In Paul Burka’s latest Texas Monthly column, Almost Blue, he mentions EOW, using information from this post by Dembones, Fired Up And Ready To Go! A few excerpts. He first admits his surprise at how soon an opportunity has presented itself for Democrats to come back to power in Texas.
Is Texas still a red state? I never thought Iâ€™d be posing that question as early as 2008, but the strength of the Democratic vote in the March 4 primary was so unexpected, so complete a departure from our recent history, that the numbers are potentially the most significant development in Texas politics in thirty years. You have to go back to 1978, when Bill Clements became the first Republican to be elected governor since Reconstruction, for an event of equivalent importance. Apparently Democrats do exist here, and in places hitherto thought to be uninhabitable by their species, such as the bedrock Republican suburbs. The discovery is akin to learning that life exists on Mars: It means that the universe is not what we thought it was.
He then goes on to compare its origins to that of the GOP’s resurgence.
The Democratic wave should scare Republicans to death, because it raises the specter of realignment. We have seen it happen before. For much of the twentieth century, Texas was a one-partyâ€”that is, Democraticâ€”state. Many counties didnâ€™t even hold Republican primaries. Conservatives routinely voted in the Democratic primary because that was the election in which local officials (judges, sheriffs, legislators) were chosen; they then voted Republican for president or governor in the general election. Demographic change, driven by economic growth, corporate relocations to the Houston and Dallas metro areas, and urban decay, set the stage for the rise of the suburbs and eventual realignment. The triggers were the election of Ronald Reagan as president, in 1980, and of Phil Gramm as U.S. senator, in 1984. The Republican era reached its zenith in 2002, when the GOP won a substantial majority of the Texas House, capturing the last state government stronghold that had been under Democratic control.
The most telling evidence of change in 2008 has been the Democratic vote in the big urban and suburban counties. It was the growth of these countiesâ€”Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Williamsonâ€”that Karl Rove used to convince George W. Bush that he could defeat Ann Richards in 1994. Well, take a look at the turnout in the March primary. (I have rounded all numbers downward to the nearest thousand.) Harris County: 405,000 Democratic voters; 169,000 Republican voters. Dallas County: 297,000 Dâ€™s; 91,000 Râ€™s. Tarrant County: 199,000 Dâ€™s; 100,000 Râ€™s. Collin County: 72,000 Dâ€™s; 51,000 Râ€™s. Denton County: 54,000 Dâ€™s; 38,000 Râ€™s. Fort Bend County: 69,000 Dâ€™s; 35,000 Râ€™s. Montgomery County: 41,000 Râ€™s; 30,000 Dâ€™s. Williamson County: 49,000 Dâ€™s; 28,000 Râ€™s.
These are staggering results. Before the start of early voting on February 19, it was unimaginable that the Democrats would outpoll the Republicans in seven of these eight counties by margins ranging from solid to overwhelming.
Then on to Williamson County.
The place where realignment is most evident is Williamson County, north of Austin. I came across this history of its changing political loyalties in a Democratic blog, eyeonwilliamson.org: â€œOver the past ten years, Williamson and other suburban counties have been climbing the rankings of Texas countiesâ€™ Democratic performance. Ten years ago, Williamson ranked 231st out of 254 counties in delivering votes for the Democrat at the top of the ticket. In 2000, we inched up to 215th. In 2002, we languished at 216th. Our rise to prominence in the state really took off in 2004 when we climbed 180 places to 36th. Two years ago, we shot up to 18th. Based on the early voting patterns, there is a chance that Williamson will join Travis County as the best performing counties in Texas for Democrats.â€
What happened was middle-class demographic change. The spiraling cost of living in Travis County drove prospective homeowners into southern Williamson County in search of affordable housing, and they brought their liberal Austin values with them. The political ramifications were clear in the 2006 election, when Republican state representative Mike Krusee won reelection with a bare 50.44 percent against an unknown, unfunded Democrat. He prudently decided not to run again. Similar changes are occurring on the urban fringes of Harris, Dallas, and Tarrant counties, where older neighborhoods are in transition from owners to renters and from whites to minorities.
It’s not just “liberals” from Travis but also those who that came from other parts of the country that aren’t as GOP-friendly as those that moved here in the ’90’s were. Another opportunity because of the increasing population in Williamson County.
