What happened to Adrian?

Not what he thought would happen, that’s for sure.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

When Adrian Garcia announced in May that he would be giving up his job as sheriff and the top Democratic elected official in Harris County to run for mayor, he was heralded as an instant front-runner to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker.

Six months later, the man many thought could have been Houston’s first Hispanic mayor is out of the running and out of a job.

Garcia’s precipitous collapse, which left him more than 8 percentage points out of the runoff Tuesday, stunned even close race watchers and left the former lawman’s inner circle pondering where things went wrong.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said Massey Villarreal, Garcia’s campaign treasurer. “Nobody understood the big tsunami wave headed our way.”

Reflecting on the results, Garcia allies repeatedly pointed to the city’s polarizing equal rights ordinance, saying Garcia was swamped by the anti-HERO wave that swept the city ballot, buoying conservative candidates, including the one who ended up beating him out for the runoff.


The success of Garcia’s hotly anticipated candidacy depended on his ability to boost consistently low Hispanic turnout while assembling a coalition of other groups, an expensive task predicated in part on a robust get-out-the-vote effort.

Garcia’s campaign mounted a formidable fundraising effort, outraising his competitors by nearly $1 million through late October, and investing in an extensive field operation. Yet, turnout in predominantly Latino districts H and I still lagged behind participation in many conservative and African-American areas, as well as progressive District C.

“There was no way to anticipate the dramatic influx of voters in this election,” Garcia campaign manager Mary Bell said.

Citywide turnout topped 27 percent, an increase of 8 percentage points and more than 89,000 votes from six years ago, the time Houston had an open mayor’s race.

“Could they have done better? Yes,” Tameez said. “Would it change the math? Probably not.”

Tameez pointed to the fact that King captured more votes than Garcia and progressive former Congressman Chris Bell combined.

However, Tameez also spoke critically of how the campaign responded to a series of attacks that opponents began piling on Garcia about two months before election day, when a Turner-Garcia runoff still appeared the most likely outcome.

Bell and King repeatedly hit Garcia on everything from the sheriff’s office’s clearance rates to his handling of cases involving inmates who died or were mistreated while in jail.

Garcia’s campaign consistently was slow to respond, with staffers frequently declining to make the candidate Garcia available for interviews in response or speak to reporters on the record, waiting hours before issuing written statements.

It was not until the Friday before the start of early voting, when polls showed King moving into second place, that Garcia went on offense for the first time.

I’m not sure which “polls” this refers to, as only one of the last two polls had King ahead of Garcia, and that was by just one point. In retrospect, I’m not sure how useful most of these polls were. The HRBC poll, which clearly had a more conservative sample than the others, was the most accurate. The rest all had Turner in first, but that was the limit of their accuracy. And as I said before, it’s not clear to me that Garcia was truly in second based on the public polls, or if he was just the beneficiary of that one good initial poll. Doubt it matter that much at this point, and I doubt the polling will be any better in 2019. It’s the nature of the beast.

As for what happened to Garcia, there’s not much I disagree with above. That said, let’s be a bit more precise when we talk about a conservative voter “surge”:

Dist    2013   2013%    2015   2015%    Diff  13 Sh  15 Sh
A     13,560  19.17%  20,060  26.92%   6,500   7.8%   7.5%
B     13,780  14.40%  22,412  23.34%   8,632   7.9%   8.3%
C     32,489  25.30%  47,125  35.43%  14,636  18.6%  17.6%
D     19,681  17.78%  28,353  25.14%   8,672  11.3%  10.6%
E     18,712  17.75%  33,570  30.40%  14,858  10.7%  12.5%
F      7,794  11.61%  12,722  18.25%   4,928   4.5%   4.7%
G     27,348  23.59%  40,771  34.65%  13,423  15.7%  15.2%
H     10,271  14.27%  17,408  23.73%   7,137   5.9%   6.5%
I      9,553  15.20%  14,668  22.67%   5,115   5.5%   5.5%
J      5,947  13.01%   8,721  18.61%   2,774   3.4%   3.3%
K     15,485  19.62%  22,648  28.18%   7,163   8.9%   8.4%

The last two columns represent the share of the total vote for that district. The three Republican districts were 34.2% of the total Harris County vote in 2013, and 35.2% of that vote in 2015. To be sure, that’s a lot more total votes, I’m just saying that the proportions weren’t all out of whack. Now, there may well be a higher concentration of Republican-friendly voters within each district. I don’t have a good way to measure that, unfortunately. For what it’s worth, King received almost exactly 30,000 more votes than Roy Morales did in 2009; his total in 2009 would have been 37.8% of the vote. I don’t know that I have a point here, I’m just fiddling around.

