For those who have been chomping at the bit to see changes to our primary and convention process here in Texas can look toward House Bill 2101 as the beginning of that change. This Bill, sponsored by my Democratic State Representative, Paula Pierson (HD-93), empowers county executive committees to move their county conventions outside their particular county boundaries if necessary to hold their required conventions. This action can only be exercised if no venue large enough to hold a convention is found within the county of origin. The move would need to be approved by each Party's executive committees.
This is a good start toward changing a rather archaic primary election system in Texas. The 2008 primaries were extraordinary—probably a once in a lifetime type phenomenon in Texas primary elections, and an event that would be very hard to replicate again. That's why I think a slow and deliberative review of this process is a better approach than quick-action reform that is more knee-jerk in nature than helpful. But, having said that, and now a witness to our intense March 4, 2008 primary process, changes are in order. This change, initiated by Pierson, is a good one. From Pierson's office:
Following the Texas primary elections, county party executive committees across the state were forced to locate, secure, and pay for new venues to accommodate the huge increase in delegates and alternates. Conventions that had historically been held in schools and courthouses now required large conference centers, and even coliseums. In Tarrant County, the Executive Committee for Senate District 10 had to negotiate for use of the Will Rogers Coliseum because it was the only space in the County that could accommodate the expected 8,000 people. Additionally, the Senate District 12 Convention was moved to the Gaylord Hotel at great expense.
These unexpected costs to Party's across the state were financial burdens that most Party entities were not equipped to handle—or solve for that matter. I remember the efforts by some in Tarrant County to raise the necessary funds to be able to secure both the Coliseum and the Gaylord to hold our conventions. It was an unexpected and absurd expense that burdened our Party infrastructure.
Some of you, especially from the North Texas region, may recall that Collin County, just north of Dallas County, was unable to find a venue large enough to hold their county convention in 2008:
Collin County Democrats held their convention a day later because they couldn't find a location big enough to handle the 3,300 people expected.
Collin County Democrats were attempting to pursue a venue just over the border with a neighboring county but could not pursue it because no provision in the law like HB 2101 provides, actually existed. Collin County Democrats ended up having one of the more interesting and delayed conventions out of the 2008 season.
I know that the State Democratic Executive Committee has been holding hearings across the state to receive feedback from primary voters over the 2008 nicknamed, “Texas Two-Step” process. In discussions with SDEC representatives associated with those hearings the feedback has been fairly uniform “keep it but change it.” A very small number of Democrats have called for total elimination with an even smaller group saying leave it as it is. The vast majority of feedback has been to tweak the system to make it better and incorporate lessons from this year into the solution. Changes are likely to come from the hearings but they are likely to be incremental. HB 2101 is one of the good steps toward reforming the primary system in a bi-partisan way. Its senate companion is a similar Bill authored by Freshmen Senator Wendy Davis, one of the newest members to the Tarrant Delegation that Pierson has been part of since 2006. It is good bi-partisan legislation that helps both Party's should a best worst case scenario like Texas Democrats had in 2008 comes true again.