New George Soros-backed, Democratic PAC aims to turn Texas blue

Democratic Party signage and logos at the Texas Democratic Party office in Austin. (Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune, Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune)

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A new group, run by alums of Beto O’Rourke’s 2022 campaign and funded by Democratic megadonor George Soros, has emerged this election cycle to take on the age-old challenge of turning Texas blue.

Texas Majority PAC has kept a relatively low profile since forming over a year ago in the wake of the 2022 election. But it raised $2.25 million through last year, and campaign finance reports due Tuesday are expected to show how the group — and Soros — have been spreading their money around the state.

Working with the PAC, Soros made six-figure donations to three county parties — Dallas, Cameron, and Hidalgo — and a few other groups that have a regional focus, according to figures first shared with The Texas Tribune.

The contributions are intended to help the entities register, contact and turn out voters “on a scale never seen before, year after year, in the key regions of our state,” the PAC’s deputy executive director, Katherine Fischer, said in a statement.

“We need millions of more dollars and hundreds of more full-time staff to do this,” Fischer said. “Texas Majority PAC works with partners across the state to create the conditions that will make flipping the state possible.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is up for reelection in 2024, and the Democratic president, Joe Biden, will be on the ballot in a traditionally red state that he only lost by 6 percentage points four years ago.

Texas Majority PAC was registered with the Texas Ethics Commission in December 2022. It was founded by Fischer, who was the organizing director for O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign; Jason Lee, who was O’Rourke’s deputy campaign manager; and Crystal Zermeño, a former longtime staffer for the Texas Organizing Project.

O'Rourke's 2022 campaign manager, Nick Rathod, previously led a Soros-aligned group and tapped his relationships to help get a $1 million donation for O'Rourke's campaign and then help lay the groundwork for Texas Majority PAC afterward.

The PAC has already disclosed raising $852,000 through June of last year, most of it from the Soros-funded Democracy PAC II.

The PAC represents the latest in a long line of groups who have promised to mobilize more Democratic voters in Texas, a mission shared by the state Democratic Party. Both the PAC and party publicly say they welcome each other’s help, though there have been signs of tension privately as Democrats begin another critical election year.

The Messenger reported in October that the party expressed concern about the potential for “programmatic fracture and duplication of effort.”

The PAC suggests its focus is more regional than that of the state party. Fischer said the group is “helping to build party infrastructure at the regional level, because the various regions of our state are distinct and therefore require different strategies.”

That is reflected in the county recipients of its funding so far and organizations, including the Texas Organizing Project, which is active in Bexar, Dallas, and Harris counties; First Tuesday PAC, which works in Harris County; and CTX Votes PAC, which is based in the Austin area.

The size of funding already is a boon to county parties that, even in major Democratic strongholds, are not used to seeing six-figure checks.

“[The] overall investment is a game-changer for not only us but for county parties throughout the state,” said Kardal Coleman, the chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party, which received $200,000 from the PAC.

In Cameron County, party chair Jared Hockema said the funding his party has received — and expects to receive — is “more than we’ve ever had available to us.” The money, at least $100,000 so far, has made it possible for the party to hire a full-time staffer, open a permanent office, and even make some get-out-the-vote efforts targeted at low-propensity voters in the November 2023 constitutional amendment election.

Most of the contributions have been made in Soros’ name but in coordination with the PAC. Some of those Soros donations have already been disclosed due to various campaign finance deadlines, like the donations he gave to the Cameron County party last year.

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans have already cited the Soros donations in fundraising emails to warn that the New York billionaire — a favorite GOP boogeyman — is trying to turn Texas blue. Hockema said he is not concerned about the GOP using Soros as a rallying cry, adding that the Cameron County Democrats are “proud to have his support.”

“George Soros is a person who knows what’s at stake in the election we face,” Hockema said, adding that Soros, a Holocaust survivor, knows about confronting the “specter of authoritarianism and fascism.”

Plus, Hockema said, Republicans relied on plenty of big out-of-state donors when they made an aggressive drive to turn South Texas red in 2022.

In a statement for this story, the state party said it “welcomes any new investments and efforts that collectively achieve the ambitious goals of keeping Joe Biden in the White House, sending Ted Cruz packing and electing more Texas Democrats up and down the ballot.”

“With a state as big as Texas, there is no time or dollar to waste, and we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” said Monique Alcala, executive director for the Texas Democratic Party.

Michelle Tremillo, the co-executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, likened the PAC’s mission to what has happened in states like Georgia, Arizona and Virginia, where Democratic breakthroughs, she said, “did not happen overnight.” The group’s funding, she said, has allowed TOP to plan with more certainty for its 200-canvasser program this fall.

“When you are making an investment for a long term, you can measure growth in voter participation and it isn’t necessarily about, did our candidate win?” she said. “This is about becoming a voter on a regular basis.”

Correction, : A previous version of this story misstated how much the Texas Majority PAC raised since Beto O'Rourke's failed 2022 gubernatorial campaign due to inaccurate information initially provided by the group. The PAC raised $2.25 million through last year.

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