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By W. Gardner Selby September 26, 2012

Joaquin Castro: Texas has gone the longest of all states not electing a Democrat to statewide office

During a Texas Tribune Festival discussion, state Rep. Joaquin Castro suggested Texas ranks No. 1 in a dubious category for Democrats.

The San Antonio Democrat, nominated this year for a U.S. House seat, said: "We are the state that has now gone the longest without electing a Democrat statewide. It has been since 1994 that a Democrat has been elected in Texas." The claim was noted for us by University of Texas journalism student Joshua Fechter.

The last Democrats were elected statewide in 1994. Those victors included Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, Attorney General Dan Morales and State Comptroller John Sharp. In the year's marquee race, Republican George W. Bush denied Gov. Ann Richards a second term.

And have Texas Democrats been shut out of statewide office longer than Democrats elsewhere?

We left Castro a message seeking backup information, then recalled that the Associated Press said in a July 30, 2012, news article: "Texas Democrats have the longest losing streak in the nation in statewide elections." The story suggested the party’s July 31 runoff for its U.S. Senate nomination would indicate if Democrats had hopes of changing that record this year.

To gauge whether Texas has the nation’s longest current stretch of statewide Democratic also-rans, we looked first at which states have Democratic governors.Twenty states have Democratic governors, according to the National Governors Association, while Rhode Island has an Independent chief executive and the others are led by Republicans.

Of the 28 states outside Texas with Republican governors, 15 have at least one Democratic senator, the Senate roster shows, as does Rhode Island. Each of these senators would have last won election in 2006 or later.

This got us down to 13 red-hued states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming. But 10 of them saw Democrats elected governor later than 1995, according to information kept by the governors association.

This result left us with three states potentially more long-lastingly difficult for Democrats running statewide than Texas: Idaho, South Carolina and Utah.

Scratch South Carolina; Democratic Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Holliings won his last term in 1998, four years after the latest Texas Democrats won statewide. Hollings did not seek re-election in 2004.

Similarly, interviews confirmed, voters in Idaho and Utah elected Democrats statewide after 1994.

Like Texas, Idaho last had a Democratic governor, Cecil Andrus, through 1994. But Democrat Marilyn Howard was elected superintendent of public instruction in 1998 and re-elected in 2002, serving through 2006, according to Dean Ferguson, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party.

In Utah, lawyer and Democrat Jan Graham won her second term as attorney general in 1996, serving to 2001, according to a biographical entry on her law firm’s website. "Graham is the only woman in Utah’s history to be elected to a statewide office," the entry says.

As we completed this look, Castro spokesman Cary Clack said he didn’t know how Castro learned of, or determined, this factoid.

Our ruling

Texas voters have not elected a Democrat to statewide office for longer than voters in any other state. Castro’s statement rates as True.

Our Sources

The Associated Press, news article, "5 things to watch for in the Texas runoffs," July 30, 2012 (on the Houston Chronicle website)

U.S. Senate, web page, "Senators of the 112th Congress" (accessed Sept. 24, 2012)

National Governors Association, web pages, "Current Governors," "Former Governors’ Bios" (accessed Sept. 24, 2012)

Alabama Department of Archives and History, web page, "Alabama Governors" (accessed Sept. 24, 2012)

State of Idaho, web page, "Past Governors (1890 through present)," (accessed Sept. 24, 2012)

Indianapolis Star, web page, "List of Indiana governors" (accessed Sept. 24, 2012)

U.S. Congress, web page, "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Ernest Frederick Hollings" (accessed Sept. 24, 2012)

Telephone interview, Matt Lyon, executive director, Utah Democratic Party, Salt Lake City, Sept. 24, 2012

Telephone interview, Matt Greene, political director, Idaho Democratic Party, Sept. 24, 2012

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Joaquin Castro: Texas has gone the longest of all states not electing a Democrat to statewide office

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