The Democratic Establishment Shot Itself in the Foot in Texas

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The first primary of the 2018 midterm election season was held last night in Texas. There were few surprises, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s ineptitude was on full display in one district.

In the 7th District, which covers Western Houston, two Democrats advanced to a runoff in the race to face off against incumbent Republican John Culberson: attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and activist Laura Moser. Pannill Fletcher is considered the establishment candidate in the race and is backed by EMILY’s List. Moser, on the other hand, isn’t exactly anti-establishment; it’s more accurate to say the Democratic establishment is anti-Moser.

The Democrats went scorched earth against Moser on their own website for being a “Washington insider,” something they’ve never really cared about before. The DCCC cited a 2014 article in the Washingtonian magazine where Moser said she’d “rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than move back to Texas (though she was talking about another part of the state, not Houston), and criticized her for using her husband’s political consulting company. Moser is the only Democrat to receive such direct attacks; the only other candidate who has gotten the same treatment so far is Rick Saccone, a Republican running in Pennsylvania’s special congressional election.


Now, there are valid reasons to criticize Moser. But the way the DCCC went about it, admonishing Moser only after early voting had begun and for things they’ve overlooked in more centrist candidates in the past, appears to have given some progressives the impression that if the DCCC hated her, Moser must be good; reports after the fact that some Democrats considered Moser to be too liberal only added fuel to the fire. So Moser’s campaign reaped the benefits of the DCCC attacks: she was endorsed by the Bernie Sanders-affiliated Our Revolution, and in the three days following the DCCC dropping the research, she raised over $86,000.

If the DCCC had stayed out of the race, any other number of candidates, including the third-place runner up Jason Westin, could have played the progressive folly to Fletcher without jeopardizing the seat in November, as the DCCC clearly believes that Moser’s presence does. But by apparently not realizing how much people hate the Democratic Party, the DCCC’s involvement completely backfired, and now, they’ll have to rely on Fletcher to hold off Moser in May.


Oh, by the way: Fletcher’s campaign was denounced by the Texas AFL-CIO in January because her law firm, in a case representing a commercial cleaning company against immigrant workers, allegedly “hired investigators who intimidated a number of immigrant worker potential witnesses” and boasted on their website that “their goal in selecting jurors was to find secret Donald Trump supporters who would be sympathetic to their attacks on the union.” Surely she shouldn’t have any problem winning a Democratic primary in a one-on-one race, right?

Elsewhere in Texas last night:

  • Congressman Beto O’Rourke held off a challenge from democratic socialist Sema Hernandez to win the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. He’ll face Ted Cruz in November, in what is considered a crucial race for Democrats’ hopes of taking back the Senate. On Tuesday, Cruz told CNN that “if conservatives stay home, if we rest on our laurels, we could see Texas turn blue.”
  • Texas is poised to elect its first Latina congresswoman, after Democratic State Sen. Sylvia Garcia handily won the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Gene Green in the heavily Democratic 29th district of east Houston.
  • The Democratic primary for governor will head to a runoff between former Sheriff Lupe Valdez of Dallas and businessman Andrew White of Houston. Valdez would be the first Latinx governor of Texas, but incumbent Governor Greg Abbott should handily win the general election barring any surprises over the next eight months.
  • Aside from the 7th, there are three other Republican-held Congressional districts on the DCCC’s “target” list for 2018, and all will see Democratic primary runoffs in May. 

You can read the full results at the Texas Tribune’s website.