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Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa fends off two challengers and wins another term

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Gilberto Hinojosa won re-election as chairman of the Texas Democratic Party on Saturday, defeating two challengers who sought to capitalize on members’ simmering frustrations with the state’s lack of progress, especially after their disappointing 2020 election.

Hinojosa, who first assumed leadership of the state party in 2012, faced off against Kim Olson, a former state and congressional candidate, and Carol Robinson, chairman of the Texas Black Democratic Coalition.

Hinojosa’s victory took two rounds of voting at the party’s convention on Saturday in Dallas. After the first round, Robinson dropped out and endorsed Hinojosa, who then received 58% of the second ballot to Olsen’s 40%.

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In his victory speech, Hinojosa acknowledged both of his rivals, saying he had listened to and learned from their campaigns.

Hinojosa claimed to have grown the party tremendously over the past decade, putting Democrats in position to take statewide office as early as November. But his rivals said he had plenty of time to deal with turning Texas blue.

“Ten years ago, you elected me to be your president, and I promised you that we would rebuild this party,” Hinojosa said in his final speech to delegates. “Well, I kept my promise.” We are now the largest belligerent nation in the United States.

The race went to a second round of voting after no candidate garnered a majority on the first ballot. Hinojosa received 45%, Olson 37% and Robinson 18%.

In some surprise, Robinson offered his support to Hinojosa after the first round.

“I think Kim Olson is a great person and we’ve been together along the way, but the people who supported me have come this far, they want us to be together with Gilberto Hinojosa,” Robinson said from the convention floor, standing next to his state Sen. Boris Miles of Houston , as well as Hinojosa.

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The 2020 election looms large in the leadership race. Democrats had hoped for a historic breakthrough up and down the ballot, but underperformed significantly, leading to some mutual recriminations against the state party. Hinojosa convened a committee to look into what went wrong, and it produced a 29-page report that cited, among other things, the suspension of Democrats from in-person campaigning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

One of Hinojosa’s supporters hinted at discontent beyond 2020 while introducing Hinojosa to delegates on Saturday.

“I know many of us want the pace of change to be faster, but real lasting leadership and change is steady and intentional,” said Diana Limon-Mercado, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes.

Although Hinojosa faced serious opposition, the congressional elections were largely uncontested. Olson did not criticize Hinojosa in his closing remarks, instead citing the need for a “four-year plan” for the party, more localized messaging and the ability to “punch these Republicans’ throats from time to time.”

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Robinson told delegates that the reason Democrats didn’t win was because some “don’t understand that black voters are the backbone of the party.”

Olson, a retired Air Force colonel, was the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner in 2018 and then an unsuccessful primary candidate for a congressional seat two years later. She appeared to pose the most serious threat to Hinojosa, winning the support of nearly 70 county party chairmen, including in some of the state’s most populous areas. A native of Palo Pinto County, she also enjoyed particular support among rural Democrats who felt written off under Hinojosa.

But Hinojosa retained the trust of most of the state’s top elected Democrats, and he persistently reminded delegates how far the party has come in a decade — even if Democrats still don’t hold statewide office. Earlier in the race, he and Olson clashed over allegations that she shoved a party official during a 2018 candidate bus tour of the state.

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The Texas Republican Party held its convention last month in Houston, where it re-elected former state representative Matt Rinaldi as chairman. He met no opposition.

Hinojosa said if re-elected to another four-year term, it would be his last.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood financially supports The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in Tribune journalism. Find a full list of them here.


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Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa fends off two challengers and wins another term

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