Kevin Fulton was kind enough to be interviewed regarding his announcement he was seeking the Harris County Republican Party chair position in the wake of Keith Nelson’s resignation. The biggest challenge we face as a county party is to stop the infighting, and he has as good a chance as anyone to end the fighting as anyone. Additionally he has a well thought out plan to steer the county party back to viability. With vulnerable bond-to-murder criminal court judges up for reelection in 2022 the party has an opportunity to break the cycle of wipe outs and need someone who can put the pieces together for both 2022 and the long term picture. Kevin’s plan has a chance to meet both the short term opportunity as well as the long term needs of the party.
Kevin mentioned that he was seeking the County Party chair because he grew up in an inner city environment and conservative values were what helped him progress from the inner city to where he is today. He wants to bring the same opportunity he received to others in the inner city, and believes that in doing so it will expand the conservative message to voters we otherwise would not reach. This not only expands our voting base, but also expands economic prosperity to those who currently are struggling which in turn helps move the overall mentality more towards a conservative mindset.
Kevin was very open and transparent, and believes that is an important aspect of how the party needs to act going forward. He intends to have Kathaleen Wall as his vice chair and let her focus on her strong points of election integrity, technology, and the fundraising aspects for the County Party while he focuses on creating a party infrastructure for messaging and expanding the base. Ms. Wall is a somewhat controversial figure, and when I asked if he was certain he wanted this information added into the article he said yes, that transparency is important even if the decision making may cause controversy. That’s the kind of commitment to transparency we need to win the trust of the general public.
The bifurcation of fundraising and message/base expansion is a good initial use of talent. Rather than try to control all processes he is trying to surround himself with capable individuals and let them work from their strengths. He already has established vehicles to help spread conservative principles and economic prosperity to areas we don’t normally reach. Focusing on the areas where he already has success while leaving fundraising to individuals who have that skill set is a good short term strategy to get the County Party headed in a better direction.
Building the Party
Outside of the immediate need of finances versus ground game Kevin believes it’s important to have local control of data. The party used Voter Vault when I was a precinct chair. Now, Nation Builder is a popular vehicle to use for data purposes. However, these are all third party sources of data and the County Party has to constantly purchase updated data each election. In fact, as the information is used it is updated with the third party vendor, and the County Party has no system in place to store and maintain their own data outside of the third party vendors. Kevin wants to create an application where the County Party obtains the information, and as it is updated through the course of campaigning the info goes back to the County Party rather than to third party vendors. Having a good, locally generated, dataset will help with future elections.
Kevin also wants to make sure the County Party recruits and supports candidates for nonpartisan races. This is an avenue to reach out and build goodwill among people who have overlapping ideas even though they may not vote with us. The cooperation on nonpartisan campaigns also is a good way to bring more conservative individuals to power. The formula worked to defeat Mayor Parker’s bathroom imitative. The formula can work to bring more conservatives into nonpartisan race offices. Plus if the candidate is accepting our support behind the scenes we will get some data to use in continuing to build and update the party maintained dataset.
Stopping the Infighting and PACs
The last area we covered was how to stop the intraparty fighting and address the influence PACs have in local races. Kevin is as well situated as anyone to address the infighting. He told me that Simpson asked him to be his vice chair, and then he was Nelson’s vice chair. Kevin accepted the vice chair spot under Keith when he saw that the party was in trouble and faced claims of racism by the media that could hurt Republican candidates on the ballot. He is at least respected by both factions, and therefore has a chance to keep everyone from open warfare even if it continues to some degree behind the scenes. Moving the strife out of the light to behind closed doors presents a picture of a more unified party.
The PACs are a different issue than the infighting. The GOP is a big tent party, or at least we should be. This leaves PACs well received in some parts of the party and despised by some parts of the party. That problem is going to continue, but Kevin indicated that the path forward to minimize conflict is to get the PACs out of local party issues, and simply engage with them in a manner of cooperation where the vision is shared, and to politely not engage when the PAC vision and the local party vision does not overlap.
Kevin is the best person for Chair.
The party, obviously, is in a dire situation. Kevin seems both well situated and to have a well developed plan to address our immediate needs as well as to take advantage of the short and long term opportunities. Simpson left the party with a cash crisis and Keith wasn’t able to fundraise effectively. Turning the fundraising operation over to Wall is smart as it should result in some incoming from fundraising. It also frees Kevin up to address messaging and any issues that arise, which are more of his strong points.
The next Chair has to be ready and able to help candidates who are going to oppose the weak on crime judges that are up for election in 2022. Looking at the splits between Dana for Sherriff, Huffman for District Attorney, and the Civil versus Criminal County Courts at Law this past cycle shows that crime is showing up in the election. Sadly, Dana fell by 15 points. Huffman lost by 7.5. The criminal court races average was 6.5 points, which was 4.5 points closer than the civil court race.
Opportunity exists in 2022. Kevin is well situated to expand our message to a portion of the electorate that is most likely to flip on crime issues and at least split their ticket on crime. Winning begets winning. Once the cycle of blue wipe outs has been stemmed we are better positioned to see more success follow.