The HERO Harbinger
Monday, November 16, 2015
Posted by: Nadia Tamez-Robledo
By Andrew Cates
General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs
Just a couple of weeks ago, Texas had an election. Did you miss it? Chances are, you did. Only 11% of registered voters in San Antonio cast ballots on Nov. 3, which is fairly indicative of other major cities in Texas. And it’s not like nothing major was on the ballot…seven amendments to the Texas Constitution sailed to victory and some unlikely candidates rose to the top, as one HERO went down. Read on to see how this inauspicious day signals change to come for the 2016 presidential election.
In Texas we have an interesting way of holding elections - because of the way the maps are drawn (and redrawn, and redrawn again) there are only a couple of races for the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate that still matter by November.
Most of our elections are decided by the primary because House and Senate districts are either solidly Republican or Democrat, and there’s not a competitive race between the parties. What this also means is that each party necessarily gets a little more polarized with every election. Why? Because when one party only has to contend with itself in order to get elected, candidates compete to see who can be more Republican or Democrat; the Right gets Righter and the Left gets Lefter.
Currently, the Republican Party owns the Texas legislative process. They have a majority in the House and Senate and basically all of the top statewide offices.
But with every election cycle comes turnover. This cycle, that turnover will come to the detriment of Republican moderates. Sixteen members of the legislature have already announced that they will not return to their elected seats, almost all of whom are moderate Republicans that hold seniority positions.
One of them actually mentioned to me recently that “I just don’t know how to represent my district anymore. They’ve moved farther to the right than I’m willing to go and I can’t represent their interests the way they want.”
This sentiment seems to be shared by many elected officials, some of whom may be leaving because they anticipate losing to a more conservative candidate in the next election and would prefer to “go out on top” as it were.
That brings us to the 2016 elections and what happened on Nov. 3. On the ballot this time were some special elections for vacated House seats, a lot of constitutional amendments, a Houston mayor’s race and an anti-discrimination or anti-religious freedom (depending on your stance) ordinance in Houston.
The Republican voters came out en masse and propelled their candidates and priorities either into run-offs which no one expected them to qualify for, or in the case of the HERO ordinance in Houston, a sound defeat.
The HERO ordinance is perhaps the most telling precursor to 2016 among all of the other issues. The ordinance was pushed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an anti-discrimination ordinance which would allow transgender persons to choose the bathroom or locker room which most accurately fit with their personal gender identification. Opponents of the ordinance cited religious freedom arguments and privacy/safety concerns, with the most famous of signs around Houston reading “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms”.
Whatever your stance on the issue, one thing cannot be denied - the anti-HERO campaign worked, and the conservative Republican voices won the day. What had seemed like a slam dunk for the Mayor turned into an embarrassing loss for the Democratic Party.
Now, presidential elections invariably turn out more people to vote; that much is without question. However, the social conservative movement has a decisive win under its belt, with a tremendous amount of momentum going into the primaries.
Remember that the primaries are where most elections are won in Texas, and there are many more far right conservatives currently on the ballot for the presidency than ever before (Trump, Cruz, Carson - arguably).
So what does this mean for 2016?
If the November election was any indication of the turnout that the social conservative movement within the GOP will have, and if Trump, Cruz and Carson are all on the ballot by March seeking the Republican nomination, it could mean that an exponential amount of extremely conservative Republicans come to the polls and vote not only for president, but for Texas candidates - in other words, a tidal wave of further right conservative candidates coming to Austin in 2017.
No matter your politics, this could signal a very interesting dynamic shift in the Texas Capitol that we have not seen for a long time and which will trickle through state policies for years to come.
What can nurses do?
Nurses should get involved in their TNA district to make sure they are involved in the candidate interview process. TNA districts are now the go-to for nurses who want to get involved in grassroots advocacy, and they could use more people interested in getting the word out about nursing. If you don’t know what district you’re in or who to call, you can contact TNA at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out. And above all, GO VOTE! With such low voter turnout, your vote counts for so much more than you think. It’s your state, country and profession – make sure you have a say in how it affects you!