|@EddieMoralesJr Twitter photo shows State Rep. Eddie Morales Jr. and wife Helen Morales
Rookie Democrat State Rep Teaches GOP
that Money Can't Buy Love on the Border
November 11, 2022
The money-gushing Republican establishment fell like a cement balloon for Governor Greg Abbott's wildly unrealistic vow to turn South Texas red in the case of Democratic State Rep. Eddie Morales and his re-election bid in a border district that's been the epicenter of a record surge of migrants from Mexico this year.
Scrambling madly to capitalize on a red wave, the Associated Republicans of Texas, the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC teamed up to give GOP challenger Kat Parker of Alpine almost $680,000 in the final six weeks of the House District 74 race. Wealthy El Paso megadonor Woody Hunt contributed $10,000 to Parker in the last month of the contest in HD 74.
A freshman lawmaker who's an attorney in Eagle Pass, Morales was a pauper by comparison, raising less than $65,000 for his re-election campaign in October. Parker reaped more than 10 times as much from ART, RSLC and TLR combined. Morales rounded up $272,000 during the entire election cycle for the fight with the Republican rival who had $940,000 from donors to spend on the race.
The deep-pocket elephants were salivating like Ivan Pavlov's dog at the chance to flip a Texas House seat on the Rio Grande in a district where they all thought Morales would be safe when Parker filed to run late last year. They learned the hard way that the HD 74 seat was not for sale to highest bidder after all when Morales beat Parker by 11 points in Tuesday's general election with nearly 56 percent of the vote.
Morales gets the award for most outstanding performance by an incumbent in the Capitol Inside Best of the Texas Elections in 2022. It's not even close. Morales demonstrated to Abbott and the Republicans what they should have known all along - that all the money in the world isn't going to beat an incumbent who knows their district and represents it the way he or she had promised to do from the outset. Morales compiled one of the most conservative records for a Democrat in the Legislature's lower chamber during his first year on the job in 2021.
Morales was duly rewarded for his efforts at the ballot box this week when he claimed a second term with a total tally that was 2 points higher than the share of the vote that he'd scored in his debut campaign for the west wing in 2020. The outcome of the HD 74 battle this time around was a victory for bipartisanship across the land - the latest confirmation that the quality of the candidate usually trumps the quantity of the campaign cash.
ART was the most egregious in the monumental largess and waste of money in HD 74 - stuffing Parker's campaign kitty with more than $460,000 for the race. TLR had the good sense to steer clear of HD 74 before being swept up in the red tsunamic madness in the closing weeks with contributions of more than $115,000 to Parker. The Washington D.C.-based RSLC threw away $235,000 of its contributors money on HD 74 contest in the contest's closing month.
But HD 74 wasn't the only location on the House battlefield where Abbott and the Republicans proved to be delusional about the conversion of South Texas to their ranks. An analysis of New York Times data found that Democrat Beto O'Rourke fared better this week than President Joe Biden did in 11 of 20 Texas House districts that are on or near the Mexican border.
Based on the statewide returns in the competition for governor here, the NYT research shows that the Republicans posted their most significant gains on the border in El Paso and Cameron counties at the western and southern ends respectively. But O'Rourke still carried Cameron and El Paso with double-digit margins of victory even though he didn't win in those two places by as much as Biden did two years ago. Abbott in contrast won by larger margins than Trump enjoyed in 2020 in Nueces, Val Verde and Kleberg counties.
Parker received 53 percent of the vote in her home base of Brewster County - and she garnered 54 percent in Val Verde County that's anchored in the border city of Del Rio. Those represented gains of 2 and 3 percentage points compared to Republican Ruben Falcon's share as Morales' opponent in 2020. The incumbent scored 70 percent of the vote in Maverick County where he's based - and he capped it off with 64 percent of the vote in a sliver of El Paso County that was added to HD 74 on the new map.
In a border district that's more than 81 percent Hispanic, a white candidate like Parker would be running with an inherent disadvantage from the start. Money wasn't the answer in HD 74. Morales established a connection with constituents that provided a seawall against inroads that the Republicans thought they could make in a district that hadn't been altered as much for the sake of partisan gratuity as some seats in the Legislature and Congress were during a special session last fall. Morales talked about his childhood in colonias as a first generation immigrant who'd been the first member of big family to earn an advanced degree in college. He seemed sincere when he contended that he got into politics to give back to the community through public service. He came across as kind, humble and tough enough to weather an advertising attack that the big money could afford. Morales summed it up in a thank you note to voters on Wednesday on social media.
"Thanks to all the Constituents of HD74 for entrusting us to be your Voice in the Texas Capitol," Morales tweeted. "We beat back a $1 Mill negative campaign ad! While they may have the money, last night they found out we have the PEOPLE!"
The Capitol Inside Best of the Texas Elections series is being rolled out in installments as they come to pass. Future congressional member Monica De La Cruz is the subject of part one as the general election MVP and best campaign in an open race in Texas in 2022. Republicans Carrie Isaac and Ellen Troxclair are sharing the honor for best primary campaign this year.