The bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote, 77-57, with five reps absent, and the Speaker not voting. Absent a major filibuster or a classic Dan Patrick Calendar Clusterfuck, this bill should sail through the Senate and get a signature from Governor Abbott.
In brief, HB 2504 allows candidates from convention parties (i.e., those that do not hold primary elections) to pay the same filing fees that candidates from primary parties do. In lieu of the fees, convention candidates may submit petition signatures, just as primary candidates currently may.
As if that weren't enough of a gift, another Republican's amendment to the bill, as passed by the House, reduces the criterion for retaining ballot access from 5% of the vote in a statewide race to 2%. Not in the next election, but in any of the previous five. Guess what? In 2014 and 2016, Green candidates crossed that 2% threshold in three four-way races. Since 2010, in races that the Democrats sat out, at least one Green has earned 5% or better, some scoring as high as 10%.
As Naomi Klein might say, This Changes Everything.
Springer also offered the 2% criterion as an amendment on the House floor on Thursday. The amendment was adopted and passed with the remainder of the bill on Friday. The language of the amendment does not specify that a party must have a 2% share of the vote after the bill takes effect this September, so it appears that the 2% showings from 2010-16 are sufficient.
Petitions Still an Option, Less Onerous
Quite a few districted offices in Texas, including for the Lege, require only 500 signatures collected from registered voters within the district. The number for statewide offices is 5,000 per candidate, far fewer than the 83,400 the Greens would need to regain ballot access under current law (1% of the vote total in the 2018 gubernatorial contest). Even if you multiply 5,000 by all the potential Green candidates for the eight statewide offices up for election in 2020, that cuts the required total in half.
Signatures can even be collected outside the 75-day window following the precinct conventions, although the same "primary screen-out" rule would apply. Party affiliation for the current year in this open-primary state happens via voting in a primary election or signing a partisan ballot-access petition.
Crisis or Opportunity (or Both) for Greens?
What we haven't discussed yet are the dollar figures of the standard filing fees for the various offices as Chapter 172 of the Texas Election Code prescribes them. They're rather large. Most Greens with any interest in running for office don't have that kind of money lying around and will have to sharpen their fundraising skills. Some examples:
- US Senate: $5,000
- other statewide offices: $3,750
- US House: $3,125
- Texas Senate: $1,250
- Texas House: $750
Note that there is no fee listed for the presidential race.
Statewide offices, including US Senate, are the important ones. If Green candidates stand for US Senate, Railroad Commission, three Supreme Court seats and three Court of Criminal Appeals seats, the total reaches $31,250. From a Green perspective, this figure looks daunting, but with the right strategy raising that sum is eminently doable.
In HB 2504 This could be the kick in the arse that the Green Party of Texas needs to retool itself into a fundraising operation. Fundraising is something GPTX and the various county organizations have never done well. Most of us Greens I know don't even relate well to money and dislike asking others for it. (OK, I'm projecting and stereotyping wildly here, but if GPTX had any real fundraising prowess it would be in a lot better shape in its 20th year of operation.)
The thing about the fundraising is that it gives Greens something to talk about with non-Greens other than the Ten Key Values and their anti-corporate, eco-socialist stance, all of which is way too abstract for the average voter. Talk to enough people, and eventually you bring some of them into the fold, and the process snowballs until you have a functioning party.
Elephants and Sunflowers?
The Party's natural target for fundraising would be the large number of Progressives alienated from the Democratic Party, particularly if the Dems push another centrist to the presidential nomination. Democratic leadership collectively still shows no sign that it understands the Progressive groundswell within its rank and file (at least for now).
The secondary target, however, would be Republicans. As PDiddie theorizes, pushing HB 2504 rather than 4416 shows a desire, on the part of Texas Republican leadership, to give the Democrats more competition from the left. Given the gains that Texas Democrats have post-2016, particularly in metro areas, Republicans want to quash or reverse those gains as quickly as possible.
Greens and Republicans in this state have long had a nod-and-wink adversity. As far back as the first petition drive in 2000, some Republicans have been happy to sign Green ballot access petitions as a way to stick it to the Democrats. A group of wealthy Republicans (unbeknownst to the GPTX at the time) partially sponsored the Greens' petition drive in 2010 via an in-kind donation. And in 2019, wittingly or not, Republicans in the Lege may help resurrect the Greens.
This dynamic does not endear the Green Movement to Democrats, especially in the cities where they have new-found strength. In the 2020 cycle, smelling orange blood in the water, the Democrats will use every trick available to stunt the Greens' progress. But if HB 2504 becomes law, the Greens' largest obstacle is effectively removed.
As much as I hate to say anything of the sort, it may behoove GPTX to pledge not to run in competitive districts and other races where Democrats have a chance at taking over Republican seats—or losing seats they currently occupy—in exchange for the Donkeys calling off their dogs and concentrating on their own campaigns. NOTE: Please understand that I am not advocating this strategy, just envisioning it.
But what if the whole state turns out to be competitive?
Imagine a scenario in which Sen. Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic presidential nomination to take on the Trumpster. Even in light of their profound disappointment with Sanders's relative silence on foreign policy, would Texas Greens opt not to put a candidate in the presidential spot? Unlikely, but quite a bit of what's going on in US politics would have seemed implausible even a decade or two ago.