When voters head to the polls here Saturday, their city council and mayoral picks could have repercussions well beyond this working-class Houston suburb.
It will be the first election since a federal judge struck down the city’s 2013 redistricting plan as discriminatory, paving the way for a new balance of power at City Hall.
It comes as Texas Democrats redouble their efforts on the local level after a 2016 election that gave them ample reason to be optimistic about their future, especially in Harris County.
And it could offer a gauge of just how far down the ballot President Donald Trump, unpopular in even a deep-red state like Texas, is energizing Democrats.
For Pasadena, a city whose representation has long lagged its majority-Hispanic population — much like Texas writ large — it could actually be the “new day” that multiple candidates are promising.
“You have racial discord undergirding partisan politics,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “You’ve got one side trying to use the rules of the vote to change the structure of elections. And the other side is using the legal process … to fight the electoral damage that might result.”
“That,” Rottinghaus added, “sets the stage for Pasadena as an important part of the story in Texas’ transition to a new racial electorate.”
The Texas Democratic Party has endorsed five city council candidates in Pasadena — more than it has endorsed in any other municipality for the May 6 elections. Other Democratic groups are on the ground in the city, including Battleground Texas, which has been working to make the state more competitive for Democrats since the 2014 election cycle.
Much of their efforts are focused on two council races — in District A and District B — that are considered key to ushering in a new Democratic, predominantly Hispanic majority at City Hall. Battleground Texas is specifically working with District A candidate Felipe Villarreal and District B candidate Steve Halvorson, husband of Area 5 Democrats President Jennifer Halvorson, the only instances this election cycle where the group has directly partnered with candidates.
In those districts, which cover the heavily Hispanic north side of Pasadena, Democrats face a test similar to the one they face statewide: turnout.
“Those two districts — they vote overwhelmingly Democratic in November elections,” Jennifer Halvorson said. “Those voters don’t typically vote in May elections.”
See here for those endorsed candidates, among others. I’ll have one more look at early voting turnout tomorrow, though it will be limited in that I can’t tell you where the voters are coming from. Republicans are paying attention to the Pasadena elections as well, and the chair of the Harris County GOP, which as we know had such a stellar showing last year, says they are fully engaged. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on one election, but this is our first chance to vote in the Trump era, and it will tell us something one way or another. In the meantime, if you live in Pasadena or know someone who does, make sure you and they get out to vote on Saturday.