Greg Abbott has made clear that he hopes to win the Rio Grande Valley in next month’s Gubernatorial election. While the current Attorney General is still leading at the polls statewide, his determination to take the Valley—the bluest region in Texas—is a tall task.
The Valley is a hot area right now. SpaceX is building in Brownsville, the new UT-RGV campus appears poised to be one of the prouder jewels in the UT system, and the first of the two debates between Abbott and Wendy Davis took place down there, instead of at a larger or more central city like Houston, San Antonio, or Austin. It makes sense that, when thinking about the future of Texas—as Gubernatorial hopefuls who’d like to enjoy eight years in the Mansion are wont to do—the Valley would be on anyone’s mind.
But in one precinct in Hidalgo County, by far the largest of the four counties that make up the Rio Grande Valley, Davis apparently isn’t on the mind of the local Democrats. That’s the takeaway from the fact that the Hidalgo County Democratic Party declined to include Davis in its list of candidates in its voters guide. As The Monitor reports:
The guide asks voters to cast their ballots for either the entire Democratic ticket or the Democratic nominees in various national, state and local offices — including for statewide candidates Leticia Van de Putte and Gina Benavides. In three of Hidalgo County’s four precincts, Davis, a state senator from Forth Worth is included, but she was bumped in the Precinct 4 editions to make room for Constable J.R. Gaitan.
“Because of the large number of candidates, both statewide and countywide, we were just unable to fit all candidates while still focusing on our local candidates,” county Democratic Chair Ric Godinez wrote in an email. “For example, to highlight Gaitan (who runs only in Precinct 4) we had to sacrifice space for one of the statewides. Because Battleground Texas was pushing Sen. Davis primarily with plenty of literature, we felt we could get more coverage and bang for our buck for the entire Democratic Ticket (you will notice even in this piece, as in all our pieces, we are encouraging voters to make a straight party vote) while focusing on our local candidates in that precinct.”
That’s a reasonable justification, on its face. It’s unlikely many Democrats enter the voting booth in Hidalgo County or elsewhere in the state unaware of who is running for Governor or if they intend to vote for her. But it’s also not a great look for a party that is trying to prove that this race is different from the number of failed attempts to claim the Governor’s Mansion that Democrats in Texas have endured in the past twenty years. You want people to conclude that there’s excitement on a statewide level, especially in the bluest of blue areas, not that the consensus is, “Ah, everybody already knows about her, let’s talk the Precinct 4 constable!” That might be a better electoral strategy, but it’s not great PR, which is something that Abbott’s campaign has already seized upon:
The campaign of Davis’ Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, sent a news release Monday morning with an image of the flier, highlighting the fact that Davis lost Hidalgo County, and other South Texas counties, in the Democratic primary to Corpus Christi Municipal Judge Ray Madrigal.
Dismissing the Abbott camp’s assertions that Hidalgo County Democrats were distancing themselves from Davis, campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña predicted in an email that the Democrat would “decisively” win South Texas.
There’ve been plenty of attempts to write the post-mortem for the Davis campaign well before early voting even started, while most polls show that this is a single-digit race. It would be foolish to call the election on October 21st, regardless of whose name appears on which voting guides in whatever precincts in a given county—but it’s unfortunate for the Davis campaign that it’s spending time promising to “decisively” win a region that it would be a huge embarrassment to lose instead of vowing to, say, pull off an upset in the suburbs.
(AP Photo/The McAllen Monitor, Joel Martinez, Pool)