HOUSTON — Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie said Thursday during his final convention as the party’s leader that despite his disappointment in being unable to propel a candidate to victory in a statewide race during his six-year tenure, the party should still reflect on the significant milestones it has accomplished.
He said the victories included winning an injunction that kept former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s name on the ballot when he was indicted on money laundering charges. Richie said that resulted in Democrat Nick Lampson’s 2006 victory in the race.
Richie also cited winning a summary judgment claim against the King Street Patriots after a judge ruled the group was illegally operating as an unregistered political action committee, and he lauded the party’s work in its ongoing fight against the state's voter ID law. A centerpiece of Democratic accomplishments, he added, was the 2008 victory that kept state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, on the ballot during her successful challenge of former state Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Arlington.
“All of those victories have made us a stronger party,” Richie told a handful of reporters and about a dozen onlookers outside a ballroom at the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston.
But Richie, who decided in April 2011 not to seek another term, also spoke candidly about the party’s struggles, including being vastly outspent by Republicans and sticking to the belief that one candidate can propel the party to higher ground.
“Candidates come and go, and for too long our party has been in the position of looking for that one candidate, that media star that is going to carry us instead of us carrying them,” he said. “So as we go forward it is my hope that we will have a party that can carry candidates instead of having candidates that can carry the party.”
But while Richie conceded winning statewide races was “important,” he also defended his party’s performance in local elections, which he said has built a solid foundation for future success.
“Let’s also talk about the number of commissioners court [seats], the number of county attorneys and district attorneys and county clerks that have been elected,” he said. “Let’s talk about the fact that in 2008 we came within two seats of taking the Texas House back.”
As far as the party’s funding, Richie said the party would “never have enough money” but tried to shine a brighter light on the matter by saying that just two years ago the state’s Republican Party was in serious debt.
“We’re never going to raise as much money as the Republicans do, let’s face it. But I also recall that before [Steve] Munisteri became the Republican chair, they were $600,000 in debt while we were in the black,” he said. “These things come and go depending on election cycles, depending on donors.”
Richie also maintained that the party isn’t taking the Hispanic vote for granted, a refrain recently adopted by the Republican Party as it tries to make inroads with the state’s largest-growing demographic.
“If we did, we wouldn’t have the outreach that we try to do," he said. "The first hire that I made when I became chair was a bilingual communications person so we could communicate in English and Spanish. The Republicans, up until two years ago, didn’t have anybody.”
Richie added that he didn’t assume the party has a consistent grip on the Latino vote every election cycle, but has instead had to keep earning it while the Republicans simultaneously push it away.
“I don’t think the Latino vote is monolithic,” he said. “But our platform supports the DREAM Act, we support a real education for all young people. I don’t see that coming from the other side.”
Richie said the afternoon was bittersweet for him as he acknowledged it was time to take the party in a new direction, but he hinted he would continue to be a familiar face in political circles.
“I am not leaving the fight," he said. "I am just going to take a different road."
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.