McNeely: Strayhorn needs new primary voters

Dave McNeely, longtime Statesman columnist, writes:

For Carole Keeton Strayhorn to have any chance to unseat Gov. Rick Perry in the 2006 Republican primary, she needs a significant boost in primary turnout.

The most who have ever voted in a Texas Republican primary for governor was in 1990. That year, 855,231 turned out for the white-hot contest between Clayton Williams Jr., Tom Luce, and Kent Hance - even while an even hotter street brawl was being fought on the Democratic side between Ann Richards, Jim Mattox and Mark White.

By contrast, the fewest voters in a Democratic primary came in the lackluster year of 1998, when 654,154 voted. Republican Gov. George W. Bush was seeking re-election and was considered a shoo-in. In fact, the largest Democratic turnout that year was for attorney general, not governor or lieutenant governor, elections which were uncontested.

It was the first time in decades that the Democratic primary turnout fell below 1 million. But even that meager turnout was 57,315 more than the GOP primary, and Democrats have always outpolled Republicans in non-presidential primaries.

At the same time, in the last three non-presidential general elections, the voter turnout has almost tripled the combined primary election vote. Clearly, there are plenty of people who care enough to vote who might be attracted to a primary.

It's possible Gov. Perry has irked enough people - particularly in the education community - that even some who voted for him in the past will turn thumbs down.

His staff has boasted that in a primary, no one can get to the right of Perry, who has shamelessly panderied to the religious right. But that leaves the center - if a center develops in the modern GOP primary.

That's the basic gist of the story: there's never been a very competitive Republican primary (sorry, the AG primaries don't quite count). Why? Well, some might say that the hand of Karl Rove tended to guide competitive candidates towards offices whereby they wouldn't face an opponent.

How many folks will vote? The folks who vote in the GOP primary are now the kingmakers like the Democratic primary voters.

Lots of folks base their campaign plans on changing the turnout model into one more favorable to them. We generally have a name for these candidates: losers.

I'm not being silly. Yes, there will be more people that vote in this primary, but plans to radically alter the turnout generally just don't work (and no, I don't think BushCheney04 is a counterexample). Strayhorn has her work cut out for her. Maybe she can do it, but the odds are against her.

Posted by Evan @ 07/18/05 03:47 PM

 
 

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