Paul Simpson is the new chairman of the Harris County Republican Party (HCRP). That statement in and of itself is enough to shake up politics in Harris County, and ensure that they will never be the same. In ending Jared Woodfill’s twelve-year-long, iron-gripped hold at the helm of the Republican ship, Simpson not only gives the HCRP a renewed perspective, but a badly needed fresh start.
While Woodfill presided over unmatched growth of the HCRP during his tenure, in recent years direct growth began to stagnate and recede (evidenced by a staggering amount of vacant precinct chairs) as groups in the Tea Party, Independent and Liberty movements began siphoning off conservative and libertarian activists from the official Republican party as they became viable vehicles.
While holding conservative positions of limited government, reduced taxation and spending, and a return to the citizen legislator, the Tea Party and Liberty Republicans have served most critically to change the nature of conservatism from big “C” Conservatism to little “c”. Houston had changed. Texas had changed. America had changed. The HCRP slowly and belatedly began the process of building bridges to these groups but ultimately had no answer for the paradigm shift as leadership was slow to adapt and slower still to accept and embrace the new reality.
This is an area in which Paul Simpson excels. He not only has well-established, long-standing ties to the groups that have grown the most and shown the most promise, but these connections serve to link the diverse elements within the party into a new, united whole. In his efforts to build these alliances, Simpson has been most effective in communicating a message of political unity to liberty-minded Republicans by helping fiscal conservatives understand the importance of social conservatives and vice-versa. The Republican party needs both philosophically and politically, but while they need not be the emphasis of the movement, their essential role in the process cannot be understated.
The ultimate fact is that Paul Simpson’s victory in the race for Chairman of the HCRP significantly changes the dynamics of politics in the region, and will have effects across Texas and the nation. Simpson has worked with grassroots groups for years in an effort to expand the GOP share of the votes in each election, and has indeed helped to build many of them. His partnerships have deep roots and authenticity, while Republican efforts in the past tended to be opportunistic and reactionary. The long-term plans and goals of these partnerships have slowly come to fruition as events unfolded and directly contributed to Simpson’s victory.
Battleground Texas, the activist group created by Barack Obama’s former political action committee, Organizing For Action, understands clearly that the biggest hurdle to insurmountable dominance in Presidential politics is Texas. That’s the main reason they’re investing more than $8 million and 12,000 volunteers in an effort to turn the deep red state a bright blue. The majority of that money is being spent in Houston and Harris County. So fundamentally, the equation breaks down like this; if Houston and Harris County go blue, Texas goes blue. If Texas goes blue, America goes blue.
The task of stopping them now falls to Paul Simpson and those who carried him to the chairmanship.
Vladimir Davidiuk | University at St. Thomas | @VladDavidiuk