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Friday, December 16, 2011

African-American and Republican Coalition

There was a fascinating fundraiser last evening for Houston Council Member-elect Andrew C. Burks, Jr. at the home of Republican financier Fred Zeidman.  Burks, an African-American pastor and businessman, was recently elected to an At-Large seat on City Council.  Some have speculated that Burks would be a one-term Council Member because he had determinedly run for office at least twelve previous times without success.  That is not what I saw last night.
In attendance were Democratic elected stalwarts Judge Zinetta Burney, Constable May Walker and State Rep. Ron Reynolds; and Republicans Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel and former Judge Levi Benton (Burk’s treasurer).  Mayor Annise Parker was the Special Guest.  Burks announced that he had hired Sandra Strachan from the Greater Houston Partnership as his Chief of Staff, and former Council Member Mark Goldberg as an Executive Advisor -- two strong hires.
I was particularly fascinated by the mixture of Democratic power players (primarily African-American) and Republican power players.  City of Houston elections are nonpartisan, but they generally tend to break along partisan lines.  Mr. Burks’ winning coalition was comprised of African-Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic in partisan races, and westside conservative/Republicans.  Council Member Brad Bradford was handily reelected with a similar coalition, and, incidentally, was the only incumbent Council Member to endorse Burks.
For years, Republicans have tried in City of Houston Mayor races to assemble a coalition with Hispanics, without success.  It will now be interesting to watch if an electoral coalition of African-Americans and Republicans becomes a viable paradigm for future Mayor races.