(The subtitle of this post is, “Support Stephen Takach for Congress (R-TX) on July 31st”)
The Republican Party of Virginia has continued efforts to push through one of its legislative priorities to institute party registration and limit primary participation to registered party members in order to stop what they perceive as Democrats infiltrating Republican primaries, elevating moderates, and weakening the party brand. The party registration bill died in the Virginia General Assembly this year thankfully, but that has not stopped the RPV from closing the primary process. The newly elected RPV State Central Committee voted to change the 2013 nominating process from a primary to a convention.
I was talking to a handful of Democratic friends from the place where I grew up recently. I had the misfortune of growing up in the 22nd Congressional District of Texas, the home of disgraced former Congressman Tom Delay (R-TX). For many years, my Democratic family and I, as a registered Texas Democrat, voted for any Democrat on the ballot in hopes that Delay would be ousted. Eventually, Delay’s ego and excess caused him to oust himself.
A portion of the 22nd Congressional District is now the 36th Congressional District due to reapportionment and redistricting. Former one-term Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX), a hardcore fiery conservative who campaigns on hating liberals and Democrats, is running in a Republican runoff in the heavily Republican 36th District (He does not live in the district, but this is legal under the Constitution.). His opponent, Stephen Takach, is a political neophyte and is relatively more conciliatory, but is every bit as conservative as Stockman is.
Their approaches differ greatly. Takach is campaigning on solutions while Stockman is running a deceptive “Re-elect Congressman Steve Stockman” campaign (he served one strange, hyper-partisan, ineffective term from 1994-1996 before being defeated by Democrat Nick Lampson), advertising that he is “anti-Obama” and will attack liberals unlike Takach, creating fake tabloids to smear Takach, using hot-button social issues as a wedge, and distributing “Obama barf bags” as campaign souvenirs. This is not a classy campaign.
Republicans in Virginia like to complain that Virginia Democrats always resort to talking about social issues because they can’t run on anything else. The opposite is true in Texas. Republicans in Texas, like Steve Stockman and many others, make hot button, polarizing social issues a visible part of their campaigns because they can’t run on anything else.
Texas has a semi-open primary. Voters can opt to register with a party, but that party registration does not prevent them from voting in any primary they choose so long as they stick with that party through that one cycle once they start. My Democratic friends in the 36th District did not have a Democratic primary and really want to vote against Stockman, but they won’t. They will wait until the general election when they can vote for the Democratic opponent even though the Democrat has no chance of winning since the GOP runoff is tantamount to election in this heavily Republican district.
There are two reasons why they will not cross party lines to vote in a GOP runoff even when it makes sense. First, while they believe that Steve Stockman is dirty, they don’t like Takach’s views either since the only difference between them is approach, manner, and tone. A difference in dialogue between the candidates is not enough to make up for a difference in disposition between the voter and the candidate. Second, they don’t want to be on the public record as voting in a GOP primary runoff and start to get Republican junk mail.
Anecdotal evidence it is, but it is another piece of evidence that fits into the overall valid study that crossover primary voting is ultimately negligible. The RPV is paranoid and fueled by hatred of Democrats. Enacting legislative and party policies to restrict participation from Democrats may make the staunch partisans feel good about themselves and could even yield some victories in the short term. However, this is not a recipe for success to build and expand the base in the long term.
Republicans are winning the battle, but they will lose the war long down the road due to self-inflicted wounds and unforced errors.