Act before someone silences your rights.
by Lane Lewis
Photo by Dalton DeHart
See also: Know Your November ballot (List of openly LGBT candidates running for office)
Before every election, we hear the same thing: “The stakes have never been this high.” “This is the most important election in our lifetime.” “Act before someone silences your rights.”
It might seem somewhat hyperbolic, but these warnings have never been truer in Harris County, Texas, and throughout the nation. The stakes do keep getting higher, making each subsequent election that much more important—especially where people are trying to stifle minority participation through unnecessary new voting restrictions disguised as “voter protection.”
The work we do during October and early November will demonstrate how much we want to see progress in Houston, and the commitment we have to rights that affect our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers.
There are races up and down the ballot that will have long-term impacts, and my main job as the chair of the Harris County Democratic Party is to help elect Democrats. We do this by educating voters, making contrasts between candidates, highlighting differences in policy positions, and encouraging the vote.
Democracy only works when we exercise the enfranchisement we are all lucky enough to have. Politicians depend on infrequent voters not turning out. If they would get out to vote, the world would have a much friendlier hue.
The Democratic Party ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and promoted marriage equality. Democrats gave seniors Social Security, women the right to vote and the Fair Pay Act, African-Americans the Civil Rights Act of 1964, students the Student AID Act, and all Americans the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and most recently, access to healthcare. We must continue being the party of “Yes We Can.”
Most of us are familiar with Governor Perry and the Republican record of “No We Won’t.” This year, Perry has essentially vacated the governor’s mansion for weekends in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Keene, New Hampshire, as he prepares yet another presidential run.
But as extreme as Perry is, Greg Abbott is much worse. He is running against a state senator named Wendy Davis to replace Perry, and Abbott will stop at nothing to put up hurdles to voting. He has also sued the federal government to prevent people from getting healthcare, and he is working each and every day to prevent LGBT couples from having their marriages recognized by the State of Texas.
A vote for Abbott is a big step back on the road to equality. It would send a message to the nation that Texas is not ready to lead on important issues, and it will have personal consequences for many reading these words. Plain and simple: an Abbott administration would be a dangerous proposition in Texas.
But the stakes are just as high in Harris County. You might not realize it, but we elect our judges in Texas, and this year there are a host of judicial candidates who are working around the clock to talk to voters, asking for their support. These are low-budget affairs, often run on dining-room tables next to kids finishing up their spelling homework and accompanied by the clanking of silverware being washed in the sink. There is no money for sharp TV ads in these races, yet these candidates have more of a direct impact on your lives than most other state and federal officials do.
When we say “justice matters” at my office, we understand it to mean fairness. We believe it to mean that a Democratic slate of judges will be fair and impartial, and also bring their personal experiences to the bench. Real-world experience? Yes, please! The other alternative is a dangerous proposition for all of us.
The Democratic Party is proud to have more openly LGBT candidates on the ballot next month than at any time in Harris County history—fine candidates like Judge Steven Kirkland and Jim Evans. Jim Evans, when elected, will be the first openly LGBT family judge in the entire South. You would enter Jim Evans’s court if you wanted to adopt children. Imagine LGBT couples no longer being forced to drive to Austin or San Antonio to adopt children in need of homes.
At the top of our county ticket is Kim Ogg, who is running for Harris County District Attorney. She is a respected and trusted leader, a voice of reason, and supported by people on both sides of the political spectrum. While the consensus is that she would make a top-notch district attorney, her ultimate enemy on November 4 will be voter apathy. Harris County is still a Republican place, and Kim has a “D” next to her name. Additionally, she lives with Olivia Jordan, her life partner of 28 years and the mother of their 15-year-old son, Jack.
For many voters, those are disqualifying traits. That only makes me work harder at my job. It energizes me to talk to more voters meeting in fluorescent-lit union halls and fragrant Mexican restaurants, and to reach out to our senior voters across the county. Talking to voters is how we win.
Campaigns are not rocket science. I need to talk to more voters and convince them to vote for my candidates than the other side does. It is simple arithmetic, and you are part of that equation. To be successful on election day this year, you must vote. Issues that you hold close to your heart will be decided at the polls on November 4, so staying home, or being tired, or anything else, is not an excuse.
We have two weeks of early voting in Texas—or you can vote on Election Day. You could even vote by mail if you qualify.
Harris County is not a Republican county. It is a blue county with low voter turnout.
Vote the straight Democratic ticket on November 4…
• because the Democratic Party supports the city’s H.E.R.O. law.
• because your mom relies on her Social Security check.
• because you have lost friends because they did not have healthcare.
• because you may want to marry (or stay married to) the person you love.
• because kids attend schools with overcrowded classes and underpaid teachers.
• because all children deserve a safe home, and same-gender parents can help make that happen.
You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by voting Democratic on November 4.
Lane Lewis is Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.