Did you see the U.S. Senate debate last week on Houston public TV, which featured Democrats Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard, as well as the four Republican horsemen of the apocalypse? If so, congratulations – you’re one of a handful of Texans who tuned in.
Debates like that are usually only important if they create a subsequent buzz. Since few people watch the actual debate, it is only if somebody seizes the moment, royally screws up, or otherwise makes a strong impression one way or another, the public discussion afterward can sometimes swing enough votes to affect outcomes.
So here’s my own personal buzz, for what it’s worth: while it might surprise and maybe upset a few people for whom I have a lot of respect, after watching the debate I’ve decided I’m voting for Sean Hubbard in the Democratic primary.
Both Hubbard and Sadler comported themselves very well. Both articulated values with which I, as well as most other Texas Democratic primary voters, wholeheartedly agree. I believe either would make a fine U.S. Senator.
But here’s the deal: both Democrats in the race are under-funded. And unless one of ‘em wins the lottery, there’s no particular reason to believe that each won’t remain underfunded, especially compared to the Republican nominee, who intends to buy this Senate seat.
To be sure, lightning does occasionally strike in politics, but it usually doesn’t. So barring some unforeseen circumstance which changes the financial game, the reality is that Texas is one of the most expensive states in the nation to get out a message, the Republican nominee will have the funding necessary to saturate that message, and the Democratic nominee won’t. And while that’s a terrible shame, it also makes it more likely that the Democrat won’t prevail this November.
This, in my view, makes who Democrats nominate no less important. We have a Party to build. It cannot be built without growing enthusiasm, and it cannot be grown without attracting new voters to us, while retaining the support we’ve maintained.
There’s no doubt Paul Sadler is a rock-solid guy, and always was. He has a deep understanding of policy details which I deeply admire. And the likelihood that he would attract few new voters to the Democratic column is more a reflection on the electorate than it is on him. During the debate, he was the quintessential policy wonk, explaining government to people, with deep knowledge and much wisdom. I’m the kind of dork who likes that stuff. Most voters’ eyes glaze over.
Sean Hubbard surprised me at the debate. He is no less articulate than Sadler. He demonstrates an open-mindedness about new ideas, while simultaneously making clear that he would not turn his back on Democratic values. And mostly, he oozes enthusiasm and positive energy from every pore.
At 31, he looks younger than that, and he pointed out that he’s already older than Joe Biden was when Biden was elected to the Senate. Hubbard would be more likely to garner an excitement in a general election which is greater than the sum of its parts – not just because of his age, but because of his infectious enthusiasm and unapologetic zeal for the race. Isn’t that the kind of Democratic candidate that grows more voters than the “smartest guy in the room” types Democrats have already tried?
Here’s hoping lightning strikes. But even if it doesn’t, Sean Hubbard would be the kind of Democratic nominee more capable of attracting new folks to the Democratic column. It’s potentially important in that U.S. Senate race, it’s important in down ballot contests, and it’s important in future Party-building and elections.
To help you make your own decision, you can watch the Senate debate here. Also, while you’re listening to the Democrats, it’s also fun to watch the Republicans as they each explain why they’re totally for women’s freedom, even as they document why they’re not in favor of supporting any of those freedoms.