West University Republicans: More Lincoln than Trump-Abbott
In an explosive and divisive era when Donald Trump leads the national party and Greg Abbott the Texas branch, West University Republicans stubbornly defy that new norm.
They are highly educated, measured and conciliatory. They are fiscally conservative but loathe to have too much government involvement in personal matters. They supported Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 64-34 percent in 2012 — but voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump 49.5-42 percent in 2016.
Take the matter of abortion. Proposition 7 — among 11 gut-check issues placed on the party primary ballot last month by the Texas Republican Executive Committee — posed this statement for a yes/no response: “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.”
Statewide, it received a resounding “yes” from 67 percent of Republicans, with a third saying “no.” The results weren’t much different in Harris County — 63 percent “yes,” 37 percent “no.” In West U, though, the responses flipped: Only 36 percent took the so-called right-to-life stance, with 64 percent saying “no.”
Sarah Davis has become the prototype West University Republican, and her victory in the GOP primary in a quest for a fifth term as a state representative was as much a win over Abbott as her contender, Susanna Dokupil.
Confronted with anti-vaccine, climate change-disbelieving rhetoric, Davis staunchly defended representing her district, which includes the scientific genius of the Texas Medical Center and Rice University, and which has been battered almost annually by devastating, “once-in-a-lifetime” storms.
Questioning her conservative credentials because of her stands, the governor had hand-picked and help fund Davis’ opponent and vigorously campaigned against Davis. The race, Abbott proclaimed, epitomized a “fight for the very future of both the Republican Party and the state of Texas.”
He lost that fight, bigly. Davis trounced Dokupil 56-44 percent throughout District 134, and 62-38 percent among West U voters.
“I represent so many Republicans that are just like me and feel that I give them a voice and a home in the party, and without someone like me, they are starting to wonder: What does it even mean to be a Republican?” Davis told the Texas Tribune when the race became big news state-wide. “We have to be a big-tent party.”
Her fellow West U Republican, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, called the Davis vs. Abbott showdown “perhaps the most important race in the state of Texas because it will answer that question of, ‘Who is the Republican Party?’”
A former state legislator himself from 1979-87, Emmett became Harris County judge in 2007 and is arguably the most popular elected official in Harris County, respected by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“Does the Republican Party have to toe the line of statewide elected officials, or is the Republican Party able to represent its constituents?” Emmett wondered to the Texas Tribune, concluding, “…In this case, Sarah Davis has done that very well.”
As has Emmett, who as chief operating officer of the third most populous county in the U.S., deftly steers clear of partisan hyperbole and focuses instead on accomplishments and government efficiency — on “hunkering down” instead of lashing out.
West University Place Mayor Susan Sample is a Republican in a nonpartisan position, which suits her fine. “As mayor, I am not elected to be a partisan but to get things done,” she explains. “Our city councilmembers have a wide range of political pedigrees, but we all work together to accomplish our common goals for West U. We were elected to get things done, not fight.”
She says Republicans here represent the kinder, gentler version of the party: “West University Republicans are center-right, but not far right. We want fiscal conservatism but also believe in social tolerance. Democrats are not always wrong, and Republicans are not always right. We support ideas, not personalities.”