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The Successes And Setbacks Of The Dallas County Democratic Party

Krystina Martinez
Darlene Ewing recently left her position as the chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party to run for a judgeship.

Darlene Ewing presided over one of the few blue counties in Republican Texas as the chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party.

During her decade in charge, Democrats won all but one countywide race. She's recently stepped down to pursue her own political future. Ewing spoke about her party’s changes over the last 10 years for this week’s Friday Conversation.

Interview Highlights: Darlene Ewing…

…On the early successes in Dallas County:

“In 2004, we elected Sheriff [Lupe] Valdez, Judge [Dennise] Garcia and Judge [Don] Adams. In 2002, Sally Montgomery had switched over and run as a Democrat. But nobody thought we could do it.

I would be lying if I said I took the job knowing we were going to sweep in ’06 and do what we’ve accomplished. I was just kind of asked to do it. I thought it was a temporary thing where I would preside over a few meetings and turn it over to someone else and it just didn’t turn out that way.”

…On why statewide Democrats are struggling to win elections:

“I think our state party has too much control by outside consultants. You know, they’re ‘the experts,’ we’re considered in Dallas to be ‘amateurs,’ but we keep winning.

We still have sections of Dallas where we can’t elect a state rep, there’s no doubt about that. We have Republican pockets in Dallas County, it’s not all Democrats. We’re winning countywide because we’re working Republican areas knowing maybe we can’t win a state race, but if we increase our turnout by two, three, four points, that goes into the countywide races and then the county bucket.

If the state would adopt a little bit more of that, we can start winning statewide.”  

…On why Texas hasn’t turned ‘purple’ like Democrats had hoped:

“We can keep explaining losses away by saying, ‘but eventually we’re gonna get there. It’s just gonna happen, the numbers are just gonna happen,’ but because the turnout is so low, it’s important who gets there.

We have more Democrats in Dallas County. We could win these state house races, but we don’t show up. The Republicans show up better than we do. I think that’s also true statewide.”

…On her future plans:

“I’ve announced that I’m going to run for the vacant [254th Family District Court in Dallas County]. Judge [James] Martin unfortunately died in office, way early before his time. He was a good judge and I’d like to follow in his shoes.”

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.