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Chron overview of HD150

This could be interesting.

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly

The business card for Michael Shawn Kelly, a landscape architect who wants to represent the deep-red suburbs of far north Harris County in the Texas House, touts his conservative values and quotes the late Republican politician Jack Kemp.

The card, however, makes no mention of party affiliation. That is because Kelly is the Democratic nominee for the District 150 seat, one the GOP has held for decades.

With that scarlet D next to his name on the ballot, Kelly faces long odds in trying to defeat Valoree Swanson, who toppled state Rep. Debbie Riddle in the Republican primary by attacking the conservative lawmaker as insufficiently principled.

For Kelly to score the upset Nov. 8, the first-time candidate must find a way to cultivate voters that moves beyond party labels.

“It’s tough for people to jump the fence,” he said. “A lot of our advertising is about giving Republicans permission to vote for a Democrat.”

The district, which sprawls over Tomball, Spring and the Harris County portion of The Woodlands, is politically predictable. In winning seven general elections, Riddle dispatched every Democratic challenger by at least 30 percentage points.

Yet, Kelly, 60, believes he can defeat Swanson, 59, a conservative activist, by persuading a primarily Republican electorate that he can represent it with an independent voice. His strategy is to avoid hot-button social issues while hammering on education spending. He criticizes Republican lawmakers for not giving public schools the tools they need.

“The goal shouldn’t be how to spend less money,” Kelly said. “We should be asking, ‘How educated do we want these kids to be?’ Let’s put a price tag on it and then ask people if it’s worth it.”

One convert is Diane Schumacher, a retired manufacturing executive and lawyer who said she votes “99.9 percent of the time” for Republicans.

“It was an easy decision because he is focused on the right things,” she said. In the district, “people are really looking at him as an individual because his opponent is so far to the right.”

[…]

The race “highlights the importance of the party label in Texas,” Jones said. “It may be that Kelly is closer than Swanson to the median voter in District 150. But it’s likely to hurt him to have ‘Democrat’ next to his name because of the association with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Wendy Davis.”

Donald Trump’s inability to unify the GOP means “this might be the year” that voters spurn straight-ticket ballots, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston. “But this might not be the district.”

On the surface, there’s nothing to see here. HD150 voted 68-30 for Romney over Obama in 2012. A swing district this ain’t. Kelly’s strategy is finding enough Republicans who don’t care for the Republican candidate, Valoree Swanson, to win. That’s a steep hill to climb, but he has had some success – besides the person you see quoted in the story, he has the endorsements of former State Sen. Jon Lindsay and – this still blows my mind – outgoing Rep. Debbie Riddle herself. He also made a pretty good impression, especially compared to Swanson, at a recent Spring Klein Chamber of Commerce event; see here and here for a report.

Will it work? Well, Romney beat Obama by 25,000 votes in HD15 in 2012, the same margin by which Riddle defeated challenger Brad Neal that year. That’s a lot of people one has to convince to cross over. Still, Democratic State Reps were getting elected in heavily Republican districts as recently as 2008, and the northern parts of Harris County that contains HD150 have undergone a lot of demographic change that favors Democrats. So maybe it’s not quite as lopsided as it was four years ago, maybe the Trump effect will boost Dems and depress Rs, and maybe Kelly’s Republican endorsements will help him. I don’t know that you can get there from here, but maybe it can be a start. Kelly is more conservative than my preference, and he’d likely have a hard time getting party support in a different district or in a countywide race. But he’s a pretty good fit for the district he is in, and Lord knows we’re not going to be competitive in places like HD150 until we have people like Michael Kelly running as and voting for Democratic candidates. So we’ll see how it goes.

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3 Comments

  1. General Grant says:

    With straight ticket voting having become vastly more widespread, guys like this have no chance whereas they might have as late as 2010. The real interesting thing here continues to be that Riddle wasn’t crazy enough for the local GOP. Think about that.

  2. Dylan Glass says:

    What part about his conservative?
    http://www.CampaignTexasTruth.com

  3. Dylan Glass says:

    What part about him is conservative?
    http://www.CampaignTexasTruth.com