By Michael Sudhalter
Republicans enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive election nationally, state-wide and in the Houston area, but the questions ahead for the 2016 Presidential Election remain in the minds of local political leaders.
Republicans swept county offices and didn’t have any contests that were decided by less than 20 percentage points.
But Democrats performed comparatively better in state and national elections in Fort Bend County than they did in other Houston suburban counties.
For example, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) received 84.7 percent of the vote in Montgomery County, 71.2 percent in Brazoria County, 67.6 percent in Galveston County and 59.8 percent in Fort Bend.
Texas Governor-Elect Greg Abbott (R) received 56.5 percent of the vote in Fort Bend, compared with 81.4 percent in Montgomery County and 67.8 percent in Brazoria County.
Fort Bend Republican Party chairman Mike Gibson said obvious demographics explain why the other counties performed better than Fort Bend, but he’s confident of the GOP’s current and future position in the county.
“The results are strong and we’re very happy – almost half of all of the votes cast in Fort Bend were straight ticket Republican,” Gibson said.
Gibson noted that former Houston Mayor Bill White, the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial candidate, garnered 49 percent of the vote in Fort Bend, compared to 2014 Democratic candidate Wendy Davis’ 41 percent.
While Gibson said part of White’s success was due to voters’ familiarity with him, he thinks the main reason for the eight-point swing was due to the strength of the Republican Party.
“We did a better job of getting the message out of highlighting the differences between the candidates,” Gibson said.
One major question for the future of Fort Bend hinges upon the commitment of Battleground Texas, an organization started by a former campaign leader for President Barack Obama in an effort to make Texas a swing state, and eventually, a Democratic state.
Battleground Texas’ first meeting was held in Fort Bend County. The organization has stated that it hopes to achieve its goals over multiple election cycles.
“What you see coming out of 2014 is a really active community in Fort Bend, and we’ll continue to work with them and continue to build that infrastructure,” said Battleground Texas spokesperson Erica Sackin.
On Nov. 21, Battleground Texas will have a meeting with the Democratic party chairs from the 10 largest counties in the state.
Gibson said the local GOP has actually improved since Battleground Texas arrived.
“I would hope they’d leave, but I’m not going to hold my breath,” he said.
In 2012, Republican president candidate Mitt Romney defeated President Obama, 52 to 46 percent in Fort Bend County.
Fort Bend Democratic Party chairman Don Bankston said national and local Democrats should have emphasized Obama’s accomplishments, rather than distancing themselves from the president.
“The local candidates are at the mercy of the state and national parties,” Bankston said. “It’s our fault that we can’t motivate base voters to vote. This county should be reliably blue.”
Bankston said Fort Bend is an “overwhelmingly majority-minority county” with 25 percent Hispanics, 24 percent Black and 21 percent Asian residents, but said voter turnout was lower than expected among those groups.
Gibson countered by saying the Fort Bend GOP has made strides with diversity, citing the election of seven Republican women and three Hispanic Republicans in the county government. Gibson said the Fort Bend GOP must improve its efforts with Asian voters.
U.S. Rep. District 22
Pete Olson (R) 67 percent
Frank Briscoe (D) 32 percent
FBISD School Bond
For ‚– 74 percent
Against – 26 percent
Fort Bend District Attorney
John Healey (R) 58 percent
Wilvin Carter (D) 42 percent
Fort Bend County Judge
Bob Hebert (R) 59 percent
James Pirtle (D) 41 percent
State Rep. District 26
Rick Miller (R) 70 percent
Amber Paaso (D) 30 percent
State Rep. District 27
Ron Reynolds (D) 64 percent
David Hamilton(R) 36 percent
State Rep. District 85
Phil Stephenson (R) 60 percent
Cynthia Drabek (D) 40 percent
Senate District 17
Joan Huffman (R) 63 percent
Rita Lucido (D) 34 percent
Fort Bend District Clerk
Annie Rebecca Elliott (R) 62 percent
Michael D. Antalan (D) 38 percent
Fort Bend County Clerk
Laura Richard (R) 59 percent
Lila Villagomez (D) 41 percent