It is official Clay County is a Republican county. While not shocking, the development is noteworthy. As reported in the Pioneer Sentinel, for the first time ever, all 2014 county wide races will be contested in the Republican Primary. In my next few columns we will explore the recent political trends that have produced this political sea change, and we will investigate the historical evolution of political parties in the United States, Texas, and Clay County.
Why switch parties now? The 2012 election taught us all a lesson. For the first time, running in Clay County as a Democrat was politically fatal. I am sure that party affiliation had some impact in the defeat of Brice Jackson-D by A.J. Peek-R for Precinct 4 Commissioner in 2010, and that it hurt Kenny Lemons-D when he lost to Tim King-R for sheriff in 2004.
However, it was the defeat of longtime Constable Toby Davis-D by Ronnie Pullin-R, who did not really campaign for the office, which sent a shockwave through the local political landscape. Everyone I have ever heard speak of Davis has nothing but positive things to say about him as a man and public servant, but he lost to a relative unknown. If memory serves, Davis received more votes than any other Democrat seeking office, an indication that many Republicans who knew him crossed party lines to vote for him, but it was not enough.
When asked why they had not voted for Davis, people provided two main ideas. First, the Constable is not as widely known as other county officials, which reduces political loyalty. Second and most importantly, constituents said they would not vote for any candidate identified as a Democrat, since they had disdain for the national Democratic Party. That marked a new political reality in Clay County, and has surely hastened the great party switch of 2013, perhaps forever changing local politics.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., and contributor to The Pioneer Sentinel. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.