Since 1994, no Democrat in Texas has been elected in a statewide election. In the years following, Texas has become notoriously conservative, cutting taxes and attracting capital enterprise, but often at the expense of social welfare programs.

On Sept. 29, The Texas Tribune hosted a panel of Democratically aligned political experts to answer the question: “Will Texas turn blue?”

The panel consisted of Jeremy Bird, senior advisor for Battleground Texas, a Democratic voter mobilization group; Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic state Senator from San Antonio District 26; and Bill White, 2010 Democratic nominee for Texas Governor. Senator Pete Gallego D-San Antonio, who beat Republican nominee Francisco Canseco in 2012, was not in attendance due to budget issues in Washington. Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune Evan Smith served as the moderator.

The panel began by discussing methods with which Democrats plan to turn the state. “We need to break down barriers to voting and personally reach out to non-voting citizens,” said Bird.

Texas has the lowest voter turnout nationally, ranking 51st when including Washington D.C. Bird believes that with “voter registration, turnout and persuasion,” the Texas Democratic Party can capitalize on an untapped voter base.

White also supported a grassroots approach to motivating a Democratic voter base. “I started out in politics going door-to-door and registering voters,” claimed the former Houston mayor.

Van de Putte cited conflict within the Republican Party as instrumental to instituting a strong Democratic candidate, saying, “I think the Republicans are helping us a great deal.”

While Wendy Davis has become the likely Democratic nominee for governor, there has also been buzz for Van de Putte to run opposite David Dewhurst in the race for Lieutenant Governor.

In an interview the previous day, Dewhurst received backlash for a comment he gave in which he said, “We have universal healthcare– it’s called the emergency room.”

When asked directly if she plans to run for Lieutenant Governor, Van de Putte revealed, “It’s a very personal decision that I’m not taking lightly. I’m looking at the analytics.”

The senator did make it known that she plans on making a change in Texas politics. “I want different leadership for this state so badly. When Dewhurst thinks universal healthcare is walking into an ER, that’s a problem. There’s a disconnect between the people and their elected officials.”

While Democratic Party leadership remains hopeful in its commitment to changing the politics of Texas, conservatives remain confident of their Republican majority. When asked if he thought Texas would ever become a Democratic majority state, Dewhurst responded by saying, “Texas will turn blue over my cold dead body.”

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