Leander City Council Candidate Evaluations – Background

What do Leander City Council candidates truly believe about the role and scope of government, and the Rule of Law?

What are the best indicators of how a candidate can be expected to exercise power if elected?

Can the candidate be trusted to exercise fiscal and moral stewardship, and to keep his oaths of office? Does the candidate really believe the oaths of office are more than the just the formalities of boxes to check and words to mouth in order to assume the power of office?

I, _______________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of _______ of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.

I, _______________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have not directly or indirectly paid, offered, promised to pay, contributed, or promised to contribute any money or thing of value, or promised any public office or employment for the giving or withholding of a vote at the election at which I was elected or as a reward to secure my appointment or confirmation, whichever the case may be, so help me God.

The three best markers are,

      1. how the candidate has managed his household and personal finances
      2. how the candidate has conducted himself in his vocation and community
      3. voting record as an officeholder, whether as an incumbent or in previous service as an elected official.

Basically, follow the actions.

The vast majority of voters have very little personal knowledge of the first two indicators other than what the candidate has stated on his glossy 5.5 x 11 postcards, campaign website, and social media. Most candidates, especially for local offices like city council and school board of trustees, have not previously served in an elected position and do not have a voting record.

That leaves the voter with limited visibility on what the candidate truly believes versus what he has said.

The next best quantifiable markers are campaign finance reports (CFRs), public endorsements, and political party affiliation.

Campaign Finance Reports (CFRs)

Campaign finance reports are public for a reason and provide two key metrics:

      1. It allows the voter documented evidence of donations a candidate has made to another candidate or political entity. This shows the candidate’s alignment with, and support of,  political ideology and agendas.
      2. It allows the voter documented evidence of donations a candidate has received from another candidate, officeholder, individual, or political entity. This shows who is aligned with, and supportive of,   the candidate’s political ideology and agenda. It is also a strong indicator of what forces are likely to influence the candidate as an officeholder.

Leander Lookout conducts extensive research on CFRs at the local, county, state, and federal level. State and federal CFRs can be easily searched electronically using various combinations of filters. Local (city, school district) and county CFRs are usually only images of scanned forms (often hand-filled) and only available in non-searchable .pdf.

This requires manual download, review and transcription. Candidates or the candidate’s treasurer, often omit required donor information. Professional research is then required to triangulate with various other databases to identify the actual donor.

Basically, follow the  money.

Public Endorsements

Most voters either do not have the bandwidth or have the contact information of the endorsers to verify endorsements claimed by a candidate. There are actually three levels that often get lumped together, but they deserve distinct interpretation as to the commitment of the individual or entity to a candidate:

      1. support (financial, in-kind contributions, or public appearances on behalf of the candidate)
      2. public endorsement
      3. recommendation

Basically, follow the people.

Political Party Affiliation Background

Texas is an open-primary state, meaning Texans are not required to declare party affiliation when registering to vote. Every even-numbered year, Texas political parties hold primaries (usually in March) in order for each party to vet candidates to place on the November ballot.  Any registered voter can vote in a particular party’s primary for that election cycle. The voter can vote only in any runoff held by that same party and participate in only that party’s conventions for that year.

Since Texas is an open-primary state, the voter can choose to vote in a different party’s primary in subsequent years.

Personal voting history of candidates and their donors in party primaries is no guarantee of philosophical alignment or indicator of how a candidate will exercise power.  Candidates routinely affiliate with the dominant party just to get elected, without regard for any deeply held moral constraints or alignment with party platforms.

It is also common for voters to vote in a party’s primary, not because they agree with that party’s platform, but because they disagree with it and want to try to elect the weaker candidate who has a stronger likelihood of being defeated in the November General Election.

Politcal Party Affiliation of Leander Candidates and Donors

Although Party Primary voting history of candidates and their donors is no guarantee of philosophical alignment, it can serve as barometer on political leanings, especially when there is a substantial number of donors with party primary voting history. Short of having other quantifiable metrics for voters to make informed decisions about a candidate, party affiliation of the candidate and his donors can serve as a clear indicator of who a voter does not want to elect.

Leander Lookout has generated a rough ‘heat map’ of political party alignment for each candidate and his donor base in the June 11, 2022 Runoff. This provides the voter a clear visual to help distinguish the guiding principles of the opposing candidates and those who support them.

Although local races in Texas were intended  to be non-partisan, meaning that party affiliation or party primaries are not used to identify or vet candidates, the reality is that local races have been tacitly partisan and increasingly blatantly not non-partisan.

The fact that political parties have donated directly to candidates in these races, and that current Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook (D) has donated to a candidate in each race, makes these very much partisan races. This further underscores the need to provide the voter visibility on party affiliation with a donor ‘heat map’.

Texas Political Party Platforms

The platforms of the two dominant political parties which hold primary elections in Texas stand in stark contrast. Each platform contains statements on the core principles of the party and the party’s positions on issues (planks).

Texas Democratic Party – https://texasdemocrats.org/our-party/texas-democratic-party-platform/

Republican Party of Texas

Basically, follow the language. Especially the candidate uses in relation to the different party platforms.

In summary: Follow the actions. Follow the money. Follow the people. Follow the language.

The composite of these elements will likely provide you clues on what you can expect from a candidate if elected.

*Leander Lookout’s candidate comparison does not attempt to quantify any of the subjective four Cs: character, competency, congeniality, capability of winning. While character and competency are extremely important, assessing those parameters requires a different layer of research, including a search of court records, personal interviews, background checks, employment history, D&B reports, and other data not readily available to the public.

Place 3 candidates
Place 5 candidates
EARLY VOTING dates, times, locations
      • Williamson County Residents

Leander Public Library – 1011 S. Bagdad Rd

May 31-June 4 (Tue-Sat) 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

June 6-7 (Mon-Tue) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

      • Travis County Residents

Whitestone Elementary – 2000 Crystal Falls Pkwy

May 31-June 4 (Tue-Sat) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

June 5 (Sun) Noon to 6 p.m.

June 6-7 (Mon-Tue) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

election day

Saturday, June 11, 2022 7:00AM – 7:00PM

      • Williamson County Residents

Leander Public Library – 1011 S. Bagdad Rd

Pat Bryson Municipal Hall, 201 N Brushy St

      • Travis County Residents

Whitestone Elementary – 2000 Crystal Falls Pkwy

Election resources

Copyright © 2022 Don Stroud