Texas Democratic Party

Texas Democratic Party
Chairman Boyd Richie
Senate leader Kirk Watson
House leader Jessica Farrar
Founded 1846 (1846)
Headquarters 505 West 12th Street, Suite 200
Austin, Texas 78701
Student wing Texas College Democrats
National affiliation Democratic Party
Seats in State Upper Houses
12 / 31
Seats in State Lower Houses
49 / 150
Politics of the United States
Political parties

The Texas Democratic Party is one of the two major political parties in Texas and the local branch of the United States Democratic Party. It is headquartered in Downtown Austin within close proximity to the Texas State Capitol.[1]



19th century

The Democratic Party of Texas had a prominent role in 19th century American history; spanning the independent nationhood of the Republic of Texas, entrance into the Union, secession, the American Civil War, and Reconstruction. The United States Congress approved the Texas state constitution and President Polk signed the act admitting Texas as a state on December 29, 1845. [2] Until the 1950s the Democratic Party of Texas was the only viable party in the state, for long periods of time in the 19th century it dominated state politics at all levels.

Even before Texas gained its independence from Mexico the Democratic Party influenced the politics of the region. As early as February 25, 1822, with the formation of the Texas Association in Russellville, Kentucky, individuals interested in land speculation came together to secure land grants in Texas. The Texas Association drew its membership from professionals-merchants, doctors, and lawyers, often hailing from Kentucky and Tennessee. Many of these men were also close friends of Andrew Jackson and had strong ties to the Democratic Party. Likewise, most of the settlers in Texas were either from the Upper South or the Lower South and many southerners of this era held strong allegiances to the Democratic Party.

Despite sympathy for the Democratic Party in the United States, as yet there was no strong party tradition in the independent Republic of Texas. Before 1848, elections in Texas were conducted without organized political parties. Personality was the dominant political force in the state. Contests between factions evolved into a more defined stage of competition with the development of the Democratic Party in Texas as a formal organ of the electoral process during the 1848 presidential campaign. Even so, it was some time before Democrats adopted any sort of a statewide network or arranged for scheduled conventions.

During the mid 19th century the party convention system was adopted. During these years the convention system became the chief method of recruiting candidates for office in the Texas Democratic Party. In the upheaval leading up to the civil war, national politics influenced the State Party’s ideology. In the process Texans moved away from an earlier identification with Jacksonian nationalism and became closely associated with the states' rights goals of the lower South. A conflict emerged between loyalist unionist Democrats and secessionists Democrats, in which the secessionists won the battle (joining the Confederacy) but lost the Civil War.

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, during the period of Reconstruction, the split between Unionist and Secessionist Democrats reemerged. During the war the strongest Unionists had disappeared from the political scene or had moved north. Those who stayed active reluctantly supported the Confederacy. After the war the Unionists continued to support a more egalitarian distribution of power in the state, while working to reduce the influence of former planters. But they split also. Their positions on freedmen ranged from supporting full civil and political rights to opposing anything beyond emancipation. In part as a result of the split among Democrats but more as a result of congressional Reconstruction nationally, Republicans captured both the governor's office and the state legislature in 1869. By 1872 Democrats regrouped and overturned the Republican government in the Texas legislature. Similar to what was experienced in many southern states, Republican political dominance in the post-Civil war era was short-lived. [3]

In the gubernatorial election of 1873, the Democratic campaign theme included support for states' rights, loyalty to the Confederacy, and an attack on freedmen and Republicans. The final Democratic measure to overturn all Republican influence in Texas came with the passage of the Constitution of 1876, which severely constrained the powers of the state government, cut back on state services and limited the amount of money that could be raised in taxes.[4]

Modern era

After 1952, the party faced a growing challenge to its control of state affairs from the once ineffective Republican party. The 1950s was a decade of factionalism and in-fighting for the Texas Democratic Party, mainly between liberal and conservative Democrats. The Republicans managed to carry Texas for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956.

Factional infighting in the Democratic Party declined during the 1960s. The Democrats narrowly carried Texas in the 1960 Presidential race with the sitting Senator from Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson, running for Vice President. In 1962, John B. Connally, a moderate to conservative Democrat associated with the Johnson wing of the party was elected Governor of Texas. The assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, which traumatized the citizens of Texas, also deeply shook the state Democratic Party since it propelled Johnson into the White House and created the need for a greater degree of accommodation between moderate and liberal Texas Democrats. Party unity was further solidified with Johnson's presidential campaign and his ensuing presidency.

In the 1964 presidential election Johnson carried his home state with ease. In the middle to late 1960s, however, Connally's iron rule of the State Democratic Executive Committee further weakened the liberal forces within the state Democratic party. The results of the 1968 presidential election in Texas also emphasized the lackadaisical popular support of the Democratic party in Texas, as Hubert Humphrey barely managed to carry the state.