Anyway. We’ll never know how Garcia might have done in a year that didn’t have HERO on the ballot. I’m sure it didn’t help him, but I can’t say how much it hurt. This election was another opportunity to wonder when Latinos will start to vote in numbers more proportionate to their share of the population. If I knew the answer to that, I’m sure I could make some good money as a consultant. This wasn’t the year, and Garcia wasn’t the candidate. Check back in 2019 or 2023, I guess. For now, Garcia has endorsed Turner for the runoff. What happens for him next I don’t know, but I feel pretty confident saying this wasn’t his last election.

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14 Responses to What happened to Adrian?

  1. He entered too late, had no platform and what little platform he did have he published one month before the election.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I’m sure he made a side deal with Turner to become Houston’s new police chief if Turner wins. How else to explain the lightning fast endorsement of Turner, even before the dust of the election had settled.

  3. Or maybe he just remembered how much King attacked him during the race and did the first thing he could to strike back.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    This is one instance where we may both be right about this.

  5. Paul Kubosh says:

    Maybe all of the above and maybe they are just both Democrats. Who else was he going to endorse in a Democrat City. I don’t see his endorsement making a difference either way.

  6. Tom Berg says:

    The assumption that Garcia would pull the Latino vote was flawed. His decision to keep Immigration in the county jail was immensely unpopular in the community. And many Latino electeds voiced support for Turner early on, viewing his time in the Legislature a positive for Houston. And Latino voters are pretty conservative. Maybe when you can burrow down into how Latinos split their votes a discernable pattern will inform us.

  7. Jaye Ramsey Sutter says:

    Such an interesting story. The impact of the ordinance and the impact of negative stories about the Harris County Jail in a non-partisan race illustrate the power of effective voter mobilization.

  8. Steve Houston says:

    A combination of what is mentioned above and the lack of overall preparedness of Garcia & his staff. He jumped in late enough that his own former union didn’t endorse him, his plans so appallingly generic, and anyone counting on the Latino vote as a prime means of support is a fool because they rarely vote as a singular group in any meaningful manner, and that’s when they vote at all. Some day, they will become the dominant group of voters if trends continue but as “Mainstream” points out in the thread about redistricting maps, a great many Latinos are not eligible to vote due to age or status.

    And having pointed out that rumor of Garcia selling his endorsement in exchange to become police chief months ago, it should be noted that Garcia lacks the credentials to serve in their organization as even a captain, his tenure at the HCSO showing his dependence on outside experts to come up with ideas and run the place. He never led troops in the field, never gained any earned rank, and missed out on the wealth of experiences promoting up the ranks of any organization so he’d likely be a dismal failure as chief. He retained & expanded the ICE program to deport more people than any sheriff before him, catering to the conservative crowd, but that didn’t endear him to Latinos and his other stances proved he was a democrat in all other things.

    That doesn’t mean he’s not a decent guy or that there could be no role for him, but I garner that King’s constant bashing and Turner’s gracious comments led to the near worthless endorsement. He could try for sheriff again but the damage is done so maybe one of the constable spots would be more suitable.

  9. Tom Gederberg says:

    There was also bad feelings about Adrian resigning as Sherrif and hence handing the office to the Republicans.

  10. Manuel Barrera says:

    Steve there are rumors out there that Ed Gonzalez will run for JP pct 1, and that Adrian may consider constable pct 6. But they are rumors we will know in a month or so.

  11. Steve Houston says:

    MB, I’ve heard those too. You’re right, we’ll see. 🙂

  12. John says:

    Garcia’s people are full of it. Kuffner seems right that 2015 turnout as a % of total vote was very close to 2013. 3 Rep districts up 1.0 point. 2 Hispanic districts were ALSO
    UP 0.6, almost taking away the Republican increase. Af Am 3 districts down a bit, which is puzzling I admit. But there was no tidal wave. I don’t see a tidal wave on HERO either. The same voters who went for Democrat mayor candidates by 60% (when you count some Black % for Hall and some Dem % for Costello) and maybe up to 65% since the minor candidates are hard to figure, then simply flipped and went against HERO 60%. Democrat votes killed HERO.

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