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Home | Tag Archives: texas candidates

Tag Archives: texas candidates

Analysis: Mentions in a Few News Stories Can’t Turn a Candidate into a Contender

Despite the constant stream of stories about the midterm elections, most candidates on the Texas ballots aren’t getting much attention outside of their small circles of supporters, donors and advisors. As a result, some have rejiggered their campaigns into grassroots efforts to hound reporters and editors into mentioning their names every time those news outlets write about politics or elections.

That’s not how this works. What gets attention and what doesn’t is vital to candidates — especially if they’re unknown, unheralded, from third parties with small followings, or are starving for notice far down a ballot stuffed with big-time, big-money candidates.

But the attention they want — that they need, in order to have some influence on the civic conversation and some support at the polls — doesn’t come from the news media. It comes from voters.

Some candidates blame their lack of notoriety on their lack of news mentions, like primitives who decide the wind blows because the trees move back and forth. They’re finding, like their predecessors, that you’re not news because you get mentioned by the news media; you get mentioned by the news media because you’re making news.

Getting onto the ballot is news. Once. Getting into a debate — which is, for the most part, a negotiation among political competitors — can be news, both in those negotiations themselves and then the performance in that debate, if a debate takes place. Drawing big crowds. Having ideas that catch on with those crowds. Having a real influence on the outcome of an election, either as a winner or as a spoiler.

Political reporters chase that kind of stuff. The Tea Party — a textbook example of outsiders organically creating a major political movement — didn’t get started in the papers or on radio or TV. Crowds started showing up all over the place (with help from early-stage social media) and those crowds made news.

Candidates from the parties — and from outside the parties — do this from time to time. Ron Paul made his mark as a Libertarian, turning eventually to the GOP to win a spot in Congress. In the 2006 governor’s race in Texas, 31.2 percent of the vote went to candidates who were not flying the Republican or Democratic flag. The winner, Republican Rick Perry, was re-elected with 39 percent. The third-party and independent candidates — Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Kinky Friedman, James Werner and James “Patriot” Dillon — combined to win more votes than Chris Bell, the Democrat in that race.

Third-party candidates generally haven’t done well in Texas, performing best in races where either the Democrats or Republicans haven’t fielded candidates. Ken Ashby, a Libertarian, got 19.4 percent of the vote against Republican U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling in 2016, but there were no Democrats in the race. One sign that U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, might be vulnerable is that he got 71 percent of the vote in his 2016 race — with no Democrat on the ballot. Libertarian Ed Rankin and Gary Stuard of the Green Party got 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

But they generally don’t win races. In fact, it’s unusual for Libertarian candidates to get more than 5 percent in races where both of the major parties have contestants. They do get enough votes to win access to the ballot — another way of saying their candidates are automatically included on the page when you vote. That’s better than the Green Party has fared lately.

It fuels their anger at being left out. That’s understandable. There they are on the ballot in Texas, but they haven’t been able to elbow their way into the conversations about debates or property taxes or marijuana or much else. That’s got to be frustrating.

Neal Dikeman and Mark Tippetts are running for U.S. Senate and governor, respectively, as nominees of the Libertarian Party of Texas. Each has a campaign underway to get more media attention, Dikeman by trying to edge his way into debates via social media, Tippetts by urging supporters on Facebook to “make some noise” about getting into publications like this one.

Each would like to be on stage in debates with the Republicans and Democrats whose parties dominate Texas and American politics and whose candidates have a much easier time getting attention. So would Kerry McKennon, the Libertarian running for lieutenant governor; Michael Ray Harris, the party’s candidate for attorney general; comptroller candidate Ben Sanders; land commissioner nominee Matt Piña; and Michael Wright, who wants to be a railroad commissioner.

They’re having a hard time getting mentioned and getting noticed by voters in a way that might help them get mentioned. It’s probably not fair. It is market-based, however: political news tends to follow influence and money — and stories. And interest, too: Like in political columns about candidates who can’t attract attention.

