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Texas Democrats Are Setting Records

DALLAS - On March 1, the biggest news in Texas was the record-breaking turnout in early voting, which closed the day before. Republicans were setting new records, but Democrats were tripling the GOP in all the population centers.

Republican strongholds are releasing numbers that show a new Democratic majority in early voting for the March 4 primary election. Denton County, which has zero Democrats in office, reported 16,000 Republican votes and 28,000 Democrats! The Dallas paper says that only 8,000 early votes were cast in 2004, which yields a 550% increase in voter turnout. One reason for the giant turnaround might be that there are two state universities in Denton, and students are on the move!

Hillary Clinton remained strong in some rural areas and in the Rio Grande Valley, but Barack Obama had the cities. Polls showed Obama clearly leading statewide and continuing his growing momentum. Obama has taken a clear lead in Texas fund raising, although McCain continues to rake in the dollars. Obama has also grabbed up the endorsements, like that of the Grande Dame of Texas politics, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. She had stayed with candidate John Edwards as long as he was in the race. Like other Texans, when she switched, she switched to Obama.

Texas voters have become more sophisticated than at any time in recent history. Many of them have found out that the popular vote in the primary election only decides about 60% of the 228 delegates and 32 alternates that will eventually go to the Democratic Party nominating convention in Denver. To influence the other 40%, Democrats are packing the training sessions that teach the ins and outs of precinct, county, senatorial, and state convention delegations. In North Texas, training session turnouts normally quadruple the 2004 events.

The Texas Senate race, which hasn't gone for the Democrats since Phil Gramm switched parties in the 1980s, is suddenly "in play." Houston-based Rick Noriega is condemning Republican incumbent John Cornyn on the issues, but carefully staying out of the primary election in-fighting. Noriega predicted that he would be forced into a runoff for the Democratic nomination, but his solid support among the state's working people insures that he'll be the candidate.

Republicans are especially hopeful of recovering some of the congressional seats that Democrats took in 2006 in spite of the redistricting that was illegally engineered by former GOP strongman Tom DeLay. Nick Lampson in Houston, Cyril Rodriguez in San Antonio and points south, and Chet Edwards of Waco and Central Texas, all hold seats in districts that were maneuvered to be Republican strongholds. There will be big fights in those areas in November, and Texas unions will continue to focus on them, but early voting turnout statistics indicate that the Democrats will hold on.

In the Dallas County, which contains the most proven Democratic votes in the state, the primary elections are probably decisive. One of the most interesting races pits the incumbent sheriff, internationally famous Lupe Valdez, against three Democratic hopefuls, four Republicans waiting in the wings, and the entire capitalist establishment. The Dallas newspaper, spokesperson for the shadowy Citizens Alliance, which controls almost all politics in the area, has blasted Valdez at every opportunity for the past year. She is campaigning hard to remain the only woman and Latina in that critical county job. Labor, African American leaders, and the entire progressive wing of the electorate firmly support her.

Watch Texas with us through Tuesday!

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