I’ve been kind of quiet on the race for Party Chair of the Harris County Republican Party. Mostly because there hasn’t been much to write about unless I just wanted to throw stones at the candidates.
Abuse of power or power of incumbency?
Current HCRP Chair Jared Woodfill set off a mini firestorm this week with an email blast to the party’s email list titled “Zealots Wanted”. The email was a response to a rather bizarre Houston Chronicle editorial titled “Far-right strategy”. In the editorial, the Chronicle takes multiple potshots at Texas Republicans, calling those of us active in the party zealots and Jared does a good job of firing back at them. I appreciated his efforts to fight back and think that is a perfectly legitimate and necessary role for the party chairman to play.
But, his opponents and other party activists emailed me saying that it was an abuse of the HCRP email list and that it should have been sent from Jared’s campaign account.
I think that what opponents do not realize is that the HCRP email list and Jared’s campaign email list are one and the same, so it wouldn’t have made a difference in the recipients anyway. I wrote about this way back in 2009. And about his possible use of the HCRP list for personal gain back in 2012. So the charges aren’t new and Jared has dismissed them. It is up to Paul Simpson to make it an issue in the campaign if he so chooses.
Another example of possible abuse of power is this sign in front of HCRP headquarters on Richmond Ave.:
I received several emails about the sign, so I went by to see for myself. Yep, it is a big sign right there on Richmond Ave. in front of the party headquarters. Good sign placement for a campaign in a very high traffic area. I asked Jared’s challenger Paul Simpson if he had asked to put up a sign up in front of the headquarters and he responded “not yet”. I asked Jared if he was receiving special treatment and he told me that any candidate can ask property owners if they can put a sign up.
So what do you think? Abuse of power or power of incumbency? I think that in the case of the zealot email, it was the right thing for Jared to do and is an example of the power of incumbency. As for the sign, give credit to his campaign workers for doing their job – if Simpson had asked to do the same and been denied, there might be something to talk about.
What is Simpson for?
A week or so ago, I saw Jared at an event and he was exasperated by the Simpson campaign. He asked me, “What is Paul for? All he does is attack me. He never says what he would do better or different.”
I have to agree with Jared. Look, I’ve attacked Jared longer than most, and have even touched on his former firm’s financial problems, but I’m not the one trying to take his position away. There are legitimate issues that Paul isn’t talking about or at least he isn’t putting them forward that I’ve seen.
The biggest issue in my mind is the shrinking influence of the party in Texas under Jared’s leadership. I wrote about this back in the summer of ’13 and think that it is an issue that is easily demonstrated and should help Paul but only if he has a plan to stop the losses. I think he does from previous conversations but I sure haven’t seen it in this election cycle.
Paul does talk a lot about the shortage of precinct chairs and on his “Solutions” page says this:
- Focus staff and volunteer task forces on recruiting new precinct chairs to fill vacancies across county
What does that mean? How will it work? Where are the specifics? We know that Jared doesn’t want to expand precinct chairs unless they are the “right kind” as defined by Terry Lowry because Jared specifically said so. Why not make this a bigger issue and explain how you would fix the problem? Here are the raw numbers of precinct chairs since 2008 – you can clearly see how Jared’s policies have failed to grow the party.
Paul needs to talk specifics about this issue, the use of the Vacancy Committee to keep the party “pure” as defined by Lowry and others, and raise the profile so that people will sit up and take notice.
Another issue is party finances. Again, Paul does mention it on his website:
- Present serious and credible plans, specific projects, budgets, and ability, to earn financial support
So present them already! What are you waiting for? How, exactly, are you going to “Engage with the business community, large and small, to expand and enhance financial base”?
People want to know and need to know these things before they are going to make a change at the top of the party.
I could go on and on because I’ve covered the party so closely over the past 7 years.
Don’t drop social conservatives
I know that many of Paul’s advisors are urging him to drop social conservatives from the mix. Yes, they say social issues but the reality is that they think social conservatives are the problem and that their own moderate views on social issues are “correct” and will play better with so-called “independents”.
That would be a huge mistake if Paul were to win and implement because we would never win another election. And I know that Paul understands that.
But he isn’t saying it, as best as I can tell. People like me need to understand exactly how he is going to get the current crop of party leaders that focus solely on social issues to understand the need to expand the party without throwing them and their conservative views on social issues under the bus. It is a very hard thing to do but he has to be able to do it if he is going to win.
Jared excels at being a spokesperson for the party and that is arguably the biggest part of the job of county chair. Unless Paul can demonstrate some ability to take over that role and be effective, voters are going to be hesitant to vote for him.
The bottom line is that Paul Simpson needs to make a case for why he is a better choice than Jared Woodfill and up to this point in the race, I don’t think he has.