Winning Political Campaigns in Harris County, Texas: Strategies for Success

Labor Day is the perfect time to take a look back at Houston's history and uncover strategies for success for presidential candidates' political campaigns. Here are three strategies from our Texas ancestors.

Winning Political Campaigns in Harris County, Texas: Strategies for Success

Labor Day is the perfect time to take a look back at Houston's history and uncover the similarities between then and now. If presidential candidates could go back in time and replay the events of the past, they'd be surprised to find that this unique race to the White House looks like some colorful fragments of Houston history. Here are three strategies that presidential candidates and their political campaigns can borrow from our Texas ancestors. The Houston story shows that while promises often work, so do bribes. In the 1830s, 16 cities competed for the important designation of capital of the area that is now Texas.

John Kirby Allen and his brother launched a vigorous political campaign to build their speculative city, which they wanted to name Sam Houston, the leader of the Texas Army. To win over two legislators, Allen offered attractive municipal lots in front of the proposed congressional pavilions and even gave Sam Houston a whole apple of land. This strategy worked and from 1837 to 1839, the city called Houston served as the capital. Today's electoral college means that only one state can tilt an election, which is why political candidates are targeting fewer than a dozen states that are battlegrounds. In 1837, Houston's first municipal election attracted few political maneuvers and only 31 votes were cast.

James Holman won the mayoral race by just one vote over Francis Lubbock, who later became governor of Texas. This shows that even a small margin can decide who wins. In today's elections, candidates are considering how their actions may affect a second round. For example, when Dan Patrick ran for lieutenant governor in 2014, he hired a private investigator to uncover former employees who said Patrick had knowingly hired them while they were in the United States illegally in the 1980s. This strategy could be used by other candidates in similar situations. The Texas Organizing Project (TOP) has led the state's largest independent grassroots electoral operation with a program in four of the largest counties.

This program has trained grassroots leaders, promoted policy solutions, and encouraged voter participation. It has also shown that attacking an opponent who leads the primary can backfire in the runoff. The Houston story shows that John Allen used shrewd political campaign strategies similar to those in this year's presidential race. Political organizers in TOP counties are responsible for developing local electoral and political organizing strategies with TOP leaders and organizers who promote campaigns based on specific topics. For some candidates, this has led to a more nuanced approach to campaign strategy. In addition to worrying about hurting a candidate's chances in a subsequent second round, campaigns with several candidates are also concerned with conveying to their supporters and donors that their candidate is well positioned to move on to the second round.

This was particularly true when John Allen's political campaign was supported by a powerful group of promoters and agitators known as the 8F group. Harold Cook, a Democratic consultant in Austin, said that Democratic candidates have had a hard time differentiating themselves in a crowded field. Through organizing on the ground, training grassroots leaders, direct action, policy promotion, and voter participation, we have made progress in political solutions. The Houston story shows that presidential candidates can use shrewd strategies such as bribes and private investigations to win their political campaigns. Candidates should also consider how their actions may affect a second round and how they can differentiate themselves from other candidates in a crowded field.

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