It may seem like I’m stating the obvious with that headline but the fact of the matter is that the last year of having a straight ticket voting option in Texas isn’t what caused the massive defeat of Harris County Republicans. The “causes” for the beatdown can be boiled down to President Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. Saying that straight ticket voting was the reason is an excuse, not an analysis of the election.
Let’s break down the vote totals:
|Total Harris County Voters||1,217,471|
|Total Straight Ticket Voters||930,784||76.45%|
|Straight Ticket Voting||% of Straight Vote Difference|
Now let’s look at a few of the races in Harris County. These are listed in ballot order, with the highest vote totals for the district judges, county courts and county executives.
|District Judge, 183rd|
|County Civil Court at Law No. 3|
|LaShawn A. Williams||641,699|
When you look at the actual numbers, you can see why I say that straight ticket voting is not the problem. Only County Judge Ed Emmett can reasonably make the claim that straight ticket voting was the cause of his defeat and only then if he truly thinks that the undervote would be close to 20%. There is no evidence to suggest that the undervote would be close to that number. I’ll stipulate that it would be higher than the 3-5% that it was but 20% is a long way from there and I doubt it would happen. There is simply no reasonable claim that any other Republican on the countywide ballot can make in regards to straight ticket voting. It is of course possible that straight ticket voting could have influenced district races but those numbers aren’t out yet as far as I know.
So if it wasn’t dumb, illiterate straight ticket voters that crushed Harris County Republicans what was it? Oh, and if straight ticket voters are really dumb and illiterate, why were Republicans pushing for voters to vote straight Republican? Hmm.
It starts with President Trump, just like it did in 2016. No matter what you think of his policies, his rhetoric simply doesn’t play well in diverse, multi-ethnic communities. And guess what? Harris County is a diverse, multi-ethnic community. This ain’t rocket science.
Then it goes to Ted Cruz. Like it or not, the perception is that he is a shameless, self-centered creature of the swamp, not someone that wants to drain it. And that perception is not just among Democrats, it is also among independents and traditional Republicans. And soccer moms. And golf dads. Ted needs to work on issues that deal with Texas for the next four or five years and perhaps he can change that perception before his next presidential run.
And then there is Beto O’Rourke. Republicans aren’t giving him the credit that he deserves. He was able to inspire voters above and beyond a simple hatred of Trump and Cruz with a campaign of hope and a vision of bipartisanship. Republicans might want to try that someday.
I’ll tell you who and what is not to blame for the beatdown: Paul Simpson and the Harris County Republican Party. But the chair is the chair and people are already yelling for him to resign. I had to laugh when I saw a former opponent of Paul’s predicting on Tuesday afternoon that Harris County Republicans would sweep the county by 6-6.5%. I said to someone that the guy must be nuts. He must have been impressed by the party’s activities to make such a prediction, right? Of course, by 8:30 pm, the same guy was calling on Paul to resign. The foundation that Paul and his team laid was solid. We cannot credibly blame him for the losses on Tuesday.
It’s natural to be angry when you lose. But reactionary temper tantrums aren’t going to change the future. As Temo said, we need to rethink our position on immigration. I’ll add that we need to rethink our positions on many other issues. But positions on issues alone aren’t going to change the political direction of Harris County. Republicans need to rethink how they act and how they treat people. Maybe then, voters will buy what we are selling.