And ends with what Democrats gained in March.
The ultimate lesson of the â€™08 primary is that Texas was never as solidly Republican as it appeared to be. Democrats have been out there during the fourteen years since George W. Bush was elected governor, but they existed in political purgatory: no major officeholders, no bench, no presidential campaigning in the state, no effective party organization. When the state suddenly became pivotal in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the pent-up enthusiasm busted out, resulting in record turnout for the primary and a million participants in the post-election caucuses. Democratic operatives now have names and contact information for voters, activists, and volunteers that can be used to build a party infrastructure. Texas is still a red state, but there may be life on Mars after all.
And no one says, “I didn’t know there were Democrats in Williamson County”, anymore.
Thanks for the mention.
With 98 of 99 precincts reporting it looks like insurance man Daniel will beat Assistant DA Hobbs to face Diana Maldonado in November.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 52
VOTE FOR 1
BRYAN DANIEL . . . . . . . . . 1,655 53.61
DEE HOBBS . . . . . . . . . . 1,432 46.39
Many polling locations have been combined.Â Check this link before going to vote to make sure of your polling location.
At last weeks’ Williamson county Democratic convention, there was no shortage of speakers regaling the audience on the virtues of unity. True, they were filling space created by an agonizingly slow credentialing process. Still, the amount of talk worked to increase rather than decrease divisiveness.
Frayed nerves and conspiracy theories were abundant. Whether there was justification is beside the point. It existed. To wish it away with lofty words was to refuse to address the reality of the situation. Understanding the reasons for the mistrust is a necessary step in overcoming it. Alike we are more than it seems.
Williamson county’s Democratic party is not a change resistant pro-Clinton enclave. Neither is it a revolutionary, crash-the-gates rabble of naive newcomers. Among the party’s executive committee members with a professed presidential preference, there is a 19-17 edge in favor of Obama. The three key convention officers (permanent convention chair, credentials chair and nominations chair), the breakdown was 1 Clinton, 1 Obama and 1 uncommitted.
In spite of this balance, depending upon whom you asked, there was favoritism for one side and obstructionism for the other. Honest mistakes were made into nefarious schemes. Like the convention chair’s address to the dwindling crowds in the early evening expressing concern over the continued persistence of quorum (later corrected when state party rules to the contrary were brought to his attention). Or the credentials chair’s announcement of presidential preference results including delegates’ and alternates’ votes (only delegates’ votes should count). Or the nominations committee nominating a handful who had already been elected in their precinct caucuses.
None of these blunders was intentional, and none impacted the final results. In the end, the voices of Democrats in Williamson county were heard. This is what they said:
- The “Texas two-step” is one too many. Do away with either the primary or the caucus. [UPDATE:This may not be as unanimous as the author originally thought. Please see the comments. Can we at least agree that if the primacaucus is to remain, it should be tweaked to make it more efficient?]
- They want a Democrat in the White House.
- They want Democrats to vote for down the ballot. No more unchallenged Republicans.
- Stony Point High School was a great host site.
- Democracy is slow, messy and inconvenient. And there’s nothing better.
Wrought hands and gnashed teeth notwithstanding, there was actual unity at the Williamson County Democratic convention. Our numbers far surpassing the Republicans is significant. The call for change is clear. People want to have a say, and they’re willing to endure a lot to get a chance to speak. This is a turning point in the county’s political history. This blog is fortunate to have been among the first to predict it.
There is a long ways to go until November. Will the intensity be maintained all the way to the finish line? The Republicans will play their suppressive, dismissive, divisive game plan all the way through to the end. The question is, will it be enough to put out the fire that is burning in the hearts of the county’s voters? We certainly hope not. Actual unity is a lot more resilient.
When and where to vote can be found by going to the Williamson County Elections page.
The only race on the ballot for the Democrats is a runoff for Railroad Commissioner, Dale Henry against Mark Thompson.
Stoutdemblog has this analysis of the race, Send Me Someone Who Knows.
Art Hall, who came in third in the Primary, seemed not to clearly understand what the office does. Henry does, and despite (or because of) having worked in the industry, is actually taking progressive positions on the issues. Check out his web site at ElectDaleHenry.com. As for Thompson, well, I think the article above says it all….
