The election yesterday were a disaster for republicans. No two ways about it. However, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised by the results. Harris County is undeniably a blue county, and the Republicans followed the same model as the past few cycles insofar as how the county party campaigned. Casting blame does no good. We need to learn from the election, and make necessary course corrections going forward.
Messaging and Freedom
This cycle was a very odd cycle regarding messaging. Both parties have a variation of a freedom message. Normally Republicans have a message of freedom to (religion, speech, economic issues, personal autonomy), and Democrats have a freedom from (discrimination, poverty via social services and economic regulation, climate harm). This cycle the messaging was reversed. We argued a freedom from message (crime, inflation) and democrats argued a freedom to (abortion, personal autonomy.) We saw the predictable results. The overall political atmosphere nudged the needle right (3-5 point defeats versus 7-9 points last cycle), but only the criminal court races saw any extra movement based on messaging.
Lessons from the Disaster
First and foremost, don’t blame Cindy or HCRP for the disaster. She/they made the right call on paper insofar as how to message. It didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean poor decision making occurred. I have been critical of HCRP in the past, but this isn’t a time they deserve the blame. We do need to make changes in strategy, tactics, and messaging in the future, but again, on paper, they made the right decision strategy wise.
However, tactics HCRP uses in future elections need to change. The centralized running judicial campaigns through HCRP is a mistake; and hopefully we now can undisputedly see that the model doesn’t work. It didn’t work for Simpson, and it didn’t work now. It’s a bad model. (Solutions in the What Can We Do section below.)
Second, don’t draw the conclusion that abortion is a losing argument. That’s an easy incorrect conclusion to draw from this cycle with the Dems pushing abortion as their issue. However, historically, whenever the Supreme Court acts against abortion the left always has a transient bump in support. Before Covid the only time the abortion rate increased after the immediate aftermath of Roe was a response to the Carhart partial birth abortion ban. We should have expected a similar bump in democrat support as a reaction to Dobbs, and with the states allowed to make their own laws this is only amplified. However, it is a transient bump in support.
Also we didn’t engage on the issue. We abandoned the space to the Democrats, and unsurprisingly they ran wild with the issue to good effect. Simple engagement on the issue would have blunted some of the impact. A well conceived strategy of engagement dealing with both the fundamental arguments as well as noting the medical industry’s pushing of abortion like what happened with us – doctors brought up abortion at 31 weeks 6 days on their own motion and persisted until it stressed Rochelle into preterm labor – provides an effective blunting effect to voters who view the issue in the abstract.
A third lesson is red meat issues meant to energize the farther right base doesn’t work in general elections. A corollary is we need more moderate candidates for the premier races. A focus on CRT was effective in the school board races. However, that’s a race where only the more engaged segment of the voting population participates in the election. In the general election red meat issues don’t play well with the general public. It may work in some specific state house districts, but overall it’s not an effective message for general election purposes. CRT, voter fraud, and the like aren’t winners.
If there is legitimate suspicion of voter fraud then that needs to be carefully evidenced and addressed outside of election windows. I’m not suggesting we don’t address the problem, but we need to do so outside of when it will become associated with a Democrat and media pushed narrative of conspiracy theory and distract from messaging. That’s not always going to be possible, but we need to aim to act in a manner that the issue minimizes our messaging.
What Can We Do
Lessons are useless if we don’t learn and adapt, so this leads to the question of what can we do going forward.
As an initial measure we need to talk about solutions. The freedom from message this cycle didn’t resonate particularly well because we didn’t offer meaningful or detailed solutions to the problems we identified. Even the hire more law enforcement officers refrain doesn’t get around the message of soft on crime judges release criminals back onto the streets. More law enforcement officers doesn’t address the soft on crime judges issue, and voters could see the disconnect. Detailed solution oriented messaging not only serves a constructive purpose, but it also allows for an acknowledge and pivot type of response.
If the democrats want to use Uvalde as a call for gun control, acknowledge the horror of the situation, and then pivot to a solution that doesn’t involve gun control – something like adding door bolts on the floor to classrooms so shooters cannot enter the classrooms in an active shooter situation. This steers the conversation away from red flag laws and is a simple, inexpensive, solution to address the problem. Plus, it compels the democrats to agree with us, or look like they are objecting to reasonable, inexpensive, measures to increase school safety.
A second change we need to make is use a fundamentally different model for campaign type activities in the general elections. HCRP generally doesn’t have a good presence in persuadable blue areas of the county. Groups like TARC and individual candidates will appear, but HCRP, by and large, is absent from events in/around Sharpstown as an example while the Southwest Democrats are always present. Abandoning the space to the democrats doesn’t help persuade voters to our vision.
