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Texas Democrats Focus on Abortion, Grid as GOP Vulnerabilities

·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Texas Democrats, underdogs for decades, probed for possible Republican weakness this election year at a biennial convention that focused on restoring access to abortion, protecting transgender rights and fortifying the electric grid.

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The goals were listed in a draft of the party platform released Saturday at the gathering in Dallas, where lawmakers, strategists and candidates assembled over the past few days to plot strategy for November’s election. Delegates had been slated to vote on approving the document, but the lack of a quorum prevented the ballot from taking place.

Democrats haven’t won a statewide race since 1994 in Texas and face a tough outlook this year amid dismal approval ratings for President Joe Biden. Still, party faithful in the Lone Star State are hoping their support of gun control and abortion rights could give them some momentum, especially among moderates swayed by the Uvalde school massacre and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Texas Democrats will fight for a well-functioning government that acts based on facts and evidence to preserve the life, health, and well-being of every person,” the draft platform read. “We will overhaul the social contract and establish a new economic engine that allows all residents to thrive.”

Party members added new language to the document aimed at countering efforts by Republicans to ban abortions and investigate medical treatment for transgender youth. The draft also hammered the GOP for the deadly electrical grid failure during a winter storm in 2021 and pledged to shore up the system so it wouldn’t happen again.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke also emphasized abortion rights, gun control and the power grid in a keynote speech at the convention Friday.

The former congressman from El Paso railed against the conservative social policies enacted in the past few years under Republican Governor Greg Abbott. O’Rourke cited voting restrictions, looser firearms regulations and a ban on abortions, policies that have raised concern the state may see a slowdown in the influx of businesses and people that have propelled its economic gains.

Imagine “a governor who will stand with small business owners to make sure that this is the best place to find innovation and ingenuity and talent, and that we don’t run these great people off with the culture wars,” O’Rourke said.

The governor’s race has narrowed over the past few weeks, with polls showing O’Rourke trailing Abbott by mid-single digit margins. Surveys have shown that most Texans support stricter gun control and oppose a complete ban on abortion.

Still, Texas voters are more focused on economic issues including the fastest inflation in 40 years, creating headwinds for Democrats. And despite a record fundraising period for O’Rourke, the Democrat still has much less cash on hand than his Republican opponent.

Democratic officials said the lack of a quorum at the end of the convention meant the executive committee would have to hold a vote sometime over the coming months to officially adopt the platform.

The draft also included more language about protecting the right to vote after the Republican party pushed through new election rules last year. It urged the US Supreme Court be expanded to 12 justices from the current nine.

The state GOP held its convention in Houston last month and adopted a platform that generated pushback for what critics saw as extreme ideas. The document called homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s election and said that Texas “retains the right to secede from the United States.”

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