December 6, 2003 is a date that will be remembered as a disastrous day for conservatives in Houston.
How did we go from the prospects six months ago of electing a conservative mayor and controller and as many as ten conservatives to City Council to a major setback?
The "inside" story of what went wrong is both long and tragic with many factors that put us where we are today.
Let's start with the major race - Orlando Sanchez, a good man who really understands the city's problems and had common sense conservative ideas, lost big. The mistakes were many:
(1) Sanchez should have stayed with the Rains-Calabrese team from 2001 who got him 153,000 run-off votes and plenty of resources.
(2) The conservatives last spring should have been locked up for Sanchez. Instead, he had to deal with six months of criticism from Bill White and the "then" mayoral candidate Michael Berry. The base was never tied down as Bill White received around 35% of the GOP vote in the initial vote. This forced Sanchez to scramble till the end to lock down the base and that never let him go beyond the base.
(3) The Harris County Republican Party, unlike two years ago, was not as effective as it needed to be. Recall two years ago the HCRP locked down the GOP early (recall early polls that gave Chris Bell 25% of the GOP vote, but after a mail and phone program put together by the HCRP and GOP consultant Jeff Yates - Bell found himself at well under 10% and out of the run-off). This time the HCRP campaign was either mistargeted or ineffective or both. The Bill White "liberal" message (maybe its time to put this out to pasture) never got any traction beyond the hard core base that listens to KSEV. In the middle of all this, the HCRP Executive Director ended up in a situation where assault charges were filed against an Hispanic pro-immigration activist who attempted to drop off petitions which got prominent play in the media and certainly did not help Hispanic turnout for Sanchez.
(4) The Bill White campaign and money machine was also important. Estimates are he spent $8 million plus - a new Houston record. He also co-opted early on key Bush supporters which should not have been allowed to occur. This made the obtaining of national GOP money more difficult.
(5) The turnout machine - that did not function. There were clearly more than enough Sanchez 2001 supporters out there. If you turned them out you would beat Bill White, lets look at the 2001 versus 2003 numbers:
The bottom line they didn't turnout. Why? The message of the 2003 campaign was not compelling - (neighborhood mayor?), it was time for Christmas shopping, Bill White seemed to be a good businessman with a similar message so we don't care who wins, and Sanchez had been cut to pieces over the summer by White and then candidate Berry and never recovered. At the end of the day this campaign flameout had multiple causes of failure.
What About The Other Races?
The Controller's race where a big spending Lee Brown minion and one of the leading alternative sexual life-style politicians in the U.S. crushed fiscal conservative Bruce Tatro.
What happened here? Tatro again could've won, but like the Sanchez race the base was never locked down, the campaign message never registered with voters and no attempt was made to let pro-family voters know that Ms. Parker's life-style also defines her politics (gay marriage, affirmative action for gays, etc).
Again, we were outspent and Ms. Parker to the average voter looked like an intelligent businesswoman, (sounds familiar) - it's the White message all over again. No one should be surprised, her votes followed White's.
As far as we could tell there was no compelling message in any independent campaign (HCRP, Harris County GOP PAC, Conservative Republicans of Harris County) and also it's important to remember that Houston is a lean democratic city and with all things being equal we don't win without obtaining some swing voters. In this race with so much to work with we didn't play the cards we had and were handed a landslide defeat.
City Council - The ultimate disaster, we were building for six years to obtain control of council and instead we are back where we were six years ago, six years of hard work, candidate recruitment and lots of dollars down the drain.
Let's review the body count:
Bert Keller, At Large Position 4 - Gone - Generally a solid pro-business conservative who voted against a 1 cent tax cut recently and was literally sacrificed by KSEV radio (Dan Patrick) for not being 100% with us. While I was disappointed in his vote too, I understand an 80% friend is better than a zero friend. Bert's a good man who voted wrong once and he deserved better. If we don't get rid of this mentality, conservatives will be irrelevant politically in this city. This is an election we gave away and where were the Republican leaders to defend Bert? Nowhere to be seen.
