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Voters in Houston poised to boot out the right wing

HOUSTON - Deep in the intellectual and financial heart of Texas, Houston, voters are turning out in record numbers in early voting. According to Beverly Kaufman, Republican Harris County Clerk, there is a 106% increase in early voting as compared with 2004 totals on the sixth day of early voting in-person. Early voting will continue until October 31 in Texas.

The Houston Chronicle reports that a Zogby poll indicates most Democrats are ahead by at least 7 percentage points in local and national races in Harris County. This includes the presidential contest and U.S. Congress races across the county. One Republican judge who received a great deal of positive publicity during Hurricane Ike may prevail over his Democratic opponent.

If the trends continue, this will represent the first "transitional election in Harris County since 1994" when Republicans swept Democratic party candidates from their jobs "as the Republican revolution led by then-U.S. Rep Newt Gingrich captured the U.S. Congress" according to the Chronicle analysis.

Of course, this is remarkable in the fourth largest city in the country given the strong ties between Houston and the Bush family. President George H. W. Bush calls Houston his home and has his Gulf Coast home nestled in the heart of one of the wealthiest, most privileged sections in the city. Houston has long been considered safe territory for the right-wing for the past 14 years.

Houston has a very progressive and proactive Central Labor Council. Harris County AFL-CIO has been actively pushing its Labor Neighbor program throughout the county to support Labor friendly candidates. The Labor Neighbor program works very hard to contact union families and educate them about candidates and encourage union households to vote. The Sheet Metal Workers, CWA and Machinists have been very visible in their efforts to support Union friendly candidates and have been block walking to union households and supporting labor friendly candidates.

IBEW was dealt a rough blow during Hurricane Ike when the roof of one of their main union halls was blown off. The building housing the Harris County Democratic headquarters next door to IBEW suffered similar damage and had to be relocated temporarily. One union member quipped that repairing the building would be low on the list of FEMA priorities. However, IBEW has been very active in the election as well.

The Houston Chronicle, a very conservative newspaper, endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for President. Obama is the first Democrat to be endorsed by the Chronicle since LBJ. The Chronicle has endorsed several progressive candidates in local races as well.

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