Gov. Rick Perry has called for a special election runoff in state house district 97 one week before Christmas, a move critics denounce as a voter suppression tactic. District 97 was vacated in August when Rep. Anna Mowery (R-Fort Worth) resigned rather than serve out the remainder of her term. Capitol Annex predicted accurately that HD97 would be the first of many House districts where Republicans would employ the strategy in order to gain an advantage.
For one thing, in somewhat-better-than-marginal districts like Moweryâ€™s, and in far-to-the-right districts, early resignations of Republicans easily enables candidates chosen by the right-wing GOP establishment to get a leg up and, of course, a much easier chance of winning. It also gives the opposition a more difficult time, especially when it comes to Democrats.
In addition, the special election format where numerous candidates from all parties can file allows Republicans to be able to ensure that third-party and Democratic straw candidates enter the races to help ensure runoffs in especially tight districts. It also allows Republicans to take advantage of especially large fields by defining all but the most ultra-conservative of Republicans as too liberal.
Indeed a special election was called November 6. Democrat Dan Barrett bested a field packed with 5 Republicans and earned a spot in the runoff. Republican Mark Shelton made the cut, but his vanquished opponents are crying foul over an allegedly deceptive robo-calling campaign.
Two weeks later — today — Perry picks the Tuesday before Christmas for the runoff.
With House speaker Tom Craddick’s tenuous hold on the gavel, and Democrats poised to take majority control, the stakes in the 2008 election are extremely high, hence the extreme measures.
Earlier this week Rep. Dianne Delisi (R-Bell County) announced her intention to resign her district 55 seat, and rumors surfaced that Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Williamson County) might be about to vacate his district 52 seat. More “retirements” are sure to come.
The GOP strategy behind this chicanery is to drain Democratic challengers of resources, forcing them to fund multiple election campaigns to take a seat. The effect is to disenfranchise, and avoid accountability. The Republicans feel that the low turnout of special elections increases the benefit of their organized ground operations. This is the part of the campaign that pries the party’s most die-hard supporters off their sofas and into polling booths. Those who work, don’t have time to follow the news or meet the candidates and make an honest evaluation are left at home.
The strategy is the last-gasp attempt by the right-wing political machine to extend their majority for a scant few years, pass their extremist agenda, preserve their rights to despoil the environment, exploit workers, loot the treasury and widen the gulf between rich and poor.
EOW denounces this short-sighted, anti-democratic and destructive practice as dirty politics. The numbing effect on the disenfranchised has driven participation in the political process to abysmal lows.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that such practices cannot achieve permanent results. In the end the scoundrels will be exposed for the frauds that they are and voters will demand reforms that will close these loopholes that exist only for the benefit of the corrupt.