The Back MicThe Back Mic: O’Rourke Reflects on Georgia, House Democrats Elect New Leader, Comptroller Calls for Deadline Extension

This week — Beto O’Rourke calls for more investment to make Texas electorally competitive, Trey Martinez Fischer is elected Democratic caucus chair, and Glenn Hegar asks the federal government to push back a broadband mapping deadline.
December 16, 2022

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Beto O’Rourke Calls for Election-Focused Investment Boom

Democrat Beto O’Rourke lost by 11 points to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last month, improving on 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lupe Valdez’s loss by only two points despite outspending her more than 40 times over.

The loss signaled yet another cycle of GOP dominance, locking out Democrats from all statewide seats for the ninth time in as many cycles.

On the East Coast, Republicans in Georgia posted a similar sweep this year at the state level; Republicans won each of the eight state constitutional offices. But Democrats currently hold both U.S. Senate seats; incumbent Raphael Warnock (D-GA) defeated Republican Herschel Walker in the runoff last week, a race O’Rourke had directed fundraising efforts toward.

After the Warnock victory, O’Rourke penned a message calling for increased investment in Democratic electoral infrastructure in Texas.

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“In just the last two years $1.4 billion has been spent on just four races in Georgia, including Warnock’s,” O’Rourke wrote. “Investments in data, voter contact, technology and communications have enabled strong Democratic candidates to triumph over weaker Republican ones in what was once thought to be a reliably Red state.”

“By way of comparison, though the recent Texas governor’s race set fundraising records for the state, the candidates only raised a combined $220 million (Abbott $140m and I raised $80m). Add the 2020 Texas Senate race where the candidates spent a combined $66 million, and you have the only meaningful races in the same time period drawing five times less than Georgia, a state that is three times smaller!”

“Money isn’t everything. Strong state and county parties, proven local leaders, grassroots organizers, good candidates, all of that matters. But to have the infrastructure — the reliable voter data and modeling, the team of professionals who can run effective campaigns, the systems, technology and coordinated efforts between stakeholders that are strengthened year-in and year-out and not just rely on one or two big name candidates or high profile races that come around every so often — we will need big, consistent investment in Texas.”

A memo from the Texas Democratic Party in November showed similar concern for national investment in order to flip the state.

New Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Elected

The 65-member delegation of Texas House Democrats for the 88th Legislative Session voted last week to appoint state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) the caucus chairman. Martinez Fischer has served in the Texas House since 2001, with a two-year hiatus after he made an unsuccessful bid for Texas Senate District 26 in 2016.

Now-former Chair Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) announced he wouldn’t seek another term as caucus chair in April.

Along with Martinez Fischer, state Reps. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) and John Bucy (D-Austin) vied for the position.

Martinez Fischer, who brings to the role a penchant for procedural scrapping, discussed the new role in an interview with the Texas Observer.

“With partisan gerrymandering and with a partially functioning Voting Rights Act, it is really hard to have justice for redistricting purposes,” he told the Observer when asked about restoring Democrats’ long-lost House majority.

“It’s very difficult for districts to be drawn fairly and respect communities of interest and the voting rights of minorities. Technology has done a lot to really draw districts to maintain political majorities. And so it’s hard to win those fights. But I think the number-one strategy is to not give up. I think the number one goal of Republicans in this state is to force us to wave the white flag. And we’re not going to do that.”

Asked if another quorum break is on the table given the right circumstances, Martinez Fischer said, “You know, they have this saying about Fight Club that the first rule to it is that you don’t talk about it. So, I don’t talk about what I’m going to do or what I’m thinking. But you’ll know when the time comes.”

Comptroller Asks Federal Government to Extend Broadband Map Input Period

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar has asked the federal government to extend by 60 days the public input period for finalization of the National Broadband Map.

“This is clearly a flawed map,” Hegar said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission. “Some of the responsibility lies with the service providers who are overstating the coverage they provide in their territories. This practice has become so routine that we often don’t notice it, but it will substantially limit competition as well as our ability to accurately allocate resources to those Texans whose access is inadequate.”

“Some of the responsibility lies with our federal partners who have assumed that public spaces like schools and libraries have access. This is inaccurate and reveals a lack of understanding regarding the challenges facing many communities in Texas and other states.”

Hegar’s office was tasked by the 2021 Legislature with disbursing federal broadband expansion funding with the goal of extending internet access to remote portions of the state currently lacking it.

“[I]t is critical that individual Texans also engage in the challenge process to ensure the maps are as accurate as possible and funds are fairly allocated to areas that lack service,” he concluded.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.