Following up

Singing the blues at the courthouse

Following up:This week, National Public Radio's On the Media program broadcast a story about how the media's love of a narrative and themes can tilt our perception of reality. Early on, reporters fixed on the "big story" notion that President Bush is a doofus who leaves the tough decisions up to the smart guys around him. Now the plot has shifted: Bush really is the decider. Still a doofus, maybe, but he makes the calls.

Leader or led? Big difference.

Politics is about perception, and perception distorts easily, so it's understandable that reporters might not nail the first draft of history. Which got us wondering: How did local media do on its take of last month's near-Democratic sweep at the Dallas County courts? Was it really straight-ticket voting that did the trick? Is the county really becoming blue? Were the local results a referendum on the Bush administration?

We dug and got definitive answers: Sorta. Maybe. Maybe not.

County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet says it looks like a lack of GOP turnout was in play in the Democratic win, combined with an increase in straight-ticket voting. Turnout was down by about 40,000 voters this election, and straight-Dem voters were up about 20,000. Judging by the early voting results, many of those who stayed home were Republicans, since the early voting results traditionally slant to the GOP, and they were surprisingly close.

But does that mean the future is solidly Dem? Not necessarily: GOP County Chairman Kenn George says that the total number of county Democratic voters in 2006 was virtually identical to 2002. (Democrat Craig Watkins actually received about 10,000 fewer votes in his victory this year than he did in his loss running for the same office in 2002.)

"I don't buy the argument that the county has been painted blue," George says. There are any number of reasons that GOP voters stayed home in November—Governor Rick Perry seemed like a shoo-in for re-election, for example—so the results don't necessarily add up to a referendum on Iraq. But he praises local Dems for knowing where their voters were and turning them out. "They did a good job...of keeping their bucket full," he says.

The question is, can they make that bucket bigger in 2008—or more important for the courthouse, 2010, when all those new Democratic judges face their first re-election campaign? Buzz knows not to make predictions, but we have some advice for the new judges: Don't start any wars of choice.

 
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