The mode of campaigning in Texas is similar to that in most other states. The fundamentals of campaigning are standard across the country, with rallies, political advertisements, fund-raising events, and polling all part of the normal process. What makes Texas stand-out, however, is its sheer size and stubborn streak of independence that remains of a legacy of its history as province of Mexico followed by a period in the mid-19th Century as an sovereign nation, the Republic of Texas. Texas officially joined the United States in 1845, but seceded from the Union as part of the Confederacy during the Civil War. As a member of the secessionist Confederate States of America, Texas was included in the post-war policy of Reconstruction that, as with the Deep South, left a deep sense of resentment that, combined with its history as independent nation, if only for a brief period, instilled in many Texans an even deeper commitment to retaining and celebrating its “uniqueness.”
Texas, of course, remains a staunchly conservative state, with the current governor, Rick Perry, considered one of the more conservative highly visible politicians on the national scene and a perennial consideration and occasional candidate for the presidency. Both of Texas’ senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, are Republicans, with the latter a prominent leader of the Tea Party, which combines very conservative positions on many issues interwoven with a strong anti-government libertarian influence.
The most significant recent political development in Texas, and one that had a profound effect on the balance of power in that state’s congressional delegation, was the 2003 battle over redistricting – an always contentious process in many states following the nation-wide census, in this case, the 2000 census. Republicans in Texas succeeded in passing a redistricting plan that heavily favored their party in congressional elections, tilting the state’s delegation from nearly-evenly split between Democrats and Republicans to one tilted significantly towards the latter. Even many Democrats in Texas, however, present themselves as socially conservative, in line with the state’s demographic realities. A notable exception was long-time Congressman Henry Gonzalez, a liberal who represented Texas’ 20th Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1961 to 1999.
The process of campaigning in elections in Texas, as noted, is generally very similar to what occurs in other states. Again, however, there is a notable exception. In line with the state’s overwhelmingly cynical and distrustful attitude towards the distant federal government in Washington, D.C., the State of Texas’ constitution places more power in the hands of the citizenry than occurs in most other states. This extends to the state’s system for electing candidates and voting in elections. The general population enjoys greater influence in the selection of candidates in Texas. What this means for the conduct of campaigns is that candidates for statewide offices, like governor, secretary of state, and U.S. Senator, must conduct vigorous campaigns across the vast expanse of Texas. This makes an already physically and mentally grueling exercise even more so for those running to represent this particular state.
A potentially major element to campaigns in Texas is the state’s already very large and still-growing Hispanic population. Thirty-eight percent of the state’s population of over 26 million citizens are Hispanic, compared with just under 17 percent for the entire country. [See: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, quickfacts.census.gov] How this growing population of Hispanic voters will influence the state’s politics over the short-, medium-, and long-term remains to be seen, but the Democratic Party sees it as an opportunity to make major inroads in Texas politics. In any event, no politician running for office in Texas can afford to ignore the demographic realities of the state; they all must appeal to that growing segment of the electorate, which does involve modifications to campaigns, especially with respect to the extremely emotionally-sensitive issue of immigration.