Political Battle Lines Form in Texas
If you haven’t seen “Gone to Texas” by Betty Brink and Dave McNeely, check out the current issue of the Fort Worth Weekly (February 13-19, 2008) and read how the political forces are stacking up in the great state of Texas for this grand historic election.
If you think this is politics as usual, you better put your teeth in a jar, because you are now climbing into the largest boxing ring in the world. Nobody in Texas is going to sit this dance out (except maybe some the Republicans who don’t need McCain’s help).
Here are some of the excerpts:
Steve Hollern and Lon Burnam are about as politically opposite as it gets in Fort Worth — the first a Ronald Reagan Republican who helped turn Tarrant County into one of the most entrenched GOP strongholds in the state, the second a Democrat (and peace activist, no less) who has managed the feat of hanging onto his seat in the Texas Legislature for 12 years despite the Republican dominance.
This teaser is followed by an assessment:
The upswing in interest in the Democratic primary may or may not translate to Democratic victories locally or nationally in the general election, given the intricate political equations involved. But in the meantime, the candidates bearing down on Texas — with entourages and media in tow — have been preparing the ground for months, using all the new campaign strategies of grassroots organizing, internet fund-raising, and the like. Even a clear front-runner like John McCain is expected to beat the bricks here, not because he needs the delegates to get the nomination, but to increase the chances that Texas’ conservative Republicans will turn out in November to vote for him — perhaps while holding their noses.
(Republican front-runner John McCain is not a popular figure in Texas, and his presidential bid could cause the party to lose its political stronghold on the state. The Democrats smell blood- editor)
In general, Republicans are glum about the primary because McCain ruffles the feathers of the party faithful here. Which could mean, of course, that plenty of Republicans will cross the aisle to vote in the Democratic primary this year.
Texas will send 228 delegates to Denver in late August to take part in the Democratic National Convention
“Obama supporters here are ahead of Hillary’s in organization since she banked on a Super-Tuesday knockout, and now she’s scrambling to get money to come into Texas,” said Fort Worth’s Eddie Griffin, an ex-Black Panther who served time in prison and now mentors young black men, helps men and women coming out of prison, writes a political blog, registers voters, speaks on college campuses — and counts himself as a political independent.
Obama’s campaign “has been well-organized here for more than a year,” said Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks. “The national campaign people [for Obama] parachuted in here early Wednesday morning after Super Tuesday, and we were ready for them.”
Obama supporters credited Fort Worth native Trista Allen with Obama’s large victories in southern states and said she can do the same for Texas. Allen is Obama’s southern field director, and Burnam and other Democrats said her high-profile role in the campaign will increase his chances of winning the county and the state.
“She’s one of the best political organizers I’ve ever seen,” Burnam said. “She’ll be in the White House if Obama wins the presidency.”
(Former Land Commissioner Garry) Mauro, who is chairman of Clinton’s Texas campaign, said the effort in the Lone Star State is expanding rapidly. “We’re in the process of opening 12 offices and moving 100 people onto the payroll, including 60 to 70 from out of state,” he said. “We’re working on early voting, which starts Feb. 19.”
People tend to forget, he said, that 40 percent of Texas’ Democratic delegates will be elected by caucuses. “So we’re gearing up for over 12,000 precinct conventions in 8,000 locations,” he said. “Obama does pretty good at organizing caucuses, so we’ve got to work really hard at making sure we don’t just win the primary [popular vote] and still not get any more delegates than he does.”
As for the Clinton campaign infrastructure, Mauro said, “We have had a Team Hillary organization on the internet and a more traditional organization going on for the last year.”
The internet is the single most important reason that both of the Democratic camps say they were ready to move quickly when Super Tuesday’s results showed that Texas would be a key player.
Obama’s team, for instance, fielded 175,000 volunteers on Super Tuesday. In Fort Worth, Griffin spreads the word for Obama via his blog and through almost daily e-mails to his extensive network of politicos, preachers, professors, students, and community activists.
Lance Webb, a TCU political science major and Fort Worth native, is one who gives Obama — and the current war — credit for getting young voters interested again. The 21-year-old is the head of Students for Obama on the TCU campus, and he said he’s working eight hours a day on the campaign and still making it to his classes. “In our grassroots organizing, we’ve found a lot of deep commitment [among students] to Barack,” he said.
Webb has heard Obama speak twice to enthusiastic crowds in Austin. The war in Iraq is a motivating force, he said. “Barack’s been right on that from the beginning. ... No matter what we were told about the need for this war, it has turned into a business war, a war for profit, and the cost is being paid by those who will never profit from it, by kids I graduated from high school with who had few choices other than the military.”
But another Roy Brooks from Fort Worth — Roy Laverne Brooks, vice-chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party, is one of the super-delegates who plans to hear the will of the people before committing her vote. “For me, being black and female, both candidates are awesome, both historic,” she said. “But right now my job is to get the party organized across the state and get out the vote.”
In Tarrant County, about 30 percent of the population is Hispanic… Clinton is expected to do well with Hispanics partly because of her husband’s lingering popularity with that group. But Obama supporters say they’re not convinced Clinton will carry the Hispanic vote in the primary. Locally and statewide, high-profile Hispanics are split between the two Democratic front-runners.
Fort Worth City Council member Sal Espino and Fort Worth schools trustee Camille Rodriguez are supporting Obama, while long-time party stalwart and Tarrant County constable Sergio De Leon is solidly behind Clinton. Burnam, whose district is predominantly Hispanic and blue-collar, said the Latino community here is divided almost evenly.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas rejected the argument that most Latinos will not vote for an African-American for president.
“General Patton once said that 80 percent of leadership is improving morale,” Anchia said. “And right now the country is in a pretty demoralized state and looking to get out of it, and I think Sen. Obama has the most compelling message there.”
“Tarrant County is Hillary country,” said Jason Smith, a lawyer in Brender’s office. “She has long-time ties to the county and has even greater support because she saved the V-22 contract at Bell [Helicopter].”
If Clinton is at the top of the ballot in the general election, (Mark) Greene said, “It will be the death knell for our down-ballot candidates” who have Republican opponents.
“The party’s split here, no question,” Burnam said. “Clinton is so disliked by Republicans here, who are still in the majority and who tend to vote a straight ticket, that they will pour out in droves to vote against her. She doesn’t even have support among independents here.”
Clinton supporter Smith said that such concerns “shouldn’t be an issue [within the party.] We need to stop worrying about the crazy right-wing Republicans and choose the best-qualified candidate to win the election, and that’s Hillary.” Besides, he said, “Obama’s negatives with Republicans will be just as high as hers once he’s subjected to the same [right-wing] scrutiny, and he will be, make no mistake about it.”
[End of Excerpt]