Who took the first swing? The Austin American-Statesman declared the Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector’s race as “hotly contested” and “one of the most closely watched primary races to be decided in March”. In its latest piece the paper inferred race, gender, and showmanship as some of the issues the candidates – or maybe just one candidate – would face.
Neither the [Maxey] flier nor any of the attention paid the race so far have hit on the undercurrents of political tension the race sparks between Travis County Democrats who call themselves progressive and minority leaders who are circling around Spears, an African American. Maxey is white and long a darling of Austin liberals.
That changed this week when primary voters received a letter from former TDP Chair Charles Soechting. Written on Nelda Wells Spears letterhead the former Chairman hoped we would see the “political and moral obligation” to stand by Spears. He also hinted at the race card and invoked fear and partisanship to deliver his message:
Nelda was the top Travis County vote-getter in the 2004 presidential election. That’s why local Republicans were going to give her a pass this time – because they know they don’t have a prayer of convincing voters to support one of their own candidates against a strong African American woman who does such a great job.
Unfortunately, Glen Maxey says he’s planning to run against Nelda in the primary next March. So now the Republicans are actively recruiting a candidate of their own in case Glenn wins our party’s nomination. They are raising money and getting ready to turn what shouldn’t even have been a race into an expensive campaign. The last thing they want is a partisan political consultant in charge of the county’s voter rolls.
And, frankly, that’s the last thing we should want, too. As the former Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, I know that public trust in the integrity of the voter registration rolls is fundamental to our democratic process. We’ve worked too hard to guarantee that our party reflects the rich diversity of our community to sit by while one of our best public officials is targeted by a fellow Democrat – especially when there are plenty of Republicans who deserve opposition.
In 2004 Spears was the highest vote-getter followed closely by some District Judges and the County Attorney. Soechting’s statement implies voters went to the polls specifically for these less popular, down-ballot races when it is more likely that they are beneficiaries of the anti-R/Bush fervor and Straight D ballots cast (29.7% of the overall vote).
It is also no stretch to say their electoral success was a direct result of the 2004 Travis County Coordinated Campaign (TCCC) led by Glen Maxey and fueled by an army of activists. And while Spears takes credit for Travis County’s 94% voter registration rate, accolades belong in large part to the TCCC and the hundreds of volunteers that spent the summer pimping sweat-laden registration cards and weekends manning tables at the local grocery store or in front of the Co-Op.
Soechting’s letter is anti-democratic and spends more time lobbing ethical innuendos and engaging in the “sky will fall” mentality (an R will run! an R will run!) than championing his candidate. He criticizes a political consultant who also happens to be an accomplished former State Legislator for overt partisanship while he claims a moral obligation to stand by his candidate for her partisan loyalty to the Party.
Should race, gender, party loyalty or votes garnered determine which races are untouchable and which are not? How many votes does a candidate need? How many years do you have to be a sustaining member of the TDP? Who’s keeping track?
And why is the Democratic Party establishment still afraid of Glen Maxey?