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Pelosi promises equal justice agenda at Texas Democrats’ virtual convention

Jonathan Tilove
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi closed out the Friday night general session of the Texas Democratic Party's virtual state convention.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi closed out the Friday night general session of Texas Democrats’ virtual state convention with a four-minute speech that focused on the dark days the nation is living through and the importance of Texas in securing the party’s grip on Congress.

“We come together at a very difficult time for our country,” Pelosi said in remarks recorded in front of a U.S. Capitol backdrop.

“Across America, peaceful protesters are grieving for the murder of George Floyd and all the innocent Americans killed in a pattern of racial injustice and police brutality,” the speaker said. “As we pray for the family of George Floyd, we pray for healing in our nation. And healing must begin with real leadership backed up by real action.”

House Democrats, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, are working on legislation focused on equal justice, including excessive force by law enforcement “and lost trust between police departments and the communities they serve,” Pelosi said.

“And at the same time, Americans are mourning for the staggering loss of life from the coronavirus, a virus that has disproportionately hurt our communities of color,” Pelosi said. “Achieving justice in America also means addressing injustices in health and access to jobs and economic security, in housing and food security, and so much more. To do that, we are proud to pass the HEROES Act, which addresses these disparities as it protects lives and livelihoods from the corona crisis.”

Pelosi has proved devoted to Texas in recent years. In introducing her, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said she had committed to speaking at the convention when it was still planned as an in-person event this weekend in San Antonio.

Pelosi also has three grandchildren in Texas and the oft-stated belief that the state will be “ground zero” in the 2020 election. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week supported that claim, finding what amounts to a dead heat between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, who this week clinched the Democratic nomination.

Democrats, who picked up two congressional seats in 2018, would like to do even better in 2020.

“The next few months will be critical,” Pelosi said. “This election cycle presents an opportunity for Texas Democrats. To continue and strengthen our majority, House Democrats are targeting six seats in Texas, where Republicans are running for the exits.”

In his introduction, Hinojosa said that House Democrats were actually targeting seven districts. He is right.The list of six targets was expanded earlier this year to include U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a freshman Republican from Houston.

Four of the seats are open because of Republican retirements. The other two are Austin Republican Michael McCaul’s seat, for which Mike Siegel and Pritesh Gandhi are in a July 14 runoff, and Austin Republican Chip Roy, who is facing Wendy Davis.

However, election forecaster Rachel Bitecofer, who proved prescient in the 2018 midterm elections, issued a series of tweets Friday pressing her argument that House Democrats are not thinking big enough in Texas. She listed eight Texas seats with the kind of demographic makeup, particularly those with large numbers of highly educated voters most put off by Trump, that led to flips in other states two years ago.

They include Plano Republican Van Taylor’s seat, which has not been on the political radar but which she rates as leaning Democratic, and both Austin Republican Roger Williams’ seat, and Round Rock Republican John Carter’s seat, which, along with McCaul’s, she rates as a tossup.

Bitecofer rates Crenshaw’s seat as leaning Republican.