By "this," I mean 54 Texas residents filing to run as Greens in the 2016 election, for offices ranging from the Railroad Commission to county justices of the peace.
While I have no influence over who decides to run for office, I was kind of hoping that the Party would focus its efforts on candidates in key races this year. In 2012 and 2014, the Greens' battle cry was "Occupy the Ballot." This year I was hoping that we'd change our strategy.
We still can: I'll be pushing for the Party to throw its weight behind Martina Salinas in her pursuit of a seat on the Texas (Totally Not Railroads) Railroad Commission, as well as our Presidential nominee, and letting all the other candidates DIY.
I'll be advocating for this strategy because of something unusual that the Texas Democratic Party has done. As of the 14 December filing deadline, the Democrats have fielded candidates for all the statewide races. This has happened only twice since 1996.
Some readers of this blog will already know that each state has different rules for how "minor" political parties gain and retain ballot access. Some will not know, and some think they know but don't really. The rules outlined in the Texas Election Code go something like this:
- If your party's candidate for governor received at least 20% of the vote in the last gubernatorial elections (e.g., 2014), your party is a major party. Major parties automatically qualify for the next even-year election, and they must have primary elections.
- If your party was not on the ballot in the last even-year election (i.e., candidates running with your party label), that party must collect and submit a metric butt-load of signatures on notarized petition sheets. The amount of valid signatures required equals 1% of the total vote in the last gubernatorial election, or just over 47,000 for 2016 or 2018.
- To be valid, these signatures must be collected within a specified 75-day period, from voters registered in Texas who did not vote in a major party's primary election that year.
- If your party was on the ballot in the last even-year election, at least one candidate for a statewide office must have received at least 5% of the vote, or 2% in the race for governor, in order to retain ballot access as a minor party. This is much easier for a minor-party candidate to achieve if one of the major parties does not field a candidate for that position.
So what are the statewide offices up for election in 2016?
- Three of the nine positions on the State Supreme Court
- Three of the nine positions on the Court of Criminal Appeals
- One of the three positions on the Texas Railroad Commission
The candidates for the statewide judicial spots typically don't campaign actively. It's unethical and just plain gauche. Even in Texas, Sharon Keller notwithstanding, we have standards for the behavior of our jurists.
There is nothing to stop Martina Salinas from campaigning actively, as she did in 2014, when she polled 2.03% even with a Democrat and a Libertarian in the running. That's the best percentage for a Green in a four-way race in Texas since Ralph Nader in 2000 (2.15%). She'll just have to build on her performance. The question is: What's the best strategy to do that?
My gut answer to that is: Awaken the Sleeping Giant.
If we decide to pursue that strategy, then we can figure out exactly how.
Martina did remarkably well in the heavily-Latin@, heavily low-income counties of the Rio Grande Valley. In a race marked by piss-poor turnout (about 33% statewide), these counties' turnout was even piss-poorer. If she can reach out in a big way to the people displaced and sickened and by the fracking boom and the environmental disasters that are just part of the South Texas landscape, maybe she can get Brown Texas voting Green.
Here are 2010, 2012, and 2014 turnout numbers for the Valley counties—and just for fun we'll throw in El Paso with its 400,000 registered voters. Keep in mind, these are the percentages of registered voters who voted for the open Railroad Commission seats.
County: 2010, 2012, 2014, Total Population, Metropolis
Cameron: 22.33%, 40.35%, 20.33%, 406,220, Brownsville-Harlingen
El Paso: 22.35%, 42.50%, 19.32%, 800,647, El Paso
Hidalgo: 23.39%, 43.14%, 24.20%, 774,769, Edinburg-Mc Allen
Jim Hogg: 25.98%, 40.80%, 18.32%, 5,300, Hebbronville
Starr: 11.98%, 35.97%, 16.31%, 60,968, Rio Grande City
Val Verde: 24.43%, 41.42%, 26.06%, 48,879, Del Rio
Webb: 26.08%, 42.12%, 22.13%, 250,304, Laredo
Willacy: 21.38%, 39.94%, 17.85%, 22,134, Raymondville
Zapata: 15.91%, 42.075, 14.98%, 14,018, Zapata
Note that the percentages are about twice as big in the 2012, when there was an Obama to vote for. It's not that these counties don't vote, but they seem to pay more attention when the word "President" appears on the ballot.
Of course, there are plenty of other places, including our five largest cities (El Paso has slipped to 6th), where Martina and the Greens can find Progressives and non-voters who are tired of the Tweedle Parties and ready for the Greens' message. They will need to make that message big, make it good, and make it translate into votes.