can and will affect future political activity in Harris County at local, state, and national levels. GRAVES’ CAMPAIGN stirred up a highly respectable voter turnout of 56.25% in the city’s 45 black precincts. Graves managed to grab off 87.65% of this vote. This, no doubt, caused a certain amount of embarrassment to Welch. The mayor had predicted he would receive 40% of the black vote. In reality, only 6.05% of Houston’s black voters supported Welch. The voting machines hadn’t begun to collect dust back in the warehouses before the mayor expressed dismay and concern over the lean and threadbare support he received in the black community. Graves, too, had minority vote problems. Apparently on the theory that liberal candidates enjoy immense influence in the Mexican-American community, his campaign strategists counted the chicano vote in his column. Welch polled 2,110 vote. Graves ran a poor second with 1,054 former candidate on the ultra-conservative Constitutional Party ticket, who got a surprising 477 votes. Voter turnout in the Mexican-American precincts was mediocre. Out of an estimated 10,259 registered Graves had the open support and endorsement of the only elected Mexican-American official in Harris County State Rep. Lauro Cruz. In Austin, Graves supported every single piece designed to benefit the Texas’ Mexican-American population. Still, he ran poorly in the Mexican-American areas. This may be evidence of growing tension between browns and blacks. Or, so much for the theory that liberal candidates, regardless of color, have a built-in alliance with the Mexican-American electorate. The labor appendage of Harris County adds a unique chapter to Welch’s victory since the mayor apparently had the ability to cut deeply into the liberal coalition that elected Graves to the Texas Legislature for two consecutive terms. An analysis of nine predominately labor precincts reveals that blue collar voters had the lowest percentage of turnout in the mayoral election, 37.57% or a total of 6,417 from a possible strength of 17,080 registered voters. Graves fared less than 1% better in the labor-oriented precincts compared to suburban white precincts. He received 803 outdistanced Graves with a labor vote of Welch, an outspoken critic of police and fire unions, amassed an unnatural and almost incomprehensible total of the blue collar vote. He received a total of 4,394 8 The Texas Observer Graves by margins of more than 4-1 and 5-1. Part of Graves’ inability to hold the labor-liberal coalition strength in the city race can be attributed to past actions of the coalition in city politics. Individual voters who might be classed in the labor vote potential have been under verx little union influence in city elections. In this year’s race, Graves was not able to bring the labor leadership to his side and the average labor voter, left a choice, went for Welch or Nesmith. Although it may be too imprecise to class this as a “race vote,” it is nevertheless true that both Welch and Nesmith have taken anti-labor stands in the past and that Graves has an almost perfect labor voting record in both sessions of the Legislature in which he was a member. THE STRENGTH of Welch’s apparent invincibility is more than mere happenstance. First, he is clearly not an anti-minority mayor in the sense that other cities in the South have known. He has spent money, although not altogether in a way that was not patronizing, on municipal projects in the minority areas. He opened a human relations office as an adjunct to the mayor’s office and he has voiced concern, if only in lip-service fashion, about the problems of the underprivileged. Much of Welch’s opposition was generated by his choice of contractors for city construction projects, his real estate deals, his handling of bonds and city finances, and a string of broken campaign promises. Secondly, white voters dominate the political spectrum in a city-wide election. A study of 35 selected precincts in the Southwest Houston-Spring Branch area produced an aggregate vote potential of 69,576, while the cumulative vote potential for all of Houston’s 45 black precincts is 69,876. Comparatively speaking, the Southwest Houston-Spring Branch area, representing some 170 precincts, holds a numerically larger vote potential than any other bloc of constituents. Of the 35 sample precincts, of the 33,685 ballots cast. Graves and Nesmith failed equally to garner much voter support. Graves polled 4,036 The only measurable effect to date of Graves’ campaign in the white community aside from the election outcome is drawn from the voting trends set in five selected white precincts that were flooded with campaign literature to acquaint voters with Graves and his views. The statistics show that in these five precincts, Nesmith captured 17.59% of the vote, Graves received 11.53%, and Welch scored an overwhelming victory with 68.72%. The other 30 precincts in the white community not covered with direct mail produced a voting pattern that gave Nesmith 16.4% of the ballots cast, 12% for Graves, and 69% for Welch. In short, voter turnout was up in the precincts exposed to Graves’ campaign propaganda, and Graves polled a slightly lower percentage of votes in white precincts where his mailings were received in the mails, as compared to white precincts where his mailings were not received. Turnouts averaged 52.08% of the potential in the precincts that were sent mailings by Graves, compared to an overall average in white precincts of 48.41%, and 45.9% in the 30 sample precincts not sent mailings. The fact that Nesmith picked up votes and Welch lost votes because of the activity of a black candidate indicates a reactionary backlash. An unqualified charge of racism may not be in order, but there seems no other explanation. OTHER DECIDING factors in the Welch victory center around the present political state of the liberal coalition in Harris County. Once a powerful force on the legislative and national scene, the coalition has been rocked of late by a variety of disagreements and does not appear to be as effective as it once was. Overall, the race was a question of skin color. Given the present set of political statistics in Houston and social attitudes, it is probably impossible to elect a black mayor, or a black city councilman on an at-large basis, in the near future. Even if a larger turnout of black voters had been able to counteract the conservative vote and give the progressives a fighting chance in the election, Graves would have had to have increased significantly his percentage \(upwards to assured a victory. The anti-Welch black solidarity in the mayor’s race points to a different trail. Among other things, it indicates a growing concern among blacks in Texas about the course of government at all levels. In Houston, black voters appear to be on the edge of creating a new political entity of their own. Pieces of the Graves’ campaign apparatus may be used as building blocks in the foundation for a political machine that could be used as a powerful weapon. Such a political machine, controlled by blacks and operated in their best interests, could deny black support to candidates who have no intention of doing anything for the black community. Given the license to organize, risking nothing by organizing, the black community appears headed toward a much more prominent voice in the politics of Houston. But the opportunity to do so and the task of accomplishing all this is something else.
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.