Right now, not only do we lose the opportunity to spread our message, but it also is bad optics looking like we don’t care about this part of the county. A focus on presence and we care will help move the general needle in our direction, and frees up candidates to tailor their message to how they want to campaign leading to a cross pollination of messaging along the margins of the message campaign. The cross pollination will end up appealing to more voters as different iterations of what we believe will resonate with different segments of the voting population.
Thirdly, we need to engage in visible public good. Nothing speaks to voters more than actively making their lives better in a tangible way. This can be done either directly by having HCRP directly engage in public service activities, or indirectly by having known republicans engaging in public service activities and HCRP having a presence and/or providing support in the background. The former has direct benefit, and the latter has indirect “I don’t like republicans, but XXX is a good guy” effect. Both ways break down barriers, and they provide synergy to a solution oriented messaging campaign.
HCRP, or Individuals will Define the Future
It bears repeating, this cycle’s results shouldn’t be blamed on Cindy or HCRP. Messaging wise they made the right call on paper. It just didn’t work out. We need to focus on the future. With Commissioner’s Court now firmly in Democrat control we have no effective check to the Democrat’s power. We also have no functional mouthpiece to carry our message. The question becomes how do we promote our message going forward.
The void is either going to be filled by HCRP, or individuals will emerge who have a message and that becomes the Republican message. Obviously, it’s better if HCRP becomes the message bearer given the organization, resources, and status of HCRP. However, it will require HCRP to not only show a willingness to change course, but also to be open to constructive criticism and insist on a calmer level of demeanor in public discourse.
We don’t have any effective power to shape the direction the county is going to follow for the next four years. With the disastrous showing yesterday it’s unlikely that we will have meaningful influence on the municipal elections next year. To begin to gain ground we have to focus on generally moving the needle to the right. That requires a change in message and strategy philosophy.
Cindy has done a good job getting HCRP structurally better organized, and with candidate recruitment. If she can show a path forward that is different from what we have been doing and that HCRP has learned lessons from this cycle then she’s a good choice to lead the party going forward. It’s a natural building off of the structural improvements she’s achieved.
For all our sakes, I hope she does.
Sadly, I would say conservatives need to just flee Harris County. We are welcoming of political refugees in Galveston and Brazoria Counties, just saying. I mean I just do not understand, for example, how energy workers in the Energy corridor voted to re-elect Lizzie. People intentionally voting against their own self interest……you really just have to flee from a place like that. They are too far gone., .
Get out before the next major hurricane.
James Russell says
Well written. Major reason we fled the county.
Berna Mac says
Dear Greg, This report you have noticed in the Harris County elections are right on. You did an excellent job writing what you determined the loss of the “red tidal wave” to us families, Latinos and Black America too. We lost on those same very reasons to communicate out there and to go into those areas to mentor and form Republican Women’s club and other generic clubs would have been great to disguise us and yet open the door for all of our candidates to give their messaging. They were not ads generated out there or on their TV Telemundo and Unision that are popular in their homes. The Latino radio stations were not sought out either. Like they said to me over the years…and years….they come empty handed to us, they give their business to the white businesses and come to us to ask for our votes and bring nothing to help promote through us. They are not with us but to knock on our doors and be done with us after elections are over. Mattress Mac must be hurting to see that he lost one of the most important battle to helping all residents in Harris County win through Alexandra M for Commissioner’s Court. That was a slap in the face from all those in the communities where he has help the most and they disregarded him. There are factors that causes Latinos and Blacks to keep running and voting in the Democratic Party, they have not in many years over 40 received good sound education in MATH, SCIENCES, WORLD HISTORY and ECONOMICs. Without these 4 important core value subjects is no wonder they can’t really add 12 plus 12 but only 1 plus 1 in single digits. That is my take. I engage with them and I find it very lacking in common sence. I wonder if their education through public school system has deliberate done it to their children (now grown up) to keep them walking bare footed in the political areas. Sad…very sad considering I shared with Paul Simpson, Jared Woodfil, and Mr. Yates and the other gentleman (attorney from the Clear Lake Tea Party group). They met with me and they were shocked to see what the plan and moved where being used against the Republican Party. I shared it 1st with Kathlyn Wall (she was breathless) but did they take it serious, nope because it meant impletementing a plan to all groups to working together and they wanted the easy way out. Democrats when it comes to working during election times, they are great and tireless at it….they work like “leaf cutting ants” in the night carrying the leaf on their heads. What did we do…we tood the easy way out all these years. The Republican Women could not even make a trip as a group representing their organization down to Uvalde to give a hug to those mothers and dads during their loss. Nada…pero queremos pedir de ellos el vote y nos mandaron aya la “peste”
Randy Kubosh says
Beto hurt us again, darn it! Sadly, our state wide candidates were polarizing and Beto hurt us once more! the rest is more bla, bla, bla! same story, same results
Mattress Mack has endorsed Sylvester Turner and won $75 million betting on the Astros so I’m sure he’s doing just fine. I’ve never driven past his main store during business hours and seen the parking lot less than 2/3’s full too. He bets on candidates of all kinds and this election is only different in that he took the political newcomer Mealer under his wing
by doing ads for her as well as donate.
