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Morrison’s challenge

I often said last year that I wanted to get through the 2014 elections before worrying too much about the 2015 ones. I feel the same way this year, and thus don’t plan to spend much time writing about 2016 elections. But some stories are too important not to comment on, and this is one of them.

Richard Morrison

Richard Morrison

Rosenberg Mayor Vincent M. Morales Jr. announced on Jan. 29 that he’s running for Precinct 1 Fort Bend County commissioner.

Incumbent Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Morrison said he intends to run for re-election in 2016. The Democrat first won election to the position in November 2008.

In announcing his run for commissioner, Morales, in his second term as mayor of Rosenberg, cited his desire to continue his service in a greater capacity.

“My work for Rosenberg is not done; it has only just begun,” said Morales, who will run for county office as a Republican. “By serving as Precinct 1 commissioner, I can continue my focus on economic development and vital infrastructure on a larger scale. I am committed to making certain that our community will be a viable place to live, work and educate our children and grandchildren for years to come, and by serving as Precinct 1 commissioner, I can do just that.”

In his second term in office, Morrison said, “I’ve accomplished a lot.

“I’ve extended, widened and built a lot of roads in Precinct 1. I fought to make sure local contractors and businesses get Fort Bend County construction projects. I’ve done the best I can, along with other members of court, to run a very lean county government, so taxpayers get the most bang for their buck.”

Richard Morrison has long been one of my favorite people in politics. He hit the scene in 2004 when he ran a scrappy, underdog campaign against Tom DeLay in CD22; the interview I did with him in December of 2003 is the first I ever did for this blog. He took on the County Commissioner’s race in 2008, flipping the Republican seat by siding with locals who were unhappy with a proposed toll road in the area and winning large numbers of crossover votes in his home turf, the heavily Republican Greatwood development. He won re-election in 2012 against an opponent who was disavowed by the Fort Bend GOP after evidence surfaced that he had voted twice in an earlier election, once in Texas and once in Virginia.

The challenge is that Fort Bend Commissioners Precinct 1 has a decided Republican tilt. I pieced together precinct information from the Fort Bend election results page, and this is how it looked in the two races Morrison won.

2008 Candidate Votes Pct ========================= Straight R 14,414 Straight D 14,246 McCain 23,902 54.27 Obama 20,137 45.73 Shoemaker 23,059 54.21 Hollan 19,478 45.79 Ordeneaux 21,191 49.12 Morrison 21,948 50.88 2008 Candidate Votes Pct ========================= Straight R 18,843 Straight D 15,124 Romney 26,762 56.60 Obama 20,521 43.40 Mullinix 26,768 57.50 Petry 19,784 42.50 Fleming 22,970 49.26 Morrison 23,661 50.74

The second race in each listing above is a District Court race, which I included as a measure of the non-Presidential dropoff; as you can see, that was greater on the D side and thus was another obstacle for Morrison to overcome. In 2012, the base Republican vote grew by about 3,000 over 2008, while the Dem baseline remained the same. Morrison swung about 2,000 votes in 2008, nearly all coming from six Greatwood precincts, and he swung over 3,000 votes in 2012, outperforming other Dems in just about every box while again dominating his back yard.

The main danger for Morrison is that Morales, a successful politician in his own right, will represent a safe choice for Morrison’s Republican friends in Greatwood and elsewhere to vote for, much as Sarah Davis was for Ellen Cohen’s crossovers in 2010. I’m not sufficiently plugged in to Fort Bend politics to know how good a job Morales did in Rosenberg or how much appeal he’ll have overall, but he only needs to get a few of those wayward Republican Morrison backers to come home in order to win. Morrison, who can win on the strength of Greatwood alone if countywide D turnout is good enough, needs to vigorously defend his home turf while working to boost his party’s numbers elsewhere. It won’t be easy, but it is doable. Whether Battleground Texas is a factor next year or not, this is exactly the kind of small ball that we should be playing. You want a local race to invest in for 2016, this one should be high on your list.

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