Orlando Sanchez and his family have a strong history in Houston. Many folks recognize Orlando’s father as the Hispanic voice of the Houston Astros. For several years, Orlando served as the conservative voice on Houston City Council. In 2001, my friend, George Hammerlein introduced me to Orlando. After successfully working on the District C race in the 2001 general election, I immediately began working on Orlando Sanchez’s mayoral campaign during the runoff election.
For years, Orlando has proven himself as a true fiscal conservative leader, which has not endeared him to some establishment Republicans. Orlando’s first run for Mayor was a high spirited campaign based on fiscal conservatism, financial responsibility, and an end to cronyism at City Hall. Social issues were not part of the mix and the Hotze clan was not supporting “O.” They were not missed. The campaign was energetic and Orlando had a core base of conservatives fighting for a cause they all believed in.
With Orlando, conservatives finally had a well-spoken candidate who was attractive to voters and reached out to the Hispanic community, à la Ted Cruz. Orlando’s opponent in the 2001 mayoral race was Lee P. Brown, a man unpopular with voters. We were running voting statistics with a factor called ABB – Anyone But Brown. Brown was a poor speaker and his time in office was beset with scandals and rampant cronyism, which plagued the City of Houston for years. Fiscal conservatives from all over the city flocked to the campaign and I felt like we had a fighting chance. At the time, I was working the District C vote. District C was configured very differently back then and it was virtually impossible to win the Mayor’s race without winning District C.
An interesting alliance developed in the race between the Jewish voters, with a traditional democratic voting record, and Orlando’s campaign. We had seen this alliance before with national candidates but not with local elections. Jewish voters have the highest voter turnout among religious voting minorities and the strategy was important in this election.
Lee Brown was the New York Police Commissioner during the Crown Heights riots. The riots began in the Bronx, New York, on August 19, 1991, after a seven-year-old African American boy was accidentally struck and killed by an automobile in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of righteous memory, the seventh leader in the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic sect dynasty. The riots affected the 1993 New York mayoral race, and Rudy Giuliani ultimately defeated David Dinkins, an African American. Ultimately, black and Jewish leaders developed an outreach program between their communities to help calm and possibly improve racial and religious relations in Crown Heights over the next decade.
The Crown Heights riots had implications for Brown in Houston because he was perceived by many in the Jewish community as not having done enough to stop the riots when they occurred. Rudy Giuliani participated in a wonderful commercial for Orlando’s mayoral campaign. Fred Zeidman and a group of Jewish business leaders financed the commercial. Chris Begala, Paul’s younger conservative brother, was running the communication operation for Orlando and flew to New York to cut the commercial with Mayor Giuliani.
On election day, I drove from precinct to precinct checking on turn out. The numbers were stunning and we quickly realized that there were going to be more voters in the runoff election than general election voters, which is unheard of in politics. The Hispanic precincts turned out in droves for Orlando. No conservative candidate had ever received this amount of broad support.
Days before the election, I was sitting with Orlando at an icehouse on the north side of Houston. Customers at this establishment were beyond excited to see Orlando. One of the liberal elected officials in the crowd expressed frustration and asked the customers if they realized that Orlando was a conservative republican. Their response was that they did not care because they simply liked Orlando. From that point on, George and I referred to Orlando as a rock star.
While Orlando did not win the election, he was successful at bringing a diverse group of concerned citizens together to support a conservative cause. This had never been seen before – or since. Many people were instrumental in Orlando’s campaign: Chris Begala, Herb Butram, Denis Calabrese, Jessica Colón, Amy Duty, George Hammerlein, Ed Johnson, Judith Jones, Pat McCall, Robert Pelfry, Jack Rains, Louise Wing, and Fred Zeidman, to name a few. While the race was lost in Fort Bend County, a true leader was born. Orlando will always be a winner because he sticks true to his fiscal conservative values.
Orlando has served as Harris County Treasurer for a number of years. In that position, he has been a good steward of the pubic dollar. So, how in the world could he draw a primary challenger? Moreover, how could Hotze support Orlando’s opponent?
This is clearly an example of the dark, destructive force that is working to damage the party. This destructive force is behind a few campaigns and we, as conservatives, need to put an end to this manipulation of Harris County voters. The Republican ticket without Orlando will be more than problematic. Orlando’s bona fides are before you and I ask that you support him with your time, money, and vote.