Jeff Daily, District G - Beaten - In a narrow defeat to moderate GOP'er Pam Holm, we lost one of the brightest and most innovative fiscal conservatives in the city. What happened? Holm was successful in muting their differences in the eyes of the voters and Daily's campaign failed to sell the voters on the significant differences between them. They called her a liberal but that doesn't get it done anymore. We lost a potential strong conservative leader on council in this race.
Gabe Vasquez, District H - Quit - I know he didn't run again - too bad. He'd never be a 100% but as a new GOP'er he could've provided a critical vote on some issues. Now we get another White clone instead.
Shelley Sekula-Gibbs - At Large Position 3 - She held off liberal Peter Brown. One hopes she becomes more outspoken in light of the reduced number of conservatives on council. It's of course easier to drop below the radar screen.
M.J. Khan, District F - A GOP oriented businessman won a hard fought battle with Terry McConn. Unfortunately, in the run-off the McConn campaign via consultant Allen Blakemore unleashed the nastiest mail piece of the cycle - "The Birds of a Feather" mailer that many call race baiting. Khan was disappointed that neither the HCRP or Chairman Jared Woodfill condemned it. His victory party did not have many key GOP'ers. Where were you? M.J. spoke at our Lincoln Day Dinner a few years ago and has been very supportive. Could some in the GOP be trying to push him into the White orbit? We need all the votes we can get, especially in the minority community. I hope we haven't lost him.
That is the run-off review - generally dismal results. The new council lines up with only a minority of GOP'ers and of these a few are focused on neighborhood issues, so essentially Mayor-elect Bill White has a majority for anything he wants and he can if he wishes, ignore the conservative GOP minority.
Of course, if things had gone as they should have, we would have had a council with a GOP majority with strong conservative leadership -Ellis, Daily, Keller, Khan, Sekula-Gibbs, Goldberg, Lawrence, Vasquez and Berry. The tragedy in all this is what we had and how it was thrown away.
Geneva - A Joke
I don't know about you but when the Jesse Jackson's of the world engage in private diplomacy, I have no use for it. It is fully at a significant level.
Now - out of office Israelis and Palestinians backed by European multi-millionaires are involved in signing an agreement that has no significance, that has different words in English and Arabic, which is worse for Israeli security than Oslo.
Like I said at the beginning, only fools would do such a deal. Why Secretary Powell met with those involved, I have no idea.
As noted columnist Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe said recently, which is absolutely right:
"All the cheering in Geneva notwithstanding, the plan is a blueprint not for peace but for war. It would force Israel back to what the late Abba Eban called the "Auschwitz" borders of 1949. It would compel the ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Jews. It would create a 23d Arab state by jeopardizing the existence of the world's lone Jewish state. It would put Arafat and the Palestinian dictatorship in position to accomplish at last the goal they have never abandoned: the liquidation of Israel."
"In Geneva on Monday, Jimmy Carter lavished praise on the agreement, and suggested that if he had been re-elected in 1980, he could have pushed something like it. "Had I been elected to a second term, with the prestige and authority and influence and reputation I had in the region," he said, "we could have moved to a final solution."
*Final solution.* If that is Carter's term for what Beilin and Rabbo (Jackson clones) have put forth, he speaks more truly than he knows."
More Jobs Leave US
In the Wall Street Journal of December 15, 2003 more bad news about our jobs. IBM has announced it is shifting 4,730 programming jobs to India and China and else where.
When are we going to address the export of good white collar jobs overseas on a regular basis? Everyone can't work for the government or in the retail-fast food industry.
This is an emerging political issue the GOP needs to get out front on pronto.
About Your Editor
is a long time Republican spokesman, fund-raiser and leader who
recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican
Chair. During his time as Chairman, Gary was described as the
most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events.
For six years, Gary put out a bi-weekly newsletter which he has
continued due to requests from many Republican activists.
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