Texas Democrats shouldn’t read too much into a recent party switch of a statewide elected official who’s now one of them.
Court of Criminals Appeals Judge Larry Meyers has made the leap from Republican to Democrat, becoming officially the only statewide elected official with the label “Democrat” next to his name.
Meyers, who hails from Fort Worth where he served as a trial judge, was elected as a Republican, so Democrats will have to be careful to avoid labeling him in a manner that implies he was elected as a Democrat.
Perhaps the most important element of this switch, from a Democratic standpoint, is that it marks the first such switch from “R” to “D” in many years. The inter-party movement in Texas has been in the opposite direction, with Democrats switching to the Republican Party. The late Potter County Sheriff Jimmy Don Boydston made the switch some years back; Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance got his political start as a Democrat, then switched to Republican after losing a bid to become a U.S. senator in 1984. The roster of Democrat-to-Republican across the state is virtually endless.
Now, though, comes this switch in the other direction. It has statewide Democratic Party officials borderline giddy. They need to take care in going overboard here.
Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilbert Hinojosa is quite happy with the news.
As the Texas Tribune reported: “With this and the candidates that we are fielding in this election, I think people are saying, ‘Wow, this is a totally different Texas Democratic Party,’” Hinojosa said. Hinojosa said Meyers had told party officials he was a big fan of state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, and indicated that he had grown uncomfortable with the rightward shift of the Texas Republican Party. Hinojosa said the party had been in talks with Meyers about the switch for about three months. “He just said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” Hinojosa said. “He’s been thinking about this for quite some time.”
Meyers is the senior member of the state’s highest criminal appellate court, which gives some added boost to his party switch. Will this move be the catalyst that produces a truly competitive political climate in Texas? Time will tell.
That’s my hope, anyway. Texas needs two vibrant parties to compete vigorously for votes. Democrats have been rolled in this state by a muscular Republican Party.
It appears Democrats finally have lifted themselves off the floor and started punching back.