April 24, 2005
Catching up on the Morrison campaign
Now that I'm feeling more like a human being, I want to catch up on the state of things in CD22 on the Democratic side. Richard Morrison wrote a Kos diary asking if he'd still get netroots support if he had to face a well-funded primary opponent - I haven't read through all the comments, but I'd say the clear answer is Yes. Kristin Mack wrote about a meetup between Morrison, Gordon Quan, and Nick Lampson in Houston, the goal of which was to come to a meeting of the minds regarding the CD22 race, though in the end it now appears that Lampson has committed to running (link via Houtopia). Finally, there are now a couple of blogs which are either anti-Morrison or at least openly skeptical of a second run by Richard. What to make of this?
I think everyone knows how I feel about Richard Morrison. I think he did an awful lot with an awful little in 2004, and I think he's a big but underappreciated reason why DeLay drew his infamously soft 55% (and why DeLay has had to be dishonest about the makeup of the district he drew for himself). That said, my goal is to unelect Tom DeLay. To some extent, I don't care who the candidate is because Morrison or anyone who could replace him as the Democratic nominee would be several orders of magnitude better than DeLay. If someone else thinks he or she can present a bigger challenge to DeLay than Morrison can, I'm open minded. Prove it to me and I'm yours. If that means a big nasty contested primary, so be it. May the best candidate win. It's the American way. And for the record, if someone does knock off Morrison next March, I promise no hard feelings on my part as long as the race is clean. The goal here is beating DeLay. Everything else about this race is secondary.
There are three reasons why I support Richard Morrison, and why it will be very difficult for any other candidate to get me to change my mind. First and foremost is that I've met Richard several times, and I have a great deal of affection and respect for him as a person and as a candidate as a result. I've said before that Nick Lampson is the first candidate I ever gave money to, so I still like and respect him a lot, too, just not any more than I do Richard. I've not had the pleasure of meeting Gordon Quan, but I've no doubt I'd feel similarly about him. Nobody gets more than a break-even here.
Second is Morrison's performance in 2004. Everybody talks about DeLay's weak showing, but it's important to remember that this wasn't simply a case of people abandoning a corrupt, amoral politician out of disgust, for if it were, then Morrison wouldn't have consistently outperformed every other Democrat on the ballot with him. Voters did not have a binary choice in CD22. They could have selected Mike Fjetland, the two-time Republican primary challenger to DeLay, or the Libertarian Thomas Morrison, if all they wanted to do was cast an anti-DeLay vote. (Or, of course, they could have not voted in that race at all.) That's not what thousands of them did - they chose Richard Morrison. Despite having more competition than other Democrats, he consistently drew more votes than they did. That's something concrete to build on in 2006 that no other candidate will necessarily have.
You may try to tell me that a different Democrat would have done even better than Morrison in 2004 given the same conditions. If you do, you're basically arguing that Kansas would have made it to the Final Four this year if only they hadn't lost to Bucknell in Round One. It's utterly meaningless, and frankly, any candidate who would make that claim now, such as Lampson whom I know from personal communication was contemplating a run in CD22 last year, will have to explain why they didn't put their money where their mouth was. The wouldas-coulda-shouldas cut no ice with me.
Lastly, while I'm glad to see so many Democrats on board with the idea that CD22 can be had, there were way too many potentially competitive races last year which went wanting for a decent candidate. In order for me to accept the opportunity cost of a Lampson or a Quan or anybody else who'd have to move into CD22 not running elsewhere, I have to be convinced that the odds of their winning are sufficiently greater than Richard's to cover that cost. I can think of four or five races I'd like to see Lampson enter. I want to see Quan run in CD07 so bad I can taste it. You guys want my support in a CD22 primary? Tell me why that race and no other is the best use of you as a resource.
Byron has some thougts on this as well. Like him, I don't expect the DCCC to have anything to do with this race until after the primary, and like him I don't fear a primary. I just want to know that those who are entering it are doing so for the right reasons. That's a tall order to fill.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 24, 2005 to Election 2006
Anti-Morrison rhetoric calls attention to where the real threat is: Morrison.
I think it's funny that Morrison did astoundly better in the conservative Fort Bend side of the district than he did in the East side of TX22 where he focused all his efforts. I think that had more to do with the huge grassroots movement in Fort Bend County than anything Morrison did.
