If you’ve looked at a red/blue map of Harris County for this election, you’ve noticed that the Democrats by and large dominate the center, stretching south and southwest towards Fort Bend, whereas it’s all red around the remaining edges. The Dems have been working their way outward, as the GOP’s Anglo base has moved farther out and a more diverse population has filled in behind them, with the greatest inroads being made to the west of Loop 610 and the Beltway, as you can see by those big blue dots near Katy. I’ve talked about how this can and should lead to opportunities to win more State House seats, but there’s more to it than that. The 2011 reapportionment will likely bring a new Congressional seat to the western part of Harris County. It’s also conceivable that Harris could get more State Rep seats as well, if its share of the state population is sufficiently high.
But even if neither of those things were to happen, West Harris County is where the action will be in the coming years, and if I were an aspiring politician, I’d look hard at the population trends and figure out where the prime electoral possibilities will be in the next couple of cycles. One prize in particular I’d keep my eye on is County Commissioner’s Court, Precinct 3, now held by long-term incumbent Steve Radack. Let’s see what the numbers looked like in Radack’s precinct this year:
Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 152,697 47.46 Sharp 137,327 43.53 Henley 135,406 43.48 Stone 135,208 43.26 Houston 134,911 43.20 Obama 142,251 42.90 Noriega 135,953 42.37 Handy 127,460 39.93
I didn’t compute averages this time; the numbers cited are for the high scorers among the state, appeals, and county judicial candidates, plus the top countywide performer not named Adrian Garcia. It’s not a surprise that Dexter Handy, a first-time candidate with little money running against one of the best-known and longest-serving incumbents in the county, didn’t do as well as the rest of the slate. What should be a surprise is how well the average Democrat ran in this precinct, which has long been a Republican stronghold. I’ve talked about that at length, but the point here is that it’s not just in the smaller districts where things are getting competitive. These things add up, and they’re adding up in Precinct 3. We need to look at it in a different light now.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that how Adrian Garcia did in any given area is a benchmark of what is possible for Democrats there. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that in four years’ time, if current trends hold, his high-water marks will be more like the average. Now imagine that Radack finally makes good on his oft-stated desire to retire in 2012, and think about what an open-seat race to replace him might look like. Given that Ed Emmett has to be considered a favorite to retain the County Judge’s office in 2010, this may be the Democrats’ best chance to finally gain a majority on Commissioners Court; given the nature of the Commissioners’ offices, it would be an enduring majority as well. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about who ought to consider running for that office in four years. It can’t be too early to start consolidating support.
While you’re pondering that, consider the numbers in Justice of the Peace/Constable Precinct 5, which falls almost entirely within CC Precint 3:
Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 145,203 49.23 Sharp 130,912 45.27 Henley 129,135 45.21 Stone 129,200 45.08 Houston 128,927 45.05 Obama 135,308 44.56 Noriega 129,831 44.19 Pearson 125,477 43.18 Rene 123,752 43.17
The offices of JP and Constable aren’t nearly as sexy as County Commissioner seats, but they too tend to be enduring, and as they cover a lot of ground and put you in contact with a lot of people, they can be springboards to higher offices, as former-JP-turned-Rep. Al Green can attest. I’ve no idea what incumbent JP Russ Ridgway’s or Constable Phil Camus’ future plans are, but they may well face a very challenging environment in 2012. Like Dexter Handy, 2008 candidates Peter Rene (who ran against Ridgway) and Sam Pearson (who garnered the Chron endorsement in his run against Camus) ran good races in a couple of overlooked spots, and showed what’s possible out this way. Now that we know this, let’s not forget it when the next chance comes along.