As a percentage of Texas population, the Census Bureau is reporting this week that voter turnout dropped in ’08 from ’04. Contrary to popular belief, the youth vote went down the “senior citizen” vote went up. Not reported in the press, but clearly visible, are the missing conservative voters.

Anecdotal evidence clearly indicates it’s a question which must be addressed in the coming election cycle. I have been repeatedly told by folks around the state they just didn’t feel like turning out to vote; they saw no choices or meaningful distinctions, particularly at the top of the ticket.

The electoral evidence is ample. The effect was the loss/near-loss of good legislators and a narrowing of the partisan divide in the Texas House.

What’s caused this lack of participation? Politicians not following through on the base principles of their constituency. The voters hear candidates parrot the principles of liberty, only to see them govern like big-government liberals.

After a while, those voters start to decide they are tired of the charade.

For example, former State Rep. Tony Goolsby (R-Dallas) has that “former” in front of his name for a reason. He simply had not been voting like a fiscal conservative ought; conservative voters responded by staying home. This allowed him to be replaced by Democrat Carol Kent, who this year rated a 28.6% on our Index. (Goolsby had a 53.9% in 2007.)

State Sen. Kim Brimer (R-Fort Worth) joined the former club after repeatedly failing to distinguish himself as a fiscal conservative. He earned an unexciting 50% on our rating in ’07. Result? He was replaced by former Fort Worth city council member Wendy Davis, a Democrat, who rated a 25% this year.

The situation is repeated in several districts, over the last several years.

If conservatives are going to pick up seats in the 2010 election season, we need candidates (incumbents and challengers alike) able to convince voters of their sincere dedication to following-through on the planks of their campaign platform — especially on tax reform, spending transparency and limiting government growth.

Let’s go back to Dallas County. Across the county from Goolsby’s district was State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving), a true taxpayer champion.

Despite Dallas County going for Barack Obama in a landslide, Harper-Brown narrowly won election. But that win is precisely because she continued to stand firm for her principles; she was making a difference. She motivated voters to turn-out, despite their lack of excitement for the race at the top of the ticket. Comparatively speaking, she won a landslide victory!

We need more challengers and incumbents willing to work like Harper-Brown both in Session and on the campaign trail. Explaining thoughtfully their positions, voting with those convictions and honestly communicating with their voters.

At the end of the day, Texas remains a philosophically center-right state.

Voters want fiscal conservatives running for office who will govern with our principles, not just speak of them when convenient. The issues facing our state are too important for them to waffle when their vote counts most.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Michael Quinn Sullivan and his wife have three children. He is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. Check out his podcast, “Reflections on Life and Liberty.”

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