Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Two quick election observations

1. Not to belabor the same thought that is being made all over the rest of the internet today, but I think we can forget about Texas being a "purple" or "battleground" state anytime soon.

Yes, this was an election that the Republicans were going to dominate, both nationwide and at the state level. But when the Democratic candidates for statewide office can't even break forty percent against sleazeballs like Greg Abbott or Dan Patrick - or moreover, when statewide Democratic candidates actually lose vote share compared to four years ago - then all the bluster about demographic trends or better voter identification and turnout methods or Battleground Texas or whatever just looks silly.

I'm sure we'll continue to hear about "Texas turning blue" in 2016, and 2018, and 2020. I'm equally sure that state Democrats are not going to have any luck getting their candidates elected to any statewide office in any of those years. If ever. 

2. The state might well be solidly conservative, but my former home of Denton is clearly becoming more liberal. First, there's this:
Denton became the first Texas city to ban hydraulic fracturing Tuesday after a citizen-driven proposition cruised to a landslide victory at the polls.

Final returns showed the fracking ban passing by a whopping 59-41 percent margin all night long. While dozens of cities in New York and elsewhere have banned fracking, Texas is oil and gas country. So Denton’s proposition over the rights of a Texas city to police what happens within its borders pushed it into the national spotlight.

Ed Soph, treasurer of Pass the Ban, said the turnout sent a message.

“The responsible citizens of Denton have spoken — loudly and clearly,” Soph said.
When I worked for the City of Denton, and the Barnett Shale play exploded, everybody was rushing to get special gas well plats approved so that they could drill in and around the city. It was simply the "Texas" thing to do and was largely without controversy. I do remember Mr. Soph being one of the few people who spoke against drilling, and I also remember that he was regarded by local business leaders and elected officials as a tree-hugging jazz professor from UNT whose opinion didn't matter. Looks like times have changed.

The fracking ban will be challenged in court, but yesterday's election result is nevertheless noteworthy, especially considering how opponents of the ban outspent proponents by a massive margin but still lost by a margin of almost 20 percentage points.

Then there's this:
Liquor sales are now legal in Denton, after thousands of voters chose to make all alcoholic beverages legal to sell.
The vote means that Denton bars and restaurants no longer have to get special permits as private clubs to sell hard alcohol, and that businesses can start selling bottles of hard liquor starting Jan. 1.
I've written about the "wet-dry line" in the City of Denton before: basically, beer and wine sales at grocery stores and restaurants were limited to the city's 1977 boundaries, and any land annexed into the city after 1977 was dry. I spent many a meeting trying to explain to prospective convenience store owners why they could not sell beer in wine at their prospective location, even though the convenience store on the other side of the street was already selling alcohol. It was confusing, to say the least, but I was told that it would never change: the the city's churches would fight any attempt to move the wet-dry line, and the city's conservative voters would fall in line behind them. The same went for liquor stores ever being allowed inside Denton city limits.

Well, the wet-dry line was finally erased by a local election in 2006, which was amazing enough. Yesterday's vote, which allows liquor stores inside the city as well as does away with the city's silly "private club" permits for mixed drinks at restaurants and bars, is nothing short of miraculous.

Again, it appears that times have changed.

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