Texas Democratic Convention to Host Panels, U.S. Senate Debate Online

Originally to be held in San Antonio, the TDC kicks off June 1

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Photo by Jana Birchum)

On the heels of Texas' Super Tuesday primaries in March, the coronavirus pandemic upended political systems near and far. From digital canvassing to expanding vote-by-mail, politicians and organizers have had to rethink and pivot to the virtual realm, including for the largest state convention in the country, the Texas Democratic Convention.

In light of COVID-19, the TDP convention – originally to be held in San Antonio – has moved all programming online, kicking off Monday, June 1, at noon and running through Saturday night's debate between U.S. Senate candidates MJ Hegar and Royce West. One track will encompass official party business, such as voting on delegates to represent Texas at the Democratic National Convention. A second track offers special panels and speakers, including this week's big special guest announcements, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren; and former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro; former El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke; and Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.*

The Dems are still considering virtual options for this year's national convention – scheduled for August in Milwaukee – which means the TDP's efforts could prove a prototype for what conventions look like in the future. Besides setting precedent with its digital savviness, this year's TDP convention is all the more buzzworthy with Texas proving to be a battleground state in the 2020 presidential election. Here are some of the highlights:

Making History: The Story Behind the First-Ever LGBTQIA Caucus

Mon., June 1, 4-5pm

Last year, state Reps. Mary González, D-El Paso; Celia Israel, D-Austin; Jessica González, D-Dallas; Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton; and Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, made history as founding members of the Texas House of Representatives' LGBTQ Caucus. Hear the origin story from the lawmakers themselves alongside Dallas Morning News investigative reporter Lauren McGaughy.

The Fight to Protect and Expand the Vote in 2020

Tue., June 2, 2:30-3:30pm

In partnership with Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight Action, the TDP expanded its voter protection efforts earlier this year by launching its Voter Protection program, including a voter assistance hotline (844/898-6837) and a new, full-time voter protection team led by Rose Clouston. Here, Clouston joins attorney Chad Dunn (currently representing the TDP in its vote-by-mail lawsuits), Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe, and Travis County D.A. candidate José Garza for a panel on voting rights.

Travis County D.A. candidate José Garza (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

The Latinx Community: Movimiento and Voting

Wed., June 3, noon-1pm

According to the Pew Research Center, Latinx voters are expected for the first time to be the largest racial or ethnic minority in a U.S. presidential election, with a record 32 million eligible voters; however, only 50% of Texas' Hispanic population is eligible to vote. Featured panelists include political strategist and Sen. Kamala Harris' presidential campaign senior adviser, Emmy Ruiz; Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Rep. Rafael Anchía; and Latino Victory Project Executive Director Mayra Macías; with a message from LULAC President Domingo Garcia.

A Conversation With the 2020 Statewide Democratic Judicial Slate

Thu., June 4, 1:30-2:30pm

It's been more than 20 years since Democrats have held seats on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals or Texas Supreme Court, but these Democratic nominees could change that. CCA nominee panelists include former Dallas County Criminal District Court Judge Elizabeth Frizell, running for Place 3; Tina Clinton, a current Dallas County Criminal District Court judge, vying for Place 4; and Brandon Birmingham, judge of the 292nd District Court in Dallas and a candidate for Place 9.

Among the SCOTX nominee panelists, attorney and 2018 nominee Kathy Cheng of Houston returns for her second try in Place 6; Austinite Gisela Triana, elected to the 3rd Court of Appeals in 2018 after several terms as a district judge, is running for Place 8; Staci Williams of Dallas' 101st Civil District Court is the nominee in Place 7; and Amy Clark Meachum, chief justice nominee, has served almost a decade as a district judge in Travis County.

Official Texas Democrats U.S. Senate Debate With MJ Hegar and Royce West

Sat., June 6, 6-9pm

In their only debate ahead of the July 14 run-off election, veteran and activist MJ Hegar of Round Rock and state Sen. Royce West of Dallas go head-to-head for the right to take on Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn in November. KXAN's Robert Hadlock and Sally Hernandez and Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers Jr. will moderate. The debate will be broadcast live on participating Nexstar stations (that's KXAN in Austin) as well as on the TDP's Facebook page.

*Editor's note: On Thu., May 28, the convention announced additional speakers, including former El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke and Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, among others. This post has been updated since publication to reflect that announcement.

The Texas Democratic Convention runs online Mon.-Sat., June 1-6. All events are free, but registration for individual events is required. See full schedule, registration details, and more info at www.texasdemocraticconvention.com.


The last day to register to vote in July 14's primary run-off and Senate district special election is Mon., June 15. Expanding vote-by-mail due to COVID-19 precautions is evolving in Texas; for now, voters should assume that they will have to request a mail-in ballot and must do so by Thu., July 2. Stay up to date at austinchronicle.com/elections.

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