Changing of the guard at the Harris County Republican Party

I’ve been pretty quiet about the changing of the guard at the Harris County Republican Party, which is now official and Chairman Paul Simpson has his core team in place. Gary Polland commented on the change yesterday in his Texas Conservative Review, so I’ll use his comments as a starting point.

Paul Simpson, new HCRP Chair elected on a platform of “restore and rebuild”, has appointed his new leadership team, which is all cut from the same cloth – older, white, inside the loop Republicans.

The question TCR is asking is where is the diversity in age, major voting groups, and party factions? This is of concern because as the county grows, the percentage of voters represented by the new leadership gets smaller and smaller.

The reboot and rebuild this party needs requires getting out of our comfort zone and growing new leadership from voters under 35, from leaders in the emerging or important voting blocs like Asian Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans and the Tea Party.

One other thought, the first group Simpson should be reaching out to are the social conservatives who were overwhelmingly with his opponent. It’s time to come together. As the leader, Paul Simpson should be making the initial effort.

Okay, I know, what the heck is Polland doing criticizing the party? Pot calling kettle, etc. You’ll have to ask him why he is choosing to speak out now after all the years of not criticizing the former chairman. Whatever the reason, he has some valid points and Simpson needs to recognize them if he is going to keep the Harris County Republican Party strong or increase its numbers.

It was disappointing that Simpson chose not to engage in the process to put the repeal of the Houston UNEqual Rights Ordinance on the ballot in November. Sure, if you ask him directly, he supports the repeal. But the fact is that he did nothing to help the coalition that was successful in gathering enough petitions to place the recall on the ballot. He specifically refused multiple requests from leaders of the coalition that he send out email blasts to the party’s email list. Leaders have to lead. Organizing with no goal in mind other than to “keep the county red” is going to prove futile. BTW, I would give that same advice to state party chair Steve Munisteri. A slogan of “Keep Texas Red” might sound great to the base but it surely isn’t going to expand the party. Ideas and principles matter.

Party Finances

As many of you know, I was a thorn in former Chair Jared Woodfill’s side for many years on the party’s finances. To be blunt, they were in shambles when I first started harping on him. To his credit, Woodfill finally came around and did what he needed to do to ensure that the party was on financially sound footing. Despite rumors that were floating around during the transition of leaders, the party is now in solid financial shape. The party started the year with roughly $100k (state + federal) in the bank and when former Treasurer Josh Flynn filed his last report on June 15th, they had roughly $100k in the bank (state + federal). That was the best mid-year report in years and we need to give credit where credit is due.

Simpson has promised to “correct” the party’s financial situation by bringing in new money from the business community. His theory is that if the business community is happy with the direction of the party, they will fund it, taking pressure off of grassroots activists, candidates, and elected officials. The fruits of his efforts are already being felt. New HCRP Treasurer Cindy Siegel’s first finance report shows that the party received three large donations in the first days of the Simpson administration. Homebuilder Dick Weekly gave $50,000, car dealer David Peacock gave $50,000, and investor David Underwood gave $15,000. That’s a big haul.

Pro-worker or Big Business?

I don’t know if it was intentional or not but Polland’s newsletter also contained a very interesting and thought provoking piece on the future of the Republican Party as a whole.

Should Republicans Be Pro-Worker
Or In Bed With Big Business?
An Interesting Perspective To Consider

Large business interests generally operate in their own best interests. So when they coincide with conservatives they are with us and when not – well they’ll be with the other side.

There is no question we are in an economic era when the top 1% has about 20% of the national income. In 1980, it was only 8% of the national income. And while this was happening, the CEO to work pay ratio has gone from 30 to 1 in 1950 to the current 500 to 1!

The discussion that Nick Hanover, a successful west coast businessman, has started is interesting and worthy of continuing. His answer is to raise wages. He believes that the fundamental law of capitalism should be, “If the workers have more money, businesses have more customers.” He argues that if businesses paid workers a higher minimum like $15 per hour, taxpayers wouldn’t have to make up the difference in food stamps, Medicaid and rent assistance, and they also would increase payroll and sales taxes, thereby reducing the federal debt.

TCR Comment: Interesting points here, and with the dramatic increase in executive pay we have not seen a reduction in senior manager jobs, in fact there are more than ever. So this may disprove the old adage that higher minimum wages reduce jobs.

It’s time for conservatives to have an open discussion about this issue. Remember, our biggest polling deficit in the 2012 election was showing the common man we cared about people like them by our side, as did Rick Santorum. Maybe issues like this are worth a taking a look at.

