I have been saying this for some time now and now it’s good to see that the Houston Chronicle has picked up on the news that Fort Bend County will once again be a Democratic-dominated county.
By 2016 at the very latest.
The article is centered on University of Houston demographer Richard Murray’s work in this suburban area southwest of Houston and is worth a read. Murray has noted that when this sleepy rural community experienced moderate growth, the political landscape changed from dominant Democratic to dominant Republican.
“These days, though, the county is experiencing what Murray calls ‘the second wave of change in modern times.’ Recently arrived black, Asian and Hispanic residents not only are helping make the county one of the most diverse in Texas, but they're also changing the political equation. The gap between the Republican and Democratic votes is down to single digits. Murray predicts the county will revert to Democratic dominance by 2016 at the latest”
At this point, 27 of the 31 elected officials are Republicans in Fort Bend County. But even Republican county chair Rick Miller admits that his party has been losing ground, having been taken by surprise in 2008 when McCain/Palin won the county vote by a mere 4,838 votes – this from the Secretary of State website.
“The election was a lot closer than we thought it was going to be. Fort Bend went for McCain, but it was really pretty close.”
Yeah, like less than 2% close.
The vote has been going that way steadily since 2004, the last time that Republicans finished very strong in Fort Bend County, when W beat Kerry by a margin of 57.37% to 42.11%. This trend is mimicked in the judicial races that pretty much go down party lines.
In 2006 the poll results tightened with Republicans losing 2-3% of the vote and Democrats gaining a like amount.
Then the tight race in 2008 marked by record turnouts of first-time Democratic voters where McCain/Palin edged Obama/Biden by 50.88% (103,206 votes) to 38.48% (98,368 votes).
Democratic Party county chair Steve Brown is hopeful that the dominance shift will occur in the upcoming election.
“In 2004, only 11,000 people voted in Fort Bend County's Democratic presidential primary. Four years later, that number jumped to 68,517. Brown's job is to get the newcomers out to vote and to reignite the 2008 momentum. His goal for November is 70,000 Democratic voters”
Rick Miller is also optimistic but doesn’t have the facts and figures to point to. He bases his optimism on a perceived energy.
“I have never seen people as stirred up as they are now," he said after a recent meeting at party headquarters to plan a Rick Perry visit to Fort Bend. "They've been awakened, and people are getting up and taking action.”
This from a county chair that has only lived in the county for 11 years, and been involved in politics only since 2006. Yeah, “never seen” goes back just four years. This is just part of the hype that Republicans are picking up from the national news pundits who point to an anti-incumbent trend nationally.
In Fort Bend, the incumbents are all Republicans. So are the statewide candidates. Republicans have a problem at the top of their ticket: Rick Perry is seen as a governor who has enriched himself and his cronies at the expense of Texas and Texans. This is what I am hearing from Republicans as well.
So if it’s not this year, it will definitely be next year. But a sea change in Fort Bend County is all but inevitable.