Contrary to majority opinion, a Mayoral runoff –at least for a nominally liberal individual such as myself– is good. In recent days, we have been hearing the news from the Chronicle and other blogs that Parker has begun to pull away from Hall, and could very well garner over 50% in the November election. Robert Miller recently wrote that Parker has a “better than 50% chance” of winning outright. If you are a Parker fan, as I suspect many readers of this blog are, it would appear to be logical that this is good news. However, one could not be further from the truth.
Democrat voters are lazy. The preceding statement, while often controversial, is extremely true nonetheless. Presidential elections, those with higher turnout, see outcomes significantly more amicable to the Democratic Party in this State. As voter turnout drops into the low single-digits, Republicans become more and more successful in the heavily Democratic city of Houston.
For example, in the 2011 At-large position #5 election, the incumbent Jolanda Jones garnered a full 39% of the vote. Laurie Robinson, a likewise Democrat, earned a further 20% of the vote. According to reasonable inferences, Jones should have crushed her opposition in a runoff with close to 60% of the vote. However, when runoff election day came, Jack Christie defeated Jones with over 54% of the vote, rising over 21-points in the polls in the interim. The rise of 21 percentage points, however, was offset by actually about receiving 5000 fewer votes. This was possible because of a devastating drop in voter turnout. Without the Mayor’s race at the top of the ticket, over 1/3 of the electorate stayed home, allowing candidates severely out-of-touch from the interests of Houstonians to get elected.
The same thing will happen this year is Mayor Parker is re-elected in November without a runoff. Let us assume arguendo that this happens. The At-large position #3 will descend into a runoff between Michael Kubosh and one of the three major Democratic candidates (Rogene Calvert, Roland Chavez or Jenifer Pool), which Kubosh will decisively win without Annise Parker at the top of the ticket.
Similarly, I think there is a good chance Andrew Burks and David Robinson go into a runoff in At-large position #2. In that race, the comparably more conservative Burks will defeat Robinson in a runoff election that does not feature a Mayoral component.
If Kubosh replaces Noriega on the City Council, the horseshoe will be split 8-8 between the Mayor’s friends and her
enemies ideological opponents. (Costello, Davis, Cohen, Boykins/Richards, Gonzalez, Gallegos/Garces, Laster and Green vs. Burks, Kubosh, Bradford, Christie, Brown, Martin, Hoang and Pennington). Parker’s third term would be irreversibly marred by a recalcitrant and unreasonable City Council (similar to how President Obama’s last six years in office have been ruined by the House).
However, if the Mayoral election goes into a runoff, the Democratic candidate will be at an advantage in the At-large #3 election, as will David Robinson in At-large position #2.
Make no mistake, a Parker victory before a runoff is a Pyrrhic victory. Without a high-profile election at the top of the ticket, Democrats will be too lazy to vote for like-minded candidates. In this cruel way, the Mayor could become a victim of her own success as she plants the seeds of what could become a ruinous third term.