Houston mayoral elections comment

A strange paragraph from Robert Miller:

An analysis of the City of Houston vote by Kyle Johnston of Johnston Campaign estimates that through the first five days, the ethnic breakdown of those casting Houston ballots is African American 32%, Hispanic 12%, Asian 1%, and Other (Anglo) 55%. Mr. Johnston also finds that of the City of Houston voters, 61% have a Democratic primary history, 34% have a Republican primary history, and 5% have no primary history. This partisan breakdown provides further evidence that the time has passed when a candidate running as a Republican can be elected Mayor of Houston.

This is a strange paragraph on multiple levels.

First, partisan ties are much weaker in big city municipal elections so the right candidate can always win. How else would NYC go 2 decades without a Democratic mayor?* Houston's elections are non-partisan by law, but Houston is obviously a less Democrat-dominated city than Los Angeles. That didn't stop Dick Riordan. You could probably even point to Sam Katz in Philadelphia, who came very close in a much more difficult partisan environment than Houston. Of course finding the right candidate isn't so easy, and often good political talent doesn't work in political races (or it doesn't get hired because candidates are very poor at selecting consultants), which leads me to my second point.

You can't project a D vs R election when this is a Democrat vs Democrat election. There are no Republicans running for mayor. It's not surprising that Democrats are more motivated to turn out to vote in a battle between two Democrats. Ben Hall has occasionally tried to speak to Republicans, but he made the mistake of hiring John Weaver. Maybe Weaver is calling himself a Republican again these days (it's tough to keep track of his party and ideological switches) but he really hasn't run a good campaign that would motivate Republicans.

Third, when was this mythical time when Republicans could be elected mayor of Houston (in Miller's mind)? Are we going back to Jim McConn and counting him? In 2001, Orlando Sanchez ran a pretty good campaign against a weak, bumbling Lee Brown in the height of post-9/11 Republican turnout. He lost, despite some big GOP endorsements and robocalls in the finals days from Giuliani and George HW. To go back to my first point, he could have won the open seat in 2003, but rather inexplicably he didn't do the necessary work to win in a difficult environment.

* For purposes of this post, I'm going with the nominal truth that Mike Bloomberg isn't a Democrat.

Posted by Evan @ 10/31/13 11:28 PM


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