It has been over a century since Thomas Nast first used an elephant to depict the Republican Party and a donkey to depict the Democrats. But even back in that day when a member of one party tried to successfully switch to another, they often found a very vigorous opposition from activists in both parties.
Here we go! Liberty County politics is full of rumors about different politicians who will likely switch their party affiliation next time they run for office. To those politicians Liberty Dispatch will take a little time to give you a primer on the pros and cons.
First, the easiest way to beat an incumbent from the opposite party is for them to switch parties and run in your primary. Primary voters are ALWAYS made up of a greater percentage of more committed, hard-working, and partisan voters. This make-up has a greater percentage of voters who have spent a considerable amount of time hoping to defeat people from the other party. The reason it is difficult to switch parties is partisan voters are more likely to reward any primary opponent with their vote than a party switcher.
Some party switchers have opted to switch parties at the very last possible second hoping to avoid any or much competition. This strategy may seem to work more often than fully disclosing to the public their intentions early in the election season, but for some candidates it will just fuel the flames. For controversial candidates, they will find activists in both sides will react to their last minute strategy with energy seldom found elsewhere in politics. The party the candidate left will have some activists that spend great amounts of energy trying to beat their defector, as will the party the candidate defected too.
In Liberty County in the 2010 Republican primary we witnessed a switch that went smooth for the local candidate. District Judge Chap Cain routed his Republican opponent after years of running for office as a Democrat. But Cain had several things going for him that helped him to get those extraordinary Election Day numbers. Earlier in 2009 Judge Cain exposed alleged corruption by Democratic County Judge Phil Fitzgerald and the circumstances surrounding the appropriation of FEMA storm recovery contracts and money. Early in 2010 Cain’s courage to take on corruption in the courthouse and the way he carried himself as a new representative of the Republican Party gained him favor with the most active and outspoken Republican activists in the county. Cain’s own popularity and across party lines appeal had already set him up for a successful switch anyway, but his appeal to crusaders for ending corruption in Liberty County helped him win in a blowout.
Others trying to do this in the future may have a more difficult time however. First, they will increasingly appear to many voters to be opportunist as they will appear to have just waited to ride the wave of success (if Republicans have more historic wins to add to the last election). People that are viewed as top dogs or first rate Democratic candidates can easily find themselves losing to people that are not seen as opportunists. Some spend all kinds of time and energy planning on switching, but if they are viewed by the most active in the Republican Party as part of the problem, they will end up being a second rate Republican. Republicans and independents alike who have worked for, and hoped for, a fresh start in Liberty County politics will have a special passion to get voters to the polls who will vote against people that are switching parties and wanting to bring the same old problems and baggage with them.
In Liberty County, people like Greg Arthur would will be nearly 70 years old if by some ill fated election he was returned to office, and that would create a special excitement among some who would work to make sure he didn’t bring his baggage over to the Republican Party. His and Chip Fairchild’s dreams of returning to power in the Sheriff’s Department would be a nightmare to many Republicans. Arthur and Fairchild may have seen, or even help create, what they perceive as an opening as Sheriff Patterson continues to listen to poor advice in dealing with public relations, but Republican activists will guarantee voters will have at least one other candidate to choose from that will improve the department over anything we have seen in many years.
In Liberty County, many of the most outspoken Republicans are likely to plan family vacations around working to defeat District Attorney Mike Little and rid the county of all of the selective prosecution and other problems as a result of his leadership. If he were to choose to run as a Republican, primary voters that are unaware of some of the abuses of power and self serving politics that is coming from the office of Liberty County District Attorney’s office, will be not only informed, but they will be given at least one highly capable option to vote for that is not a twenty five year veteran in the Democratic Party. People that have yearned for all of the scandals and all of the political games from officeholders to end, can easily choose to end it in the 2012 Republican primary, if Mike Little brings his baggage to their primary.
In Liberty County, people like Greg Arthur and Chip Fairchild and Mike Little would be wise to follow in the footsteps of Rusty Hight and Zack Zbranek. These men have participated in the Democratic Party for years. Hight and Zbranek have deep family roots and are connected to what some have called the most influential Democrat in Liberty County in the last quarter of a century and they are arguably the best example of what a Democrat is in Liberty County. When Hight decided to run for re-election and his nephew, Zack Zbranek decided to try and wear one of the two other black robes in Liberty County; they didn’t even consider abandoning their party. Arthur and Little have protected people in the Democratic Party for years and their partisanship is almost as legendary as Hight and Zbranek’s. They should take a cue from the aspiring judges and continue to grow with their devoted partisan brethren. Republicans are not likely to accept any of these people who have bent over backwards to protect the status quo.
Hight and Zbranek are first rate Liberty County Democrats, they have supported the Obama led party through thick and thin; and Arthur and Little (and Fairchild) can stick with them or they can become a second rate 2012 losing primary candidate as a Republican. “Dance with who brung you” applies!