It’s not Clinton/Obama but go vote, and vote for Dale Henry.
The huge numbers from primary day will translate into massive turnout for the county convention this Saturday. From the RRL, Turnout for convention
may will be heavy, (the strike through is EOW’s, some are still having trouble with the changing reality):
Democratic Party Chairman Richard Torres said he anticipates next Saturday’s countywide convention at Stony Point High School will draw between 2,000 and 2,500 people.
“Which is unprecedented for us,” Torres said.
Former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox will be guest speaker at the convention, which originally was to have been at Forbes Middle School in Georgetown.
The convention had to be moved to a larger facility – Stony Point – based on turnout at Democratic precinct conventions, which began when March 8 primary polls closed.
“We had 99 conventions,” Torres said, noting there was one for each election precinct in the county. “We usually only have about 30 conventions.”
More than 11,000 people attended the 99 precinct conventions.
“Some of them only had 40 to 50,” Torres said. “Some had 300 to 400. We had no room (anywhere) for 300 people. That added to the confusion. The good news is we had massive turnout for Democrats. The numbers are just overwhelming.”
Unprecedented indeed!! Let’s not forget that it wasn’t long ago Democrats were hearing that all too similar refrain that made Democrats in Williamson County cringe. Now is not the time to repeat it, but anyone who’s been involved in Democratic politics in Williamson County for a couple of years knows what it is. Just suffice it to say that everyone knows that there are Democrats in Williamson County now.
Which is why it’s humorous to read that GOP head Fairbrother is trying to make it look like this unprecedented action nothing new.
Williamson County Republican Party Chairman Bill Fairbrother of Round Rock said his party’s delegate apportionment process is less complicated.
Fairbrother acknowledged the March 29 Williamson County GOP convention at Taylor High School won’t draw anywhere near the numbers Democrats are anticipating in Round Rock.
“There are about 1,100 people eligible to attend,” Fairbrother said. “Historically, about 50 percent actually show.
“Since it is not Obama vs. Clinton and there are not delegates at stake, our turnout will not be as high as the Democrats. That doesn’t bother me.”
Sure it doesn’t…right. Don’t buy it, 2,000 plus showing up at the WCDP convention, does bother him. What’s undeniable is that what’s happening with Democrats in Williamson County is news, big news. The GOP…not so much. Nothing has been won yet, of course. But let’s be clear, Democrats have an opportunity in Williamson County. What the current situation shows is that what was previously assumed about Williamson County, it’s a GOP county and will be forever, is no longer an operable assumption. And if Democrats do their work it’ll be a reality.
Be sure and check out WilliamsonCountyDemocrats.org for all convention related needs.
Diana Maldonado will finally find out who her Republican opponent will be in November on April 8th. Ever since soon-to-be-former Rep. Mike Krusee (R – Round Rock) decided in December to not seek re-election, the choice for his designated Replublican replacement has been up in the air. Four candidates threw their hats in the ring for the GOP nomination. Now there are two left, insurance man Bryan Daniel and Williamson County Assistant DA Dee Hobbs. As far as their stances on the issues, (see here, here and here), there are few differences between the two.
Both, like many in their party, have seen the light on toll roads and now oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor. While they have no alternate funding plan to toll roads to build new roads, other than cutting the state budget, just where those cuts would come from, they won’t say. They would support school vouchers, hiking the sales tax, building the border fence, the continued scapegoating of immigrants, non-punishment of corporations that employ them, and worst of all, another term as Speaker for Tom Craddick.
The biggest difference between the two is that Daniel is better funded with his statewide connections. Hobbs has been endorsed by the two candidates that didn’t make the runoff and is a native of Williamson County. Oftentimes it’s assumed that the candidate with the most money is a shoe-in. That’s not necessarily the case with the GOP voters in Williamson County. Current Congressman John Carter faced a daunting money deficit in the primary when he first ran for Congress and was able to overcome it and win, due mainly to the loyalty of the voters in Williamson County. Without polling in this race it’s hard to tell what the outcome will be. It would seem that Hobbs is the favorite, but if money matters in this race then Daniel has to be given a chance.
