Texas Matters is a Thursday evening series focusing on Texas political news while sharing information and strategies with the aim of taking back our state.Instead of the traditional news roundup we usually do in this series, I thought what happened this past weekend here in Houston was worth a photo diary. On Sunday, over 150 Battleground Texas activists--including a Houston Area Kossacks contingent consisting of nomandates, doraphasia, suesue, mister mustardhead, jmbar2, cosette, and your humble diarist--gathered in the IBEW hall to have the first BGTX Neighborhood Team Convention. Similar conventions were going on all over the state, from Edinburg to Amarillo, and if they were anywhere close to as energetic as Houston's (which I'm sure they were), Republicans have a reason to be scared.
Houston's convention was, however, the only convention to be blessed with the presence of BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown.
Here's what Jenn had to say by e-mail after attending the convention:
I am so impressed by the energy I saw in that room. What our volunteers are doing right now (more than a year away from the next statewide general election) is truly awe-inspiring. This kind of major grassroots effort so early in a single state is unprecedented -- and that includes the historic campaigns of 2008 and 2012.Indeed it is.
These neighborhood teams are building the foundation of our movement to transform Texas into a battleground state. They're made up of everyday Texans who've had enough of the extreme actions of the state's Republican leaders. And they're banding together to do something about it.
I saw these volunteers sharing personal stories with each other, coordinating schedules to make time for house meetings, planning voter registration drives, and committing themselves to this effort long-term.
That's how we win.
To give you an idea of the size of the crowd, here's a picture I snapped, but it doesn't even begin to capture the energy in the room, which you'd have to experience in person.
You can get an idea of the energy, though, by looking at the work the individual neighborhoods of Houston put into making their presence known at the convention:
Even we Kossacks had a sign, thanks to the efforts of jmbar2 (who also made us matching lapel stickers!).
We had a number of different speakers, including State Representative Gene Wu, who represents part of Houston.
Wu assured us that, when Republicans in Austin get a few beers down, they start talking about how scared they are. And for very good reason--their overreach on abortion really galvanized a movement here in Houston and statewide. This sign from the convention says it best:
Wu reminded us that, thanks to Texas Republicans, we have the perfect message: that Republicans want to revert to the 1950s. We see it in the anti-choice legislation and even in our roads--I didn't know this until Wu spoke, but TxDOT is actually planning to unpave roads thanks to their starved budget. Keeping Texas red is almost literally moving us back in time.
A few BGTX fellows, including nomandates, also spoke to us about what exactly the organization plans to do about it. Anybody in attendance could not have helped but leave impressed with the data-driven movement BGTX is building. Everything is reliant upon data, from figuring out exactly which doors are worth knocking on to developing the best lines to say to recruit more volunteers. This is how campaigns are won.
In a nutshell, there are going to be three phases leading up to the next major elections: registration, persuasion, and turnout. Right now, we are in the registration phase. And the number of people who have been motivated by BGTX to train to become Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrars is nothing short of staggering. In Houston, separate community training sessions have to be held because of the massive influx of people wanting to be trained. At my training session on Tuesday, the room was quite literally overflowing. Voter registrations are skyrocketing thanks to the hard work of BGTX activists. Closer to the elections, we will enter a persuasion phase in which activists will work on convincing swayable voters (again, it's all data-driven to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness) to vote Democratic. The final phase will, of course, be a good ol' fashioned GOTV operation, which may or may not become more complicated due to the voter ID law, depending on what the courts say.
Burnt Orange Report brought us the story yesterday that Texas Republicans are calling in their reinforcements, including the resources of FreedomWorks. I'm here to tell you that there's a reason the Republicans are pouring resources into a supposedly red state, and that reason is the crowd in the picture above, and many more crowds just like it all across the state. Republicans know the stakes are high--the implications of a blue Texas (or even a competitive Texas) for national politics are enormous. And because of progressive activists across the state, that nightmare scenario for Republicans is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.
Texas Diary Round-Up
jmbar2: Texas DPS Pooh Poohing FOI request for proof feces was brought to Texas capitol protests (7/30/2013)
LivesInAShoe: An Open Letter To Texas Senators Davis and Van de Putte, and Representative Farrar (7/31/2013)
jmbar2: Texas school textbook panel packed with Creationists. What could go wrong? (7/31/2013)
Got more Texas news stories or action alerts? Share them in the comments!