Have you ever noticed how the day after an election feels a lot like Christmas afternoon?
The excitement of opening gifts is over and the weeks of anticipation melt away into reality. Maybe you got something you really wanted (or a candidate you supported) but now that you have it, the hope and anticipation are suddenly gone. Perhaps you got stuck with packages of underwear and socks and didn’t get what you really hoped for (or a favorite candidate lost) and all those weeks spent waiting for a moment that never came leaves you feeling empty.
In Fort Bend County, a lot of people were feeling blue the day after the election, which was a good thing for the Democrats. The Blue Wave washed over the county in a surge that I think even surprised the Democrats. On election night I made a quick stop at a Republican watch party and the mood was very somber. There were cheers for U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, and state Reps. John Zerwas, Phil Stephenson, and Rick Miller, but not much else. Sen. Ted Cruz won re-election, but lost significantly in Fort Bend County.
Locally, all seven judges plus the county judge, the district clerk, a county commissioner, and the district attorney seats all went to Democrats. The few Republicans who did win in Fort Bend County did so just barely when facing opposition from a Democrat. Gov. Greg Abbott, who won re-election, took Fort Bend County by less than half of a percent.
For the next few weeks and months there will be a lot of analysis of this mid-term election. Did Democrats win because they did a better job at getting out the vote? Did Republicans lose because people were tired of the status quo and wanted change? I’ve heard a lot of grumbling by Republicans about straight-ticket voting, but it never seemed to bother them when they were winning.
I’ve been around long enough to see political pendulums swing back and forth in many places. Even here, this county was once a Democratic stronghold for decades before things shifted to the right in the 1980s. This swing was very clearly to the left. It’s hard to say if this trend started this year or is the result of momentum during the 2016 presidential election where Fort Bend County went for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
I might be wrong on this, but I don’t think this election had so much to do with the liberal ideology as it did with the racial and gender makeup of the candidates. Let’s take a look:
The race for county judge was won by a South Asian Democrat over a white Republican. A black man beat a white man for district attorney. A black woman beat a white woman for district clerk. For the 240th district court judge seat, a black man defeated a white man. The same went for the 268th district court.
In the race for county court-at-law judge No. 3, a black woman defeated a white woman. In the county court-at-law judge No. 5 contest, a black woman beat a black man. In the county court-at-law No. 6 spot, a black man beat a white man.
Even in Missouri City’s nonpartisan election, a young, black woman unseated an incumbent black man in one city council race. Now headed to a runoff, the white male mayor is challenged by a black female councilmember and in the other city council runoff, a black male incumbent is up against a white female challenger.
Clearly, women and people of color found unprecedented success at the polls in Fort Bend County. The results appear to reflect more accurately the racial and ethnic makeup of the county. I think that the days of white men holding the lion’s share of political power in this county are probably over. At least that is the message voters sent last week.
So now, what happens next? My guess is there will have to be lot of patience as a large slate of new candidates move into their new positions. Many decades of experience have been vacated and it will take some time for the newcomers to get up to speed. They will all eventually learn their jobs and life will go on.
It is my hope that this election will signal the end of party extremism and the beginning of cooperation and a more moderate leadership. With more balanced political power in the county, we’re all going to have to learn to get along a little better. In the nearly 10 years that I’ve lived in Fort Bend County, I’ve heard a lot of talk about diversity and how unique we are. I guess now we get to prove it. We will start 2019 with probably the most diverse set of elected officials this county has ever seen. Only time will tell if that diversity will pull us together or tear us apart.
It’s my hope that we can learn from each other and become more mindful and tolerant of people who don’t look and think like us. Traditionally, minorities don’t trust whites and vice versa. If we are to move forward, that needs to end. It’s time to find common ground and to build on the things that unite us. I believe that we have been doing that for the most part. Now we’re just turning it up a notch.
Maybe for Christmas this year we could all wish for less partisan bickering and more cooperation to help continue moving our county forward.