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Battleground Texas seeks to turn Texas blue

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Battleground Texas Battleground Texas seeks to turn Texas blue

Oscar Silver 

In current American politics, there are three kinds of states.

The first two kinds are red and blue, or Republican and Democratic, respectively.

But then there are the battlegrounds.

States such as Florida, Virginia and, most famously, Ohio are known as the battleground swing states and are open to influence during political debates and elections.

This makes these states power players in the structure of the American electoral system because they garner the most attention, and consequently, reap the benefits of campaign and federal funding in the long run.

During the past two presidential election cycles, grassroots organizations, primarily Democratic, including the President Barack Obama’s Organizing for America, sprung up in the swing states to engage the underrepresented parts of the population, and mobilize those voters for their gain.

The legacy of that movement is Battleground Texas.

So who is the driving force behind this organization?

Oscar Silva is the Battleground Texas organizer for the El Paso area, a local El Pasoan, and Baylor graduate who earned his stripes working with OFA as the Latino Vote Director in North Carolina during the Obama 2012 campaign.

“Battleground Texas is here to empower the state of Texas as a movement [that is] grassroots and very community involved — from local city council to state races,” Silva said.

Battleground Texas aims to bring Texas to the forefront of the national political scene with the “Turning Texas Blue” battlecry, which is at the core of their social media and online presence.

Silva said that the goal of the organization is not just to promote the Democratic Party, but to engage and inform voters.

Silva wants “to change the electorate by better engaging in voting, registering for voting and to make the state a ‘purple’ state,” one which could go either way.

El Paso Democratic Party Chair Glenn “Butch” Maya said Texas is already a “minority-majority state,” meaning that a majority of Texans fall into a minority demographic, be they Hispanic, Black, Asian, or other ethnicity.

Both Battleground Texas and the Democratic Party see the mobilization of ethnic minorities, as well as women and the young voters, as the key to their success in changing Texas to blue.

El Paso shares a common American ailment of terrible voter turnouts, with only a 25.96 percent voter turnout during last year’s presidential elections, according to the El Paso County Elections.

Maya said he believes that with the help of efforts like Battleground Texas, there could be real change in voter attitudes in the Borderland and across the state.

“If they could give me the resources they put into other large cities,” said Maya, “it’s possible that this part of Texas could make a difference in elections and in the rest of the state.”

Republicans are none too happy about the organization’s credo, provoking Governor Rick Perry to issue a bit of a challenge in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this past February.

“The University of Texas will change its colors to maroon and white before Texas goes purple, much less blue,” Perry said.

Local Republicans are not as combative, although they do feel that Battleground Texas’ ambitions are dubious at best.

Bob Peña, the El Paso County Republican Party’s election administrator, was aware vaguely of Battleground’s recent visit to El Paso and its effort to “go around and drum up votes.”

“[Texas] is a conservative state,” said Peña, “Conservative ideals have made Texas a shining star of a state and we [Republicans] work to keep Texas conservative.”

Peña compared Texas’ unemployment rate with that of California, a Democratic dominated “blue” state, pointing out its dismal 9.8 percent unemployment compared to Texas’ 6.2 percent.

When asked if Peña and the El Paso County GOP would be willing to participate with Battleground Texas in events to encourage voter registration and turnout, Peña said his party is “always in favor of voter education.”

Peña said Battleground Texas does not “talk about their position on anything — that’s an injustice to the voter.”

El Paso is one of the state’s Democratic strongholds, so the challenge for Battleground Texas in this region is not the same as it is in more right-leaning parts of Texas.

Their challenge will not be to change the color of El Paso voters from red to blue, but to engage a community that may be lacking in involvement, registration and turnout.

Silva was candid about what he feels will be his biggest struggle of the lack of “a culture of volunteering — especially for political reasons.”

“There is a need to create a volunteering culture, so people can become empowered,” he said.

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