City Politics and Partisanship

Municipal elections in Texas are “non-partisan”, according to state law. Houston’s city election is held in odd-numbered years which further distance it from the even-numbered years of partisan elections.

Yet, party always seems to creep into the process. This is not necessarily a good thing for the candidates. The bottom line is that City of Houston voters are Democratic. If you compare city voters to Presidential elections, you will find that even John Kerry carried the city versus George W. Bush.

I always try to describe our community this way – the city is blue and the county is red. It’s fairly simple. The voters in the city have a Democratic majority while voters in the county hold a Republic majority. One can dispute that in 2008 when Obama led the ballot, that the county began a more competitive partisan reflection. Some Democrats were elected county wide as well as some Republicans. Clear examples include Pat Lykos(Republican) as District Attorney and Adrian Garcia(Democrat) as Sheriff. However, for the most part, we still consider the county to be solidly Republican.

If Democrats are a clear cut majority in city elections, why do some candidates position themselves as Republicans? A candidate still has to build a coalition and west side voters are critical to victory. Most candidates, like Mayor Parker, confirm their Democratic credentials while setting out to make Republican voters comfortable with their fiscal policy and positions.

Chris Moran’s Chronicle blog shares a funny story today about a candidate who is trying to have his cake and eat it too, telling both parties that he is “one of them” and apparently contributing. I don’t recommend this as it just makes everyone suspicious.

One race where partisanship may play a significant role is in At-Large 5. Incumbent Jolanda Jones is a clear cut Democrat as is one of her major opponents, Laurie Robinson. The third significant candidate in the race is Jack Christie who has solid Republican credentials. His campaign is appealing to Republicans through mail and he previously served as an Republican elected official. Oddly, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Bill White, endorsed him. This is Christie’s attempt to reach across partisan lines.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I think At-Large 5 is the most fascinating race on the ballot. We are all mostly certain that this race will result in a run-off. If Council Member Jones finds herself in a run-off with Laurie Robinson, she is very likely in serious jeopardy of losing her seat. If she finds herself in a run-off with Jack Christie, the decision process will not be so clear. The question will become – will Robinson voters shift to Christie? He will have a tough, tough sell in a run-off to convince the majority of Democratic voters in the city that he will be open to their positions. This becomes even more complicated by the other races that are likely to have run-offs and may dominate the run-off vote. We can absolutely guarantee that District B, with a majority of African-American voters, will go into a run-off. At-Large 2 is certain to be in a run-off and the voters will be driven by which candidates are included. However, the front-runner candidates in that race are all moderate to strong Democratic contenders.

All of this analysis will allow you to make your own call but I think Mr. Christie will have a tough time if he makes the run-off.

One Comment

  1. Christie lost the 2009 runoff to Jones by 1,500 votes. That runoff featured a mayor race, which your post implies would have had the effect of increasing turnout, which have been more Dem oriented. One of the mayor candidates was an African-American, Gene Locke (your post implies that that should have produced more votes for Jones). Both of the mayor candidates were Dems (your post implies that means Reps would NOT have turned out). All of that would appear to produce a very hostile runoff environment for an Anglo Rep like Christie. But he lost by a mere 1,500 votes. I would submit that 2011 is far less hostile for Mr. Christie vs. Jones in a runoff.

    Also, it is not “odd” at all that Bill White endorsed Christie. Unlike 95% of politicians, White is able to be non-partisan, just as Christie was when he headed the State School Board. Read White’s endorsement letter. It explains exactly why his endorsement is in no way “odd.”

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