Texas Republicans blamed a "staffer" Monday after their blueprint for winning 2020 elections and plans to mitigate President Donald Trump's "polarizing nature" began showing up in Democrats' email inboxes.
The Texas Republican Party mistakenly sent a document laying out their upcoming 2020 primary and general election plans to Democrats Monday evening, including a target list of 12 statehouse districts they are focusing negative ads on ahead of next year's elections. In a move The Dallas Morning News described as the party's latest "bizarre political blunder," the internal strategy email offered advice on how to counter the "narrative driven by Democrats" about the GOP's lack of diversity as well as a timeline for a rollout of websites which will bash specific Democratic opponents.
The email urges Republicans to encourage people to vote straight GOP tickets "all the way down" and warns of Trump's unpopularity with moderates.
Texas GOP chairman James Dickey told the Dallas News Monday night that a staffer "drafted some initial thoughts for discussion" before mistakenly sending it to people outside the party's upper echelon. The move comes as Texas Democrats are preparing to potentially take their first majority in the Texas House since 2003.
The email was titled with the subject line, "Primary/General Election 2020 [Draft]." Dickey went on to downplay the incident, saying it "should not be news" that Texas Republicans want to retake seats lost in the last election.
Democrats noted that the level of seemingly embarrassing detail in the emails is unusual, such as the listing of specific domains being purchased to attack Democrats. The identifying of "ZwienerforTexas.com" pushes back on some concerns the GOP purposely leaked the content. Democratic Representative Erin Zwiener of Driftwood, Texas is one of the six House members on the GOP hit list.
GOP targets in the North Texas regional districts include Dallas County Democratic Representatives Ana-Maria Ramos, Terry Meza, Rhetta Bowers, John Turner, Julie Johnson and Denton County's Michelle Beckley. According to the email, these candidates will be targeted by a barrage of negative ads and websites because their districts were within 5 percentage points of competitors in 2018.
"Starting after the Primary, the RPT will generate microsites for negative hits against the Democrat candidates in our twelve target race—we expect each microsite to be roughly $500," the Republican draft reads. "We will then begin rolling out these websites, prioritizing the races that were within 4% in the 2018 election."
Democrats across Texas mocked the latest blunder by the state's Republicans. This botched email follows a lengthy scandal involving secret recordings of GOP House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who announced he won't seek reelection in 2020. Those recordings also overheard Bonnen complaining Trump was "killing" Republicans in the suburbs of Texas.
A Houston Democrat targeted by Monday's GOP email, Rep. Jon Rosenthal, was described by Speaker Bonnen as "vile" and baselessly accused of being homosexual in the recording leaked by a conservative PAC.
"Republicans have already fumbled the ball and we aren't even in 2020 yet," said Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, in a Tuesday statement. "They know they're in deep trouble 'given the polarizing nature of the President' and expect 'Republicans will refuse to turnout during the General Election because they don't want to vote for him.' The Texas Republican Party is desperate."
"Texas is the biggest battleground state and Texas Democrats are poised to win in 2020," Garcia's statement concluded.
GOP chair Dickey brushed off the drafted email being placed in the hands of Democrats and responded with confidence, "We are doing that so we continue to dominate in 2020 just like we have for 25 years in Texas."
Texas Democrats gained 12 seats in the 2018 elections, but are still the minority party with 67 representatives to the GOP's 83.
Even Texas Democrats have not been immune to scandals over the past several weeks. Earlier this month, State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, of Eagle Pass, turned himself into law enforcement on felony drug possession charges after he left an envelope of cocaine at the Austin airport.