HOUSTON - Harris County Republicans elected a new county chairman Tuesday night.
Attorney Paul Simpson spent $186,000 running for the post, which carries no salary. Simpson beat 12-year incumbent Jared Woodfill in a race that was seen as some as a showdown between social conservatives represented by Woodfill and fiscal conservatives who backed Simpson.
However, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones says the issues were more nuanced than that.
"Certainly the physical conservative and social conservative battle was an element of the race," Jones said. "But I think a lot of it had to do with a degree of dissatisfaction with the way things were done under Jared Woodfill's leadership."
During the campaign Simpson complained that under Woodfill's management, the party spent too much time on social issues and not enough growing the membership.
"Ten years ago every countywide office was Republican. Now we have many that have turned Democrat, including the sheriff and the county attorney and many judgeships. We've also been losing legislative seats across the county over the last decade," said Simpson.
Simpson insists the race wasn't about ideology. He said the main issue was how the party is being managed.
"The social issues are important. I'm very pro-life and believe in traditional marriage, that needs to be part of our message." Simpsons said. "We need to talk about other things as well. I've been in a lot of parts of the county where we are not reaching familes and not letting them know who we can educate their kids and put food on the table."
Simpson had the backing of some high-profile, local Republicans, like county Judge Ed Emmett. Emmett contributed $90,000 to Simpson's campaign.
Simpson says he's planning to organize task forces to identify issues that can be used to help the party grow. In the short term though, Simpson says he will be concentrating on helping elect Republican candidates in the coming fall elections
Republican voters split between three candidates in the county chair race, but Simpson was able to win without a runoff.
Paul Simpson 52.91 percent
Jared Woodfill 37.30 percent
Wendy McPherson Berry 9.78 percent
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