Liberals in the Texas Democratic Party reached a low point in 1970 with the defeat of their spiritual leader, Ralph Yarborough, in the Democratic primary by conservative Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, Jr. Bentsen successfully employed a strategy that conservative Democrats in Texas later used against the increasingly viable Republican Party, namely, developing a base of support among middle to upper income voters in the primaries, then drawing from the traditional Democratic constituencies of lower income people, labor unions, and minorities in the general elections.

The Sharpstown scandal was a stock fraud scandal in the state of Texas in the early 1970s involving the highest levels of state government. The name came from the involvement of the Sharpstown area of Houston. The scandal ended the political careers of Governor Preston Smith, Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, and Speaker of the House Gus Mutscher, all of whom were closely tied to the old Democratic establishment.

The 1972 gubernatorial election marked the culmination of a gradual transition in Texas Democratic Party politics from an era when elite leaders fighting behind closed doors over a conservative or liberal agenda dominated party politics to an era of moderation and greater toleration for diverse views.

The trend was toward more moderate, establishment-backed Democratic candidates. In the 1972 presidential election the GOP again demonstrated that it could carry Texas in national contests. In fact, from 1976 through 1992 Democratic presidential candidates failed to win Texas. Republicans also proved they could successfully challenge Democrats for control of state politics when Bill Clements won the governor's race in 1978. His victory further sparked the ascendancy of the moderates in the Democratic Party, and in 1982 a new generation of Democrats came to power in Texas.

In the 1970s and 1980s the Democratic Party in Texas also appeared more open to the interests of women and minorities. Groups such as the Mexican American Democrats and Texas Democratic Women gained a greater voice in party affairs. Also, women and members of minorities could now be found in elected positions from the governor down. Nevertheless, the state Republican Party continued to gain strength into the early 1990s, demonstrating its ability to compete not only in gubernatorial and senatorial races but in such down-the-ballot offices as state treasurer, agriculture commissioner, state Supreme Court justice, and railroad commissioner, as well as in various county and local posts. By 1990 Republicans held about a third of the seats in both houses of the state legislature.[5]


In 1976 Boyd Richie beat an incumbent to be elected District Attorney for the 90th Judicial District, which covered three counties. A lawyer in private practice for over 35 years, he also served for three terms as County Attorney for Young County. Boyd has also served as Vice President of the Young County Bar Association and in 2005, was elected a life fellow of the Texas Bar Association.

Prior to being elected Chair, Boyd served two terms on the State Democratic Executive Committee and was Chair of Audit Subcommittee of the Finance Committee. Boyd was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Selective Service Local Board, a position he held until his election as Young County Attorney.

Boyd Richie was unanimously elected Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party on April 22, 2006. During his first speech as Chair, Boyd laid out his five point plan to revitalize the Texas Democratic Party and expand field staff and grassroots trainings, build a pro-active communications team and incorporate modern technology into the Party’s fundraising, communications and outreach strategies.

Boyd resides in Graham, Texas with his wife, Democratic National Committee Member Betty Richie.[6]


In Boyd Richie's first speech as Chairman he declared to the Texas Democrats that “our job is not to win arguments, but to win elections”. This pragmatism permeates whatever ideological debates occur within the party.

The Texas Democratic Party is of a center-left persuasion, with many members that would describe themselves as conservative or "blue dogs".[7] The diversity of liberals and conservatives within this State Party has resulted in significant internecine struggles. Despite the ideological diversity, using the TDP and the State Convention, state priorities are crafted into a cohesive platform.[8]

Party organization

State laws dictate the formal organization of the Democratic Party in Texas and provide for both temporary and permanent organs. The temporary party organs consist of a series of regularly scheduled (biennial) conventions beginning at the precinct level and limited to persons who voted in the party primary. The chief function of the precinct convention is to choose delegates to the county convention or the senatorial district convention held on the third Saturday after the first primary. When a county has more than one senatorial district because of its large population, a separate senatorial district convention is held for each senate district in the county. The delegates who gather at the county and the senatorial district conventions are likewise chiefly concerned with choosing delegates to the state convention held biennially in June for the purpose of formally choosing the state executive committee, adopting a party platform, and officially certifying the party's candidates to be listed on the general election ballot. In presidential election years the state convention also chooses delegates to the national presidential nominating convention. Until 1984 two state conventions were held in gubernatorial years, one for state affairs in September and one for sending delegates to the national Democratic convention. The permanent organs of the party are largely independent of the temporary ones. Voters in the Democratic primary in each precinct elect for a two-year term of office a chairman or committee person who is formally the party's agent or spokesman in that precinct. A few of these precinct chairmen work diligently for the party and its nominees; some do very little. Normally the precinct chairman will be in charge of the conduct of the primary in his precinct, and, perhaps less assuredly, will serve as chairman of the precinct convention and of the delegation to the county convention. The party's county executive committee consists of the precinct chairmen plus a county chairman who is elected in the primary by the Democratic voters in the county as a whole. The county committee determines policy in such matters as the conduct and financing of the primary, and officially canvasses its results. It also serves as a focal point for party organizing and campaigning efforts.[8]

