SocraticGadfly: Will the next black Texas Democrat to run statewide please stand up?

September 21, 2013

Will the next black Texas Democrat to run statewide please stand up?

After all, we haven't had one since former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk challenged John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate in 2002.

Hell, 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.

Neither 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.

Besides, 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.

Beyond 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?

Of course, 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.

1 comment:

PDiddie said...

As I was saying...

I think you have both West and Ellis nailed dead to rights.

And you are probably right when you say the men don't want to waste their cash on a Quixotic bid. The sad part is -- at least for Ellis -- cash is all it would cost him.

Now perhaps he has concerns about the college education funds for his children -- I can accept this rationale -- but other than that, 2014 is a free shot for him (unlike West). I'm disappointed that his name is not being mentioned and Raffi Anchia, who has ocally turned down an entreaty to go statewide recently, still is.

I certainly also agree that we need the next generation of African American leaders to step up in a rapidly approaching post-Obama political climate. That they will be Ds goes without saying.

By the way, it's slightly unfair to disparage the lack of nominees and not mention the black men who have run in the primary, or made the runoff but haven't made it onto the ticket in recent years. Grady Yarbrough in 2012 and Bill Burton in 2010 come to mind (without Googling). Say what you wish about their viability... they took the leap.

But your overall POV -- which, as I interpret it, is that we need more next-wave black leaders to run -- is on point and well-taken. If Stefani Carter thinks she can run for RR commissioner, after all...