MAGIC WALL: Dem optimism ahead of TX primary

Early voting in Texas shows a potential upswing for Democrats ahead of Tuesday's primary. CNN's John King breaks down voter turnout at the Magic Wall.

Posted: Mar 6, 2018 10:44 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 10:44 PM

Texas has endured uncountable insults since the arrival of Stephen F. Austin in the 1800s. Few have been more enduring, however, than the now-hackneyed broadside from Union Army Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, which was delivered at the end of the Civil War.

"If I owned Texas and hell," Sheridan said, "I'd rent out Texas and live in hell."

Outlanders can vilify the state and become legends, but native folks have to be careful about backlash, especially those who choose to live as Tex-pats, which is a part of the problem confronting Laura Moser, who had resided in Washington, D.C., until a year ago, according to what she told a Houston newspaper.

She is one of seven Democratic candidates in the Texas 7th congressional district primary contest, and she bad-mouthed Texas. From afar. While living in D.C. Oh my!

Moser wrote in a Washington magazine, "I'd sooner have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia" than live in Paris, Texas. If you've traveled to the other Paris and the Texas version, you'd know they both have Eiffel Towers. The one in Texas is smaller, though, and has a cowboy hat sitting at the top, a flourish that would have never occurred to the French.

Picking on the lesser Paris wasn't the smartest move because Moser was returning home to Texas to run for Congress in the Democratic Primary. Her rhetorical blunder caught the attention of her opponents, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which runs House races for the party. Moser, a writer and progressive activist, was accused by the party of being an opportunist and Washington insider who moved home just to run for Congress.

Yeah, so what? It happens, and legally.

Tradition dictates, though, that party organizations generally stay out of picking candidates in primaries, but Moser's profile has the DCCC worried that it will blow a chance to win a congressional seat from Republican John Culberson.

The conservative former state rep has not had a real challenger since voters sent him to Washington in 2000. Moser has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders' Our Revolution group, which is an imprimatur that certainly won't help her attract moderate Republicans in a general election. And she would need some of them to win.

And that's really what worries the national Democratic leadership.

The organization might be correct. The Sander's progressive stances may give Moser a handicap in a Texas race, but this dustup is about more than a congressional race.

The national Democratic Party sticking its nose into a Texas primary reminds voters of suspicions that the last Democratic presidential campaign may have been rigged in Hillary Clinton's favor. There's no need to suspect the DCCC of anything in this race, however. It's right there on its website claiming Moser is a "Washington insider" who "begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for congress."

Texas Democrats believe Culberson is vulnerable because Clinton received more votes in the district than Donald Trump in the last election, and they worry that meddling by the national party reduces their odds of winning the seat this time. That said, Democrats are also hopeful -- as early voting in Texas shows a potential upturn for the party.

But their chances might not be as great as they think, though. The state's 7th congressional district has been in Republican hands since its lines were redrawn in 1966 by court order. Former President George H.W. Bush represented the 7th and now makes his home in the Houston district, along with GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and various energy billionaires, who are among the wealthiest people in America.

Only the DCCC appears to be making an issue of Moser's Texas bona fides and has unloaded opposition research into the primary that says she still had Washington as her primary address in January.

She had, however, stated publicly last May that she had already moved home to Texas. The party published her DC 2018 property tax public statement, which requires that it be her primary residence in order to get the homestead exemption that the document appears to show. The exemption is a tax break offered for seniors and individuals who live in and don't rent out their properties for income.

Things get trickier for the Democrats if Moser becomes one of the two candidates to make it to the expected runoff. Do they attack her as being too liberal for an historically conservative district and put their support behind the more centrist candidate in the runoff? Texas Dems are still divided over whether a liberal, progressive has a chance in the 7th district, and no small number of them are telling the national party to mind its own business and let Texans decide.

Moser might win the primary, and that would be even more embarrassing for the Democrats. Would the DCCC not support her campaign with resources? A political move of that nature could turn into a national controversy for the national Democrats at a time they are trying to win back the US House.

And their problems will suddenly be a lot bigger than petty slights to Paris, Texas.

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