To his credit, he did work hard and raised more money than previous candidates. But it wasn't near enough.
I've talked with him a few times myself, and he just didn't seem very politically astute. I could never get a clear stance on many issues.
And if he's going to run against DeLay on ethics issues, he needs to clear up his own ethics problems with the Federal Elections Commission. Go to http://www.fec.gov and look him up.
Kuff - A few important corrections:
First, Mike Fjetland ran as an independent, not in the Republican primary. Make sure to factor that into your equations next time.
Second, your criticism of Lampson for not running in '04 is way too harsh. Why not go ahead and chastize Hillary for not running for President in '04? Among Lampson's reasons for not running, which I'm sure included some personal reasons, was that it just wasn't time yet.
And you claim:
"it's important to remember that this wasn't simply a case of people abandoning a corrupt, amoral politician out of disgust, for if it were, then Morrison wouldn't have consistently outperformed every other Democrat on the ballot with him."
- This argument has some faulty logic. In reality, the very opposite may be true. The fact that Richard outperformed a local judge and the Kerry ticket may show "a simple case of people abandoning a corrupt, amoral politician out of disgust."
Finally, on a personal note, if you refuse to even consider the issue of whether or not we should be supporting someone as conservative as Richard, then I must assume you are from the same wing of the party as Richard. If this is true, then until the end of the primary, we are on opposites sides of a very real battlefront.
Could you be more specific? I don't see any Matters Under Review which are related.
"First, Mike Fjetland ran as an independent, not in the Republican primary. Make sure to factor that into your equations next time."
I'm fully aware of Fjetland's history. If you'll review the interview I did with him, you'll note he called himself "a Republican running as an Independent". His argument all along has been that the only way to beat DeLay is to combine Democrats with the known quantity of Republicans who have voted against DeLay in primaries (which is to say, for Fjetland). What exactly are you claiming I've missed here?
I'm not criticizing Lampson for his choice in 2004. I'm simply saying that if he wants to now claim he'd have done better than Morrison did, he'll need to explain why he chose not to try. I think that's a perfectly fair question to ask.
I've shown in all three counties for which precinct data is available that Richard outperformed every single Democrat. Were the 4000 extra voters who chose Morrison over Kathy Stone (the leading Democratic votegetter in all of Harris County) "abandoning a corrupt, amoral politician out of disgust"? Here's the spreadsheet and here's the Harris County Clerk data. Please feel free to correct my math if you can.
I have over 5000 posts on this blog, many of which are on politics. You are free to do all the reading you want and to draw your own conclusions about what "wing" of the party I'm in. I do not plan to fling any mud at Lampson, Quan, or any other qualified candidate in CD22 as I give my support to Morrison, and should the nominee be someone other than Morrison I will give that person my full support in the general. Will you make the same pledge about Morrison?
Having a long history of reading your material, I had assumed were somewhat closer in ideology than I now do. As far as the math, we'll talk more about that in the coming weeks. I'm in contact with the numbers guru in Fort Bend, and we'll be crunching a lot of those result figues tomorrow night.
I'll just say that yes, the reason that Morrison outperformed other democrats was that he was running against an especially undesirable opponent.
Another reason is that in some areas, Fort Bend grassroots organizers increased Democratic turnout areas by 100% across the board. Check Fort Bend County Precint 1040 (my precint). It votes 87% democratic. It's total turnout increased over 200% from 2000 to 2004, purely from targeted mailings and election day block-walking, none of which was paid for by Morrison money or interfered with by Morrison staff.
And one other correction: I'm not sure about total votes, but Al Green won his seat, so his percentages beat Morrison.
Will I support Morrison? No. I will no longer support candadites who will not go on the record as pro-gay marriage and refuse to promise to be an iron-clad defender of a woman's right to choose. Will I vote for Morrison if he is the nominee? Well, I vote straight-ticket, so yes.
Do I hesitate to fight for the progressive wing of the District? No. Not when out-of-state net money is pouring into 22.
I'm not sure if criticizing Morrison for conservative positions or his problems with the FEC is "slinging mud," but if it is, you can expect more of it from many sources very soon.
This should be quite a primary.
