If you don’t know who Jarvis Johnson is, well, that is okay, most Republicans don’t. He is currently a Houston City Council member, representing District B. But Sen. Patrick’s interest lies in the fact that Mr. Johnson has filed in the Democratic primary to oppose Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, someone all Republicans know and are not in love with. What many Republicans do not know is that Rep. Jackson Lee is not well loved by Democrats right now because of her support for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Presidential race.
Okay, so what does this have to do with anything? Well, in Sen. Patrick’s mind, everything. You see, since he has gone to Austin, Sen. Patrick has lost touch with the grassroots community in Houston and Harris County. This is easily demonstrated by Sen. Patrick’s strong endorsement of current Harris County Republican Party Chair Jared Woodfill, If Sen. Patrick had taken the time to look around at the landscape, and returned to his grassroot roots, he would understand why this is a terrible idea.
Instead, he now “knows best” by declaring that Republicans cannot win in CD-18; therefore, they shouldn’t even try. Instead, Republicans in CD-18 should support Jarvis Johnson and help him defeat Rep. Jackson Lee. This is the reason the HCRP is in the mess it is in now. The status quo says, okay, you keep this seat, we’ll keep that one and, oh, btw, since we are the majority, we’ll take a couple of extra ones. When you win, you can do the same to us. Thinking of course that “you” will never win. Ha. See where that has gotten us.
CD-18 has three Republicans running in the primary and all of them are good, solid conservative candidates that are working their tails off, both for themselves and for the party. They are Brenda Z. Page, Tex Christopher and John Faulk. I have met each of them many, many times on the campaign trail. They truly think that they can win. But even if they cannot win today, they know that their work is laying the groundwork for future success by Republicans in this non-traditional, Democratic gerrymandered district. How must they feel about Sen. Patrick’s plan?
If Sen. Patrick had paid even a little attention to Harris County politics, he would know that winning the 18th outright is only one part of the strategy. He would understand that we are trying to build up the party precinct by precinct, growing the party by attracting non-traditional but conservative voters in the Black, Hispanic and Asian communities. With just a wee bit of attention, he would have known that.
But Sen. Patrick is a part of the establishment now. And he knows best. And by golly, big jolly, if he supports the current chair and his shrink-em and control-em strategy, then that is best! Utter, complete, total nonsense. Does Sen. Patrick understand that if we had had just 20 more Republican voters per precinct in 2008, we could have avoided the county-wide down ballot sweep by the Democratic Party? Apparently not.
I asked all three of the CD-18 candidates and all four of the candidates for HCRP what they thought of Sen. Patrick’s plan. Surprisingly, the incumbent chair, Jared Woodfill, did not respond. Okay, so that isn’t so surprising. What is surprising, given that Sen. Patrick wields a lot of influence in Harris County, is that two of the chair candidates, Ed Hubbard and Paul Simpson, were willing to address this publicly.
First, from Mr. Simpson:
Having qualified Republican candidates run vigorous campaigns even in Democrat strongholds helps the Harris County Republican Party by:
- Raising the countywide Republican vote – a rising Republican tide lifts all Republican boats.
- Draining Democrats’ resources (like the money and effort they’re spending to hang on to a Massachusetts Senate seat!).
- Growing the Republican grassroots organization across Harris County.
Running hard in Republican districts has helped the Democrats grow their organization in Harris County this decade. The Dems have about half the precinct chair vacancies Republicans do, have matched us in vacancies even in Republican Senate District 7, and have more chairs elsewhere in the County. The Republican Party needs to fight and win the future by recruiting and supporting qualified candidates wherever possible.
And this from Mr. Hubbard:
I think this statement reflects a great deal of the current thinking within the party, based on years of failure to make inroads into the African-American community. But it is a defeatist attitude, and it’s wrong–because it surrenders whole neighborhoods to control by the Democrats and their values.
