March 20, 2020
Two-Thirds of Democratic Delegates Up for Grab
at Local Online Conventions as GOP Delays Votes
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
Texas Democrats are leaving the world before the coronavirus crisis behind with plans to proceed as scheduled on Saturday with state Senate district conventions that will give activists the opportunity to elect presidential delegates without having to set foot out of homes that have been transformed into isolation chambers.
But the Texas GOP is taking a different approach that's potentially risky with the postponement of Senate district and county conventions until an indefinite date sometime after May 14 when the state party confab had been set to get under way in Houston before it's shifting this week to July.
Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey revealed Friday that activists in some counties and Senate districts had already set new dates for delegate elections without elaborating on whether they would take place on the same or separate days.
The Democrats will be plowing new ground in the meantime with Senate district delegate votes that will be conducted with live-streaming on Facebook from home and office computers or cell phones in some cases.
With the eventual nomination of President Donald Trump as a foregone conclusion, the delegate selection process across the aisle has been more competitive than usual this year in Texas where Bernie Sanders had been leading in the polls in the Democratic fight for the White House in 2020 before a late Joe Biden surge and victory in the Super Tuesday primary election here.
The local conventions this weekend are more than just formalities despite perceptions that Biden has all but locked down the nomination in the battle for a shot at Trump in November. Biden and Sanders finished first and second in the primary election in Texas this month with 34 percent and 30 percent of the vote respectively.
But Sanders has an opportunity to keep his campaign alive by making up ground that he lost here in the primary vote in Texas with a strong showing in the local conventions. The analytics publication FiveThirtyEight is predicting that Biden will emerge from the local activist events with 111 of the state's 228 pledged delegates with Sanders closed behind with 102.
Biden's Texas total will get a boost eventually when the 15 delegates that Mike Bloomberg scored here on Super Tuesday shift their official support to the former vice president as expected in light of the former New York mayor's vigorous endorsement immediately after the initial election more than two weeks ago.
But Texas voters might be surprised to learn that only one-third of the unpledged Democratic delegates here are awarded based on the primary election results while the remainder will chosen through the local convention system that was hastily assembled as a COVID-19 precautionary move.
Democratic State Senator Carol Alvarado of Houston informed Harris County activists who aspire to be delegates at the Texas Democratic Convention that's still set for early June in San Antonio must register online before the Senate district event gets under way Saturday morning if they hope to make the first cut.
Alvarado said the local convention chairs will team up with nomination committees to fashion lists of delegates for the biennial state gathering with the ability to add names to them within the next 30 days.
But anyone who fails to get the memo on the new process can expect to find themselves locked out of facilities where the local conventions had been scheduled until the effective lockdown of the Lone Star State this week.