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Nancy Pelosi takes another run at turning Texas blue tonight

by Resurgent Insider Read Profile arrow_right_alt

Tonight, Nancy Pelosi is headed to Laredo—a Texas border city—for a big fundraiser that appears designed to show Democrats continuing to take Texas seriously in the aftermath of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s slim defeat by Sen. Ted Cruz last year.

Mailbox painted with the Texas Flag in a street in Texas, USA

It’s the latest in national Democratic Party efforts to turn Texas “blue.”

Jointly headlining the fundraiser, which will benefit the DCCC, is Rep. Henry Cuellar. And front and center will be the topic of– you guessed it– the Wall.

Cuellar made a name for himself by being the last Democratic holdout targeted to sign a discharge petition designed to force legislation on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to the House floor. 

He was one of the last three holdouts who opposed the discharge petition on the basis that Democratic leadership refused to rule out funding for the Wall as a possible swap for codifying DACA. (The other two, Reps. Vicente González and Filemón Vela, ultimately signed onto the discharge petition despite Democrats’ unwillingness to commit upfront to no wall funding after being pressured to do so by clergy).

That has left Cuellar as the most prominent Democratic Wall opponent from South Texas. And it also leaves him as the figure best placed to try to use the Wall as a cudgel to finally weld together in a stronger coalition wealthy figures in border areas of Texas, and the rich, white liberals who dominate Texas Democratic and national politics and of whom border residents have been somewhat skeptical (see O’Rourke’s performance in his Senate primary for evidence of this).

Despite the popularity of the concept of enhanced physical barriers separating the US from Mexico among conservatives nationally, the fact is, in South Texas, the concept is controversial because the Wall would need to be constructed on land privately owned by many of these landowners. Some estimates put the number of anti-eminent domain lawsuits tied to proposed border barriers in Texas in the thousands. So border landowners arguably represent a new, newly-energized, and relatively untapped potential fundraising base for Pelosi.

However, there is one problem: Some big and wealthy landowners in the area are not necessarily donors that Pelosi and Cuellar benefit from buddying up with, other than in purely financial terms.

One, CY Benavides, who has a history of donating to anyone and everyone who looks like they could be a powerful friend or ally—Republican or Democrat— has a history of donating to Cuellar, specifically. Presumably, he’ll be attending the fundraiser or at least gifting money to the DCCC as the result of it. 

This might be a bad move for Pelosi, Cuellar and the DCCC because as has been documented here, Benavides is behind a move to import toxic waste from Mexico and deposit it on a dump he wants to build on floodplain land he owns which is right next door to a bunch of poorer, Hispanic neighborhoods, packed with Democratic voters.

If Pelosi & co take his money, it’ll be another signal to those kinds of Texas Democrats that the national Democratic Party really doesn’t have them or their interests front of mind. Again, that was an issue in Beto O’Rourke’s primary, and appeared to be the biggest threat to his turning out every voter he needed to in order to beat Cruz.

Also at issue will be where the national Democratic Party—in this case, more Pelosi than Cuellar—has come down on trade.

While locals may not like the importing of Mexican toxic waste, they do support NAFTA and allowing easy crossing of the border for shopping, visiting friends and family, work and so on.

Pelosi and the Democrats haven’t really appeared to do much lately apart from wield the immigration issue as a wedge to buy themselves extra Hispanic votes without delivering on a range of issues important to Hispanic voters (including immigration).

To boot, the national Democratic Party, to maintain their support from labor unions, remains just about as anti-free trade and anti-NAFTA as Trump. That may sell in Ohio, but it’s unlikely to sell in Laredo.

So while the Pelosi-Cuellar fundraiser is a good stunt that will allow reporters to write more stories about Democrats prioritizing Texas and seriously trying to turn it blue, it also underlines some mismatches between the Democratic Party’s immediate interests and how Texans including in border areas may align with the party on actual issues.

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