The State Democratic Executive Committee includes one man and one woman from each of the thirty-one state senatorial districts, plus a chairman and a vice-chairman, formally chosen by the state convention but informally chosen by a caucus of the delegates from each senatorial district. Occasionally a governor and his advisers will decide that a caucus nominee is simply unacceptable and then will substitute his own choices. By law the state committee is responsible for overseeing the party primary and for canvassing the returns. It also undertakes fund-raising and campaign work for the party. Before Republican Bill Clements' election as governor in 1978, the committee's role was to serve as an adjunct of the governor's office, designed to help the governor as best as it could with political and policy problems. However, after Clements was elected, the party and its machinery developed a new degree of independence from the governor. The 11 organizations with members on the SDEC are:[8]

  • The Texas Democratic County Chairs Association
  • Texas Young Democrats
  • Texas Democratic Women
  • Texas Coalition of Black Democrats
  • Hispanic Caucus
  • Non-Urban/Agricultural Caucus
  • Stonewall Democrats
  • Texas Environmental Democrats
  • Democrats with Disabilities
  • Asian American Democrats of Texas
  • Texas Veterans Organization

The Texas Democratic Party Advisory Committee serves as an advisory group to the SDEC. The Advisory Committee is composed of the officers of the SDEC as well as groups loyal to the ideals of the Democratic Party.

County-level activities are organized by a County Executive Committee within each county; a County Chair is elected during the Party Primary Election and then joined by Precinct Chairs elected from each election precinct within that county. Senatorial districts are organized through District Executive Committees composed of County and Precinct Chairs located within the senatorial district.[8]

Party activities

State convention

The Texas Democratic Party is responsible for organizing the biennial State Convention.[8] At the convention, delegates decide upon a variety of issues by public vote: election of the SDEC members and officers, adopt a platform upon which candidates for public office will run, and to nominate the Democratic candidates for Governor and other state public offices. During presidential election years, the convention is also used to select National Delegates and National Committee Members to the national Democratic Party. Presidential Elector candidates are selected as well.


Texas Eleven

In 2003, a group referred to as the Texas Eleven fled Texas to New Mexico and Oklahoma, for 46 days, to prevent the passage of controversial redistricting legislation. Republicans had been pushing redistricting because Texas had, at the time, been sending 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans to Congress, while the state's voters had leaned Republican in recent years.

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, then a powerful figure in Texas politics, advocated arresting the Texas Eleven, telling reporters that he supported using FBI agents or U.S. Marshals to arrest the runaway Democrats and bring them back to Austin, asserting that redistricting is a matter of federal concern.

After successfully preventing a quorum for an entire 30-day special session of the legislature, Senator John Whitmire left New Mexico and returned to Texas. The remaining ten Senate Democrats (often referred to as the "Texas Eleven Minus One": following Whitmire's departure), stayed in Albuquerque for several more days but returned to Austin and the Texas Senate after Whitmire's presence on the Senate floor created the quorum needed for the Senate to meet.[9]

Texas Two-Step

At the 2010 Texas Democratic convention the Democrats voted to keep their controversial Two-Step system. Most other states use either a primary or a caucus in order to determine presidential nominees. Texas uses a hybrid of both a caucus and a primary. The two-step system assigns delegates based on both the percentage of primary votes that candidates receive and on the number of supporters who turn out for precinct caucuses after the polls close.

The fervor of the 2008 election brought more than 2.8 million Democrats to the polls for the primary vote. Hours later, thousands of new Democrats showed up for the first time to Democratic caucuses, overwhelming party officials and wreaking havoc on the party’s primary election voting process. It also produced an unexpected outcome: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but Barack Obama’s well-organized campaign drew more delegates because of the caucus results. Almost immediately, many in the Democratic Party began calling to change the system and even to abolish the caucus altogether, calling it discriminatory and undemocratic. [10]


Candidate recruitment and training

The TDP is the primary organization responsible for increasing the representation of its ideological base in state, district, county, and city government. The permanent staff of the TDP provides training and resources for Democratic candidates within the state, particularly training on grassroots organization and fundraising.[8]


The TDP monitors political discourse in the state and speaks on behalf of its members. The party employs a full-time Communications Director who is responsible for the Party’s communications strategy, which includes speaking with established state and national media. Press releases regarding current issues are often released through the TDP’s permanent staff.

