For Texas Democrats, the state’s Super Tuesday primary could help define the shape of a party that’s on the rise after more than two decades of being shut out of power.
During the Trump administration, the party has experienced a surge of new voters — ranging from suburban voters in areas of Texas historically dominated by Republicans to a new crop of young, racially diverse voters.
With so many changes, it’s “really hard to predict virtually anything,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. But Super Tuesday, and how progressive the winning candidate is, could be a first look at where the party is headed.
“All Democrats agree that they want to turn Texas blue, but exactly what shade of blue is still in question,” Rottinghaus said.
Here are a few of the shifts happening in the state and trends to watch as Texans cast their ballots during the March 3 primary:
1. Texas’ overall population has exploded.
In the past decade, Texas has been home to many of the country’s fastest-growing cities. While population growth has slowed across the U.S., in Texas there has been consistent growth.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the period from mid-2018 to mid-2019, Texas grew by 367,000 — bringing the state’s total population to almost 29 million.
A significant part of the state’s growth has been domestic migration — people moving to Texas from other states. Most of the people moving to the Lone Star State have been coming from Democratic-leaning states, including California, New York and Illinois. Many are also moving from Florida, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
“Texas is booming in a way that is changing the political dynamics,” Rottinghaus said.
In particular, it’s making Texas politics more like national politics.
Jim Henson, a pollster with the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said the state’s Democratic voters have been shifting slightly more to the left as the national Democratic Party has become more liberal.
“Despite what Texans often want to think, we are part of the rest of the country,” Henson said. “The national political shifts that we have seen happen elsewhere in the country are happening in Texas a little bit late.”
2. Younger and more racially diverse Texans are turning out to vote.
Democrats saw some fairly significant electoral gains in 2018. The party came closer to winning a U.S. Senate race than it had in decades, and it flipped several congressional and statehouse seats.
During the 2018 midterm elections, there was a huge surge in turnout in Texas, which has long had one of the lowest voter participation rates in the nation. In the March primaries that year, Democratic turnout in particular more than doubled compared with four years earlier.