Ethics & Public Policy Center

Republicans Shut Out Democrats in Texas’s Special Election. That’s a Bad Omen for Team Blue.

Published in The Washington Post on May 3, 2021

President Biden’s success in the suburbs last year has led many Democrats to crow about their chance to create a new version of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition, which dominated U.S. politics for nearly 50 years. Saturday’s special election in Texas’s 6th Congressional District shows how far the party has to go to realize its dreams.

Texas’s 6th is a microcosm of the sort of place Democrats need to capture to establish a dominant majority. The seat is based in the southern suburbs of Fort Worth and moved rapidly to the left in presidential elections during the Trump era. Mitt Romney won it by 16 percent in 2012, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) won it by only three points against Beto O’Rourke in their 2018 Senate race, a showing Donald Trump repeated last year. As a result, Democrats were mildly optimistic that they could gain the seat when it became vacant after Republican Rep. Ron Wright died in February after being diagnosed with covid-19.

The special election’s structure encouraged those hopes. Under Texas law, all candidates are placed on the same ballot, with the top two advancing to a general election regardless of party should no one receive 50 percent of the vote. Saturday’s race had 23 candidates, including 11 Republicans. Most Democrats expected their leading candidate would advance to the runoff, a reasonable expectation given that both Biden and O’Rourke had received 48 percent of the vote. If that person then faced an extreme Trumpian conservative, he or she might have had a chance to prevail.

Click here to read the rest of the piece on the Washington Post’s website.

Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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