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Combing Over Shami's Voting Record

Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami is counting on your votes to put him in office, but records show his own voting history is inconsistent. There's no evidence that he's ever voted in a Democratic primary — but he did vote in the Republican primary in 2000.

Farouk Shami on November 19, 2009

Gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami is counting on your votes to put him in office, but records show his own voting history is inconsistent. He doesn't cast ballots that often, and when he does, he doesn't vote as a Democrat.

Shami voted in the 1996, 2002 and 2004 general elections, according to Montgomery County Elections Administrator Carol Gaultney, but skipped the 2006 and 2008 general elections, missing chances to vote for Independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (to whom he donated $24,400) and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who Shami has called his inspiration. "That's the man, that's my man, that's the man who did not let his strange name or an unconventional upbringing stand in his way," Shami said of Obama at his November campaign announcement.

Shami's primary election voting record is thinner. While the haircare billionaire is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next March,  there's no record of him voting as a Democrat in his home county at least as far back as 1996. He did, however, vote in the Republican primary in 2000.

The campaign is challenging some of the county's data, saying Shami did indeed cast a ballot in the 2008 election. "He did go vote for Obama, but they can't find any record of it, so we've talked with them about fixing it," said Jamila Shami, the candidate's niece and campaign aide.

As for the other skipped elections, Shami spokesperson Jessica Gutierrez says he was otherwise engaged.

"He was focusing on his company, and he had a billion dollar company at the time, and his business came first," Gutierrez said. "He's apologizing that he didn't go vote, so that's why he's educating people that they should go vote."

St. Edwards University political scientist Brian W. Smith says candidates for public office should be held to a higher standard when it comes to civic participation. "We expect more out of our elected officials. We expect them to vote regularly," Smith said. "Once you get registered, voting isn't that difficult."

If this all sounds familiar, it was just seven years ago when another Democratic gubernatorial candidate proved to have a sporadic voting history. In 2002, Democratic nominee Tony Sanchez was the target of a Rick Perry attack ad explaining how Sanchez hadn't exercised his right to vote several times over the course of a decade. If Tony Sanchez doesn't vote in Texas, the ad said, why should Texas vote for him?

Shami can make a case he's influenced politics in other ways. He's been a prolific donor to Republicans, Democrats and Independents in their bids for public office. But Smith says the cheapest way to participate is still the most important. "One of the simplest ways of influencing government is voting. It's true for me, it's true for anyone else. If you say, 'I want you to vote for me,' then practice what you preach."

By contrast to Shami, the latest entrant into the Democratic primary for governor, Houston Mayor Bill White, boasts a nearly 100% record when it comes to showing up at the polls for primary and general elections. White's voting history shows he hasn't missed a single general election since before 1992 and has cast a ballot in every Democratic primary but one. White has never voted in a Republican primary.

"It's important that every Texan votes. [White]'s been consistent," said Katy Bacon, spokesperson for the White campaign.

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