Election 2018 Party Next Steps

Political Profile | By Christopher Hill –

Those in politics have good days and bad days like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, the campaign season culminates on election day.

In politics, these culminations are separated by years. “You win some, and you lose some” is the standard line. In Fort Bend County, there has been a similar refrain as the Republicans have long dominated local politics. For the most part, if someone  wanted to win in this county, they had to be a Republican. That all changed in November’s midterm voting, as the Democrats not only won seats, but they won in large margins. Now, a few months removed from the election, we wanted to get the evolved viewpoints of each party chairperson. For the Democrats, Cynthia Ginyard, and for the Republicans, Jacey Jetton. Up first, the Republicans.

Jacey Jetton.

“It was a tough night to be sure. As soon as we saw the first vote totals, we knew,” said Jetton.

Knowing, believing and accepting are three entirely separate stages of the process. For Republicans, the first question was about the permanence of such a shift in voting results. The next questions focused on what to do about it.

“We centered a campaign around the success our county leaders have developed in our county,” said Jetton. “Low taxes and massive infrastructure development have been managed by Republican leadership. Our county is what it is today because of Republican elected officials who believed in smaller government, less regulation and undue financial burdens placed on small business. We ran on the accomplishments of our elected officials. We ran that in a year where large groups of people upset with Washington, D.C. decided they didn’t want experience and success at home; they wanted to roll the dice with unproven leadership.”

The Republicans have gone from being on the inside to being on the outside, looking in. Their next steps will be critical to their strategy, as they move toward the next election cycle.

“An election is only the first step. Actual governance is often the most difficult part of assisting our communities. You can complain from the outside, but now it is on you. Our county is a model for other communities across Texas and the rest of the states. Now the Democrats will have to, at the very least, sustain the growth, or they will fail to lead. The pressure is squarely on their backs,” Jetton explained.

The next steps are often difficult to make because input is critical; hearing from all voices is an integral part of a county chairman’s job. When you go from winning nearly every seat to losing, almost everyone has an opinion on how to “fix” things.

“After the election, I listened to and met with hundreds of fellow Republicans. I asked for input in every means possible, from elected officials and those who have never held office but represent the ideals of conservatism in everything they do. As you can imagine, the ideas were varied. It was important to represent that there was not going to be one group that would be in charge of change. For the next steps, we all needed to take them together,” Jetton stated.

Rapidly changing demographics meant that the party in power before the election did not look like the county they served. This was a talking point pressed by Democrats.

“Elections should be about who can lead our county,” said Jetton. “Not the color of someone’s skin, their gender or any other segmentation. Our party is often maligned about our diversity, but I am a Korean-American, our treasurer is an Indo-American and our two vice-chairmen are Hispanic and white. Our legal counsel is African-American, and our party secretary is female. I call them Manish, Carlo, Jason, Lewis and Linda. We all believe in personal responsibility and limited government.”

The challenge, moving forward, is the continual growth of the county and the people attracted to that growth. Those changes do not favor a rapid return to Republican dominance.

“We will continue to keep to our beliefs of limited government, and we will be watching as the newly elected officials begin to spend our tax dollars. Our focus will remain on the success of our county and developing the future leaders of our county, no matter the demographics.”

Cynthia Ginyard.

“Exhilarating.” Months after the election, Democratic Chairperson Cynthia Ginyard remains emboldened by their victories in 2018. More than just a triumph, it was vindication not only of ideology but of the effort it took to accomplish that success.

“This was the result of much hard work by many people. It was the result of a lot of planning. It was the result of a lot of preparation. This doesn’t just happen. It took an effort to make it happen,” said Ginyard.

When she took over the party, it had but a handful of elected officials. Nationally, the Republicans had the House, the Senate, the White House, and over the past two years, the perceived balance of power in the Supreme Court. Locally, Democrats’ success was limited.

“This business is about people,” Ginyard explained. “We had to educate and talk to existing voters but also had to bring in more people. Voter registration is like breathing to us. You can’t start 60 days before an election and hope to win.”

The results were rapid. The Democrats went from 40 precinct chairs to 100 plus. Planning meetings went from an average of 17 people to almost 70. And, they added a permanent county-wide headquarters for the first time located at 13515 Southwest Freeway, Suite 204 in Sugar Land. “Everyone is connected to the highway, so we wanted a welcoming location near everyone – one that was easy to find,” said Ginyard.

It was the infrastructure that was so important to Ginyard.  “I believe in the three C’s. For us, that means continuity in our process, consistency in our message and communication to our people, constantly,” Ginyard stated.

Representative Beto O’Rourke’s name is consistently brought up by conservatives looking to minimize Democrats’ local accomplishments.

“Beto is very popular with our party. He was amazing, but you have to have the infrastructure on the ground to be able to accept the momentum he brings. For instance, in 2012, President Obama brought a ton of momentum to our county, but we were unable to capitalize on it. (President Obama lost the county, and Democrats won no additional seats.) In 2018, we were ready to capitalize on Beto,” Ginyard said.

With the wind at their backs, Ginyard is setting her sights on additional prizes. “We will help in nonpartisan races with discretion,” she said.

It’s worth mentioning that we went back to Ginyard for clarification, as parties traditionally avoid nonpartisan races (mayor, city council, school board, etc.). Not anymore for the Fort Bend County Democratic Party.

“We will not get involved with everyone, but when we have a known Democrat running against a known Republican, we plan to get involved and provide the Democratic candidate access to our infrastructure. It makes sense for Democrats to help Democrats. The least I can do is offer a headquarters for them to work in,” Ginyard confirmed.

Additional steps involve a continued emphasis on diversity in county government. “Our leadership should look like the county they represent. Diversity is who we are,” Ginyard said.

For Ginyard and the Democratic Party, it was a “blue”tiful Wednesday morning last November. Now they are ready to do battle again in nonpartisan races in 2019 and get ready for a presidential showdown in 2020. Their success was staggering, and it represents a sea change for the county. While Representative O’Rourke, President Trump and demographics all played a role, it was her force of personality and planning that was also a significant player at the table.

“I am a visionary, always looking from 50,000 feet, while others are at 5,000 feet. That’s what I do,” Ginyard said, summing up her strategy.