Longtime Commissioner Ed Chance enjoys a brief moment with businessman Kenny Speight, whom Chance has endorsed in the GOP primary contest to choose Chance's successor.
Longtime Commissioner Ed Chance enjoys a brief moment with businessman Kenny Speight, whom Chance has endorsed in the GOP primary contest to choose Chance’s successor.
At The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center early Tuesday morning more than 600 Montgomery County elected officials, business people and voters saw the closest thing possible to a royal succession in local politics.
The only question is whether the royal successor gets to keep his crown after the March GOP primary.
In a well-choreographed ceremony designed to convey an inevitable transfer of power, longtime Commissioner Ed Chance, who has served as commissioner over Precinct 3 north of Houston for 25 years, gave his blessing to local Woodlands businessman and civic leader Kenny Speight at a breakfast in Speight’s honor. Chance is stepping down at the end of his term in 2012.
The room was thick with supporters and elected officials from throughout the county, and the ceremonies were presided over by none other than Woodlands powerbroker Nelda Luce Blair, who is serving as campaign treasurer for Speight’s campaign. The banquet hall was dotted with a bevy of local civic leaders and political officials such as Township Chairman Bruce Tough, state Representative Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, County Judge Barb Sadler, and numerous others, including several city of Conroe officials.
Enjoying a moment together after the event as the remnants of the crowd filtered out of the banquet hall, Commissioner Chance, chatting with Speight, acknowledged the purpose of Tuesday morning’s breakfast: to demonstrate Speight’s campaign is an unstoppable juggernaut.
“For anyone dropping by the breakfast this morning, the message is very clear,” Commissioner Chance said.
By anyone, Chance was clearly referring to James Noack, a local retirement planner and budding community activist who at the moment is Speight’s only named opponent in the GOP Republican primary. Noack is the only other candidate to have filed papers with the Montgomery County Elections Office to indicate his interest in running in the GOP primary for the Precinct 3 seat.
By any measure, Speight should have the nomination in the bag. More than $60,000 was raised for the Speight campaign, and Speight’s 20 years in the county come with a long list of accomplishments, including owning his own independent insurance agency, being named a Woodlands 2005 Hometown Hero, serving as chairman of the South Montgomery County Woodlands Chamber of Commerce and working with groups such as the Montgomery County Fair Association, Conroe ISD Education Foundation and The Woodlands Lions Club.
Still, this will not be just any election year. 2012 marks an epic battle for the White House, with an especially robust contest shaping up for the GOP presidential nomination.
The keen interest in the GOP presidential primary – especially with the presence of Gov. Rick Perry — could drive a large number of voters to the polls who may pay precious little attention to local politics. For example, the last township election drew about 4,500 voters to the polls in The Woodlands – most township elections are relatively sleepy affairs. By contrast, in the 2008 GOP primary, a presidential year, twice as many voters in Precinct 3 flooded to the polls. And in the 2008 general election, almost 37,000 voters cast ballots in Precinct 3. Obviously, the presidential primary and election was a magnet for voters – voters who can be quite unpredictable when it comes to casting an informed vote in down-ballot races.
The theme of the breakfast was continuity. Township Director Nelda Blair stressed that Speight would “carry on” Chance’s “tradition of leadership.” But will “carrying on” be enough? Or will voters demand more, including a specific plan to use county government not only to continue Ed Chance’s and south Montgomery County’s success but enhance it? And on which specific issues will Speight demonstrate leadership? Any such details were lacking at Tuesday’s breakfast and on Speight’s campaign Web site.
On that count, Noack has been a vocal presence lately, being quoted in the local press regarding his criticisms of a proposed extension of Ken Lakes Drive and the impact it could have on traffic safety. He and others fear the extension – from FM 2978 to Terramont Drive – could create traffic safety issues for Deretchin Elementary students. More than 400 residents have signed a petition against the extension. As the primary draws near, and voters become increasingly engaged, it could take more than the message of Tuesday’s coronation to ensure Speight’s election.
I’ve known Kenny for years, and he is an extremely likeable, affable guy. He’s a successful businessman, and is clearly dedicated to and is generous with his community. Those are fantastic attributes for any aspiring politician. But “Carrying on” is not leadership; leadership rather involves defining a vision and plan for future success. As he looks toward a campaign designed to convert Tuesday’s endorsement breakfast into an electoral reality, Speight might do well to begin spelling out his specific vision for leadership sooner rather than later.