The Houston Chronicle reports that County Judge Ed Emmett has endorsed Paul Simpson in his race for chairman of the Harris County GOP, against incumbent Jared Woodfill. Emmett, a Republican, is the highest ranking member of the county party, holding the de facto executive leadership role over Harris County.
The news was broken last night on Quorum Report, where it was also reported that Emmett had donated a generous $10,000.00 to Simpson’s campaign. As the astute may recall, this is Simpson’s –a local attorney– third bid against the incumbent chair. However, unlike a previous race, this year’s election simply features the two candidates, making Woodfill somewhat more vulnerable. Emmett blasted Woodfill as being out of touch and implicit in the recent losing streak of the party. Ronald Reagan would probably not be welcome in today’s Republican Party. I would like to see the base in Harris County to be 400,000, not 150,000,” Emmett says.
Today, Jared Woodfill hit back by announcing some big name supporters of his own. Two of the three Republican Harris County Commissioners (Jack Cagle and Jack Morman) endorsed Woodfill’s candidacy, as did both Emmett’s predecessor (Robert Eckels) and the Tax Assessor (Mike Sullivan). Given that Woodfill is the incumbent, it would be a waste of time to really dig in too deep as to why an officeholder might support him. Simply put, it is far safer to support an incumbent out of habit then warm up to the challenger (if [s]he wins) than to support the challenger then face a victorious incumbent.
Jared Woodfill, for lack of a better term, has had a rocky and controversial last few months at the helm of the largest victorious County GOP in the country. First, Woodfill made national news (c/o The Huffington Post) following his office rejecting a candidate for a vacant Precinct Chairmanship on account of the applicant’s sexual orientation. Chris Busby, who applied for the post, was an openly gay man who was also the Vice President of the Houston area Log Cabin Republicans.
Second, Woodfill has made a point of advocating for ideological purity within the party. After State Representative Sarah Davis — a moderate Republican who represents a very moderate constituency– went on the offensive against the omnibus anti-abortion bill, Woodfill publicly blasted her, saying she “chose to attack our party platform.” This issue is of special significance, because Davis has drawn a fiercely conservative primary challenger —Bonnie Parker— in response to her moderate tone on the abortion issue. In a sign of interesting alignments, I have seen a plethora of homes in my neighborhood (Meyerland) with Sarah Davis and Paul Simpson signs side-by-side. I would reckon this is less because of Simpson’s position on the issue (he is fervently anti-abortion), but because he is more open to dissenting opinions within the party and less obsessed with the aforementioned ideological purity.
Last, but certainly not least, is Woodfill’s bizarre obsession with gay issues. In a time of ballooning debt, falling Presidential approval ratings and an unholy trainwreck that is Obamacare, Woodfill decided to focus this past month on fighting gay rights as the most important political priority of the time. In December, Woodfill sued the City of Houston in an effort to block them from doling out spousal benefits to same-sex couples. Irrespective of one’s opinion on this matter, it is a forgone conclusion at this point that this is a losing strategy. Nationwide acceptance of the LGBT community and same-sex marriage will be here in just a few short years, mark my words.
Needless to say, there are some big issues that Simpson will be able to bring up during the campaign.