The People Choose, Not the Party: Taking Back Harris County from the Slates
The people choose, not the party! The people choose, not the party! Remember that chant? Oh, well, I guess you wouldn't unless you were at the Freedomworks Fly-In Bootcamp held in Washington, D.C. back in 2011. Myself along with fifty or so other activists from across the US gathered together for three days of intensive activist training. We then spent the last day putting our training into practice. See, we took a little field trip to protest the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), headed then by Senator John Cornyn, to protest their practice of supporting the incumbent before and during the primary. Although we were protesting the use of those funds to promote incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch during the primary, the sentiment was that the NRSC should stay out of primary races and out the way of the voting populous. Sound familiar?
My point in sharing that story with you is this: that scenario sounds awfully familiar to the situation the voters in Harris County and the greater Houston area face at election time. You've seen them before, those fabulous little 'slate' mailers where a PAC or an individual recommends who to vote for. We here call those "pay to play" or "pay for play" slates. The candidates have money extorted from them by the PAC in the neighborhood of $5000 or more in order to 'win' their election bid. The three most offensive are Texas Conservative Review by author Gary Polland, Dr. Steven Hotze and his group, Conservative Republicans of Texas, and last but definitely not least, is Terry Lowry and the Linkletter.
Notice I said, 'extorted'. Yes, it is a free country and the candidates don't have to pay, but these slate mailers have made the political climate in Harris County such that if you want to win, then you shell out the money. I have a problem with that. The other problem that I have is that the local GOP affiliate does nothing to stop it. Not only do they do nothing to stop it, the current county chair, Jared Woodfill is in bed with these three mailers.
Thankfully, I'm not the only one shedding light on these practices. The Chronicle came out with an article titled, "In your mail: Examples of 'pay for play' politics". I should also give kudos to Ed Hubbard who was one of the original 'whistle blowers' on this practice. He writes for a local blog called Big Jolly Politics and has been personally driving the narrative to bring this seedy, underbelly of local politics to the surface so that we can put a stop to it and let the people choose who they want to put in office to represent them, not the ones who are lining the pockets of these slate mailers.
James Wilson, a candidate for Texas State Senate District 7 knows the plight of the unendorsed candidate. His opponent is slate-endorsed Paul Bettencourt, and although Bettencourt will probably win his bid for State Senator, it should ultimately be because of the decision of the voters, not at the hands of a few top paid endorsers. Here is what Mr. Wilson had to say in response to these mailers, "You won't see my name in these mailers because I refuse to PAY FOR AN ENDORSEMENT. Your next state senator should represent our families, not the special interests of these powerbrokers. Whenever you see people with these mailers, explain to them how this corrupt system is simply un-American."
The slates have influence for almost every position on the ballot, especially the race for county chair. Candidate Paul Simpson who is endorsed by a majority of private business and grass roots coalitions and, the challenger to the incumbent Harris County GOP chair had this to say about the slate mailers, not only in direct relation to his race, but how the influence of the slates indicate the state of the local party. "The slate mailers thrive when the party is weak, and Harris County is the only county in Texas where such slates have so much influence."
How do we end this practice? In my opinion, it starts with you, the voter. We have to continue to share the truth about these mailers and then we have to make them irrelevant. How do we do that? Simple; when you see those mailers in your mailbox, throw them out and do your own research on who is best suited to be elected. Those mailers are counting on you not to do your own homework to decide who best represents you. Prove them wrong! I'll even help you get started. If you need a sample ballot to see who and what you'll be voting on, head on over to HarrisVotes.org. On the home page you will see "Sample Ballot". Click on that link and type in your information and you can take it from there and remember, the people choose, not the party!