HOUSTON — Texas Democrats on Saturday confidently laid down a general-election marker here, officially opening the first in a series of offices in the solidly Republican state affiliated with the campaign of their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
"Here is the breaking news: We are going to win Texas," U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, told roughly 80 Clinton supporters in the lobby of a union headquarters, alluding to a recent Washington Post poll that showed the Democratic nominee tied with Republican rival Donald Trump in the Lone Star State.
"The strategists and pollsters across America are indicating that something different is happening in the great state of Texas," Jackson Lee added. "The iconic history of the Lloyd Bentsens, Lyndon Baines Johnsons, Ralph Yarboroughs, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordans and many others are rising up ... and they are making a statement that Texas is the nation and so goes Texas, so goes the nation."
Clinton's campaign is paying a bit more attention to Texas than usual for a Democratic nominee during the general election, sending surrogates for public events and opening offices in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee. Few polls have been conducted on the presidential race in Texas, but most that have been done found Clinton trailing by only single digits, narrower deficits than in past cycles.
While some Texas Democrats have warned against interpreting the Clinton campaign's moves as a serious play for the state, many are in agreement that they are at least geared toward energizing their long-neglected ranks in Texas and helping down-ballot candidates. U.S. Rep. Gene Green echoed that point at the office opening, flanked by other elected officials from the Houston area including Jackson Lee, U.S. Rep. Al Green, state Rep. Ron Reynolds and state Rep. Senfronia Thompson.
"The more votes Hillary gets, the more votes a judge candidate will get," Gene Green said. "We want to make sure Harris County, in the presidential election, continues to be blue and we need to make sure it's heavily blue because two years from now, we've got a lot of work to do."
Clinton supporters also heard from state party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, who told them not to let anyone discount the Washington Post poll because it fits a pattern of Clinton trailing Trump by just single digits. After the event, he told the Texas Tribune he was encouraged by the attention the campaign is paying to the state, saying they're "going to have to recognize at some point that the payoffs for investing in Texas are enormous."
"I think Hillary knows what the possibilities are in Texas for Democrats," Hinojosa said, citing the state's diverse population. "Even though they don't consider it to be a battleground state yet," recent polls may have inspired them to "send the message that they're beginning to take Texas seriously."
"Three polls in a row can't be wrong, right?" he added, nodding to the tightening margins. "The movement in the polls is not the other way."
Beyond the Houston office, it is not yet known where the Clinton campaign and DNC are making formal investments in Texas, which has long been home to dozens of pro-Clinton volunteer operations. Jackson Lee said Saturday pro-Clinton forces have offices and staff "all over the state."