Sunday, May 09, 2010

May 8 Election Results: Barnum and Bailey at Its Best

It is truly amazing what a handful of people can do.

A handful of people can literally decide how a local council, school board or city leadership will be formed. It can decide the direction of a county political party.

Truly, truly amazing.

In March, 101 people decided that the Fort Bend County Democratic Party had been spinning its wheels for far too long and voted another way, and now we have Steve Brown in place in a county whose demographics are poised to tilt toward a Democratic majority. And that's a good thing.

But 101 votes?

On May 8th, yesterday, 23 people decided that they would rather have the continued presence of local good-ol’-boy Bill Dostal on the Richmond City Commission rather than up and comer Carlos Garcia. Garcia was in a 3-way race with Dostal and Gary Gillen. That’s right, the self-same Gary Gillen lately Chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County.

How the mighty have fallen. At least he isn’t making a fool of himself on TV like his old pal Hot Tub Tom.

Gillen, Dostal, and Garcia literally split the vote into thirds, except Gillen got the most, and Dostal the second most (by 36 votes).

Dostal and Gillen, I would imagine, face a runoff election.

A runoff city election.

My guess is that the winner will be the one with the greatest number of extended family members living in the city limits.

In Fort Bend ISD the numbers weren’t as close, but again the turnout was so low that it is an embarrassment to call this an election. The undervote in the school board election tells the tale. In the Rice/Alumbaugh race, 1,743 voters who actually came to vote in this low turnout election did not check either box. In the Babb/Hawkins race, this reduced somewhat to 1,458 voters with no opinion.

That Babb won the race was good news in that his opponent, Gerald Hawkins, was a no-show as an actual candidate for office. That Jim Rice won his race was bad news in that it proves once again that soliciting and then spending campaign contributions does matter even in local elections. Matters when maybe it shouldn’t but there you are.

But then again, maybe I am being too hard on the undervoters, those who voted, but not in a school board race. Maybe they really had no opinion, or maybe they were uninformed. I’d much rather a voter cast an informed vote than an uninformed one, and not vote at all if they felt uninformed. Witness the embarrassment that is the Democratic Party’s nominee to face Pete Olson in November as proof of that.

Finally, in Missouri City, where I have no personal or political stake at all, I was still happy to see that voters returned Mayor Owen to office by a pretty fair margin (57.7% to 42.3%). Owen, to my mind had done nothing to earn himself an opponent in Cynthia Lenton-Gary. Missouri City seems to be running well. If I were to fault Lenton-Gary in any way it would be her decision to let the guy who came in dead last in the DA’s race, Richard Raymond, endorse her in TV ads (yes there were TV ads).

My advice to anyone who goes with Raymond to the dog track: let him pick the winner first, then go bet on some other dog, thus beating the odds by some margin.

And also in Missouri City we had the 4-way race for Council-At-Large Position 2, in which Democrat Danny Nguyen won (OK, it’s funnier if you pronounce his last name correctly). For the past few years Nguyen has been a force behind the scenes and it was good to see him put himself out there, and even better to see that the voters saw him to be the superior candidate that he was, giving him an outright majority of 55.33%. This despite the vocal and outright nasty oppo effort by those who also have Vietnamese roots, who branded Nguyen as a communist no less.

Finally, it was also heartening to see Libertarian and perennial also-ran Kevin Tunstall come in a distant third in that race despite the best efforts of his semi-crazed dittohead Chris Calvin who did his best to relieve Nguyen supporters of their lawn signs as reported here. Tunstall can take heart in the fact that he beat the pants off of Judith Dupré, a self-described savior who has been "instrumental" in helping Texans by lowering their home, auto and other insurance rates with her letter writing campaign to Governor Perry.

So voters of Fort Bend, especially those who didn’t vote in the May election, if the lesson isn’t clear, let me make it so: why reserve your votes for the big races for state and federal offices with players like Sarah Palin, Kinky Friedman and Ron Paul when you have your own three-ring circus right here at home.

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