Jan 11, 2023 - News

Tom Steyer's NextGen America fell short in registering young Texans

Tom Steyer on the campaign trail in 2020. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A deep-pocketed progressive organization that aimed to register 150,000 young Texans ahead of last November's election netted just shy of a fifth of that figure.

Why it matters: Amplifying the Texas Democrats' dismal 2022 showing, the anemic registration figures show just how far liberals are from any 2024 success in the Lone Star State.

By the numbers: NextGen America, a national operation underwritten by California billionaire and erstwhile presidential candidate Tom Steyer, managed to register 28,805 Texas voters aged 18-35 in the 2022 cycle.

  • The operation gave the information to Axios Austin after we asked how close they had come to meeting goals laid out by their executive director to Axios in 2021.
  • Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, NextGen's Austin-based director (and a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate), told Axios in 2021 that the organization planned to spend nearly $16 million in the state through at least this year to register people 35 and under and urge them to vote.
  • The organization did not respond to questions of how much had been spent, and it declined to make Tzintzún Ramirez available for an interview.

What they're saying: NextGen spokesperson Antonio Arellano tells Axios that the organization is proud of its registration tally.

  • "Following the Dobbs decision, we saw a huge increase in voter registration and subsequently pivoted our strategy to getting young people out to vote — meaning we transitioned from voter registration to voter mobilization and in our efforts contacted 2.2 million Texans," Arellano said.
  • "We are currently focused on building our 2023 strategy (next year) but will remain invested in Texas for the long term," he continued.

Between the lines: Given the results, there's little way to see how the organization can register 300,000 young Texas voters — Tzintzún Ramirez's stated goal in 2021 — ahead of the 2024 election.

  • Nearly 500,000 voters overall were added to the rolls after the March primary election — a similar uptick to 2018, per stats from the Texas secretary of state's office, despite what were seen as seismic shifts in the Texas political landscape, including the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and the Uvalde school shooting.
  • Only a quarter of registered 18-to-29-year-olds turned out to vote in November — down from 51% in 2020 and 34% in 2018, per a post-election report published by Austin-based Ryan Data & Research.
  • Other organizations aimed at engaging younger voters also scored modest results. Austin-based Jolt Action, which describes itself as the "the largest Latino progressive organization in Texas," told Axios that it had registered 13,600 voters in the run-up to the 2022 election, per spokesperson Christine Bolaños.

The bottom line: Beto O'Rourke ended up losing by 10.9 points to Gov. Greg Abbott, as Republicans once again easily swept statewide offices.

What we're watching: Who's at the top of the ballot in 2024.

  • President Biden, very likely the Democrats' nominee, might be the safest bet for the White House — but he might not drive up registration of progressive young Texas voters.

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