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February 01, 2005

More on Frost and Dallas Democrats

By Byron LaMasters

Some of the final comments on my thread detailing the effect that Martin Frost had on the success of the 2004 Dallas Democratic Countywide candidates got buried, so I wanted to do one more post on the topic to highlight the comments of former SDEC member of the 23rd Senatorial district, and well-known Democratic freebooter Gary Fitzsimmons - who crunched the numbers in Dallas County of which my analysis is based, and also the comments of a Dallas County Precinct 1811 Chair, Anthony Pace who was active in the campaigns of both Martin Frost and State Rep. candidate Harriet Miller.

My original post can be found here and you can download the PowerPoint Presentation of which my analysis is based here. I did my best to paraphrase the commentary that Gary Fitzsimmons, but it's not the same as using his own words. Their comments in the extended entry (this exchange is probably more relevant to those of you interested in Dallas County politics, as opposed to the DNC race, but it's relevent to both [update: yeah, well it's still something good to chew on for those interested in the dynamics of Dallas County politics]):

Gary Fitzsimmons writes:

What’s missing from the PowerPoint presentation provided is the commentary that went with it. My intention was to show not only how Frost’s effort “democratized” Dallas county, but also a gratuitous plug for how I think the prevailing thinking in Dallas must change in order to securely win in the future. The point was not so much that Miller benefited from Frost’s campaign, but rather that like Frost she brought an aggressive persuasional campaign to a republican district and the results were quite dramatic. Although there was certainly some synergy between the two candidates, Miller did exceedingly well largely due to her and her volunteer’s extraordinary efforts. Now Miller, like Frost, had only the most remote chance of winning, but their campaigns both proved the truth of what Frost himself said during the campaign – the democratic message can resonate even among voters that we have traditionally written off.

The historical refrain, at least in Dallas, is that “turnout is everything” – thus, all of our county efforts have been targeted to minority or “base” constituencies. If raising turnout from our base alone could win elections, then we would have won the County in 2002 when the minority vote as a percentage of total county turnout was highest. We won a handful of races this year, however, when it was significantly lower. How can this be? Simply put – it seems to me that Frost’s efforts broke straight ticket voting and had the effect of making Democrats and our message more palatable to an enormous number of voters. And remember, Frost’s campaign was not limited to CD32 – he ran advertisements across North Texas and all sorts of people were exposed to his message thru media coverage and interaction with the candidates at forums, public events and churches.

To suggest, as our Chairwoman has done, that the victory was due to turnout work in 16 precincts in the 23rd Senate District (this has now morphed into 35 precincts over the past two weeks) is simply erroneous. Not only was the 23rd’s contribution to the total countywide turnout this year lower than the past 3 election cycles, whatever gain was made in Hispanic turnout (largely located in those CD32 precincts within SD23) was offset by the drop in black participation! – Not surprising since there we no African Americans on the ballot. So what does this mean for the future? Well – it’s simply not reasonable to assume that black voters are going to be motivated by billboard appeals from Senator Royce West alone without African Americans actually on the ticket; this was a huge deficit which the Dallas County Chairman must accept some responsibility. Nor can we assume that the Hispanic electorate is going to come to the rescue anytime soon – they’re getting more republican and at least in Dallas still have very anemic turnout.

What works is getting a persuasional message out to a much broader range of Dallas voters - and with our very limited campaign budgets, its only possible with aggressive direct mail (just like the republicans have been doing since the late 70s.) TDP sent out direct mail pieces (not the County party) featuring Valdez, Raggio & Ms. Huebener – quite effective. Simply put, our Party’s problem, not only in Dallas but the state as well, is not with minority voters; it’s with anglo voters. Our Dallas county effort in 2006 must have both turnout and persuasional components to be successful – in other words, replicate as far as possible what Frost was able to do among voters long written-off by party activists along with a diverse ticket and meaningful turnout efforts.

Precinct 1811 Chair Anthony Pace writes:

I agree with Gary's posting on Frost and Harriet Miller races. I am a precinct chair in a Republican majority precinct (1811) that is in both CD 32 and HD 102 and worked on both Frost & Miller's races. What made a positive difference this yr. were good candidates and good organization. Previously we didn't have strong Democratic candidates for Congress and House Rep. in this area, and our past numbers reflected this. In 2004 my precinct improved its DPI by 12+ pts, in 2002 our DPI was 21 and this yr for Frost we got him a 33% and 35% for Harriet Miller, while Kerry and the judges received about 29%. We saw this kind of improvement in many of the precincts in Far North Dallas, some of them recording middle 40s% DPIs for Frost and Miller. Also these DPI increases took place in precincts that had turnouts in the 70-75%.

I am strong believer that Lupe and the Judges owe their victories in part to the good organizing work that Frost did in increasing DPI throughout the 32nd and repressing the Republican vote. While many are rightly excited about the Democratic victories, 2006 may not be as Democratic friendly for the county as some think without a Frost on the ticket fighting the good battle.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at February 1, 2005 02:20 PM | TrackBack

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