07 November 2006

Crowded race in Texas

This election year in Texas the governor's race is the most interesting.  The incumbent Republican Rick Perry has been disappointing as governor, largely betraying his fiscally conservative ideals while remaining a social conservative and party insider.  He's the only one of the five candidates to support the Trans-Texas Corridor, which will require extensive use of eminent-domain powers and which many consider to be a huge waste of taxpayer money anyway.  In Perry's favor, he was a Yell Leader while at Texas A&M and has been surprisingly liberal in his use of the veto.

I would prefer any of Perry's rivals.  Carole Keeton Strayhorn has served as the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts as a Republican but has repeatedly stood up to Perry's relatively high spending and is running against him as an independent.  My hometown newspaper has endorsed her.  Chris Bell, the Democratic nominee, is relatively unknown statewide but is attracting most of the liberal/progressive/anti-Bush vote, meaning that he has no chance to win but is likely to finish second.  Richard "Kinky" Friedman is another independent; he has a lot of novelty appeal and seems to be the most popular candidate on the Internet, but he's low on substance and doesn't give any real sense that he'd make a good governor.  His few clear policy stances don't paint him as a conservative, liberal or libertarian—he wants to lower taxes and increase spending—so he's a true independent, for better or worse.

I decided to vote for the Libertarian, James Werner, mostly to help the Libertarian Party retain automatic ballot status for 2008.  (We lost it in the last cycle and had to mount a petition drive to get it back.  To retain it we need 2% of the vote in the governor's race or 5% in any other statewide race.)  Unfortunately, Werner's chance of winning is slim; if all I cared about was making a difference in the outcome, I'd probably have voted for Strayhorn.

A crowded race like this provides a great example of the benefits of better voting systems.  As election day has approached, the independents have seen their poll numbers decline as voters desert them for one of the frontrunners.  Under Approval Voting I'd have been able to vote for both Werner and Strayhorn (and even maybe Friedman and/or Bell), supporting compromises without deserting my favorite.  Vote-splitting would be eliminated, the candidate with the widest support would win and losing candidates would receive their true level of support.  A similar system, Range Voting, allows rating each candidate in some range, say 0 to 10—see an online poll for Texas governor for a demonstration.

Meanwhile, mainly due to the vote-splitting effect, Perry is likely to gain enough of the votes of Strayhorn-supporters to win reelection, but you never know . . .


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