But HD-52 and Williamson County are not the same as they were in 2002.Â The changing demographics have made this a much more Democratic leaning as is Williamson County as a whole.Â No matter who wins this runoff for the right to take on Maldonado in the fall, it’s important for Democrats around the state to understand that this is one of the most important Democratic pick-ups for 2008. And if Democrats not only make sure Craddick does not get reelected as Speaker in 2009, but that they take over the majority in the house as well, this is a must-win.
Here’s the link to the schedule.Â Much the same process as the primary but there will only 5 days of early voting March 31st – April 4th.
There will also be several rural temporary locations in Sun City, Hutto, Jarrell, Thrall, Liberty Hill, Granger and Florence.
While there’s still much speculation, hope, and cynicism (mostly from the GOP), about the tremendous Democratic turnout on March 4th in Texas no one will truly knows how this will all play out in November. In a recent AAS article, Texas Democrats excited by turnout in suburbs, WCGOP head Bill Faribrother predictably turns-a-blind-eye to the Democrats chances in Williamson County in the fall:
Dramatic increases also occurred in Collin and Williamson counties. About 72,000 people in Collin County voted in the March Democratic primary, compared with about 6,500 in the 2004 primary. And almost 50,000 people voted in the Democratic primary in Williamson County, compared with about 8,100 people in the primary four years ago.
But Republicans warn that exuberant Democrats should pull back on the donkey reins.
“The fact is, (Williamson) County is a conservative Republican county,” Bill Fairbrother, chairman of the Republican Party in Williamson County.
Of course, what Fairbrother doesn’t acknowledge, is that while the county as a whole may still have more voters that are likely to vote for a person with an R next to their name, no matter what, HD-52 and Precinct 1 do not include much of those hard-core GOP strongholds. Let’s not forget if soon-to-be-former Rep. Mike Krusee thought he had a chance to win reelection he’d have stayed in the race. He realized that and got out.
That being said it’s still going to take a tremendous effort to make sure Democrats can win in those two places and possibly more. EOW has long had a sneaking suspicion that many Democrats have been voting in GOP primaries in Williamson County because they perceived it to be the only game in town. But add many new voters, some Independents, and a few former Republican voting folks that want accountable government again to the mix and the dynamic can change considerably.
Keep in mind that one upcoming event that will show if those who turned out for the primary are staying engaged will be the county/SD conventions. If those are well attended and the delegates that showed up to precinct cuacuses, show up at these conventions, then that will be a very good sign. To a lesser extent, the upcoming primary runoff may shed some light on how well those primary voters are staying engaged. Charles Kuffner has more on that here, Runoff turnout.
While there’s much to be hopeful about we have to remember, it’s still a long way to November.
Diana Maldonado still doesn’t know which Craddick lackey she will face in November. Republicans voting in the primary runoff in House District 52 have a choice between insurance agent Bryan Daniel and Round Rock assistant DA Dee Hobbs. Unlike Maldonado, neither has ever won an election.
On the rest of the issues in the battle between the local guy and the insurance man, there doesn’t appear to be much difference. They both adhering to the failed conservative policies that brought about things like toll roads. While one has to be somewhat well versed in reading the GOP code to know exactly what they’re saying, it’s not hard once you get the hang of it. Judging from their web site issue pages (the local guy, the insurance man) the local guy appears to be more specific. Here’s a short synopsis:
Taxes & Spending:
Both are sticking to the failed conservative strategy on taxes and spending that have brought about our crumbling infrastructure, and taking away children’s health care. They want to lower property taxes, which means they’re for continued over-reliance on the state’s regressive sales tax, already among the highest in the nation. They’re against our current run away conservative-run government spending and will cut the budget. What they’ll cut they will not say, of course. But if they were to cut something it would probably be the aforementioned children’s health care first.
They will both support school vouchers, and defunding public education in Texas. They’d probably both support the sham 65% rule or something like it. And generally the free-market conservative line to run our schools to corporations.
And like any conservative they’re trying to show they’re “tough” by showing how much of your tax money they want to spend expanding government along our Southern border. Along with demonizing immigrants, while letting the businesses that employ them and support their campaigns off the hook.
It’s the policies they support and espouse that have created the mess were in over the last 15+ years of conservative/GOP rule in our state. Either one of these guys is just more of the same.
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