Texas Dems Executive Committee calls for staff changes, accountability after disappointing cycle

by | Dec 9, 2020 | 2020 Elections, Politics

In a strongly worded letter penned to Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa last week, 38 members of the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee asked for major changes and heads to roll at the state party after election losses in November. 

“From messaging to organizing, political data to simple administration, the Texas Democratic Party has dropped the ball and it is becoming more and more apparent every day that our senior leadership is refusing to take responsibility or, more importantly, the actions necessary to resolve the many shortfalls of our party this election cycle,” read the letter.

The letter goes on to make 12 demands, including the removal of Texas Democrats Executive Director Manny Garcia and Deputy Executive Director Cliff Walker from their leadership positions, more accountability and transparency for party expenses, outreach to other Democratic parties in other states that flipped like Arizona and Pennsylvania, a task force to assess the location of party headquarters, and a forum to allow former staff and former Democratic candidates to discuss party shortcomings. 

The Texas State Democratic Executive Committee is composed of members elected at the party’s annual convention and who represent Senate districts as well as state Democratic caucuses. SDEC members, according to party rules, carry on the activities of the party between state conventions.

“Ultimately, we are the regulatory body of this party,” the SDEC letter concludes. “We view this electoral failure as our failure, and we owe it to our volunteers, our donors, and every Texan who calls themself a Democrat to find out what went wrong. We hope that these adjustments will allow us to move forward unified and that we remember the 2020 election not as a failure, but as the catalyst that provided our party with an opportunity for much needed systemic change.”

In the party chair’s response penned Saturday, Hinojosa largely agreed to follow through on most of the demands in the letter, with the absence of any agreement to change senior staff. Instead, he agreed to form a committee composed of SDEC members that could offer recommendations regarding TDP staff.

Hinojosa also pushed back on the accusation that the state party had failed to execute a successful electoral program. Hinojosa shifted the blame onto things he has already spoken publicly about, that the Democratic House campaign arm and Biden campaign prevented the state party from doing in-person canvassing due to safety concerns, that the disappointing losses seen on election day were not unique to Texas, and that polling was inaccurate. 

“The Party is committed to conducting a ‘deep dive’ analysis of the election, using outside persons or entities, and partnering with other allied groups to fund it if necessary,” Hinojosa wrote. 

Hinojosa made similar commitments during a round table discussion with SDEC members on Saturday. 

Staff at the Texas Democratic Party also penned a separate letter responding to SDEC members, touting their work during the cycle and expressing their support for senior staff. 

“Any letter making demands based primarily on election results is short-sighted and will not solve the structural challenges Democrats face in Texas or across the nation,” they wrote. “We can solve these challenges, but only if we are able to work together. In no way, shape, or form should any one or two individuals be held solely responsible for the results.”

Kendall Scudder, an SDEC member representing Senate District 2 in Dallas and one of two co-authors of the letter sent to Hinojosa last week, said he spoke with the party chair and said he appreciated Hinjosa’s responsiveness and new commitments to transparency. Scudder said Hinojosa disagreed with the verbiage in the SDEC letter but agreed with about “90 to 95 percent” of the finer points made in the complaint. 

“There are a lot of members who take this charge of oversight for the party very seriously, and a lot of us come from activist-grassroots backgrounds,” Scudder said, noting that he did not speak for all 38 signers of the letter who may or may not be satisfied with what the chairman has promised since.

“The letter stands as the letter stands, and the chairman is responding to it,” Scudder said.

Jen Ramos, an SDEC member representing Senate District 21 in Laredo and the other co-author of the original letter, said the creation of an independent auditing committee to review TDP staff was one of the biggest victories scored from their complaint. 

“We really are just committed to figuring out what happened,” Ramos told the Signal. “We wanted to come from a constructive place and move forward in a unified effort.” 

Photo: Texas Democratic Party

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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