Local candidates hope for national bump

October 9, 2008 6:19:42 PM PDT
Most people know that the top of the ballot this fall features the names McCain, Palin, Obama and Biden. abc13.com blogs
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There also are a lot of candidates down the ballot whose names are less recognizable, but their political chances could greatly benefit from the people running for the White House.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden have Democrats thinking big in November and it's a thought that's trickling down to local candidates down the ballot.

"The notion that it's time for a change is one that resonates in Harris County," Gerry Birnberg who is the Harris County Democratic Party Chair. "Not just because it's a national motto, but because it's something that the citizens of Harris County know is so absolutely vital and important here. It is time for a change."

In Houston and Harris County, we're talking about a lot of downballot races. Some of them are people you know running for office. Others are people you've probably never heard of before.

From the senate race involving Rick Noriega and John Cornyn, to the Harris County Judge's race between Ed Emmett and David Mincberg or the district attorney's contest featuring C.O. Bradford and Pat Lykos. Not to mention congressional races depending on up ticket excitement.

Pete Olson is a Republican challenging Democrat Nick Lampson for Texas' 22nd congressional seat.

"I think the biggest impact from the top of the ticket on our race is/has been the selection of Sarah Palin," Olson said.

Sarah Palin has had a galvanizing affect ever since Senator John McCain picked her as his running mate. As much as Obama is driving Democrats, she is rallying Republicans.

"She gave a shot in the arm to our base," Olson said. "Their motivation level went up exponentially."

The way the top of the ticket helps down ballot races is not just in motivation or in driving turnout, but also by encouraging straight ticket voting. The more excited voters are about the top of the ticket, the more likely they are to punch one button to vote for every candidate of that political persuasion. And that can always be a game changer, regardless of what the polls might suggest.

"It's a competitive state, it's a competitive race," said Birnberg. "I think the polls are only vague indicators of what's likely to occur."

KTRK Political Analyst Dr. Richard Murray says that Democrats will benefit from the Obama/Biden ticket within Houston and Harris County. But statistics tend to favor a bump for Republicans in the outlying counties and suburbs.

Read Tom's political blog The Vote.

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