The first Election Day that I remember was in 1978, but it’s not because I followed the candidates or understood the issues. I was a first grader at Meadows Elementary, in Plano, and the election mattered to me for only one reason: my dad came to school. He served as an election judge, and I tagged along with him early that morning as he helped set up those creaky folding ballot booths in our gym. I beamed later that afternoon when my teacher, Mrs. Bolin, informed my class that my father was on campus. But when she asked me to tell my friends just what exactly he was doing, I looked at her blankly. I had no idea what an election judge did.
The real treat came that night. Dad let me drive with him in our old Plymouth Fury to McKinney, the county seat, to deliver the ballot boxes. I remember thinking how special it was to be out on a school night after dark, and I can still picture my dad as he met with officials at the courthouse. I was dazzled. I knew he was doing something that really mattered.
Of course, I didn’t realize until I was an adult what an important election that was—1978 was the year Bill Clements defeated John Hill to become the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. My dad, a Goldwater conservative through and through, couldn’t have been happier.
I found myself thinking about election night 1978 as I sat down to write this letter on election night 2014. Texas once again faced a historic election, and in the end, the Republicans won a landslide victory in every major statewide race, ensuring their domination of the state for the foreseeable future. To help put this cycle into perspective for our readers, senior editor Erica Grieder worked double-time to talk with outgoing lieutenant governor David Dewhurst about his legacy (“The David Dewhurst Exit Interview”) and to profile incoming lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, a two-term state senator from Houston (“Master of the Senate”). And I wrote an open letter to Governor-elect Greg Abbott, whom I profiled for the magazine last year, offering some unsolicited advice for his administration (Behind the Lines).
Though my Election Day experience was far different from what it was back in 1978, that same sense of state pride and civic duty that I felt in McKinney is still with me. My own son will be in first grade next year. I think it’s time to pass that feeling on.