Voting & Elections Assignment
As we’ll learn later in the semester, counties in Texas are governed primarily by a commissioners’ court consisting of four county commissioners and a county judge. They’re not really a court – they’re more like a city council, except for a county.
Harris County has a larger population than 26 of the 50 states – more than 4.7 million people. Accordingly, each commissioner precinct has more than a million constituents. After each decennial census, counties are required to re-draw their commissioner precincts to equalize population since not every area of the county grows at the same rate. This year, the Democratic majority also took the opportunity to shift precinct lines in a way that would help preserve their 3-2 voting majority – possibly even expanding it to 4-1 by drawing Commissioner Jack Cagle into a new precinct that slightly favors Democratic candidates.
Cagle easily won the Republican nomination to be his party’s candidate in the election this fall. Democrats had a hotly contested primary that was eventually won by Leslie Briones, beating Benjamin Chou in a runoff election in May. Briones and Cagle will face off in the general election on Tuesday, November 8.
Your assignment: You are now the phantom campaign manager for one of these two candidates. Design a campaign to win the election. Write this assignment as a 2 – 5 page memorandum. (but with cited sources) from you, the campaign manager, to your candidate. Outline the race for them, how much money you think they need to raise, how you will raise it for them, what you propose to spend it on, what issues they should talk about, how you want to deliver their message, etc.
Some things to keep in mind:
Most important – Remember, you’re writing a memo to your client, not a report about your client. Talk to your candidate. Don’t tell them their own biography – they already know where they went to school, how many kids they have, etc. Focus on the campaign you want to run.
In the past several elections, voters in the new Harris County Precinct 4 lean Democratic. This gives Briones an advantage.
Cagle is the incumbent commissioner running for reelection. There are signs all over the precinct with his name on them – every park, jogging trail and county facility. Also, engineers, contractors and others who do business with the county tend to contribute heavily to incumbents. This gives Cagle an advantage.
This race will be a long way down a long election ballot that includes dozens of federal, state and local races. County commissioners have nothing to do with critical race theory, abortion, illegal immigration, gun control or the price of gasoline, but those issues are what will bring many voters to the polls. How do you deal with that?
Your candidate is running in a specific precinct (map HERE). Any money you spend delivering your message to people who don’t live in the precinct (television, radio…) is wasted money. How do you target the right voters?
What sort of people live in your candidate’s district. What motivates them? It’s part urban, part suburban, part rural.
What is your candidate’s background and experience? What will be his or her key issues? Crime? Transportation? Flood control? Social Justice?
How much money will you need? How will you raise it? How will you spend it?
This can be a challenging assignment, but it can also be a lot of fun. Keep in mind that campaigning is more art than science, and that there are few absolutely right or wrong answers. If I asked five campaign professionals to do this assignment for the same candidate, I would probably get five totally different campaign strategies (and they’d charge me a lot of money).
Submit in Word. Cite your sources.
Here are the candidates’ websites:
Here’s some background information on Harris County Commissioner Precinct 4: https://issuu.com/hcp4/docs/your_guide_to_precinct_4_-_2022_-_web/s/15407860
Liberal blogger Charles Kuffner spends a lot of time covering local elections, including posts of interviews with candidates:
Another local blog, Big Jolly Politics, has a lot on local elections:
Local political consultant Marc Campos has another perspective on local politics: http://www.camposcommunications.com/dailycommentary.aspx
Campaigns and Elections Magazine editor Ron Faucheaux has an article called “Writing your campaign plan: the seven components for winning an election”: