More than 100 Democrats gathered at Austin eatery Scholz Garten on Tuesday night to wait for the Texas Democratic primary results, huddling around large TV screens and cheering on the party’s contenders.
Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott easily swept the Republican primary while nine Democrats battled for the gubernatorial nomination, with Lupe Valdez and Andrew White likely headed to a runoff in May.
In the lieutenant governor race, Republican incumbent Dan Patrick had more than 75 percent of the vote, while Mike Collier stood 6 points ahead of his only opponent, Michael Cooper, at press time Tuesday night.
Justin Nelson, the only Democratic candidate for state attorney general, hosted the event. Notable Texas Democrats, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, spoke to the crowd.
Nelson and his Republican contender, incumbent Ken Paxton, are both unopposed on their respective ballots. Nelson called the watch party a “victory party” and said he was “feeling good” about his campaign and the fate of Democrats statewide.
No Democrat has won statewide in 24 years, Nelson said.
“You have seen this tremendous surge of energy, and I think it’s recognition that the people of Texas just want common sense,” said Nelson, an adjunct professor at UT School of Law. “People want a check on power.”
Nelson was vocal about the contrast between his campaign and Paxton’s.
“I’m a private citizen, not a politician,” Nelson said. “I’m here because we need someone who’s gonna stand up for fairness and honesty and decency and ethics.”
Kim Olson, the uncontested Democratic contender for state agricultural commissioner, urged women in the crowd to vote.
“It is a good night to be a Democrat in Texas,” Olson said. “This isn’t going to be a blue wave, this is going to be a damn tsunami. This is why we’re going to win — because we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Senate contender and Democrat Beto O’Rourke made an appearance via livestream, in which he congratulated Democrats for their “historic” turnout in running for office.
“It is the best feeling ever to be part of this right now,” O’Rourke said. “We’re in this together.”
According to Hinojosa, voter demographics indicate rising levels of participation by Democrats in Texas. Sixty percent of early voters in Texas were women, and 50 percent of primary voters were voting for the first time, he said.
“This is a good year,” Hinojosa said. “It is a good night for us, but for Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott, and especially Ted Cruz — they’ve got diarrhea tonight. Our candidates are smarter, more honest, they know the issues better.”
Nelson ended with a nod to younger voters, calling them the future.
“I think its time for a new generation of leaders here,” Nelson said. “Just look what’s going on, we’ve seen the power of people under 30 — you’ve seen it in Florida. You’ve seen this huge rise of political activism and I love it.”