Houston Democracy Project Letter Being Sent To All Democrats Running For Houston Municipal Office In 2023
This is the text of the letter being sent from the Houston Democracy Project to all Democrats running for Houston City Council, City Controller and Mayor of Houston in 2023. The text will be slightly edited to reflect the three different offices.
I launched the Houston Democracy Project to change the culture of how Houston municipal campaigns are run. Democracy is on the line in Houston and Harris County, but city campaigns often put convention and short-sighted self-interest over the right of Houstonians to govern themselves and over the fate of democracy.
Find the Houston Democracy Project here: https://www.neilaquino.com
I’ve served the Democratic Party from the inside and the outside. I’ve been a staffer on campaigns, an active volunteer, and aggressively championed our candidates. I am also an organizer of the weekly protest at Senator Cornyn’s Houston office now in its sixth year. I’m convinced that in addition to voting, we must find new approaches to protecting and promoting democracy.
2023 Houston city elections offer an excellent opportunity for new approaches.
The way we conduct municipal elections in Houston doesn't work. Candidates run with expectations of low turnout and frequently with special-interest money. Democrats running for Mayor, Controller and Council often identify as Democrats when it serves them, and then shelter behind the failed fiction of non-partisanship if it benefits them. Republicans do not treat these elections as non-partisan.
This standard approach to campaigning is often termed pragmatic or moderate. It is neither. At best, it is a blind eye toward political and racial extremism. At worst, it is collaboration with a Republican Party and political right that has stripped Houston of an elected school board, attacked Houston in every way in the recent legislative session and is in court trying to undo 2022 Harris County election results.
A critical issue in 2023 is the relationship of local Democrats with police unions. It is essential that elected Democrats have constructive relationships with law enforcement.
Right-wing police unions are, however, not the same as a taxpayer-financed police department. It puts Houstonians at risk to accept police union endorsements if these unions endorse election-deniers and bypass municipal officials to get what they want from an extremist state government.
There is no public safety for Houstonians when police unions don’t respect the electoral decisions of our multi-racial and majority Democratic city. There is no public safety without democracy.
Is an authoritarian future for your and the people in your life worth a City Council seat?
The Houston Democracy project asks the following of candidates and incumbents running for municipal office in Houston in 2023:
Will you make democracy a top issue in your campaign? Will you speak up on the loss of our elected school board and continuing efforts in court to reverse Democratic wins in Harris County in 2022?
Will you identify as a Democrat on your website and campaign materials? Will you help elect Democrats in Harris County in 2024?
Will you use campaign funds and your influence to help develop and train non-white organizers? Progressive organizers? Will you use your resources to strengthen pro-democracy forces across Houston?
Will you insist police unions and any group you seek the endorsement from will always support free and fair elections in Texas and will not endorse election deniers?
What is your plan to increase turnout and involvement in Houston municipal elections?
I understand the pressures for business as usual. Consultants offer advice that may have worked in the past. Running for office is a significant investment of time and effort. Caution seems to make sense.
But old truths no longer apply. Business as usual has not protected multi-racial democracy and the Voting Rights Act any more than it protected Roe v. Wade. Houston and Harris County have been reduced to colonies of a white supremacist and authoritarian state government.
The current state of politics demands that you take the risks required of today’s elected officials: That means showing up for democracy.
Will you please act now before local, Texas and national Republicans are fully successful in taking our rights away here in the most diverse city in America?
I look forward to an ongoing conversation as we work together to protect ourselves and each other.
Houston Democracy Project
Here is the front page of the Houston Democracy Project.
I'm Neil Aquino