03/19/2013 12:26 pm ET Updated May 19, 2013

Texas Needs New Leaders

Texas is the backbone of the Republican Party's electoral vote fortunes in Presidential elections and is the source for a lot of money and high-profile politicians for the GOP. That fact isn't much in dispute and the Democratic Party has begun to try and change that. The Democrats' Battleground Texas project has been created to help turn Texas into a Democratic state or at least a swing state, a change that would make life a lot harder for Republicans nationally.

While Battleground Texas is a great program, it isn't the only group of people working to change the political dynamics in Texas. New Leaders Texas is another organization that is working to do so. New Leaders Texas was formed by people who were involved with former Houston Mayor Bill White's unsuccessful gubernatorial run against Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2010 and who wanted to continue to work on the issues that motivated them to support Bill White's campaign. While New Leaders Texas sprang from a Democratic political campaign, its emphasis is on supporting a different style and substance of governance in Texas and in reaching out to people who want to change public policy for the better in Texas, regardless of their partisan affiliation. There are Republican-leaning voters in Texas who aren't pleased with the current state of public policy in Texas, for example.

The New Leaders Texas Foundation, which is affiliated with New Leaders Texas, is hosting a statewide conference this coming weekend in the border city of Edinburg, Texas to bring together various concerned voices in Texas. (Full disclosure - I am a member of New Leaders Texas and am on the Host Committee for the Edinburg conference.) This conference will include panelists from groups like Planned Parenthood and the Texas League of Conservation Voters, together with notable rising Texas political leaders like Congressman Filemon Vela, Congressman Joaquín Castro and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro. Mayor Castro is scheduled to give the keynote address.

If this article sounds like a plug for New Leaders Texas, that's because it is one. Texas desperately needs new political leadership. Our state has been governed, and I use that term loosely, for years by a narrow clique of ultraconservatives who have promoted a radical ideology that has done little for public education, state infrastructure and care for the neediest of Texans. At this time, Governor Rick Perry has stated that he will oppose expansion of Medicaid programs or implementation of a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. This is at a time when, as the article linked in the previous sentence states:

About one in four Texans lack health insurance: a higher share of residents than in any other state, according to The New York Times. Expanding Medicaid would provide health insurance to 1.5 million low-income Texans, according to the Associated Press.

And let's not even mention the lack of regard for reproductive rights or GLBT rights exhibited by the current administration in Austin.

Texas is a vast, nation-sized state. For there to be any hope for beneficial change in Texas, multiple groups (not all of which will be primarily composed of Democrats) must work with one another to get their message out to the voters. Change in Texas won't come overnight or through the actions of only one organization. But that change is coming, because of the hard work of many different groups and individuals who want to ensure that the future of Texas is one of shared prosperity for all its diverse citizens.