Dems get their man: Sanchez to run in Texas

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (left) is expected to announce for the U.S. Senate from Texas today.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who led the war in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and then became a key critic of the Bush administration’s war strategy after the Abu Ghraib scandal, is expected to announce he’ll run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Two Democratic sources with direct knowledge of Sanchez’s plans said he will announce his run Wednesday on Facebook, then file campaign paperwork in San Antonio. The sources would speak only on condition of anonymity before the announcement.

Sanchez, 59, was raised in Rio Grande Valley and lives in San Antonio. He is the only Democrat to declare for the race to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

National Democrats worked to recruit Sanchez into a race they think he can make competitive because of his appeal to the state’s ballooning Hispanic population. Democrats also believe a congested Republican primary will weaken the eventual nominee.

Despite the taint of the Abu Ghraib scandal — Sanchez was exonerated of responsibility in an Army report — Democrats believe his military background will be an asset and give him credibility as a centrist.

Republicans have said they do not expect the race to be competitive, no matter who emerges from their primary. The crowded field for the nomination is likely to include wealthy Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, current Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.

Hutchison announced in January she would retire at the end of her term.

Even with Sanchez’s name recognition and military stature, the race will be tough for Democrats, who are dwarfed in the state legislature and who struggle to win statewide. Still, the demographic tide is turning in Texas, giving Democrats hope that an Hispanic candidate can make the state more competitive in 2012.

Long term, Democrats have good reason to be hopeful. From a May 2010 piece in the Texas Monthly, which recounts a talk by Richard Murray, a University of Houston political science professor and pollster:

The Anglo vote will keep going down, he said. This decade will see 400,000 to 500,000 more Anglos coming to Texas — but 4 million “other.” Anglos will be 10% of the total increase.

Republicans have competed for the Hispanic vote, Murray said. They have competed well, but Murray foresees a significant reversal. …

The Democrats’ biggest problem occurs in midterm elections. D’s gain 750,000 voters in every presidential cycle.

… and of course, that’s what 2012 is.

Murray was analyzing the chances for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White, who lost the election to incumbent governor Rick Perry. His take:

For White to be competitive, he needs 95% of the African American vote, 70% of the Hispanic vote, and a third of the Anglo vote. His predecessors D’s who tried to defeat Perry, Tony Sanchez and Chris Bell, did “horribly among Angly voters,” Murray said.

Can Sanchez draw those kinds of numbers? You’ve got to figure he’s going to at least be competitive.

And then there’s this:

The most important demographic statistic, Murry said, is that whites are now a minority in Texas–45%. It is inevitable that the state will move toward competitive politics in gubernatorial elections. “You can’t maintain a static political system in a dynamic state,” Murray said. Maybe not, but nothing that has happened in the past ten years suggests otherwise.

I had to leave early, but the last thing in my notebook was about redistricting. “Republicans can’t maintain a House majority after 2016 or 2018,” he said. By 2020, the Democrats will have the majority, and they will keep it for a long time.

And while Murray was talking about governor’s races, a U.S. Senate race in 2012 will be just as high profile. Meanwhile, the shifting demographics explain why Texas Republicans during the just completed legislative session rammed through harsh new laws that will impact voting, and a controversial sanctuary cities bill.

President Obama chose El Paso, Texas as the staging point for his latest immigration push, as opposed to a reliable blue state like California, and while. Democrats normally don’t burn much money or political capital on Texas campaigns, I’m guessing Sanchez’s effort will be showered with both money, and White House attention.

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3 Responses to Dems get their man: Sanchez to run in Texas

  1. bmull says:

    What, apart from identity politics, makes Sanchez a good candidate? I can think of at least five negatives right now, but what are the positives that are going to appeal to Texas voters?

  2. jreid says:

    1. ethnicity / affinity to fastest growing group
    2. name ID
    3. ability to attract fundraising dollars
    4. military background, which independents love

    That’s pretty much what matters in campaigns.

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