Little things count in elections

DALLAS — Linda Chavez-Thompson, towering over Texas at five foot three, is running for the all-important post of lieutenant governor. Jamie Dorris and Loretta Haldenwang aren’t much taller, and their goal is to take seats in the Texas House this November.

For want of a nail, they say, a horseshoe was lost. For want of the shoe, a horse was lost, and then a knight, and then a kingdom. Everything depends on the little things.

Chavez-Thompson spoke at a fund raiser in Grapevine, a tiny part of the Dallas Metroplex, on August 18. A few people paid $50 to come early for cocktails, but most of the participants, all working people, paid $25 for a small reception with tiny canapés. The small donations accumulated, because there were 400 people packed into every chair and standing in the back. Then the Machinists and the United Food and Commercial Workers, who had initiated the evening’s events, handed over big checks, and others started chipping in. It adds up.

The former AFL-CIO leader’s incumbent Republican opponent, one of the richest men in Texas, started with $12 million in his campaign fund, and Chavez-Thompson spent her life savings before she won the Democratic primary. Because she is known as a worker from the cotton fields of faraway Lubbock through the top leadership of the AFL-CIO, the little people of Texas support her, and we matter.

We matter in the race for the Texas House, too. The day before, over in Garland, another little part of the Metroplex, longtime incumbent Republican State Rep Big Joe Driver hit a little bump. The Associated Press revealed that he had been “double dipping” his transportation expenses, a little dip at a time, throughout his long political career. He protested innocently that he had no idea that he couldn’t charge his expenses both to the taxpayers and to his campaign committee; so his voting constituents get to decide whether he’s a giant crook or just a little stupid. Jamie Dorris, his ingenuous little long-dismissed Democratic opponent, is suddenly a mighty contender.

Dorris’ campaign matters because the Democrats are within five seats of taking the state House. That means they could control the 2011 redistricting of Texas, including the U.S. Congressional seats, and send a bunch more progressives to Congress. The Texas delegation is the second largest in America, still growing, and has been in the choke-hold of far-right Republicans since the last census.

Big Joe Driver’s legal problems are similar to those of Linda Harper-Brown, the Republican rep from Irving, another part of the Metroplex, who drove around during her two-year tenure in a Mercedes paid for by a company that does business with the state. Democrat Loretta Haldenwang, who weighs around 110 pounds, is nipping at Harper-Brown’s heavy heels. Democrats have been gaining numbers in the State House for the last two elections.

If Little Linda Chavez-Thompson is elected, she would be one of the five statewide officers on the redistricting committee, not to mention that she would virtually control the Texas Senate.

Standing on a box behind the podium, Chavez-Thompson told her audience that every miniscule effort can accumulate into victory this year. It’s the little things.

Photo: Jim Lane