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Young Democrats Upbeat About Their Party In Texas Despite Challenges

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The Young Democrats of America's national convention in Dallas has attracted 700 people from across the country.

"It's definitely exciting to have the Young Democrats of America convention in Texas. It's a message Texas should be taken very seriously," said Deputy Communications Director of the Texas Young Democrats, Jen Ramos.

Ramos says they want and need to spread the excitement from here to the rest of Texas. "We're reaching out to actual voters, we're going to schools, we're going to community events, we're reaching out to people, registering voters in unprecedented numbers."

The Young Democrats of America says its top issues are student loan reform, preserving Obamacare in the short-term and increasing healthcare access through a single-payer system in the long-term, and police brutality.

The convention here comes as Texas Democrats are still waiting to see who will emerge as their party's choice to run against Gov. Greg Abbott.

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson says not having a well-known candidate for Governor to compete against Republican Greg Abbott at this late date is troubling. "It's a deep concern. They're not ready yet to be in competition to the Republican Party in Texas. They can't bring a full-slate of candidates that are funded well enough to make their case against the Republican case."

High-profile Texas Democrats, including former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, have ruled out a run for governor.

But not everyone is concerned.

"I think there's plenty of time for a candidate to emerge that an run a well-funded and aggressive campaign against Governor Abbott," said President of the Young Democrats of America, Louis Elrod.

One Democrat gaining a lot of attention is Congressman Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, who made a splash during a well-publicized road trip to Washington in March with Republican Congressman Will Hurd.

O'Rourke is running to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, and even raised more money than him earlier this year.

"My litmus test for that is how excited the Texas Young Democrats are here at our convention and they couldn't be any more thrilled," said Elrod.

"His chance of actually winning that race are quite small absent some collapse by Ted Cruz, that there's no hint of at this point," said Jillson.

O'Rourke is set to speak during the Young Democrats of America convention Saturday morning. It's all part of his month-long tour across Texas.

On Friday evening, he held a town hall meeting at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, and they expected nearly 600 people to attend.

The standing-room only crowd gave him a standing ovation. He said his top priorities include jobs and improving health care access.

O'Rourke says he believes the best way to lower health costs is a single-payer system.

He also criticized the new Texas law banning sanctuary cities and President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

During an interview, CBS 11 asked the congressman how he intends to win more votes than Cruz in conservative Texas.

"You do it by showing up. We as Democrats have ceded so much of Texas to Republicans by not even showing up, by not having the basic respect and decency to listen to the people we want to serve. You won't see me making that same mistake," said O'Rourke.

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