For Many Texas Democrats, the Best Way to Make their Voices Heard is to Vote in the Republican Primary

Credits: Houston Chronicle

It’s challenging to envision a scenario where Texas Republicans reject Donald Trump as their presidential nominee in the upcoming March GOP primary.

Despite facing mounting criminal charges and his previous attempt to overturn the election he lost, the former president maintains a significant polling lead of sixty percentage points over his closest rival among likely Republican voters in Texas.

However, Texas allows voters to participate in the GOP primary without necessarily being registered Republicans, as demonstrated by Zach Hinds, a Democrat from Arlington.

Texas Democrats (Credits: VOA)

Hinds revealed his plan to vote for Trump’s primary opponent, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, if she remains in the race by the start of early voting on February 20. Hinds explained that his top priority is preventing Trump from returning to office.

He indicated that even if there were a competitive Democratic presidential primary, he would still engage in crossover voting, a practice in Texas where voters can choose which primary to participate in regardless of their political affiliation. Hinds, a thirty-year-old engineer, emphasized the importance of making his voice heard.

The context of Hinds’s decision lies in the lack of competitive Democratic races in Texas. Joe Biden faces no serious challenge as the Democratic nominee for president in 2024, and the Democratic race for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat is seen as unlikely to unseat the incumbent.

Moreover, other down-ballot races are not expected to be competitive in the general election. Given these circumstances, Hinds and his wife, who is a Republican, plan to vote in the GOP primary and support “more moderate” candidates.

Hinds’s situation reflects a broader trend among Texas Democrats, who see the GOP primary as an opportunity to have some influence in a state where Democrats have struggled to win statewide seats for nearly thirty years.

The state’s electoral districts have been heavily gerrymandered, limiting the number of seats that could realistically be competitive for Democrats. Both parties have a shot at only about a dozen of the state’s 181 seats in the House and Senate.

Despite some pushback from Texas Democratic leaders, who fear that crossover voting could depress Democratic turnout, many Democrats see it as a strategic move to have a say in selecting candidates who may ultimately hold office in heavily Republican areas.

This sentiment is particularly strong in counties where all local officials are Republicans, leading some Democrats to believe that voting in the Republican primary is their only chance to influence local elections.

While crossover voting has historically not been very effective in Texas, recent examples, such as the 2021 special-election runoff and the 2022 midterm elections, suggest that strategic voting by Democrats could potentially sway certain races.

However, achieving significant impact would require a large coordinated effort among Democratic voters, which may be challenging to mobilize. Despite the debate surrounding crossover voting, it highlights the unique electoral dynamics in Texas, where both parties strategize to maximize their influence in a deeply polarized political landscape.

I'm Richard Rosales, I cover political news and ongoing US elections.