Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Will Houston's mayoral race mimic San Antonio's?

In some ways I expect that it will.

Ivy Taylor, the socially conservative Democrat who received the backing of the Republicans in the runoff, nosed out Leticia Van de Putte, the more liberal of the two but still a pro-business centrist.  As noted last week, both black and white church-going types -- they call themselves Christians, as we know, though they rarely act like such in word and in deed -- decided to make the election about who hews closest to the bible.  Not much about potholes, or pensions, or budgets, or any of the myriad policy questions of the kind that Charles has frequently posed.  There's a country-club set of GOP in San Antonio (River Oaks-ish types here), and there's a far-flung suburban type who will only consider voting for Republicans.  Of the fourteen candidates in the race for Alamo City mayor, there were two Republicans of some prominence running (Tommy Adkisson and Gerald Ponce), neither of whom gained any traction in the general.  The two highest-profile Latino Dems, Van de Putte and her former colleague in the Texas Legislature, Mike Villarreal, split a majority (56.5%) of the turnout in the first round, with Taylor barely edging Villarreal to move into the runoff.  So while VdP led in the general election, and turnout for the runoff was higher (about 16% versus 12%) she was still narrowly defeated, by all indications by Republican and conservative voters.  The lack of an endorsement from the vanquished Villarreal -- his campaign treasurer did endorse Taylor -- could have played a part in VdP's loss.

This mirrors the result from the 2005 race, where Julian Castro lost to Phil Hardberger by precisely the same 51.5% margin that Taylor defeated Van de Putte.

Update:  Democrats were downbeat...

“At the end of the day, we needed 3,000 Democrats to get off their asses and go vote, and they didn’t," said Colin Strother, a Democratic consultant who had worked for the fourth-place finisher in the first round of the race, former Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson. "And that’s the story of our life in Texas politics, is that Democrats could elect anyone they wanted to any position — statewide, local, you name it — if they would get off the couch and go vote, and they don’t do it.”

... and Republicans were exultant.

"There's no doubt that Ivy has turned the era in San Antonio politics that we haven't seen in my lifetime," said Robert Stovall, chairman of the Bexar County Republican Party. "This is what Republicans are typically so happy to get, which is good leadership and good government. ..."

Weston Martinez, a conservative leader in San Antonio, said Taylor's win was "delivered by the social conservatives, evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics," groups encouraged to see she "doesn't leave her faith at the door when she goes into the mayor's office."

The Democrats voting in Houston -- white, black, brown -- might split over their respective ethnic coalition candidate (Chris Bell, Sylvester Turner, Adrian Garcia), sending one of those three (whomever is best at turning out his vote in November) into the final round.  That leaves Bill King and Stephen Costello, and to a lesser degree Ben Hall, to fight over whatever percentage of Republican/conservative votes there may be in the first round.

I don't see money being a factor in the Houston race, despite whatever spin gets generated from the reporting of campaign finance fundraising and spending.  The three conservatives can spend any amount they choose; the Democrats, particularly Garcia, will be limited mostly due to the size of their individual wallets.

I still rank Turner at the head of the current field of seven, but the Republican most likely to join him in the runoff at the time of this posting appears to be Bill King, by virtue of his appeal to the angry white conservative caucus.  In a runoff between Turner and King, Turner can prevail, no matter how bitter King tries to make things over bathrooms or street/flooding conditions or any other piss-value issue.  If two Democrats clear the bar and advance to the runoff, all bets are off.  As with San Antonio, one is going to have to run to the right to win, and I can't fathom which that might be.

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