After two decades of being shut out in statewide races, Texas Democrats hope in 2018 elections that energy from distaste for Republican President Donald Trump, plus the ultra-conservative actions of statewide Republican leaders, can bring victory.

They hope those factors have turned on enough Democratic-leaning non-voters to actually vote, and turned off enough Republican voters to switch parties, or stay home, for Democrats to win.

That's also beginning to attract Democratic candidates.

Two Democratic congressmen are eyeing a U.S. Senate race – more about that in a minute – and there's already an announced candidate seeking support for a race for lieutenant governor.

Mike Collier, a Houston accountant, announced March 2 that he'll tour Texas to gauge support for a run against Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a former conservative radio talk show host, and Tea Party favorite..

As presiding officer of the Texas Senate, with a 20-11 Republican edge over Democrats in that 31-member body, Patrick has largely had his way on an agenda aimed at the evangelical far right of the GOP.

"We need a Lt. Governor that brings Texans together, not an ideologue that chases headlines and drives us apart," Collier said.

"Texans want someone to fix our broken politics," Collier said. "It starts with sending Dan Patrick back to the radio entertainment business and putting someone serious in charge of the Senate."

Collier was the unopposed Democratic nominee in 2014 for state comptroller.

He lost by 20 points to Republican state Sen. Glenn Hegar, a deficit like other statewide Democrats on the ballot that year.

But Collier, who considers himself fiscally conservative but more progressive on social issues, could have some appeal to the state's business community.

Collier, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and  auditor, analyzes budgets and anticipated revenues for large corporations. Years ago, after a 10-year stint at the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, he helped establish a petroleum company, and became its chief financial officer.

After his 2014 race, he became Texas Democratic Party finance chairman – which he left for this exploratory run.

Democrats hope Texas businesses, usually reliable Republican supporters, may be re-thinking their political attitudes.

The Texas Association of Business and dozens of its member businesses are outspoken opponents to Patrick's pet "Bathroom Bill."

Senate Bill 6, carried by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would require transgender people to use restrooms associated with their sex at birth, rather than the sex with which they identify.

Businesses fear passage would bring huge boycotts of Texas by pro and collegiate athletic playoffs, entertainers, conventions, tourism, and business expansions, costing billions of dollars.

Patrick calls those fears "bogus." But already, Visit San Antonio, the former Convention and Visitors Bureau, reports that just the fact the Legislature is considering the transgender bill has already caused cancellation of events by three groups, costing the city's economy more than $3 million.

Another eight conventions already booked threatened to cancel if the bill passes, a loss of almost $20 million.

As for the Senate race, freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz will be up for his first re-election.

Cruz early in his Senate career managed to unify the Senate; almost everyone on both sides of the aisle hated his arrogant, self-serving behavior.

But he went on to be the runner-up to Trump for the Republican nomination, and is recently trying to build some camaraderie with his Senate colleagues.

Two Democratic congressmen have indicated they might be interested in running: Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio. Both are in their third two-year term.

O'Rourke had previously said that he would serve no more than four terms, so it's not that much of a problem for him. Castro, by contrast, probably isn't keen on risking his congressional career unless he sees a fairly clear path to victory.

Though they might wind up running against each other, they are friends, with mutual respect and each says good things about the other.

On the Republican side, Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin has been encouraged to contest Cruz in the GOP primary. But McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, may be reluctant to risk his congressional career in an up-or-out contest against an established incumbent Republican senator.

Also toying with running as an independent is Matthew Dowd of Austin, who has been a political operative both for Democrats and Republicans. He is currently the chief political commentator for ABC News.

The question facing the Democrats is whether they can maintain their enthusiastic fervor following Trump's inauguration to organize for the 2018 elections well enough to build a bench of office-holders up and down the ballot -- and turn Texas blue again.

 

Contact McNeely at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 512/458-2963.

 

 

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