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In Houston, Clinton touts Texas as 2016 bright spot for Democrats

Hillary Clinton told Texas Democrats on Friday that despite her presidential election loss, the state provided a bright spot for the party going forward.

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at an Annie's List lunch in Houston on Friday April 7, 2017.  

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

HOUSTON — Hillary Clinton told Texas Democrats on Friday that despite her devastating loss in last year's presidential election, the state provided a bright spot for the party going forward. 

Clinton lost to Republican Donald Trump by 9 points in Texas, the narrowest margin of victory the GOP has seen in Texas since 1996

"This was the closest presidential election in Texas in two decades," said Clinton, whose campaign devoted little — but not zero — resources to the state. "We didn't spend any money. We didn't have it to spend here, but we had you and millions of other Texans." 

Clinton's comments at a luncheon for Annie's List, a group that works to elect Democratic women in Texas, marked one of her first political appearances since the election. She opened her speech by briefly commenting on Trump's decision Thursday to launch a military strike on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack there. 

“The action taken last night needs to be followed by a broader strategy to end Syria’s civil war," said Clinton, who served as U.S. secretary of state under President Obama. "I also hope [the Trump administration] will recognize that you cannot in one breath speak of protecting Syrian babies and in the next close America's doors to them."

Clinton’s speech otherwise focused largely on revving up Texas Democrats for the path forward after the 2016 election. In addition to the margin in the presidential election, she pointed out that she won three Texas congressional districts held by Republicans. “That’s something we’re going to focus on in 2018,” she said.

Despite her optimism, Clinton said Texas Democrats still need to work to improve voter turnout.

“If Texans voted at the same percentage as Californians, you would already be blue,” she said.

Clinton’s remarks were filled with shoutouts to Texas Democrats, including Amber Mostyn — the Houston Democratic megadonor whom the luncheon honored — and state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston. Farrar has introduced a bill that would fine men for masturbating, calling it a satirical response to the "unnecessary" and "invasive" procedures Texas women have often had.

“I don’t know,” Clinton said. “The bill may be satirical, but the message sure resonates with women everywhere."

Clinton was also critical of Trump and other Republicans for their efforts — unsuccessful so far — to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. She singled out an unnamed GOP lawmaker who she said believes insurance policies should not cover maternity care.

"Somebody needs to talk to him,” Clinton said, echoing a comment she first made Thursday. “Unless he’s claiming he’s the immaculate conception, he has a direct stake in maternity care.”

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Disclosure: Amber Mostyn has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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