Ever since the post endorsing Buzbee for mayor several people have asked how I can call myself a conservative and support Buzbee over King. That question brings up a very important hidden issue – how can I call myself a conservative – that’s going to have significant impact in 2020. The narrow minded viewpoint of what makes someone a conservative and trying to winnow individuals out of the big tent is a significant problem the party needs to address. But that’s not what this post is about. This is about answering their question, how can a conservative support Buzbee over King.
To begin with, King is the clear number two choice. He’s far superior to what Turner/Boykin/Lovell have to offer the city. Not having one of that trio at the helm is imperative to the long term fiscal health of the city. We all lose if one of those three win. However, voting out of fear isn’t what’s best for the city. Voting for the candidate who has the clearest path to victory is what’s best for the city. King has utilized his blog effectively to stake out positions since his last run. Kudos to him, he has done a great job in that regard. The problem is that his blog is a double edged sword when it comes to his campaign.
Path to Victory
Last election was close, but the city has moved to the left since the last mayoral election. While the Turner/Boykin/Lovell voting base is currently split three ways as we get closer to election day one of the three will lag in the polls and their voters will drift to the other two in order to have a runoff candidate that will reasonably maintain the current city trajectory. Assuming King was to be in the runoff against one of those three what’s his path to victory?
It’s hard to say the firefighters because of his blog. He is a critic of their pension plan, even going so far as say, “No one has been more direct than I have been in telling the fire fighters that their pension plan is unsustainable in the long run” when declaring he was going to vote with the firefighters in support of prop B. That’s not exactly a position that firefighters should see as unwavering support. That’s a position that should lead to unease.
Even if it is King versus Turner round two in the runoff King’s going to need to do more to create a path to victory, and he doesn’t have many options. With as many legitimate candidates in the field the “also ran” candidates supporters are likely to tip the scales. This means that a sustained negative campaign element is very risky. Come across too hard, and the attack pieces turn off Boykin and Lovell supporters along with the Turner supporters. With the also rans alienated by negative campaigning they aren’t going to back King.
Doing the Minimum
King has released a seven point plan if he were to be elected. This plan is a great example of King doing the minimum. The plan’s points are the absolute minimum we should expect from a candidate. This plan has many cosmetic elements – the independent office of inspector general, restoring deleted budget information, expand fiscal accountability, and public information requests. All of these ideas sound good and should be implemented, but they are all cosmetic. All that these four plan points do is make information accessible and generally increase sunshine on the city’s operations. What they don’t do is actually impact city operations.
His other three points are substantive, but are the least we should expect as conservatives. Reforming the city bid process is a sorely needed change, but it’s what we should expect from a conservative. No pay to play helps end corruption in the city, but it is also redundant if the bid process is followed. If “contracts will be awarded based on the lowest responsive bid, no exceptions!” is adhered to eliminating pay to play isn’t necessary as the lowest responsive bid is awarded the contract. Placing these measures on a charter amendment is a great idea, and hopefully it will pass. However, this is also something that we should expect from a conservative. The conservatives are the minority in the city, so we need to put forth ideas that are widely supported to charter amendment votes to guard against the day when the city is governed by fiscal irresponsibility.
The biggest reason, though, I write this is King does not appear to be making a serious effort to get out and campaign as needed. This reinforces the belief that he is simply doing the minimum. The Sharpstown Civic Association had a celebration the weekend before Independence Day. Two candidates for position ‘J’ in the city council had booths and were present. Tony had a booth even though he didn’t attend. King was missing from the booths.
This was a great opportunity for him, or at least a surrogate, to be present and interact with voters in a more conservative than average area of the city. It was a great opportunity to get out and meet with voters who are going to be necessary to prevail. The lack of a presence shows that while he is serious in his campaign he is not taking the necessary steps to engage and win. It’s doing the minimum, and is not a promising sign for his chances.
Ideas aren’t impressive
King seems to be placing much of his campaign on the ability to generate ideas to address the City’s ills. However, the ability to generate ideas isn’t an impressive characteristic for someone running for office. Anyone can generate ideas. Want to stop the insanity at the DA’s office? Organize rallies in front of the Harris County Justice Center chanting Ogg must Go! Ogg must Go!, and have crime victims tell their stories. That will get media attention, and will place pressure on the DA’s office. Want to improve traffic flow outside the interstates/beltway? Take a page from Bill White and have the traffic control signals recalibrated to where they are aligned with the speed limit. That’s already proven to work. Anyone can generate ideas. What’s necessary is generating good, workable ideas that are distinct from the crowd. If everyone has a similar idea set it doesn’t matter who is elected.
The city has slipped into such a state of mismanagement that doing the bare minimum is a vast improvement. If someone wants to vote for King because his seven point plan is a vast improvement, great. That’s not an unreasonable position to take. However, when asked how can I call myself a conservative and support Buzbee over King it’s a matter of wanting more than the minimum. It’s not that King is a bad choice; it’s a matter of Tony being a better choice.