Frank Ward’s candidacy in Southwest Austin’s District 8 was the GOP’s only chance at getting somebody on the Council dais for the next two years, and they came up short.
Paige Ellis’ 12-point victory over Frank Ward in the runoff doesn’t adequately reflect the GOP’s poor standing in what was once friendly turf. Consider that in the November election, when far more people were voting, the three Democratic candidates combined for three-quarters of the vote.
The only other district where Republicans have a chance of capturing a seat is District 6, which Jimmy Flannigan will be defending in 2020. However, even a Republican far less absurd than Don Zimmerman will have a very hard time winning in a presidential election year as long as you-know-who is commander-in-chief.
A significant number of Republicans in Austin remains. It is a group in decline, but they account for, I don’t know, a quarter to a third of the population. You wouldn’t know it by watching a Council meeting, of course.
This was what Ward Tisdale, the head of the centrist urbanist group, the Center for Austin’s Future, was getting at when he described his organization’s decision to endorse Ward. He and many others, including liberals who have had a few drinks and are feeling extra-sincere, believe there is a value to having a couple people on the dais who push back against the mainstream narrative and who complain a lot about spending.
I was talking to a liberal City Hall staffer the other week who expressed concern about there not being an outlet on Council through which conservatives in the community could channel their frustrations.
I know. Amidst gerrymandered GOP dominance, not to mention the orangutan in the White House, the idea of feeling sorry for Republicans seems pathetically naïve. I’m not arguing that Council would be better off with a Republican. But it’s worth considering that, while they not be represented on the dais, plenty of Republicans exist, out there in the community. They are a constituency that still carries weight and can have a big impact on city politics. The more they feel shunned and shamed by those in power, the uglier the backlash will be both locally and nationally. The more we justify their resentment by dismissing them as irrelevant troglodytes, the more likely they are to vote for the likes of Don Zimmerman and Donald Trump.