Saturday, March 8, 2008

Election Postmortem

Because of my busy trial schedule last week I was unable to comment on the Brazos County election results. The race most important to my criminal defense clients was for County Attorney. The County Attorney prosecutes misdemeanor crimes like DWI, marijuana possession, and family violence. Rod Anderson faced Shane Phelps in the Republican primary which finally settled the issue since no Democrat was running for the post. Anderson handedly took the race. The Bryan Eagle reported:
Anderson earned 7,843 votes -- or 65 percent of the vote -- to Phelps' 4,237 votes in Tuesday's Republican primary. The votes cast Tuesday represent record local numbers. In the 2004 presidential primary, 8,648 Brazos County voters cast Republican ballots.
Anderson was predictably pleased with these results. Commenting for the Eagle, however, Phelps said:
"I'm surprised," he said shortly after 10 p.m., when results were final. "I have no idea why it turned out this way. I'm at a loss to understand it."
The courthouse was abuzz over these results. Many expected a much closer race. However, in retrospect I can offer some thoughts that might explain the thrashing Shane received at the polls. First, understand I know and respect both of these men. Rod Anderson is a respected, long-time member of the community. His wife was a police officer for many years working for the City of Bryan. Shane Phelps is a remarkably talented trial lawyer. He is smart, polished, and always well prepared.

However, I think the election results showed how small towns tend to protect and trust their own. Anderson paid his dues in this community. The folks recognize him as one of their own. Phelps, on the other hand, is still seen as an outsider. Maybe even somewhat opportunistic since he has lived in several communities over the past 10-15 years and has run for office, and lost, in several of them.

Shane could be a contender someday. But I think it will take much more time. If he wants the citizens of Brazos County to trust him enough, he's got to become one of the community's own. And that takes time, a lot of time.

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