By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"I've always considered myself pretty much an independent, but due to the nature of judicial races being partisan, you're forced to make a choice," she says. "I want to keep my job, and I'm a good public servant, so now I'm running as a Democrat."
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Neerman is to find ways of enticing young and minority voters and candidates. One of the few GOP wins in November was in House District 112 where Angie Chen Button, who was born in Taiwan, defeated Democrat Sandra Phuong VuLe, who is Vietnamese. The win was important because it placed a minority Republican in office; more than that, it also demonstrated that the GOP could win a minority face-off against the Democrats.
Neerman compares the two parties to the Apple advertising campaign, where the Apple computers are depicted as young, hip and cool, and PCs are shown as old, geeky and out of touch.
"If we're losing 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds right off the bat, it's because they see us as the party that is against the environment, discriminates against gay people, [proselytizes] on whatever moral grounds there are, and they see us as this very narrow-minded, anti-Hispanic party," he says. "We spend way too much time worrying about shit that just doesn't matter."
For the local GOP, the clock already is ticking. In 2010, the governor's race will lead the ballot, and even if U.S. Senator and Dallasite Kay Bailey Hutchison runs and emerges from the Republican primary, Houston Mayor Bill White could be a dangerous Democrat, if he decides to play. The stakes are high for Neerman, who has little time to retool his party or its message before facing high-profile contests against popular Democratic district attorney Craig Watkins and unpopular Democratic County Judge Jim Foster.
Yet Neerman remains optimistic that without Obama topping the ticket, 2010 will be a good year for Republicans. "I went to sleep seeing that guy in my dreams," he says. "I thought I'd get some peace and quiet watching some football, but he was running commercials during the damned Cowboys game. I nearly dropped my beer, saying, 'Good God, go away!'"