So, how did it turn out? Unfortunately, not so great. Despite what many think, it isn’t easy to criticize, unless your goal is to simply tear something down. And that is most certainly not my goal. I hope that the organizers remember that as they read this and realize that it is (a) just one guy’s opinion and (b) use their experience as a learning exercise. With that in mind, I’ll try to relay the good, the bad and the decidedly ugly about this meeting.
Lots of things were good. First off, the marketing and planning. I received the first information about the event on December 19th and follow-up reminders weekly. The venue was great – the Slocumb auditorium at San Jacinto College Central is very nice, spacious and accommodating. The attendance was also very good, especially for a Saturday night – I counted 117 people, not including the candidates or moderators. Better yet, I only counted two candidates (not counting the four on the program) – lately, every event I’ve attended has been candidate heavy.
One other thing – the national anthem was a rare gem. I’ve heard so many people butcher that song at political events that I cringe when they announce it is time for it. But on this night, a student at San Jac gave an outstanding acapella rendition. My recording doesn’t really do justice to her version but here it is anyway:
First off, the concept. Bringing all of the candidates, regardless of party affiliation, together at one event seems, on the surface, to be a good idea. In theory, it would allow voters to determine which candidate they liked best and push them into voting in that candidate’s primary. The problem is that only one race was featured. In the upcoming primaries, both parties have critical races for governor, the HCRP is having a slugfest for chair, both parties have several hotly contested house and judicial races, and down the line. The idea that you should choose your party primary based solely upon one race, a congressional race which, frankly, has no competition, wasn’t well thought out.
Second, the format. The MC for the event announced that it was the first time a format like this had been tried in the U.S. and hoped that it would catch on and become the standard. Uh…no. Please, no. I’ll try to describe it accurately, if I miss something, let me know where I am wrong. There were four candidates that showed up. They were introduced as a group and then all were escorted to a “green room” of sorts. Then they were brought out one at a time, allowed to give a one minute intro, answered five “standard” questions, two questions specific to the candidate, and then allowed to give a two minute speech.
Although the format did allow the audience members to compare answers on the five “standard” questions, there was no back and forth with the moderator, no clarification, no follow-up, no conversation. The format could possibly have worked if the moderator was allowed to have a conversation but alas, it wasn’t to be.
Third, the questions. I realize that much of the Tea Party movement was founded on the idea that the Congress wasn’t following the Constitution but seriously, question # 3 was: What do you think of the U.S. Constitution? Are you kidding me? The other four weren’t much better. One was something about entitlement programs being bankrupt and what the candidate thought of that. Here is question # 4:
Should the State “recall” mechanism used to remove elected officials who do not live up to their duties and responsibilities be implemented at the federal level?
Unless I’m mistaken, and correct me if I am wrong, the Texas Constitution does not have a recall provision for state officials. Home rule cities do but I’m pretty sure the State doesn’t.
Worse yet, not a single question was about anything specific to CD-22.
Fourth, the location. Like I said, the venue was great. But the location was on the far Northeast side of the district – the majority of the district live in the Southwest portion. Here is a map.
Easy one – the candidates. Three loons and a LaRouche-ite. Wow. As I said on Facebook, it was hard to determine if it was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or “Lunatic Fringe”. Although billed as two Libertarians and two Democrats, the truth is that it was three Libertarians – John Wieder having run as a Libertarian in 2008 – and the LaRouche-ite. I’m not going to bother running through each candidate’s answers, I really don’t think I’m up to listening to that again. You’ll have to take my word for it or not, your choice. You can also view some of the comments on this Facebook thread.
I’m adding this section because I took my wife with me. Her remark upon leaving:
Tea partiers are a bunch of nuts and fruitcakes.
Now, I know that isn’t the case because I know that those people on the stage that night were not representative of the average person that attends a Tea Party rally. That said, once the organizers of this event received notice that Rep. Olson was not going to make it because of his responsibilities in Washington, D.C., they should have cancelled the event. After all, they had received the questionnaires in advance and should have seen where this event was headed. That they chose not to doesn’t necessarily reflect upon their leadership but certainly could.
So there you have it. One man’s opinion. Take it as you wish.