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Fort Bend County Democratic Party

Fort Bend’s electoral future

Fort Bend County isn’t what it used to be politically, but it’s also not what it ought to be headed for yet.

It has been more than two decades since a Democrat won countywide office in Fort Bend, but swift growth and shifting demographics are prompting the party to take a second look at the traditionally red county west of Houston and forcing Republicans to adapt.

The number of registered voters in Fort Bend has increased by a third since 2008, and non-Hispanic whites no longer comprise a majority.

The Fort Bend County Democratic Party is using digital analysis to target a narrow segment of likely liberal voters. The effort is being bolstered by paid staff from Battleground Texas, a political action committee formed to make Texas competitive for Democrats.

By fielding a candidate to oppose Fort Bend’s longtime Republican district attorney – another first – Democrats hope to test their new strategies.

Also seeking to capitalize on the area’s growth, the Fort Bend County Republican Party has opened its first field office in Katy.

“My goal is to prove that (Battleground Texas) was wasted money,” county GOP Chairman Mike Gibson said. “But am I taking it lightly? No. We’re going to run like we’re 20 points behind with an outside organization trying to influence it.”

Political analysts still place Fort Bend solidly in the GOP column, but say the margin of victory in Fort Bend elections could signal the health of the dominant Republican party and the odds of Democrats keeping their promise to turn Texas blue.

To Donald Bankston, the Fort Bend Democratic chairman, it’s inevitable that his party will regain dominance.

“There’s been a seismic shift in the demographics,” he said. “If this was a highly voting county, this county would be reliably Democratic.”

The share of the population that is non-Hispanic white shrunk from 54 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 2013, according to Census figures. Because Latino, African-American and Asian voters tend to lean liberal, Bankston hopes to convince them to turn out at the polls as reliably as their white counterparts, giving Democrats a fighting chance.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said the equation for taking over Fort Bend is not so simple.

“Minority doesn’t equal Democrat,” Jones said. “Minorities on average tend to vote Democrat significantly more than Republican, but that varies notably among some groups.”

True, but not that big a factor in this case. It’s about turnout and engagement. Democrats can’t take for granted that turnout among populations friendly to them will continue to rise as their share of the overall population increases, they can’t assume that people who have been turned off by Republicans’ harsh and often racist rhetoric will necessarily flock to them, and they can’t assume that Republican rhetoric will remain that toxic forever. Republicans can’t assume that Asians and Latinos “just don’t know yet” that they’re really Republicans, and sooner or later they really are going to have to figure out how to tame the dominant but shrinking enraged nihilist faction of their party. I have considered Fort Bend to be like Harris politically, just maybe a step or two behind. FB came close to being blue in 2008, and like Harris took a bit of a step backward in 2012 when the excitement wasn’t quit as high as it had been then. In between was 2010, and the less said about that, the better. There are some good candidates running under the Fort Bend Democratic Party banner this year, but sometimes outside forces are too big for that. No matter what happens, there should be plenty of lessons to learn from this election.

There’s only one Democrat running in CD22

We all need to be clear about that.

KP George

Both candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat famously held for two decades by Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, are unusual.

K.P. George’s background makes him an improbable candidate — he was born in a village in India that still has no electricity or running water. For Kesha Rogers, it is her political positions that stand out — she is best known for demanding President Obama’s impeachment.

In light of Rogers’ candidacy, the Fort Bend County Democratic Party’s executive committee has issued a rare primary endorsement, backing George.

“If I can figure out what that silver bullet is to make sure that she is not on my slate after May, then I’ll definitely do that,” said Steve Brown, chairman of the Fort Bend Democratic Party. “I don’t think the endorsement alone is going to do it. It’s going to take work.”

I’ve covered this before, but it can’t be said enough. We know who Kesha Rogers is, and we know what she stands for. Neither are compatible with the positions and values of the Democratic Party. The good news is that this Trib story probably represents more coverage than Rogers and the CD22 primary got in all of 2010, so hopefully that and the experience of having nominated her once before will be enough to ensure that people know not to do it again. It’s really very simple: KP George is the only Democrat running in CD22. Just remember that if you live in the district, and make sure you vote for him in May so you can vote for him again in November.

Interview with Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown

I’ve focused entirely on Harris County so far in this interview series. That’s because there are a lot of interesting races here, both at a district and countywide level, and also because that’s where I live. But there’s a lot of action going on in Fort Bend County too, as it has become a battleground as its demographics have changed. To get a feel for what’s going on out there, I sat down for a chat with Stephen Brown, the dynamic new chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party. Here it is:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

This ain’t your daddy’s Fort Bend

Interesting article about the changing demographics in Fort Bend County and the changes in politics that have come with it.

Today the GOP holds 27 of 31 elective offices in the county.

Rick Miller aims to keep it that way. The 65-year-old retired Navy pilot moved to Sugar Land in 1999, and, with his wife, Babs, started getting politically active in 2006. When an internecine feud led to the resignation of the Republican party chair in 2007, he ran and won.

“The demographics are changing here in Fort Bend County,” Miller acknowledges, “and we’re kind of watching it really closely. We saw the effect of that in the Obama presidential race against McCain. The election was a lot closer than we thought it was going to be. Fort Bend went for McCain, but it was really pretty close.”

In 2004, the county gave nearly two-thirds of its vote to Bush-Cheney. Four years later, the McCain-Palin ticket won the county by a margin of 4,710 votes, 51 percent to 49 percent.

Miller’s Democratic counterpart, Stephen Brown, sees the county as “ground zero” in his party’s bid to emerge from political purgatory. “It’s only when we start to win suburban Texas that we have a chance to take the state back – the House, the Senate and the Governor’s Mansion,” he says.

[…]

In 2004, only 11,000 people voted in Fort Bend County’s Democratic presidential primary. Four years later, that number jumped to 68,517. Brown’s job is to get the newcomers out to vote and to reignite the 2008 momentum. His goal for November is 70,000 Democratic voters.

Political scientist [Richard] Murray says he thinks Bill White “probably will carry Fort Bend – and he must.”

I’m quite certain that Bill White cannot be elected Governor unless he wins Fort Bend. He could carry Fort Bend and still lose the election, but if he loses in Fort Bend, I feel confident he can’t win.

You can see some of the trends in Fort Bend’s voting patterns here, here, here, and here. The pattern is similar to what we’ve seen in Harris County – the number of Republican voters grows a little, while the number of Democratic voters grows a lot. Maybe the enthusiasm gap, if it actually exists in Texas, will counter some of that. On the other hand, Fort Bend’s Democratic Party is vastly better organized now than it was in 2006, thanks to its new party chair, and that will have an effect as well. If I had to place a bet, I’d put my coin on White carrying the county. We’ll see how it goes.

Fort Bend Democratic Party HQ grand opening

Looking for something to do tomorrow afternoon? Come out to Fort Bend and celebrate the grand opening of their first ever Democratic Party headquarters.

Fort Bend Democratic Party HQ grand opening

This ain’t Tom DeLay country any more. The FBC has been trending steadily Democratic this decade. Don’t be surprised if this is the year the Dems break through.

UPDATE: Here’s the press release for the event.