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March 09, 2005

Learning from Kansas

By Byron LaMasters

Chris Bell sends an email today on how Texas Democrats can learn from Kansas Democrats (or for that matter, Colorado or Montana Democrats):

If you're as tired as I am of hearing that Democrats can't win in Texas, then just think what Democrats in Kansas felt like going into their 2002 gubernatorial election. Registered Democrats comprised only 28 percent of that state's electorate and no Democrat had won an open race for governor in over 65 years. But Democrat Kathleen Sebelius won that race, and the political environment that produced her win has striking parallels to the environment here in Texas today.

As speculation increases that Sen. Hutchison has all but decided to challenge Rick Perry for the Republican nomination, pundits are already talking about a bitter, bloody primary battle that would strain GOP loyalties and alienate moderate Republicans as well as Republican-leaning Independent voters. This closely mirrors the rift within the Kansas GOP, a rift so severe that one political magazine
described Kansas as a virtual three-party state in which the moderate and conservative wings of the state party fractured to support their own candidates and agendas.

As intra-party squabbling continued over education funding and conservatives' censorship of state curriculums, independents and moderate Republicans began to shift into the Sebelius camp. On Election Day, the pro-choice Sebelius won a resounding 53-45 victory in one of the most culturally conservative states in the nation, a state that President Bush would go on to win by 25 points in 2004.

The Democratic victory in Kansas speaks closely to our current mission. Debates over school funding and legalized gambling continue to strain relations between GOP moderates and conservatives within the Texas Legislature. Sen. Hutchison's expected entry into the race will further divide Republicans, and a divisive GOP primary will produce a weakened and vulnerable nominee. The lesson from Kansas is clear: When the Republican Party turns on itself, Democrats will win even in the reddest of red states.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at March 9, 2005 06:22 PM | TrackBack


We need to be careful. Democrats CAN win even in the reddest of red states, but that does not mean they will. We cannot afford to be complacent and think the GOP will eat itself from the inside. We have to be on every street corner and in every town hall pushing our agenda and boosting our candidate.

That said, it does look good.

Posted by: TAMU Andy at March 9, 2005 07:04 PM

Agreed... Democrats can never be complacent in this or any other red state.

Posted by: Byron L at March 9, 2005 07:14 PM

If Dallas County is a bellweather of the state of the Democratic Party in Texas there isn't much hope. Hopefully the rest of the state behaves themselves in a more civilized manner.

And Byron, it would help if your reporting on Dallas County were more objective.

Posted by: Pete at March 9, 2005 07:31 PM

Thankfully, the public, intraparty feud in Dallas County is not representative of Texas Democrats as a whole.

Posted by: Jeb (Austin) at March 10, 2005 11:09 AM

Kansas is not as culturally conservative as Texas is. There are actual moderates that make up almost half of the Kansas GOP. I think it's fair to say that to be a republican in texas is to be both fiscally and socially conservative, at least that's a large majority. These voters will never support a democrat no matter how moderate to conservative.

Posted by: Tek_XX at March 10, 2005 07:45 PM
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