He’s exactly right about business interests operating in their own best interests. No question about it. Simpson’s dilemma is going to come when the activists in the party oppose any number of things – amnesty, gay marriage, UNEqual rights ordinances, etc. Weekly needs cheap labor to build cheap houses. The grassroot activists in the HCRP are very much against amnesty.  The Greater Houston Partnership supports the UNEqual rights ordinance. The grassroots of the party voted overwhelmingly three days ago to support the repeal of the UNEqual rights ordinance.

An even larger issue is middle class workers. Although Polland got the name wrong, there is a movement of sorts led by Nick Hanauer to “correct” the weakening of the middle class and working poor. Kudos to Polland for bringing it up – every time I’ve tried I’m branded a RINO, a liberal, a socialist, etc. And I’m certain that Polland will get the same criticism. But we would be wise to heed Hanauer’s warnings, whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Independent, Constitutionalist, whatever.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

Read the entire piece – The Pitchforks Are Coming – For Us Plutocrats at Politico.com

I’m glad that conservatives are willing to talk about the problems we have coming in the future if we continue down the path we are on. I’m not saying that Hanauer has the solution – but he is talking about it. And I’m not saying that Rick Santorum has the solution – but he is talking about it. Maybe it is time for a few of us that are in the middle class to talk about it as well.

I hope that Simpson is willing to stand up to his large donors from the business community and accept their money without strings. Pro-worker and big business do not have to be mutually exclusive.

 

Comments

  1. says

    You keep trying to nudge the Texas GOP into some semblance of modernity and rational positioning on a variety of issues, but it sure doesn’t look like your brand of common sense sanity is taking hold after a glance at this year’s state party platform.

    Texas will face a political reckoning within the next twenty years. Demographics are destiny and our growing number of Hispanics and young, socially tolerant voters will supersede the aging white, socially retrograde evangelical republican population.

    The Louie Gohmert’s and Dan Patrick’s won’t exist as viable candidates outside of extreme rural areas in the near future. The major cities already vote democrat, the suburbs will soon follow if conservatives don’t seriously address common concerns like basic education funding, particularly higher education costs at state colleges.

    It costs 30K a year to attend UT Austin if you take into account books, lab fees, meal plans and dorm residency on top of tuition.

    All of my low to mid six figure earning suburban neighbors are seriously worried about how to fund exorbitant in-state college costs for our 2 /4 children who will be graduating high school with in the next ten years. We aren’t so worried about “our” local public primary schools because we overwhelmingly vote for in-district tax increases to make sure our kids have the best education possible. We know the state doesn’t give a shit, so we cut back and fund our growing school districts financial needs.

    We’re financially squeezed between caring for elderly parents and putting our talented, smart, hard-working kids through college without saddling them with mortgage sized loan debts while maintaining some semblance of sane fiscal responsibility that will hopefully not leave our kids on a sharp financial hook when we enter old age.

    It would be heartening if Texas republicans showed some meager interest in educating our youth. Rallying for charter and private religious schools is a niche concern that doesn’t remotely begin to address the concerns of most ordinary Texas parents. Cutting back on higher education funding hurts hard working Texans and diminishes the state’s future economic prosperity.

    We’re also concerned about environmental issues like the state’s increasing scarcity of water resources, questionable air quality, rising home energy and gasoline costs, clogged inner city roads and heavily congested intrastate highways. What solutions are being offered by republicans to address these basic constituent issues? I’ve looked and haven’t seen any. Not one.

    Perry’s donor slush fund, otherwise know as the Texas Enterprise Fund, pisses a lot of people off. Why do these out of state companies deserve public tax breaks when local home-grown companies don’t qualify and are then forced to foot the bill (along with homeowners) for increased public service expenses to accommodate the expansion of new roads, schools, emergency/ police services and utilities required to support these tax-exempt angels? Looks like crony capitalism and tax avoidance plutocracy to most common folk. They may generate jobs, but not near enough to offset the expenses created by their tax exempt status.

    My family hasn’t experienced rising wages or any sort of increased economic prosperity as a result of the Texas Enterprise Fund, quite the opposite if truth be told.

    My city is more overcrowded and has disproportionately redistributed a higher tax burden on homeowners and small business to compensate for the lack of revenue generated by Perry’s generous tax-exempt corporate dispensation policies. The state has become increasingly more expensive for its middle class residents as a result of this bizarre shift towards uber-business driven,Tea Party endorsed policy objectives.

    Why aren’t Texas grass root republicans decrying this obscene corporate abuse and outright purchase of their political party? Why does your tea party distillation care more about maximizing corporate profit than the actual financial well-being of, not to mention the onerous tax burdens shifted to, their actual neighbors ,Mr. Jennings?

