After all, we haven't had one since former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk challenged John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate in 2002.
even counting Kirk, in the last 20 years, there's been more black
Republicans run for (and win) statewide races with Wallace Jefferson and
Dale Wainwright getting elected to the Texas Supreme Court. And, let's
not forget the GOP's Bow Tie, Michael Williams, elected to the Railroad
Commission way back in 2000.
Per the Austin American-Statesman,
you have to go back to 1990 to find the one black Democrat elected to
statewide office, and within the judicial branch, the Court of Criminal
Appeals is certainly a cut below the Supreme Court. And, interestingly,
the story focuses more on Hispanic nominations and elections within both
parties than on African Americans.
What brings this to mind is PDiddie's post
looking at downballot statewide races in 2014 and Democratic chances.
He mentions prominent black Democratic state senators Royce West and
Rodney Ellis and wonders if either of them will finally bite the bullet.
(Eye on Williamson asked the same question earlier this summer.)
I commented there, in essence: Not a chance.
Here's an expanded version of my thoughts.
Royce West nor Rodney Ellis will make any fricking leap. As I said on
my updated post about blue-state Tejas and Hispanic demographics,
talking about black Democrats, who besides Ron Kirk has run for a
statewide office? In the last decade, the GOP has had more blacks
running statewide, in the person of Wallace Jefferson. Beyond that, I
said black state senators like their little patronage and back-home
ring-kissing. Unless it's the surest of things, and the statewide office
is high up the scale, AND it's not in a senate re-election year for
their seats ...
Ain't.Gonna.Happen. Period and end of story.
And, the re-election year problem rules out West, anyway.
with Royce, I believe that somewhere, some of that ring-kissing
includes some tenuous connection to John Wylie Price and his obstruction
of the Dallas Inland Port in south Dallas/south burbs. I hadn't heard
anything specific before I left, and Jim Schutze at the Observer's never
fingered Royce (who's too skilled to get directly entangled with JWP),
but still. For more on JWP, go here on my blog.
Even if that's not true, no, Royce West
ain't never running for a statewide office. I don't know as much about
Rodney Ellis, but I suspect the same will be true for him.
building up urban black power satrapies by playing off the prestige of
their part-time Senate jobs while doing an occasional actual solid for
their constituencies (like West getting the state to require police
departments to file annual racial profile reports on all traffic stops
and on all arrests from them), and not wanting to give them up, I'm not
sure what else the issue is.
Maybe some statewide jobs,
like ag secretary or land office commissioner, seem too rural-white to
be desirable. Maybe the Railroad Commission seems to require too many
white connections in the oil biz. (That's even as West, at least, shows
ability and desire to work across ethnic and party lines.) What about
comptroller? AG? Lite guv? Governor? Senate?
since Kirk resigned as Dallas mayor in 2002, followed by Lee Brown being
term-limited in Houston in 2004, none of Texas' four largest cities has
been led by an African-American, and only San Antonio, in Julian
Castro, has a minority mayor at all.
Oh, and just to be on the safe side, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Sheila Jackson Lee ain't never running for the Senate, neither.
In short, hell may not quite be frozen over, but it will certainly be off-season before a black Democrat runs statewide again.
Or, if not hell cooling off, let's loop this post back on its own beginning:
A black Democrat will run for statewide office in Texas about the time Michael Williams stops wearing his bow tie. (Or Clayton Williams starts wearing one.)
Update: Per PDiddie's comment, no disparagement was meant of those who have made the leap, or at least the attempt, and didn't succeed. In part, this is about Democrats of all ethnicities developing more of a "bench" for state-level offices. On judicial positions above the district level, it's also about telling people more what's at stake. And, it's about blacks perhaps realizing that some of those statewide offices aren't "bad" ones. There's still black farmers and ranchers in rural east and central Texas, for example.
And, although blacks and Hispanics don't generally, and certainly not at the Democratic officeholder level, see themselves in "competition," there are demographic issues at stake. The large Hispanic migration and internal growth of the last decade or so, combined with at least some of the largely white migration to Texas from other states being Democratic means that African-Americans have become a smaller portion of the Democratic pool than before.
Update 2: PDiddie notes there's still no announced Democratic competition for Cornyn, but that speculation grows that he might be primaried from the tea party right. Would one of the Three Blind Mice challenging Dudley Dewless for Lite Guv move over to that race? If that would happen, I'd actually bet on Patrick being most likely to leap.