Kamala Harris set her sights on Texas this weekend. Arriving Friday for a campaign rally in Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Harris is the first of the Democrats running for president to accept the invitation extended to all by the Tarrant County Democrat Party. Tarrant County is important because up until the 2018 elections it was known as a Republican stronghold. Beto O’Rourke won Tarrant County in his 2018 bid to defeat incumbent Ted Cruz. So, The Democrats see an opening in 2020. Enter Kamala.
Tarrant County, one of country’s largest urban, conservative strongholds, has supported every GOP presidential nominee in recent history.
Trump won with 52 percent of the vote here in 2016.
Last year, Cruz won re-election by a much smaller margin than many expected, with just over 200,000 more votes than O’Rourke. In Tarrant County, O’Rourke won by 3,869 votes.
Harris fed into the energized Democrats during her Tarrant County rally. She hit all the popular leftist talking points – immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, raising the minimum wage, the opioid crisis and then she addressed health care and insurance. For good measure (in her mind) she invoked the name of the late Senator John McCain. Why? Because his late-night vote torpedoed Republican efforts in the Senate to repeal Obamacare and Harris wanted to boast about voting with a Republican. Ugh. Democrats spoke of him in the most vicious terms in 2008 as he ran for president against Obama, including calling him a racist, but that’s long forgotten now.
Anyway, Kamala would like to be the nominee and help turn Texas blue.
“Tarrant County has been the epicenter for conservatism, but changing demographics have put it politically in play,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “That Democrats are wiling to fight for Tarrant County shows they are serious about going anywhere to prime the vote.
“If Tarrant County flips, it is a pretty good signal that Texas is turning blue,” he said. “It is a clear bellwether for where the state is politically.”
And Texas has long been considered a crown jewel for Super Tuesday, when, next year, voters in 10 states — including Texas — head to the primary polls on March 3.
More than 200 delegates are up for grabs here.
Saturday, Senator Harris made the mandatory traditional stop at Texas Southern University, a public historically black university. She had an impressive crowd of 2,400 in attendance – not bad for a Saturday afternoon during March Madness. And, yes, of course, the crowd included Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, along with elected state officials. She even captured her first endorsement by a Texas politician – that of Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. Ellis is a long-time politician with a resume that includes a seat on the Houston City Council and in the Texas State Senate. He announced his endorsement as he introduced her at the rally. So, that’s news in Texas.
Rodney Ellis, a Harris County commissioner and major crusader for criminal justice reform, praised Harris as a “career prosecutor, but… a thoughtful prosecutor,” defending Harris against criticisms of her record. When he introduced her, he declared, “I’m endorsing her right now!”
Harris stressed the importance of more government spending on public school education – no surprise there for a Democrat – during her speech. That is a timely topic in Texas right now as the state legislature is in session and school finance reform is a hot issue. The Texas Legislature only meets every other year, not yearly. School finance reform may push the governor to call for a special session if the issue isn’t resolved during the regular session. She made no news on how she expected to pay for an increase in funding for teacher pay because she conveniently gave no details. Her campaign says she’ll flesh it out next week.
Then Kamala tossed out an interesting pander to the crowd. She promoted the idea of a tax cut for middle-class families earning less than $100,000. The tax cut would be for up to $6,000 and then came the kicker. She proposes shelling out the money monthly so that the recipients can “make it”. I haven’t heard that proposal before Saturday from her. Is it a response to Andrew Yang’s $1,000 a month taxpayer-funded giveaway to everyone in America? When all else fails, Democrats just promise to cut checks paid for by taxpayers.
“And specifically what I am proposing is that for families that make less than ($100,000) a year, you will receive a $6,000, up to a $6,000 tax credit, that you can receive it up to $500 a month. All the difference between being able to make it and not make it,” Harris said at the rally
Texas Democrats will enjoy the attention paid to the state this presidential primary cycle. After Betomania caught fire during the 2018 U.S. Senate race, Democrats have a renewed interest in the changing demographics of Texas. Candidates like Harris concentrating on the highly populated areas like Tarrant County and Harris County makes sense. Democrats play to the urban areas as that’s where their voters are. Kamala Harris took advantage of the invitation before the rest. Beto spent the weekend in South Carolina and no one seems to care much where Julian Castro is. She knows Beto’s her competition and wants to get out early to prove her tenacity. And, unlike Beto, Kamala Harris won her last election.