A boomtown of free enterprise in West Texas, Midland has a long history of a politically conservative zeitgeist. In Midland County, Republicans routinely crush Democrats by a 4 to 1 margin. The Hometown of the Bush Dynasty in Texas, Republican victory is a given that is usually taken for granted. Until now.
Radical environmentalists and big government regulators have declared war on the oil and gas industry that accounts for much of Midland’s growth. In Austin, millions of out-of-state dollars pour into a concerted effort to “Turn Texas Blue” and end the Texas Miracle of prosperity in a time of nationally anemic economic growth. The latest Midland Mayor’s Race became a frontline in the battle against this effort.
Democrats have a new strategy to field radical candidates in conservative areas: targeting non-partisan races. In the Midland Mayoral Election, Democratic activist and City Councilman John James was an early favorite in the race. Announcing his candidacy unseasonably early and garnering major contributions from high-dollar Republican donors, James had a lead in name identification and fundraising by the end of August.
Branding himself as a “strong fiscal conservative”, James tried to conceal a consistent history of Democratic activism, involvement and contributions. Attempting to downplay his “former” party affiliations, James obfuscated his record of service to the State Democratic Executive Committee and numerous, Democratic political contributions. According to a statement on James’ Facebook page, “I am completely non-partisan.”
As a way of ignoring this inconvenient issue, James highlighted the fact that he was the only candidate with a Master’s degree in City Management as his greatest qualification for the job. For any discerning participant of the political process, one salient issue contrasts James’ lacquer: non-partisan does not mean non-political. Party affiliations give testament to political philosophy, attitudes toward issues and inform decisions on important policy questions.
James’ growing popularity alerted conservative businessmen and activists galvanized by the possibility of a Democratic Mayor in their conservative community; also one of the largest oil and gas producing regions of the country. By late August, Empower Texans PAC got into the fray, educating voters on the candidates and James’ highly partisan record.
Activists worked hard on behalf of local businessman and conservative Republican, Jerry Morales. Conservative Republican leaders united behind Morales for his conservative record and experience as an at-large City Councilman. On Election Night, the question was virtually decided in early voting returns. By the end of the counting, Morales bested James by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. With 61% of the vote, Morales received not only the plurality of the vote needed to win among the five candidates, but a sizable majority with a margin of victory unseen in a Midland Mayor’s race in recent memory.
This race will serve to energize grassroots conservatives with a victory over potential incursions by the radical left in a conservative stronghold. Texans deserve to know all the facts about candidates who run for office. Government transparency begins in elections. Thanks to the work of conservative activists, Midlanders have another reason to celebrate a bright future for their community. Needless to say, it is unlikely that liberals passing themselves off as “strong fiscal conservatives” will get away with this in Midland, so long as we are vigilant.