important because redistricting inevitably gets sorted out in federal court, where judges are supposed to make decisions based on the intent of lawmakers, said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.
The $20 million in committee money in the current cycle far outpaces what the organization has spent in the past. The committee spent $12 million on state races in 2008 and $10 million in 2006, spokesman Matt Compton said.
The committee hasn't decided how to allocate the money for the November elections, he said.
One potential recipient could be the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee, which operates to elect Democrats to the state House.
Coleman said Democrats have many opportunities to pick up House seats.
"There are several targets, and most of them are open seats," said Coleman, a board member of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
But "our primary objective is to protect incumbents."
Opportunities also exist to oust Republican incumbents in Texas House races, said Matt Angle, a Washington-based Democratic political consultant with experience in national and state politics.
He said Pati Jacobs, a Democratic challenger from Bastrop County facing Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, has a decent chance of winning. In North Texas, Loretta Haldenwang also has an opportunity to unseat Rep. Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, he said. And Democratic challenger Rick Molina could replace Houston-area Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena, Angle said.
But the Republicans shouldn't be expected to sit quietly aside.
"We will have significant staff and significant funding," Republican National Committee spokeswoman Sarah Sendek said.
The Republican State Leadership Committee is also expected to join the fight.