Thursday, November 06, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Most Baffling Result of 2014

The papers and news programs are full of reporting on the possible impact of the Republican's capture of the U.S. Senate, some key Governor's races, and marijuana legalization in Oregon and DC.  Not to minimize the importance of any of that, but the result I find most fascinating is the result of the district clerk's race in McLennan County, Texas.

According to Tommy Witherspoon's report in the Waco Tribune Herald, here are the bios of the two candidates:

Karen Matkin (incumbent), 62

-- Graduate of Baylor and Baylor Law School
-- Former prosecutor
-- Past president of McLennan County Bar Association
-- Over 10 years in office, collected $3 million in additional fines (the office has a budget of $1.5 million, but now collects $2.5 million in fines per year)
-- Former board member of the Brazos River Authority, Governor's Commission for Women, and Friends for Life.

Jon Gimble (challenger), 38

-- Currently a student at Tarleton State University
-- Former clerk at Circuit City
-- Member of the Texas State Guard
-- Volunteer on political campaigns.

And... Gimble won.  Because he was the Republican.

In short, I'll say this:  Part of what went wrong in Detroit was that one-party rule led to too many unqualified people getting important jobs managing key city functions.  It's not a Democrat or Republican thing... it's a one-party thing.

The problem is straight ticket voting. Parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. We need to de-party the electoral process. No straight ticket voting, no party labels on the ballot (let the party educate its voters who their candidates are!), no party considerations in redistricting, voter IDs readily available with sworn affidavits by a couple of neighbors who are registered and have a voting history in the area, etc. Force the candidates and parties to educate and not obfuscate.
There's an interesting follow up article in the Trib today. Roughly 14,000 people voted straight ticket Republican in McLennan County. Roughly 7,000 people voted straight ticket Democrat.

Republican Gimble received around 22,000 votes. Matkin, the qualified candidate, lost by 1,000 votes, getting roughly 21,000. If you take away the straight ticket numbers, Gimble gets crushed, getting 8,000 votes to Matkin's 14,000. Non-straight ticket voters chose Matkin at an almost 2 to 1 clip.

Now this of course assumes that the people who voted straight ticket wouldn't have gone down and punched Gimble's name. Most of them probably would have. But in an election decided by 1,000 votes, it doesn't take many to change their minds to make a difference in the race.

I'm extremely anti-straight ticket voting. I don't really care if you end up voting a straight ticket, but a voter should take the time to cast a ballot making a choice in every single race. Sometimes the best choice is for the voter to not vote in a certain race because he or she doesn't know enough about the candidates to make a choice. When people vote just because, the results can be disastrous like we've seen in the District Clerk's race.
Mark, in Denton County, TX, 72% of the ballots cast were straight-line Republican ballots. People just ticked "Republican" and left the booth.

I think I agree with Arce and AMT.
I suspect you're right about Detroit, but McLennan Country isn't quite a one-party town, at least not yet.

It wasn't that long ago that a Democrat, albeit something of a blue dog, represented the county in the US House. That Democrat, Chet Edwards, represented both the 11th Dist. and the 17th Dist. (which came to encompass McLennan County after redistricting) for a combined 20 years. Today, those districts are represented by a Republican for the first time in history, dating back to 1883 in 11th and 1919 in the 17th.

Redistricting/gerrymandering aside--by the way, I recently learned the etymology of the word "gerrymander," and its ridiculous--there's a lot of Blue history and support in McLennan County, evidenced by the fact that at least five Democrats either won their races or ran unopposed.

All that is to say that I'm not sure it was lack of choice (i.e., one-party town) so much as blind party loyalty that led voters to Matkin. That, of course, is a huge problem. But it's one that swings both ways. For example:

John McCain (in 2008):
-Decorated war hero
-U.S. Senator for 21 years
-U.S. Rep. for 4
-Sponsored all kinds of important (and sometimes even good) legislation
-Had a U.S. naval destroyer named after him in 1992
-Similar to George Bush

Barrack Obama (in 2008):
-Senator for 3 years (most of which was spent campaigning for president)
-Ill. State Sen. for 7
-Effectively no voting record in either capacity
-Adjunct law prof.
-Community organizer
-Not similar to George Bush

And... Obama won. Because he wasn't a Republican. And, you know, "hope" and "change" and "si se puede."

Now, that's obviously a gross oversimplification--to the point, arguably, of absurdity--but it's got to illustrate somethin'.
CTL, that would work IF the electorate were 70% Democrats, which it wasn't (since McLennan County is heavily Republican). It was roughly even, and Obama had to (and did) convince swing voters,since they existed and held the election in the balance. And McLennan County really has changed since you left (though not BECAUSE you left)-- there are no county-wide elected Dems left.
Oh, and the analogy itself would hold only if in the clerk's race both of them had been district court clerks before (as Obama and McCain had both been Senators)-- just one of them for much longer than the other.
I am overwhelmed with sadness and disbelief that people I know--lots of people i know--go to the polls and relinquish their free will and intellectual powers of choice to pull a straight-party ticket. I am profoundly saddened and disappointed.

@Mark "CTL Didn't Run McLennan County" Osler

Two things:

1) I all but admitted that mine was a bad analogy. Still, I don't think it's a useless analogy to explore the interplay between party loyalty and candidate competence.

Well, it did happen at the exact same time, I guess...
I tend to agree with CTL (and actually think his analogy is pretty right on). There are some serious problems with democracy. The Framers shuddered at the idea of democracy, which they saw as a recipe for disaster and chaos.

On the other hand, democracy has worked in American for almost 200 years---and much better than any one could have imagined. Maybe we are at the end of the string? Hard to know the future.

But back in the 1830s when democracy in America was just getting started, you had a lot of elites who saw people like themselves losing ground and wondered what would become of a government run by a bunch of yokels, the Jacksonians responded with the idea of "rotation in office," the principle that in a democracy in which the touchstone was equality there would be many unlikely candidates who would be able to responsibly fulfill positions of public trust, if given a chance.

I hope this fellow Gimble is one of those unlikely pleasant surprises.

On the other hand, my heart goes out to Karen Matkin who did everything right in terms of performance and propriety and integrity and still lost an election.
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?