DBC and the Four Chairs
First, while casually glancing at the list of Democratic precinct chairs for Harris County, I noticed some familiar names: four in particular, two of whom I have known for a long time but didn't know that they were currently serving in that capacity.
- Bill Crosier has been deeply involved with the Houston Peace and Justice Center practically since its inception. He has been known to consort with Greenies: He hung out at last August's Green National Convention making video interviews, and has even raised funds for Green candidates.
- Chuck Kuffner, oft cited in this space.
- Bernard Sampson, the leader of Houstonians for Bernie Sanders, has his own socialist gathering place in the East End called Bernie's Place.
- Egberto Willies hosts Politics Done Right on KPFT and maintains this website.
Here is a point that I hoped to raise last night when the Houston Area Progressives were discussing the whole issue of Democratic precinct chairs in Harris County, but my raised hand was never recognized before we left the meeting. Precinct chairs sometimes elect our representatives in state and county government.
I might have blogged on this subject previously, but I can't find the entry. Here's a summary of something peculiar that happened in Harris County last year, some of which you may already know if you follow this stuff.
- Just after filing to run for re-election, long-serving County Commissioner El Franco Lee suddenly died. He was the only Democrat to file in Precinct 1 by the deadline, because who would presume to challenge El Franco Lee?
- No Republican or Green filed to run against Lee either. The Greens had a candidate, but he quickly withdrew, the reasons for which I am not at liberty to discuss here, just before the news of Lee's death arose.
- County Judge Ed Emmett, a moderate Republican, appointed Democrat Gene Locke to fill the position until Election Day. Locke denied ambitions to run for the position in November, then denied his denial, got called on it, and ended up not running.
- After the filing deadline, it was too late to get anyone else's name on the Super Tuesday primary ballot. The late Lee won the primary unanimously.
- State Senator Rodney Ellis of District 13 put his name forward as a replacement for Lee in the general election.
- State Representative Borris Miles, House District 146, put his name forward to fill Ellis's vacant Senate seat. If I'm not mistaken, he was the only candidate.
- Several Democrats stepped up to fill Miles's vacant House seat.
- The state election code does not provide for a special primary election in situations like this. So guess who got to choose the Democratic nominee for District 146, with no Republican opposition? If you guessed, "The Precinct Chairs," pat yourself on the back good and hard.
- That's how Shawn Thierry became my district's new representative.
As I mentioned here back in November, literally half the state House seats in Harris County had unopposed races in 2016. Without Owens's opposition in this heavily Democratic district, Thierry would have been elected to the state House by a majority of the 27 precinct chairpersons who showed up for a special caucus.
The corollary to this Election by Chairs fact of life is that precincts with no chair have no representation in special caucuses to nominate replacement candidates.
So I urge progressive Democrats in Harris County to investigate running for precinct chairs, especially if your precinct does not already have one, but even if it does. Just bear in mind that if you're doing the job right, precinct chairing is a ton of work, sometimes very frustrating work. But it's very necessary work and can also be great fun—especially if you're upsetting a lot of establishment donkey carts.