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: The 2018 Texas Elections Started this Weekend

Now, push comes to shove, politically speaking. The filing period for people who want to be on next year’s state ballots opened Saturday — the beginning of a one-month put-up-or-shut-up period for those who think they ought to be running our governments.

We voters get our own swings at this in four months and then again in a year, as the primaries and then the general election come around.

For now, it looks like slim pickings. Maybe that will change. But so far, only a few Democrats have appeared both willing and ready — “ready” is the key word there —to take on a slate of incumbent Republican statewide officeholders seeking re-election.

The March 6 Texas primaries are the earliest in the country; our candidate-filing period is the earliest, too. (The latest is Louisiana, where all candidates, regardless of party, run on Nov. 6 and the top two — if neither breaks 50 percent in the first round — compete in a runoff on Dec. 8.)

The statewide officials elected next year will be in office the next time Texas draws its political maps, so there’s an extra significance to the 2018 elections. The next U.S. census will be held in 2020, and the Texas Legislature that meets in early 2021 will remake the maps for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts.

If legislators can’t get it done, the job goes to a five-person board that includes four of the officials who’ll be elected next year: the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller and the commissioner of the General Land Office.

The fifth member is the speaker of the House, who’ll be chosen (or re-elected) by the Texas House in January 2021.

Five of the state’s 36 members of the U.S. House have given notice, saying they won’t be on the 2018 ballot. That’s interesting in and of itself: Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, and Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, are both chairmen, and losing a couple of big shots is always news. But all five are striking, the most vacancies in a cycle in more than a decade. And each incumbent is leaving a seat open for the picking — creating a moment when any number of state senators, representatives, mayors and other fruits and nuts decide maybe it’s time for them to be in Congress.

The month ahead is when the rest of us find out who’s going to be in the lineup.Texas Democrats have been slow to raise their hands for the state’s top jobs. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso is running against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the ballot’s top race, and several candidates new to state politics have said they are looking at challenges to Gov. Greg Abbott and others on the incumbent list.

It’s worth pointing out that, six years ago, one of the least-promising contestants for a statewide job was Cruz himself. He was, at the time, a Houston attorney in private practice who had worked for the state attorney general and clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court but who had never run for office. And he was running against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who had won four statewide elections; former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert; and Craig James, a well-known former professional football player.

Keep that Cruz Asterisk in mind whenever you’re inclined to dismiss a candidate: Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce the way you think it will.

That said, the Democrats stepping forward for statewide office so far are not endowed with the widespread political fame or campaign or personal fortunes that would support any use of the word “formidable.” It’s safer to call some of them “interesting.”

Down the ballot, there are those five open congressional seats (so far) and several others that will be contested, as Democrats test the electoral strength of Republican incumbents in President Donald Trump’s midterm elections.

Three sitting Republican state senators — Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, Bob Hallof Edgewood and Kel Seliger of Amarillo —will face challengers in their Republican primaries. In the Texas House, a combination of open seats, swing districts and possibly a drag from the nation’s top Republican are expected to attract Democratic challengers hoping to knock off a handful of GOP incumbents. Those incumbents will be in trouble before November, challenged by opponents in a March party primary split between different Republican factions. The first order of business for the state representatives elected next year will be to choose a new leader to replace outgoing Speaker Joe Straus.

That’s the general outlook, as the filings begin. Over the next month, the candidates themselves will provide the specific outlines for the political year ahead.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The easiest way to judge public officials is the same way you judge the people where you work: Are they doing a good job? [Full story]
  • If you want Texans to vote, you have to get their attention, to give them something engaging to consider. There’s a constitutional amendment election starting next week. Interested? [Full story]
  • For the first time since 1993, there will be an open race for Texas House speaker. With current Speaker Joe Straus announcing his exit, expect a clear turn in the fight between the state’s business and movement conservatives. [Full story]

Author:  ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

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