The party also maintains a website with updates and policy briefs on issues pertinent to its ideological base. Its online presence also includes Facebook and Twitter accounts, each of which has thousands of followers and is used to update followers on the most recent events affecting the party. The TDP also employs several e-mail groups that send periodic updates to hundreds of thousands of followers.


A major function of the Texas Democratic Party is to raise funds to maintain the electoral infrastructure within its organization. Funds are used to provide for a permanent staff, publish communication and election material, provide training to candidates, and to pay for legal services. In the 2008 elections, almost 90% of the party's campaign contributions came from personal injury trial lawyers.[11]

Current elected officials

The Texas Democratic Party holds nine of the state's 32 U.S. House seats, 12 of the state’s 31 Texas Senate seats, and 49 of the state’s 150 Texas House of Representatives seats.

Former Chairmen

Members of Congress

U.S. House of Representatives

The following members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Democrats:[12]

State offices

Texas Senate

The following Democrats represent their districts in the Texas Senate:[13]

Texas House of Representatives

The following Democrats represent their districts in the Texas House of Representatives:[14]

  • Alma Allen, District 131
  • Roberto R. Alonzo, District 104
  • Carol Alvarado, District 145
  • Rafael Anchia, District 103
  • Lon Burnam, District 90
  • Joaquin Castro, District 125
  • Garnet Coleman, District 147
  • Yvonne Davis, District 111
  • Joe Deshotel, District 22
  • Dawnna Dukes, District 46
  • Harold Dutton, District 142
  • Craig Eiland, District 23
  • Joe Farias, District 118
  • Jessica Farrar, District 148
  • Pete Gallego, District 74
  • Helen Giddings, District 109
  • Veronica Gonzales, District 41
  • Naomi Gonzalez, District 76
  • Ryan Guillen, District 31
  • Roland Gutierrez, District 119
  • Ana Hernandez Luna, District 143
  • Scott Hochberg, District 137
  • Donna Howard, District 48
  • Eric Johnson, District 100
  • Tracy O. King, District 80
  • Jose Manuel Lozano, District 80
  • Eddie Lucio III, District 38
  • Barbara Mallory Caraway, District 110
  • Marisa Marquez, District 77
  • Armando “Mando” Martinez, District 39
  • Trey Martinez Fischer, District 116
  • Ruth Jones McClendon, District 120
  • Jose Menendez, District 124
  • Borris Miles, District 146
  • Sergio Munzo, Jr., District 36
  • Elliott Naishtat, District 49
  • Rene Oliveira, District 37
  • Joe Pickett, District 79
  • Chente Quintanilla, District 75
  • Richard Pena Raymond, District 42
  • Ron Reynolds, District 27
  • Eddie Rodriguez, District 51
  • Mark Strama, District 50
  • Senfronia Thompson, District 141
  • Sylvester Turner, District 139
  • Marc Veasey, District 95
  • Mike Villarreal, District 123
  • Hubert Vo, District 149
  • Armando Walle, District 140

State Board of Education

The following members of the State Board of Education are Democrats; they help oversee the Texas Education Agency:[15]

  • Rene Nunez, District 1
  • Mary Helen Berlanga, District 2
  • Rick Agosto, District 3
  • Lawrence A. Allen, Jr., District 4
  • Mavis B. Knight, District 13


  1. ^ "Home." Texas Democratic Party. Retrieved on May 13, 2010.
  2. ^ "[1]." Texas Annexation
  3. ^ "[2]." Republican Politics and Reconstruction
  4. ^ "[3]." Texas State Historical Association
  5. ^ "[4]." Texas State Historical Association
  6. ^ "Texas Democratic Party Officers." Texas Democratic Party
  7. ^ [5] Blue Dogs. Retrieved November 7, 2011
  8. ^ a b c d e f [6]. Retrieved November 3, 2011
  9. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redistricting_warrant>
  10. ^ <http://www.texastribune.org/texas-politics/texas-democratic-party/democrats-keep-controversial-texas-two-step/> http://www.chron.com/news/politics/article/A-guide-to-Texas-electoral-two-step-1653159.php>
  11. ^ http://www.setexasrecord.com/news/237861-trial-lawyers-ready-to-spend-money-to-oppose-perry
  12. ^ U.S. House of Representatives Texas Democratic Party. Retrieved July 7, 2011
  13. ^ Elected Officials Texas Democratic Party. Retrieved July 7, 2011
  14. ^ Texas House of Representatives Texas Democratic Party. Retrieved July 7, 2011
  15. ^ State Board of Education Texas Democratic Party. Retrieved July 7, 2011

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