(Correction: District 85 Rep. Phil Stephenson lost in Fort Bend County, but won his district over Jennifer Cantu 31,977 to 24,618.)
A “blue wave” crashed over Fort Bend County on Election Day with many Democrats ousting entrenched Republicans in local races.
Leaving are County Judge Robert Hebert, District Clerk Annie Rebecca Elliott, County Commissioner James Patterson, district judges Chad Bridges, John Hawkins, and Ken Cannata, and Republican control of open county court-at-law judge seats No. 3, 4, and 5, and the new No. 6 seat. Republican District Attorney John Healey is retiring and will be replaced by Democrat Brian Middleton.
Local Republicans keeping their jobs include U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, state Sen. Joan Huffman, state Reps. Rick Miller, Phil Stephenson, and John Zerwas, and Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Mary Ward. Republican Kelly Crow won the open Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace seat.
The success of Democrats in the mid-term election caught the chairwoman of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party by surprise.
“Our success exceeded my expectations. I knew we would win a few, but not as many as we did,” said Cynthia Ginyard.
Ironically, one person who was not surprised was County Judge Robert Hebert.
“I saw it coming; probably I saw it coming better than a lot of folks that saw it out there,” he said.
Ginyard, who has chaired the local Democratic Party since 2016, credited hard work for her party’s success.
“We have implemented and executed best practices for winning,” she said. “We feel that continuity, communication and consistency serve us well in organization and management. Still, campaigns are won on the ground. Fluff is fine, but hard work gets the job done. As a leader, I try to engage the constituents as much as possible in executing our outreach and field game. We started early. ‘Labor Day kickoffs’ is a joke to me. You have to be well entrenched on your road to winning by then. Times have changed.”
Ginyard credited the candidates and volunteers for working hard this election.
“We were fortunate to have a great slate of candidates. That is a major part of it. They help create the energy in many different ways,” she said.
“I believe in leading by example. I work hard because I want others to do so, as well. Therefore, I try to ‘walk the talk’ and I never ask anyone to do what I will not do. I wanted my chairs, activists and constituents on the ground with voters, so I was a part of the first batch to go,” she said.
For his part, County Judge-elect KP George realizes the historic significance of his win.
“I am the first South Asian county judge – period – in the state of Texas,” George told a local television station. “I thought it would be much closer.”
He agreed with Ginyard that it took a lot of groundwork for the Democratic Party to find Election Day success.
“I believe you need to go out and connect with people, and you need to tell your story. And when you talk to people, be genuine about it. When I tell you I care about you, better mean it,” he said.
Hebert saw the election result as political, not personal.
“The Democrats did a much better job of getting out their vote than we did on the Republican side and I’m just an incidental casualty of that voter struggle,” he said.
“I don’t believe the vote this year had anything to do with my experience or my competency,” he continued. “I think even those that voted against me felt I was at least an adequate if not a very good county judge. But they weren’t going to vote for me. They were on a mission to send a statement and they sent a statement of sorts.”
George said his election reflects the diverse makeup of the county.
“Now it looks like the county’s elected officials are a reflection of the demographics of Fort Bend County,” he said.
Hebert is already making plans to hand over the office on Jan. 1 to George.
“I’ve met with Mr. George and I’m going to assist him in the transition because I know he has a big learning curve and I want to make it as easy for him to move into his office as I can. I think I owe it to the people of the county to do that,” he said.
Hebert said he will do what he can to help local Republicans rebound.
“There are many conservative blacks and many conservative Asians and many conservative folks out there of a completely different background who still value the core values of the Republican side – a love of this country, a love of Texas, a love of Fort Bend County, a love of their family, and a desire to have an efficient government as the most reasonable cost. But if we don’t include them – and aggressively include them – they’re going to be talked into doing something that will lead to these outcomes in the future, too,” he said. “So we have a big job ahead of us as a party and I’m going to help the party all I can restructure itself and broaden its base.”
As for Hebert himself, he is done with public office.
“I’ve run for my last office. I was not looking for this job when I got it and I did 16 years, which is longer than I’ve actually been anywhere in my life,” he said.