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Texas Dems worry bigger rifts ahead with national party

Andrea Drusch, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- As Democrats gear up to flip five Republican-held Texas congressional seats this year, Texas Democrats are imploring their party to send national money to Texas -- but leave the national strategists home.

Three candidates national Democrats sought to help in key races this month failed to advance from the first round of Democratic primaries. A fourth candidate, who the party committee attacked, saw a late surge of support from the grass roots and made it into a runoff.

"The challenge for any party in Texas is the sheer scale of the state," said Cliff Walker, Democratic Party of Texas political director. "We're happy to have any investment of resources, whether it's doors knocked, mail, digital any sort of voter communication -- that's a net benefit to everybody."

But, he said, "Even among candidates and activists that were critical of the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), the overwhelming sentiment has been: 'Bring your resources, not your attacks.' "

National Democrats are stepping up their engagement this year. They're targeting five Texas races in 2018, compared to one in 2016.

The national party's primary troubles could be a sign it's struggling to connect with Texans.

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"Part of me wants to say 'Engage more,' part of me wants to say 'Stay out,' " Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, said of his national party's involvement in Texas.

"I don't know who's making the decisions over there ... but they should be relying on the advice of Democratic members from (the state)," he added.

National Democrats acknowledge the party's brand is in rough shape in Texas.

The DCCC is already exploring subtle ways to help candidates there and other states without sounding alarm bells about its influence. Those moves could include digital ads, field staff, and cash transfers to the state committee -- all tactics it's recently deployed to help a special election candidate in a conservative district in Pennsylvania.


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