I don’t think anyone, even the three candidates who are now running in our primary for this seat, believes it will be easy for a Republican to win this seat, and I am sure each of these three good people entered this race knowing the odds were against them winning in 2010. Finally, from a resource standpoint, in a year when overall fundraising may be tight, I am sure contributors are concerned about where to put their money so that it will have the best chance of being used to win a seat for the party.
All of that said, I still disagree with this statement for the following reasons:
- This race is not just for Congress, but it is a platform for party-building in the communities of CD-18. I personally have talked with precinct chairs, and new precinct chair candidates, who are running in precincts in this district to help in these races and to build the party. The more often our neighbors in these communities see our names on the ballot and interact with our representatives in their neighborhood, the greater our chances are of winning races in these communities in the future. Rather than waive in a parade or show up to shake hands every two years, these people are planting permanent seeds in these neighborhoods for the future of our party.
- This race spreads the field on the Democratic ticket, which will require that party and its contributors to give precious time and money to the winner of the Democratic primary in this race that would otherwise go to other Democratic candidates, and it will keep SJL’s money out of other races against Republicans.
- The demographics of this district are changing toward a more Republican-friendly district, and if lightening were to strike this year–like in 1994, when Steve Stockman beat Jack Brooks–we could add an unexpected and welcome Republican seat in Congress to fight the Democrats in the next session.
- Redistricting is around the corner, and if parts of this district are changed, it will be important that those voters remember the Republicans who competed in their communities so that we can be competitive in the new district.
In essence, running a Republican for this seat has always been more about the future of our party than about the present, and starting a “Republicans for Jarvis Johnson” club does nothing for our party in the future. If we had a functioning, solvent county party, it could help these campaigns by helping build and support a new party infrastructure in these communities, rather than rely on our contributor base–which is already stretched–to support the individual candidates. I commend all three of our candidates for running, and thank them for this selfless act and their commitment to building this party in CD-18.
Exactly! What Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Simpson seem to understand, and Sen. Patrick does not, is that hundreds of people are working hard everyday in these “unwinnable” districts because they have the future in mind, not present power. Conservative Republicans CAN win in these districts but not if we run away and let the status quo (and powers that be) dictate to us who can serve where.
This same model can and should be applied in every urban county in Texas. If it isn’t, the Republican Party of Texas will wither away to nothing more than the “loyal minority opposition”. That is what Mr. Hubbard, Claver Kamau-Imani of Ragingelephants.org and Temo Muniz of the Latino National Republican Coalition of Texas have been busting their tails doing for the last year. I can’t imagine how they feel after hearing the one voice that should be with them turn against them.
All I can say to the candidates in CD-18 and their very grassroots supporters is: keep up the fight and don’t let anyone steal your joy!
UPDATE: Candidate Don Large weighs in. Mr. Large was out of pocket and did not receive my original inquiry.
We have three good candidates who are running to be the Republican nominee in the 18th Congressional District. They are going to be meeting with voters across the district, explaining how Republican principles, put into practice by Republican elected officials, can expand their opportunities for economic growth and the strengthening of their families and improving the education of their children. We need to focus our resources on Republican candidates and nominees, not supporting less objectionable Democratic challengers to long-established liberal incumbents such as Congresswoman Jackson Lee.
As a party, we need to support our candidates who are running in communities that do not have a strong Republican voting history. We need to be more actively involved in community affairs and not merely engage in limited photo-op events that fail to build voter trust and confidence in our party and our candidates. We will need to develop Republican auxiliary groups, Republican women’s groups, and Pachyderm clubs in these communities so that we can provide voters the opportunity to engage Republican candidates and elected officials. We will need to identify individuals in these communities who can serve as precinct chairs, who can be elected as delegates to senatorial district and county conventions, and who, in time, can feel confident in running for elected office as Republicans.
This work will not be easy. This work will take more than one election cycle. But this work must be done if the Harris County Republican Party is to remain the majority party in Harris County for years to come. I am committed to making this effort a significant part of my positive, reform agenda for serving as the next Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.