Tom Wakely is an Air Force veteran and a former labor union organizer. For close to 3 decades after seminary he worked as a community organizer, primarily within the framework of the Church. Today, he and his wife take hospice patients into their home, providing palliative care until they pass. He has been fighting for economic & social justice for over forty years.
Last year Tom ran for Congress as a Bernicrat against Congressman Lamar Smith, the 30-yr. Republican incumbent. While Tom lost that race his campaign accomplished three amazing things: (1) they received more votes than any candidate who had ever run against Smith; (2) they managed to drop Smith’s percentage of the vote to 56.9%, the lowest of his career; and (3) they received more votes than any Democrat in the State of Texas running against an incumbent Congressional Republican.
Look, we all know Texas is not a red state, it is a no-vote state. In the 2014 general election that saw the rise of Greg Abbott and his tea-party brethren to power, only 38% of our state’s registered voter’s voted. Abbott took 60% of the 38% which means he only received the support of just a little over 22% of the state’s registered voters. The Democratic candidate, Wendy Davis did far worse. She only received 40% of the 38% which means just a little over 15% of the state’s registered voters supported her.
A Nov. 9th, 2016 article in the Texas Tribune concerning voter turnout in the just completed presidential election stated that “while the number of Texans voting in the general election grew this year, it wasn't enough to keep up with a state growing as fast as Texas. This year's turnout rate dropped slightly from 46.1 percent in 2008 to 42.6 percent in 2016.” This translates to Trump winning Texas with just a little over 22% of the state’s registered voters - about the same percentage of the vote Abbott received in 2014. Clinton did a little better than Wendy Davis in 2014 by taking a little over 18% of the state’s registered voters.
So, whether it is an off-year election or a Presidential election year, the Republicans are consistently elected with just a little over 22% of the registered voters while the Democrats consistently hover around the 15% mark. Either way you cut-it, neither party is commanding wide-spread popular support among the people of Texas. Something is terribly wrong here. So, Tom took it upon himself to talk to non-voters to find out just what the hell was going on. He estimates he must have spoken to well over a thousand people all across the state and what he heard from all of these registered non-voters can be summed up in one sentence. The Republican party doesn’t care about me or my family and neither does the Democratic party. That perception, right or wrong, that neither party cares about the working men and women of this state, is in Tom’s opinion, the reason why over 60% of our state’s registered voters are not voting.
That all said, the question becomes, can a progressive, a Bernicrat, a non-politician win the Texas Statehouse. Tom believes the answer is yes and it begins with saying, enough is enough. Our great state belongs to all of the people, just not to the 22%. Now is not the time for thinking small, it’s time for bold, progressive ideas. The same old Democratic party establishment politics of running centrist candidates just isn’t working and hasn’t worked for decades. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome?
Texans are tired, fed up and increasingly bitter towards both major political parties. Texas has the 12th largest economy in the world yet we ranked 8th among the states in income inequality. The problems associated with this can be seen all around our state. A broken and underfunded public school system that is building an ever growing school to prison pipeline. Rising property taxes that are forcing more and more people, especially the elderly, to sell their homes. Gun violence is so prevalent today that it rarely raises our collective eyebrow until a police officer is shot and killed. State cuts to Medicaid are throwing more and more people into desperation and poverty. Crimes rates are rising and more guns are being bought.
Tom will continue to argue that the solution to the above problems lie not in centrist candidates and centrist policies but in bold progressive candidates and in bold progressive ideas and policies. So, let’s be clear. This campaign is not about Tom Wakely. This campaign is about the people of Texas.