A few thoughts on recent developments in legislative nominations.
In Keelung, Hau Lung-pin didn’t exactly win a smashing victory in the KMT primary, with only 45% in a three-way race. On the other hand, he didn’t spend much time preparing or campaigning for the race either. I’m not terribly surprised he won. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that the third place candidate was Lin Pei-hsiang 林沛祥, son of a current KMT legislator Hsu Shao-ping 徐少萍 and former Keelung City mayor Lin Shui-mu 林水木. With such high-powered parents, I had originally thought that Lin would be a fairly strong candidate. However, I recently unearthed something that made me more skeptical about whether Lin’s family still had much clout. In my real career, I’m writing a paper on candidates from political families. In collecting data for this project, I came across the case of a certain Lin Yi 林毅, who ran for the Keelung city council in 2005 and 2009. He lost both times, failing to break 3000 votes. Lin Yi’s parents are – you guessed it – legislator Hsu Shao-ping and former mayor Lin Shui-mu. This is probably a good time to remember that Hsu has never been a very strong candidate. She nearly lost in both 1995 and 1998, and she finished far behind the PFP candidate in 2001 and 2004. Her husband was last elected over two decades ago. Simply put, the family was never all that popular, and they haven’t won an election in over a decade.
The point is, the other candidates in the field were not that impressive. If one of them had been strong, the KMT might have nominated someone a long time ago. This lousy field was ripe for a shark to come in and clean up. Hau was simply playing the time-honored role of a shark, which is nice for him but also good for his party. (The classic case of this sort of cold-blooded shark might be Su Tseng-chang elbowing aside a sick and weak Lu Hsiu-yi for the DPP Taipei County magistrate nomination in 1997. It was not a compassionate move, but the DPP was ultimately much better off because of Su’s cutthroat maneuvering.)
Some people think that PFP candidate Liu Wen-hsiung will split off lots of blue votes from Hau, thus throwing the race to the DPP. This is certainly possible, but we should throw in a note of caution. Liu hasn’t run in Keelung since
2001 2007 [edit: see comments], so his mobilization networks are probably gone. Moreover, he last ran when the PFP represented the deep blue portion of the spectrum and the KMT’s Hsu Shao-ping was thought of as part of the nativist Taiwan KMT wing. This time, the deep blue voters will almost certainly go for Hau. With the PFP attempting to move into the vacuum in the light blue part of the spectrum, Liu will have to woo voters who he has never been that successful at winning over. This might be harder than it appears at first glance.
After a tortuous process, the green side has finally settled on legal scholar and Sunflower leader Huang Kuo-chang in New Taipei 12. He will be facing Lee Ching-hua. From one point of view, this is a great matchup for Huang. Lee has direct ties to the old authoritarian era, as his father was one of Chiang Ching-kuo’s most trusted aides from way back when the KMT still held the mainland. Lee is an unapologetic Chinese nationalist, fully in sync with Hung Hsiu-chu’s unificationist rhetoric. In fact, Lee might be one of the few elected politicians in Taiwan who is even more pro-unification than Hung. Huang Kuo-chang can have a field day picking at Lee’s ideological positions and his privileged family ties. To the extent that the Lee-Huang race makes national headlines, the green side should benefit.
On the other hand, Huang is pretty much the definition of a parachute candidate. He is not embedded in any local networks. About 65% of district 12 voters live in Xizhi, which is predominantly urban. Xizhi has grown very rapidly, so many people are not incorporated into the old social networks. It is also an overflow suburb; people move to Xizhi because they can’t afford to live in Taipei City. This is fertile territory for Huang. However, the other 35% of district 12 is spread around in various rural districts. These are the sorts of places in which personal connections can deliver votes. While several of them have slight green tilts, they also tend to swing to the party in power. Lee has now spent eight years cultivating these areas. He isn’t a natural fit since he isn’t what you would call a “grassroots” style politician, and he lost significant chunks of votes in both 2008 and 2012 to third party candidates. However, compared to the outsider Huang, Lee will have a decided advantage in familiarity.
Tsai Ing-wen clearly made a decision based on national political considerations that she wanted Huang in this race. On purely local merits, I think the DPP would have been better off with their local city councilor.
In Taichung 4, the green camp has two former student leaders vying for the nomination. The foreign press is fawning over Wuer Kaixi吾爾開希, but Chang Liao Wan-chien’s 張廖萬堅 history in the Wild Lily movement is probably more pertinent to Taiwanese voters. The Wild Lily movement, after all, played an important role in democratizing Taiwan. Chang Liao has also spent the intervening years organizing votes in Taichung. Doing the dirty political work usually trumps getting a short burst of international press.
Either way, the KMT incumbent in Taichung 4 turns the race into an interesting test case. The KMT shouldn’t be vulnerable here, but Tsai Chin-lung 蔡錦隆 survived a surprisingly close race in 2012 and he is one of the rare KMT candidates in central Taiwan who is actively embracing Hung Hsiu-chu. I’m curious to see how much that will cost him.
The KMT has had difficulty convincing its top people to run in many districts. Yunlin 2 is perhaps one of the more disappointing cases for them. The KMT is in disarray in Yunlin. They have lost control of the county government, and it certainly looks as if they will lose both legislative seats. The Hsu family is a spent force, and the Chang family looks as if its best days are in the past. However, the KMT does have one rising star in Yunlin. Hsieh Shu-ya 謝淑亞 is currently the mayor of Douliu City, and she previously served as mayor of Gukeng Township. She is also from a prominent KMT family; her father-in-law Liao Fuw-peen 廖福本 was a legislator (and KMT floor leader) back in the 1980s and 1990s. (Those of you with long enough memories will certainly remember “Red Envelope Peen” 紅包本.) If the KMT is going to make a comeback in Yunlin, Hsieh is likely to be the vehicle. However, she prudently decided to sit out this year’s race. Rising star or not, this is a terrible year for an aspiring KMT politician in the south to risk any political capital.