It came down to turnout and the dems won most county races. Did they lie about subjects like abortion having anything to do with a county judge, crime rates, and a bunch of other things? Of course they did but it came down to too many conservatives opted out altogether. Some speculate that there were still hard feelings from the primary and runoff, several vocal precinct chairs had previously announced they’d never vote for Mealer when she kicked Vidal Martinez to the curb, but the numbers for other races were just too tight for that to be a problem.
All that campaign money would’ve done more good earlier in the campaign too but Mealer suffered most be focusing all her eggs in one basket, crime. She should’ve broadened it out more but maybe next time.
too many words…
Moved out in June 2019 after that pension bond passed. No regrets other than watching the decline of the town I was born in, raised in, raised my kids in, etc. It was a great place.
I heard 30 voting locations ran out of paper. In all the words above is that addressed? How many voting locations were there in Harris County? Where did the problem persist the most? My hunch it’s the west side and Kingwood.
I don’t recall vote counting ever taking as long as it has in the recent past. Harris County is a stain on Texas now. Ciudad Houston’ is banana republic level corrupt.
I heard three new bonds passed. Get ready for pain because that is your property being encumbered.
Harris County had 780+ voting locations. All of the ballot data is taken to a central location at NRG Arena for counting and tabulation. The County tried using multiple locations a few elections ago, but the State stopped that because the County Network, like all large networks, uses the internet, and that’s against the law apparently.(No large organization buys and installs dedicated network lines all over the place. There are ways to route network traffic over the internet securely and safely and with out spending millions on dedicated cables).
Once the data reaches NRG, the County has 2 machines to read the data and tabulate the results. The election administrator said that’s to ensure accuracy and reduce cost. All of that takes time. The law allows 24 hours for the results to be posted. The harrisvotes.com website says all of the results are posted.
With that many locations spread out over almost 1800 square miles, there are likely to be some problems. Running out of paper shouldn’t be one of the problems, though. One location was closed due to a power outage caused by a City of Houston worker being electrocuted nearby. Another location had a misplaced key that took several hours to resolve.
I’ve seen comments in various places that we should return to paper ballots and hand counting. That’s ridiculous, since Harris County had over 100 races and almost 1.1 million voters. Counting that many ballots by hand would be impossible.
The 3 bond proposals were $100 million for public safety facilities, $900 million for transportation projects, and $200 million for parks, including floodable parks, improving access for people with disabilities, and construction of additional trails and paths.
The Cagle loss to Briones is great news. He’s a coward with no business being in public office. That’s the same thing I told Democrats when they bailed on the Legislature. My attorney friends told me Cagle was a horrible judge, and very incompetent in that job as well. He certainly had no clue on how to do budgeting. Next election, it’s time to get rid of the other coward, Ramsey.
I’m hearing Harris County is unique among the 254 counties in Texas. They haven’t finished counting so they haven’t reported final results. Does the county even have a party that challenges this mess.
Not unique at all. Maricopa County, AZ? Clark County, NV? Cook County, IL? Harris County, TX? Wat do these places have in common? Cheating Democrats in control. Voter chaos. At some point, it isn’t incompetence, it is planned.
The last legislature requires that electronic voting systems produce a paper audit trail for each voter, which is the two pages that were printed by the voting machine, then scanned as we left the polling place.
Harris County also received 1099 mail ballots on election day, and 857 “slot ballots” that all had to be processed by the Early Voting Ballot Board before being counted. That contributed to delays as well, according to the article in the Chronicle(the real site, not chron.com). Slot ballots are ballots that had to be recreated due to paper jams, tears, etc.
Harris County had 476,000 more voters in the Governor’s race than Dallas County(which had the second highest turnout), and over 300 more polling places. I am using the Governor’s race data from the Secretary of State’s site to get an idea of the number of voters in each county, as the data we can get from harrisvotes.com doesn’t seem to be available on the Dallas votes site. None of the other counties with large numbers of voters has the giant physical size of Harris County. That also contributes to a longer time to count votes. Harris County is twice the size of Dallas County
The last Republican to run elections in Harris County was Stan Stanart, who had problems getting counts done on time, and seemed very confused most of the time.
I won’t take the Republicans seriously on any integrity issues until Ken Paxton is no longer on the ballot.
right on que after an election McCornyn calls for amnesty