No other statewide Democratic candidate can say that. But for the first time in a quarter-century, two-party politics is at least not off-limits as a topic for reasonable discussion.
Even known Republicans, some hiding out from gossipy Dallas pals, have been identified at local events for the onrushing campaign of U.S. Rep. “Beto” O’Rourke, who returns to Fort Worth Sunday after drawing 1,700 in a music club Friday night during the state party convention.
You would be surprised if I named one local Republican donor at a Beto event the other day. He opened his coat and showed a sticker concealed in his pocket: “[Ted] Cruz Is a Dork — Vote for O’Rourke.”
“I’ve been surprised at some of the people I’ve seen,” U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said between party events in the Fort Worth Convention Center.
“You know — Republican kind of people — people who used to be afraid to have anything to do with Democrats.”
The photos from an O’Rourke appearance in Gainesville, in 80 percent Republican Cooke County, show middle-aged men in plaid work shirts and gimme caps. They’re packed 500 strong into the town railroad station.
Vicki Moore, president of the Tarrant County Democratic Woman’s Club, talked about knocking on a former mayor’s door in heavily Republican Northeast Tarrant County.
“This guy had never heard of any Democrats at all,” she said. “He didn’t even recognize anyone’s name.”
“Then he said, ‘But — I know Beto!”
The 45-year-old El Paso web executive’s star appeal has almost overwhelmed the rest of the no-name Democratic ticket.
In the convention trade hall, the lines for Beto campaign yard signs ($5) and T-shirts ($25) stretched longer than for party gear.
Otherwise, women and Hispanic voters dominated talk in a convention with so many events targeting those groups, some overlapped.
Victoria Neave, a 37-year-old Dallas lawyer in her first term in the Texas House, had an assistant walking alongside carrying her shoes as she switched to flats for the rush from a Texas Latina List event (“FLIP Texas: Fearless Latinas in Politics”) to a large foyer rally protesting the new zero-tolerance federal immigration policy.
“I think a lot of folks are disgusted with the way the country is going,” she said.
“But it’ll still take a lot more to actually get people out to vote. We’re still months away from the election.”
On a panel of candidates speaking to a packed Lady Bird Breakfast (named for Lady Bird Johnson, the late former first lady), Texas House candidate Rhetta Bowers of Dallas jarred the audience awake with a stern reminder.
“A ‘like’ on Facebook is not enough,” she said as attendees looked up from their screens.
“Get up and get out. Go to the doorknobs. Talk to people. Even one hour of your time is worth it.”
Fort Worth candidate Beverly Powell, running for a Texas Senate seat, told the crowd the party is “fighting a huge financial machine” in Empower Texans, backed by libertarian-minded West Texas oil executives and religious conservatives.
Gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez of Dallas, new to many delegates, drew cheers when she told the crowd, “Women are going to clean up politics.”
There’s a guy who might help.