Texas Democrats find the spring in their step

The just-concluded 2018 midterm election has produced a fascinating result in Texas.

The long-downtrodden Texas Democratic Party has rediscovered its mojo. Its members have a renewed spring in their step. They fell short in their goal of electing one of their own to a statewide office, but the fellow at the top of the ballot — Beto O’Rourke — came within 3 percentage points of defeating GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

That’s not supposed to happen in blood-red Texas, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office since 1994; the last Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate was Lloyd Bentsen, in 1988.

Now comes word out of Austin that the selection of the next Texas speaker of the House of Representatives will involve more Democratic votes among the 150 legislators.

Democrats carved into the GOP legislative majority. They’ll fill 67 seats in the 2019 Legislature; Republicans will occupy 83 of them.

That means Democrats will get to speak with a louder voice in determining who takes the gavel from Joe Straus, who didn’t seek re-election this year.

Democrats to join speaker fight

A Republican is a shoo-in to become the next speaker. That’s a given. My favorite for the speakership is my good friend Four Price, the Amarillo Republican who, in my view, would do a smashing job as the Man of the House. He is an ally of Speaker Straus, for whom I have high regard, given his torpedoing of the Bathroom Bill in 2017.

However, it’s good to see a semblance of two-party rule returning somewhat to the Texas House. The GOP remains the pre-eminent political party in a state that once was dominated by Democrats.

As for O’Rourke, I’m quite sure that Democratic Party loyalists and activists are getting way ahead of themselves by suggesting Beto should consider running for president in 2020. A better option might be to challenge John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate two years from now.

However, O’Rourke’s legacy for the state well might be that his presence on the ballot and his near-victory over the Cruz Missile has energized a political party that’s been in a hang-dog mood for as long as anyone can remember.

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