    I’m not going to bother addressing the GOP’s long term losing position on social issues, it’s more important that your people focus on bread and butter issues if you hope to remain relevant in the long term. The state’s elected conservatives don’t seem to give one ripe fig about the concerns of ordinary Texans. To be brutally honest, the party seems actively hostile towards their middle class constituency’s most basic and heartfelt economic issues.

    I’ve voted GOP my entire fifty year life, I’m voting straight democrat ticket this November. I’ve sent hefty political donations to all of the top ticket democrat candidates. I can’t and won’t support a political party that seems hell bent determined to limit my family’s prosperity and actively hinders my children’s chance at success because they immorally choose lucrative corporate donor interests and deranged ideological purity over competent governance for the greater majority of our state’s citizens.

    The party needs a sharp checked correction for its greater good.

    And good luck selling that sensible bit of Robert Reich’s passionate inequality argument advocating for solid, middle class American stability on your fire breathing tea party brethren. They’ve been brain washed by corporate interests that couldn’t give a damn about their personal well-being or our country’s best interests.

  2. Fred says

    Daphne,
    I have regularly attended Tea Party meetings for years and have never heard any discussion regarding corporate profits. What I do hear, is a plea to return to a constitutionally limited government living within it’s fiscal means while supporting a free market. I have also heard numerous criticism of Perry’s slush fund. I am curious as to what Tea Party group is advocating for maximizing corporately profits?

  3. loren smith says

    Daphne, Wow! One of the best comments ever on BJP. I especially like “socially tolerant voters will supersede the aging white, socially retrograde evangelical republican population.” Here’s another good one, “uber business driven, Tea Party endorsed policy objectives.” Also this, “the state’s elected conservatives don’t seem to give one ripe fig about the concerns of ordinary Texans.” I’m just not sure about your timeline for the demise of the Dan Patricks and Louie Gohmerts as viable candidates in Texas. Sadly, “Texas is a state of mind,”

  4. Karen says

    Over $90,000 of that $100,000 in the party’s bank account is the judges’ restricted monies. That’s money raised by the judges that can only be spent on the judges’ races. The TEC reports also don’t show the unpaid liabilities. The unrestricted balance in the party’s “bank account” was negative when our new party chair took the helm.

  5. Jo Anne says

    Daphne, you took the words right out of my mouth, except for your comments about the TEA Party being concerned about corporate profits. I don’t believe that is the case. The problem with the TEA party is their objection to state spending on anything, including items that work to support our robust Texas economy and lifestyle: a 21st century transportation system that will allow the efficent shipment of goods to market, world-class education system (schools, higher education, technical training) that will prepare workers for the jobs in the present and future, ensure adequate water supplies for our growing population as well as business needs. These are investments, not wasteful spending, and should be issues that everyone can agree on. I don’t understand the TEA parties objections to investing in infrastructure that will keep our economy growing. If we don’t fund water, roads, and schools, business will stop moving here. I see this as a better use of tax money than the tax abatements and bribes from the Perry slush fund.

    • Daphne says

      Jo Anne,

      “The problem with the TEA party is their objection to state spending on anything, including items that work to support our robust Texas economy and lifestyle: a 21st century transportation system that will allow the efficent shipment of goods to market, world-class education system (schools, higher education, technical training) that will prepare workers for the jobs in the present and future, ensure adequate water supplies for our growing population as well as business needs

      These are investments, not wasteful spending, and should be issues that everyone can agree on. I don’t understand the TEA parties objections to investing in infrastructure that will keep our economy growing. If we don’t fund water, roads, and schools, business will stop moving here.”

      This!

    • Fool Me says

      You need to be specific on what or which Tea Party group you are referring to, as they all don’t hold the same views…..

  6. says

    The attempt by Gary Polland to give the impression by his comments in his Texas Conservative Review that HE is in any way concerned about the Republican Party reaching out to leaders in the Hispanic community in an attempt to “grow” them into positions of leadership within the Republican Party insults my intelligence. Greatly.

    • Mainstream says

      To be fair, during his chairmanship, a number of Hispanic judges were appointed and elected to the bench. (My imperfect memory includes Alcala, Guzman, Velasquez.) I cannot confirm his direct role, but my memory is that he often spoke of the need for such outreach. I also think the county party lent support to Orlando Sanchez in his mayoral contests. It may be true that his recent endorsements have been less diverse.

  7. Daphne says

    I wish you’d give it a try Mr. Jennings. I truly do.

    I’ve been reading you for a good ten years, you’re obviously intelligent and intellectually adroit. The republican party in Texas needs sane, loud voices to pull it back from the nihilistic extremism they’ve embraced for the past decade or two.

    You have a platform at the Houston Chronicle, please start using it.