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“Whitley’s resignation shows that times are changing in the Lone Star State.” – Mario Carrillo
Austin – In a significant move, Texas Senate Democrats blocked the nomination of David Whitley as Secretary of State. As acting Secretary, Whitley implemented a voter purge that targeted new U.S. citizens and was met with ferocious backlash from voting rights groups. From AP:
Texas’ embattled elections chief who wrongly questioned the U.S. citizenship of tens of thousands of voters was on the brink of losing his job Sunday, while Republican lawmakers prepared to head home hoping to save their own in 2020.
Secretary of State David Whitley appeared set to go down without a public fight in the final hours of an unusually quiet session of the Texas Legislature, where a weakened GOP majority this year showed little appetite for partisan battles over signs their grip on the Capitol is slipping.
The AP captures the changing political dynamics in Texas, where the growth and mobilization of Latino and immigrant voters makes Texas a no longer a reliably Red state, especially given the attacks on Latino and immigrant voters by Texas and national Republicans.
In the 2018 elections, Democratic candidates made great strides. While Beto O’Rourke lost, Democrats did pick up two U.S. House seats – and in six other gerrymandered districts, the GOP candidate was held to 51% or under. Chip Roy, who gained notoriety for blocking the disaster relief bill last week that would fund recovery in Texas, Puerto Rico, the midwest and elsewhere, only got 50% in his suburban Austin district.
In addition, Texas Democrats picked up 12 seats in the State House of Representatives. This legislative session was far different than those in recent past. The GOP’s effort to further restrict voting, SB 9, died in the Texas House.
Mario Carrillo, America’s Voice Texas State Director issued the following statement,
Whitley’s resignation shows that times are changing in the Lone Star State. Organizations that work on expanding voting in Texas should celebrate this victory of keeping out a secretary of state that clearly wanted to suppress votes in a state that already suffers from rampant voter suppression.
But the power shift in 2018 — an election that saw Democrats win 12 seats in the Texas House and two in the Texas Senate — was enough to keep Republicans from maintaining a supermajority in the upper chamber and keep Whitley from the necessary votes to be confirmed.
For years, Texas Republicans have used voter suppression laws and gerrymandering to keep their power. That will not work anymore and this legislative session shows us again why elections matter. In 2020, despite the multiple strategies by Republicans and their best efforts at voter suppression, Texas will be a battleground state.