Monday, January 09, 2006

DMN Article On The Lack Of Top-Ticket Minorities Raises Questions

Is it a proven fact that top-ticket races drive voter turnout? Is it possible for local races to drive turnout? All politics is local after all. Or not just top-ticket races but do the issues drive voter turnout? Unlike 2002 when the "Dream Team" ran at the top of the ticket for the Democratic Party in 2006 there are no top-ticket minorities on the Democratic ballot, at least not any high-profile Democrats, most are saying. (Felix Alvarado for governor, and Adrian De Leon and Maria Luisa Alvarado for lieutenant governor). And none on the Republican side.

The premise of this article, Minorities don't feel top-ticket excitement, judging from the headline is that if there is not a minority at the top of the ticket minorities are less likely to vote. Is that true? It would seem to me to be the case. Latino voters as a share of total voters jumped in 2002 from 12.7% in 1998 to 21.8% in 2002. They seem to have stayed around in 2004 as that number increased to 23% in 2004 (See DMN article).

Another question should is do candidates or issues drive turnout?
"You have to be prepared to run for office," he (Casey Thomas, a Democratic precinct chairman in Dallas) said. "Diversity is important, but you also have to look at what each candidate brings. Elections are not always popularity contests, they are issue-driven."
The premise that there must be top-ticket minorities to get minorities out to vote seems very simplistic. Therefore if you don't run a minority candidate than you can't count on majorities voting. I don't know if I believe that. From what I remember it was inconclusive whether the "Dream Team" minority strategy was good or bad:
Tony Sanchez and Ron Kirk carried heavily Hispanic regions of South Texas in Tuesday's elections, but unfortunately for the Democrats' so-called Dream Team, they were routed by Republicans everywhere else.

Some analysts said minority turnout fell below Democrats' expectations but that the party's strategy of appealing to minority voters is still valid because of the fast-growing Hispanic population in Texas.

Others, however, warned that Democrats are having an increasingly difficult job winning white voters.
The top-ticket minority strategy seems like a "chicken or the egg" argument. Do minorities need Hispanic candidates to vote in an election or do minorities need to start voting to get minorities on the ballot. This debate is limited, of course, to the top of the ticket in 2006. As Rep. Garnet Coleman says in the article there is plenty of diversity in the Democratic Party in Texas:
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said his party's major priority is to make gains in the Texas House, where its delegation is diverse. And he noted that gubernatorial candidates Chris Bell and Bob Gammage either represented constituents of color or had strong working relationships with minority leaders.

"Clearly our leadership in the House and Senate are of color and represent the majority of our members in the House and Senate," he said.
I think some of the brightest stars are minorities, like Rep. Coleman, as well as, Rep.'s Raymond, Gallego and Pena to name a few.

If All politics is local, as they say, then can't local races attract voters to the polls and in turn they will vote for top-ticket Democratic candidates.

Most of this discussion revolves around Latino voting since the started voting in much larger numbers in 2002. Not to discount, in any way, the vote of all other minorities.

Two last questions:

Do ethnic groups or any group for that matter only show up to vote if there is like people on the ballot? And is this article part a larger of an attempt to marginalize minority voters in 2006?

These and many other questions will be answered in November 2006.


At 1/10/2006 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like the strategy of running 'fighting Dem' veteran candidates, running a minority candidate isn't a sure bet unless the candidate is a good candidate, period. Was anyone excited by Tony Sanchez for reasons other than 1) he was Hispanic 2) he had buttloads of money or 3) he was Bush's buddy? That's not enough to make him a good candidate.

At 1/10/2006 9:21 AM, Blogger Wilco Democrat said...

In locales where a large percentage of the population is of a minority group, a good minority candidate does offer a aspect of representation that a non-minority candidate can't offer. And it's important to note that there's no reason to think there aren't good minority candidates out there at local levels who should be encouraged to run. So no, being a minority candidate alone doesn't make someone a good candidate, but being a good candidate AND being of the same minority background as the majority of the people being represented in an area is definitely something to be encouraged.

At 1/10/2006 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we agree for the most part. A good local candidate will get Latinos to the polls better than having a lackluster Latino candidate running a statewide race. Just bugs me when Dems hang on one factor as the key to winning - see: Kerry, John - Veteran!, see: Sanchez, Tony - Latino!, see: Bell, Chris - has a blog! etc.

The odds are not in favor of a Democrat winning a statewide race this time (though certainly getting better) so focus on grooming good candidates, including minorities, in lower races should be emphasized. You mentioned a few, but Juan Garcia, Rick Bolanos, Mary Beth Harrell etc should all get the support of the grassroots and the party.

At 1/10/2006 5:35 PM, Blogger Wilco Democrat said...

Well, I can't say I share your outlook on the prospects of a statewide win for a Dem this time around (Repubs aren't quite as well-loved as they may think they are), but grooming good Democratic candidates for lower level races will of course do a lot of good for ensuring future Dem wins statewide.


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