December 4, 2019


State lawmaker's comments raise questions about Texas GOP's ability to compete in a diverse state (Erica Grieder, Dec. 3, 2019, Houston Chronicle)

"He's a Korean," Miller said of Jetton. "He has decided because, because he is an Asian, that my district might need an Asian to win. And that's kind of racist in my mind, but anyway, that's not necessary, at least not yet."

Miller surmised that Chan, who he has never met, decided to enter the fray "probably for the same reason."

"He has not been around Republican channels at all, but he's an Asian," he said. [...]

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, swiftly rescinded his endorsement of the incumbent's bid for re-election. His spokesman John Wittman explained that the governor deemed Miller's comments "inappropriate and out of touch with the values of the Republican Party."

Linda Howell, the chair of the Fort Bend County GOP, expressed concerns about Miller's ability to represent such a diverse district in a statement asking Miller to consider withdrawing from the race. And Miller himself acknowledged their validity, in his own statement that afternoon.

"I do not want to be a distraction for my party or my constituents, and therefore have decided not to seek re-election," he said, after apologizing to Jetton, Leonard, and his supporters.

What Miller's GOP critics have not acknowledged, however, is that Republicans across the nation have been fretting about the kind of demographic change that has already happened in Texas, a "majority-minority state" since early in the 21st century. Many of them seem to have a sense that diversity is inevitably a threat to their party's future prospects.

"He represents the old traditional Texas GOP that you saw for much of the last 20 years, especially in Fort Bend," said Jay Kumar Aiyer, a political scientist based in Houston. "He thinks the party tapping a younger minority candidate is giving into political correctness, and not the reality of the district and county being so diverse."

But that reality is not a threat to Republicans such as Jetton or Chan--not because they are Americans of Asian descent, but because they have shown a commitment to representing a diverse district, and have, as candidates, focused on issues of interest to the entire community, such as public education, transportation, and infrastructure.

And Miller's downfall illustrates that his weakness is not a function of the much-discussed demographic changes in Fort Bend County, but of his own struggles to respond to such changes as a more effective leader might.

Posted by at December 4, 2019 12:00 AM