Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Narrow Path To Victory For A Texas Berniecrat-- And Well Worth The Fight!


-by Zack Lyke,
Campaign Manager
Wakely 2016

Lamar Smith has been in Congress for 29 years. I'll be 29 years old this August. That's not an important benchmark for me by any stretch, but the month will also mark the 20th full year that Lamar Smith has been my Congressman. Now that's quite the anniversary.

Perhaps few people are more aware of the challenge that lies ahead of this campaign than the guy who's managing it. I know the most populous neighborhoods of the district like the back of my hand. I drive these streets every day. It's quite easy to see how the district lines carefully snake their way though central Texas in an effort to fence in the Republican strongholds and block out those pesky Democratic voters. Smith has been in Congress for nearly three decades. The Democratic Party establishment isn't terribly interested in our race, and why should they be? No candidate has ever mounted a serious threat against Smith's incumbency. On certain paper, it's easy to be dismissive of any effort to unseat the congressman. I say certain paper because as far as I'm concerned, there is something to be said for the fact that I'm willing to help Tom Wakely in this fight. Simply put, there's a damn good reason why I said 'yes' to managing this campaign: We can win.

I'm a numbers guy, I know the district, I know its people, and I really don't like wasting my time. The political climate has never been like this since Congressman Smith took office. This past Friday, Lamar Smith became one of the first representatives to officially endorse Donald Trump for President of the United States of America. Imagine writing that sentence one year ago. I realize it's going to be one of the most difficult endeavors anyone involved with our campaign will attempt, but it's not impossible.

So, let's talk.

The candidate:

Tom Wakely might be the first to joke that his lack of political experience is a drain on the staff, but I can tell you first hand that it's what makes this campaign so refreshing. He's a USAF veteran, former labor activist, and a former minister who currently runs a hospice care service out of his home. You can't find a bigger heart. You'd also be hard pressed to find a truer progressive. His steadfast and honest commitment to the American worker, his care for the environment, his desire to push a progressive platform, and his socioeconomic justice advocacy are all reasons enough to support him as a candidate, but it's simply not as good as meeting the man in person. If any of the readers out there are ever in the district, I urge you to contact our campaign and set up a meeting. You won't be disappointed.

The primary:

In the Democratic primary, Tom ran against a man named Tejas Vakil, a wealthy businessman from Austin who positioned himself more as an economic centrist. It was hard enough running against a man named Tejas in the state of Texas, but Tejas also committed nearly $50,000 of his own money to the race. Tom raised around $3,000 for the primary. Heavily outspent, Tom did what he does best, he talked to people. No group was too small nor were they ever considered unimportant. He drove all across the 10 counties of the district meeting with anybody who would listen. His progressive policies must have struck a chord with the Democratic voters, as Tom went on to win with nearly 60% of the vote. He carried all 10 counties, including the 8 counties that voted for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. He achieved this with one full-time staffer and a few dedicated student volunteers.

The district:

Comprised of parts of 4 counties near the I-35 corridor (Bexar, Comal, Hays, Travis) and the entirety of 6 counties in the Hill Country (Bandera, Kerr, Real, Blanco, Gillespie, Kendall), there are 10 unique counties represented in Texas' 21st congressional district. The partial counties hold more of the urban areas of the district, taking up parts of San Antonio, San Marcos, New Braunfels, and Austin.

The numbers:

Because the Democratic Party didn't run anybody in the 2014 cycle, the 2012 election is the only available data set under the current district lines. The district lines were redrawn before the 2012 elections to include more of South Austin, the West Campus portion of the University of Texas at Austin, Buda, and parts of Hays County where San Marcos is located. For the first time in his electoral history, Lamar Smith lost Travis County. The margins were not slim. With nearly 80,000 voters in the Travis County region of the district, Candace Duval, the Democratic nominee, took 60.95% of the vote. Lamar Smith took 32.46%. Had approximately 1,600 votes swung the other way in Hays County, Congressman Smith would have lost that region, too.

Without laying our entire field plan out in the public eye, if we can split Bexar County where the San Antonio constituents are located and improve on the 2012 margins, we would only need around 35% in the Hill Country to yield a narrow victory. For an area like Real County that has a total county population of 3,200 folks, you can legitimately improve your margins by convincing a single family to vote for you.

We're going to run a different campaign.

A few Democratic nominees have actually been able to raise a considerable amount of money to take on Lamar Smith. The difference in our campaign is we'll be focusing the majority of our resources on our field team. We don't need polls to tell us what we already know. We don't need consultants to tell us that Lamar is going to be a tough opponent. What we want to show the constituents of our district is how accessible a representative should be. We'd like to be at every club's meeting, every county fair, and any restaurant in the district that will have us. We think we can expand on the efforts that Tom made during the primary and simply duplicate that strategy over and over again with our staff. We're not going to have to stretch any truths to prove Tom cares about the constituents of the district. Their well-being was primarily the reason he decided to get into this race.

If there's anything you take away from this, I hope it's a rekindled understanding of what progress could look like in an area that has seen less than its fair share of change. I sincerely hope you see that the viability of a campaign should be defined by the strength of its efforts and not by the labels people are all too quick to slap on a progressive candidacy in Texas.

Together, we can bring a much-needed change to the guard of TX-21. Together, I am confident we can win this race.
Goal Thermometer

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At 12:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great example of why the 50 state strategy is necessary. With a little push from from the DNC - and less spent beating Joe Sestak in a primary - this is a winnable seat. But maybe the DNC-DSCC-DCCC cabal doesn't have winning seats as its top priority.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Gadfly said...

Good luck, and it sounds like you have a shot! (I used to live in Marble Falls.)


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