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Texas Politics - Political Parties
Money and votes in Texas Money and votes in Texas
party system
7.4    Organizational Strength

While demographic changes will affect the party system profoundly over the long term, organization, unity, and quality of candidates will be critical to the parties' success over the short- and medium-term. Strong statewide leadership from officeholders, candidates, and party activists that provides strategic focus, consistency, and unity in the ranks will have a significant impact.

The parties' organizational efficiency and effectiveness are rarely considered by the general public, as the party organizations function largely out of view of television cameras and audiences at political rallies. But the "party as organization" plays a critical role in the fortunes of a political party. The precinct captains, county chairs, state chairs, workers at party headquarters, communications officers, and other party activists all have roles in enabling parties to remain viable in the eyes of potential supporters and voters. Money has to be raised and allocated, rooms reserved, bills paid, letters and e-mails sent, Web sites maintained, voters informed and helped to the polls, and a thousand other routine tasks completed.

The parties' financial conditions provide one indication of organizational health. The Republican ascendancy in Texas has been accompanied by an advantage in fundraising and by better overall financial health. Republicans in the state, as at the national level, have enjoyed a consistent advantage in raising campaign funds. As the Democratic Party's electoral fortunes declined, the party also sank into debt and operated in the red for eighteen years, until finally retiring its debt in 2002. [8] The Republican Party has not experienced such financial difficulties.

Leadership poses a much more difficult organizational advantage to measure precisely. Nevertheless, the Republican stranglehold on statewide elected offices since 2000 gives that party a distinct leadership advantage and deprives the Democrats of important means for communicating with the media and with statewide audiences. Executive leaders with a statewide constituency and with the advantages of incumbency are able to establish their names and identities with the public. Legislators have some access to media, but because they are elected in specific geographic districts, their ability to exercise leadership in the name of their political party is more limited.

The Republican Party's recent successes thus give them a sustained advantage over the Democrats for the near future. Elected officeholders from the Governor down to local judgeships will continue to represent the successful face of the Republican Party. This advantage in office-holding will continue to be a powerful support for an already well-funded, ascendant Republican Party.

Nothing guarantees that the organizational advantages recently enjoyed by Republicans will be permanent. In fact, like the Democrats before them, the Republicans are finding that organizational unity is harder to maintain when your party is dominant. The 81st Legislative session in 2009 started off with a fight over the office of Speaker of the House. Several Republicans came forward to try to replace the previous speaker Republican Tom Craddick, including Joe Strauss who eventually came out on top. The 2010 election cycle saw significant gains by Republicans, but was also marked by divisions between moderate and more conservative members and so called "tea party" candidates. Both Republicans and Democrats must struggle to prevent internal conflict from consuming party resources, sending conflicting messages about the parties' positions to voters and activists, and alienating supporters and contributors.

8 "Campaign Notebook: Democrats Out of Debt," Houston Chronicle, September 29, 2002, link: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/ec/campaignnotebook/1596085.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
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