The City of Houston "non-partisan" Runoff Elections held Saturday, December 12, 2009 tells us much about the state of politics in Houston and Harris County.
(1) The gigantic boost Democrats got last year with the Obama-Clinton primary and the great general election success is fading. The highly anticipated African-American turnout never really materialized, maybe because of complacency, now that we have an African-American President. If this trend continues, it bodes well for November if conservatives vote in strong numbers.
(2) Conservative issues matter even though Houston's a majority Democratic city. To win, candidates needed to appeal to Republicans and conservatives. In the Mayor's race, the two Democratic finalists battled for our support. One candidate, winner Annise Parker, focused on fiscal issues after scoring a strong B in TCR's questionnaire on fiscal issues and advertised on radio and television. Gene Locke, who got a D on TCR's questionnaire, focused on public safety and flirted with strong social conservatives. TCR says flirted, as he wanted the votes, but did not want to be associated with Dr. Steven Hotze and Allen Blakemore publicly. The problem with this strategy was Locke is as socially liberal as Parker. So when you boil it all down, the candidate who campaigned on some conservative issues won, the one who didn't, lost.
(3) Early voters continue to be in the 40-45% range, meaning voter contact must be done early, otherwise you will miss a significant number of voters.
(4) The Fort Bend County portion of Houston continues to be the bane of conservatives. Strong turnout and margins there have defeated a long string of conservatives going back to Rob Mosbacher, Orlando Sanchez and this year, M.J. Khan and Jack Christie (City Council at Large 5).
(5) M.J. Khan's loss for Controller is related to turnout on the west side and losing the early vote. Khan did win the election day vote, but not by enough to overcome his deficit.
(6) The anti-gay vote never really materialized, probably for a number of reasons:
Battle Royale Brewing In Harris County In November: Is The GOP Ready?
- Parker did not make sexual orientation a focus of her campaign.
- There were no social issues relevant to the City that would drive conservative voters. The City has no say on gay marriage, partner benefits were defeated years ago, and the City has zip to do with education issues.
- Polls confirm under-thirty voters do not respond to anti-gay campaigns.
- Parker campaigned as a fiscal conservative, not a social conservative, Locke as neither.
As filing for the March primaries opens one can view significant activity in both parties with many contested races coming in March. The Democrats are recruiting high level candidates for all county-wide races on the ballot. Gordon Quan, former City Council member in Houston, has filed to run against County Judge Ed Emmett in the highest profile race. For the GOP, numerous contested primaries are a sign of strength, including a hotly contested county chair's race where incumbent Jared Woodfill, fresh off the disappointment of 2008 takes on activist Paul Simpson, Ed Hubbard, and Don Large.
Based on 2008, the GOP would be smart to upgrade the ticket by clearing out deadwood, like Judges under indictment, or with Judicial qualifications problems and selecting the best and the brightest in the primary.
As for the November 2010 battle, the GOP could be facing some obstacles: a strong local boy running for Governor, Bill White, and a well funded and aggressive Democratic joint campaign which hits hard at GOP weak links.
The good news for the GOP is that many of the sophisticated insiders realize the challenges and are saying no way to a reprise of the 2008 joint campaign fiasco. They'd better, or we could face a repeat of 2008.
Good Reads For The Holidays
As we move into the holiday season with more time to read, here are a few good reads:
The Next 100 Years by George Friedman. Strategist Friedman forecasts the future. Thought provoking and fascinating with some eye raising predictions, like labor shortage in the U.S. in 2030.
Where Have All The Leaders Gone? by Lee Iacocca. A call to action back to our roots: hard work, common sense, integrity, generosity and optimism.
The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. Finance is the foundation of all human progress and behind all history, an essential book to understand the current crisis.
The Age of Reagan - Vol. 2 by Steven Hayward. The definitive bio of Ronald Reagan, this time focusing on the White House years. Where is today's Reagan?
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Have a Great Conservative New Year from the Editor and Staff of Texas Conservative Review.
TCR on the Air
Coming soon to Red, White & Blue, featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal activist David Jones on Houston PBS Channel 8: December 18 - Richard Murray and Bob Stein on Politics 2010 and after the holidays, January 8, Democratic Governor candidate Bill White with guest host Paul Bettencourt (your Editor has a date in Pasadena). Coming next year - the GOP candidates for Governor, a Congressional Debate on cap and trade with Congressman Ted Poe and Gene Green. The state party chairs face off later - Cathie Adams (R) v. Boyd Ritchie (D) and much more on the leading public affairs show on the air in Texas. As a new fun feature, visit Red, White & Blue on the Houston PBS website, where you can see after-show commentary about the show and its guests by Gary and David.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his twelfth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last seven years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.