Low Election Turnout Benefits Party Loyalists

by Jim Lane

Reliable office holders, not fiery challengers, benefitted from low turnout and were the winners in the May 29th Texas primary election. Labor's selected candidates did better than OK. Republicans did better than Democrats. The highly anticipated Latino vote failed, again, to materialize.

Redistricting set the stage

The road to May 29th began last year when the Republican dominated State House redistricted the state so that, in spite of a gigantic population gain by Democrat-leaning Latinos, Republicans could be reasonably sure of taking 3 of the 4 new congressional seats created by the census. Their domination of statewide politics, the insurgent Tea Party candidates, and the tremendous hype around their previously unsettled presidential primary made their turnout, a miserable 11% of the electorate, more than double what the Democrats received. Historically, Democrats get better turnout in primary elections. Mitt Romney picked up enough delegates to insure his nomination. The establishment Republican, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst beat out the Tea Party darling, Ted Cruz, but not by enough to avoid a runoff.

Union election work paid off

The Committee on Political Education (COPE) labor candidates, all Democrats, did well across the state. The Texas AFL-CIO reported that their candidate for the one Senate seat available came in well ahead of his July 31 runoff opponent. Labor activists will certainly continue working hard for Paul Sadler, as they learned that his July 31 opponent wants to help employers by cutting the minimum wage! Around the center of the state, labor was working hard to return Congressman Lloyd Doggett to office. The liberal Doggett has been so unbearable to Republicans that they made certain, through redistricting, that he could not possibly beat his two Latina opponents. But he did it anyway and doesn't even have to go through a runoff before facing the Republican in November!

Veasey wins "Hunger Games" in CD33

Veasey victoryThe one new congressional district that Republicans allowed, reluctantly, a majority of Democratic voters was CD33. They threw the majority of Latino voters from Dallas into a district with the majority of African American voters from Fort Worth. Latinos have by far the largest population. The two minority groups, and the two cities, were forced to compete like "Hunger Games" for the amusement of the Republicans. Labor endorsed Marc Veasey, the African American from Fort Worth who had solid Democratic Party credentials. To the surprise, shame and consternation of those hoping and praying that the tremendous potential of the Latino vote will finally manifest, Veasey took 38% of the vote. His nearest competitor, Domingo Garcia of Dallas, came in with 26%. The fight will be resolved July 31.

Latinos were also disappointed to see long-time El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes go down in flames before a virtually unknown Anglo, Beto O’Rourke, with a record of personal public disgrace and a program whose only distinguishing feature was legalizing marijuana. Apparently, El Paso has had enough of the endless bloodletting by drug cartels in adjoining Mexico!

Texas Democrats, unlike those in some states, took the presidential race seriously and endorsed Barack Obama by 88%.

Low turnout favors activists

On the side of good news, the Latino vote did increase in the Rio Grande Valley. Seniors over 65, who are allowed to vote by mail, increased their clout. Those who actually threw themselves into working the phones and streets, especially organized labor, were well rewarded. The most progressive leader of the state, AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller is quoted, “Up and down the ballot, the candidates who had the support of working families performed strongly, especially in light of the exceptionally weak turnout in the Democratic primary. We believe that union Brothers and Sisters continue to vote in disproportionate numbers in elections. Union votes made an important difference in these contests.”