Oh, and on the Fjetland issue - That was a mis-read on my part due to carelessness. You do note correctly that he WAS a 2-time Republican primary challenger, but did not state Fjetland's party affiliation in 2004. My apologies.
One last thing - The Kathy Stone comment is a gross distortion. Mrs. Stone may have gotten less votes, but her total vote pool is far smaller. In percentages, she outperformed Morrison, capturing 48% of the vote. In fact, EVERY SINGLE HARRIS COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CANDADITE OUTPERFORMED MORRISON. EVERY SINGLE ONE:
"One last thing - The Kathy Stone comment is a gross distortion. Mrs. Stone may have gotten less votes, but her total vote pool is far smaller. In percentages, she outperformed Morrison, capturing 48% of the vote. In fact, EVERY SINGLE HARRIS COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CANDADITE OUTPERFORMED MORRISON."
Dude. You have completely missed the point of what I've been saying. Richard didn't run in all of Harris County. He ran in a small subset of Harris County. In that subset of Harris County, George Bush received 67% of the vote (compared to the 54% he got overall). In that subset of Harris County, no Democrat broke 40% of the vote, but (you guessed it), Morrison came the closest.
In that same portion of Harris County, which is to say in the precincts of Harris County where both Richard Morrison and Kathy Stone appeared on the ballot, Richard drew 39.3% of the vote to Kathy's 36.2%, and collected 41,778 votes to her 37,428. That's why I refer to the precinct data - so we can have an apples-to-apples comparison. Why should Morrison get dinged for not being on the ballot in Sheila Jackson Lee's district as well?
By the way, by your criterion here, Morrison outperformed Nick Lampson in Harris County. Look it up - Lampson only got 40,809 votes (27.80%) in Harris.
I'll address the rest of your points later, but please understand what I'm saying here. This is the most critical part of my argument.
Fair enough. I still think the way in which your originally presented the Stone argument was a bit distorted, but what you say here appears quite accurate to me. The numbers will continue to be labored over, re-analyzed, and fed through who knows how many filters before the fall. The dicussion we just had will be held again by many others.
Trust that I do understand your argument, and that I also understand that if there wasn't merit to it, NOBODY would be asking Morrison to run.
The core of my position is two-fold:
1. Richard Morrison's performance in '04 had nothing to do with Richard Morrison.
2. Richard Morrison is dangerously conservative, and does not have the ideological rigor necessary to participate in a national legislative body.
Were the 4000 extra voters who chose Morrison over Kathy Stone (the leading Democratic votegetter in all of Harris County) "abandoning a corrupt, amoral politician out of disgust"? Here's the spreadsheet and here's the Harris County Clerk data. Please feel free to correct my math if you can.
Kuff, I didn't get the impression District22Dem was questioning your math. I thought he was questioning your logic.
Put yourself in the shoes of a typical District 22 (Republican) voter for a minute. You typically vote straight-ticket, but can't stand the (as you so eloquently put it) "corrupt, amoral" DeLay. You think he should be defeated. What do you do?
Do you vote for a conservative Democrat like Morrison, do you cast your ballot for the independent Fjetland or the other (Libertarian) Morrison, knowing full well that neither one has a ghost of a chance of defeating DeLay, or do you just skip that ballot line entirely and throw your vote away?
The answer is obvious: it's a two-party system, so you vote for the Democrat. It's not like he's one of those gay-lovers, after all.
In short, I don't think there's any way you can get from the raw numbers to the conclusion that voters were voting for Richard Morrison, rather than against Tom DeLay. Exit polls might give you that information, but raw vote totals simply cannot. In a two-party system, his numbers were bound to go up as DeLay's went down, Fjetland's best efforts notwithstanding.
Now, all the above notwithstanding, Morrison may well be the best candidate for CD22. He's conservative; so is the district. That's why we have primaries. And on that, we agree: bring it on.
Personally, I may support another candidate in the primary, but not because I think a more liberal candidate will do better! I'm thinking long-term. If we progressives cave on our standardbearers before a single vote's been cast, who's going to carry the progressive message to CD22 voters?
If we want to win these things when our opponent isn't Tom DeLay, we've got to start making more progressives. And we're not going to do that by running one right-leaning Democrat after another.