The State of the Parties

183504400Fort Bend County is fortunate to have many individuals who care deeply about the community, stretching from Katy to Sugar Land (and beyond). They recognize that the government plays a large role in the economic development of the county. For that reason, they have become engaged in the political world. Some are Tea Party supporters, others Libertarian, but most are Republican or Democrats. Interestingly, the Tea Party in some states is predominantly Democratic, while others such as Texas are Republican. But that is a column for another day.

The two major parties here are the Republican and Democrat Parties. Texas law anticipates primary elections being held by these two parties and their candidates facing off in the November general elections. Many voters are not even aware that the primary elections, by Texas law, are party elections. For many years the two parties have hired the Fort Bend County Elections Administration to administer the elections, but they are party elections.

After the Civil War and freedom for the slaves in Fort Bend County, the Republican Party, which had set the slaves free, became the predominant political party here. Over time, the hatred of the “carpetbaggers” led to the demise of the Republican Party and the ascendency of the Democrats. And the Democrats held power in all the elective seats in the county until the 1970s when the Republican Party started to become active, eventually taking every county-wide seat and every precinct, save one.

464963861Traditionally, city and school board races have been deemed “non-partisan.”  There is no “party” primary election to determine who the party’s candidate is to be for these races because they are not partisan races. When you vote for your mayor, city councilman or school board member you will not see a “D” or an “R” after any of the candidate’s names. Would it matter to which party a candidate to city or school board race claims affiliation? Would it be instructive or constructive to know?

I believe it is reasonable to inquire of the political philosophy of a candidate to any office. Party affiliation might a useful clue in determining a candidate’s likely actions in office. This is, of course, not a perfect or even near perfect predictor. In one recent race, a candidate for Mayor (who votes in Republican primaries) was found to be a major donor to President Barack Obama and many Democrat and liberal organizations. There is really no better way to predict a candidate’s actions than to ask him or her.

When one is the minority party, it is easier to rally your supporters and fight a common foe. When a party is the predominate party, it is equally easy to spend time and energy fighting members of one’s own party who are not as dedicated to the cause as we might perceive ourselves. We have seen this before. When Democrats held every major seat in the county, the party began to disintegrate, eventually dividing into two camps. This provided an opening for Republicans to exploit. Ultimately, the Republicans swept the county wide offices and most of the county precincts, as well.

Having served as Republican Party Chairman in the past, I have seen the internal fighting among factions of the Republican Party in a very real way. I have often said I ran for that office to fight Democrats, but never had the chance because I was drawn into so many internal fights. As the majority party, the factions of the party have lost the focus a common foe provides. Some party members are so busy litmus testing their own candidates that they cannot see a looming danger.

First, the individuals who have funded this party for years have become disillusioned. They will not support Democrats, but are less enthusiastic in supporting the local party. Second, and far more dangerous, is the visible and very public efforts of the Fort Bend Democrats. They are supporting candidates for the “non-partisan” races, the city council and school board races. It is really a brilliant move on their part. They accomplish their goal of quietly electing people who believe that more government, more regulation, and higher taxes will improve our lives. Then they are positioned to build name recognition and hire employees who will carry out their liberal plans for decades. That name recognition might translate to election to higher office in the future and the liberalization of our county.

The Republicans of Fort Bend County would do well to pay attention.

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Gary Gillen

Gary Gillen owns and operates Gillen Pest Control in Richmond. He is the only person in history to have served on both the Richmond City Commission and the Rosenberg City Council. He was the Chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County 2006-2007. He can be reached at