31 August 2006
Tape deck, rewind it back...maybe
Greg Jefferson at the SAEN blog is now reporting that Ciro Rodriguez hasn't really quit the race for CD23. Kinda. Sorta.
Despite confirming that he wasn't running this morning, Rodriguez had a spokeswoman call and tell Jefferson that he's giving himself until 5pm Friday to decide to make the race.
Indecision like this isn't going to help the fundraising if he stays in, that's for sure.
Stayhorn for governor
This could be one of the funniest pictures I've seen in awhile. When I first looked, I saw that immediately behind the podium was a "Stayhorn." Oops. But it took me another couple seconds before I realized that every sign said Stayhorn. That's some quality "grassroots" action!
The Carol(e) St(r)a(y)horn campaign has had some problems in the past. Her filing to run as an independent listed her as Carole Strahorn, and then her lawyer called her Carol Strayhorn in a letter to the Secretary of State.
Good thing she's not running a write-in campaign.
Hat tip to the Perry blog.
Strayhorn on the air
Kronberg reports that Strayhorn will be on the air immediately after Labor Day through election day.
That's about 9-10 weeks of TV ads, suggesting that Strayhorn has budgeted about $10 million for her TV campaign.
Will her apparently sagging numbers move? Does Strayhorn have $10M cash on hand right now, or is she taking a leap of faith that she'll be able to keep raising money?
Strayhorn sued by director of camp for troubled teens
Comptroller Strayhorn has been sued by the director of a camp for troubled teens:
However, in August 2004 the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services closed [Woodside Trails Therapeutic Camp for troubled teens] by revoking its license. They did so after state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's "Forgotten Children" report was released. The report targeted abuse at foster care facilities and accused Woodside Trails of sexual abuse and neglect.
Gaines said the report was misleading, inaccurate and resulted in the camps' closure. The false facts could not be ignored, she said.
"I took this step with great reluctance and lots of thought. I feel it's necessary for the future of the children who are in the care of the state of Texas to make sure this never happens again," Gaines said.
The lawsuit states two judges found the Department of Family and Protective services had no evidence of sexual abuse and claims Strayhorn targeted the camp and used her political power to pressure state agencies to act.
According to the lawsuit, Strayhorn and other state officials "knowingly and intentionally distorted the facts about Woodside Trails and Plaintiff for Strayhorn's political advantage."
Austinist prints the story of a counselor who worked at a camp. Here's the counselor, describing the day the camp closed:
She said that she was a grandmother who cared about the children of Texas. Apparently she had decided that there was no therapeutic value in being outside. She was on a mission to shut down every wilderness camp in the state. It all seemed so ridiculous to us. For months she had been sending her people out to camp to "investigate." Really they were just carrying out her agenda. They took pictures of muddy tennis shoes after it rained, and claimed that we were abusing the children by making them live in horrible conditions. Everyone who works with "troubled" and abused children knows that from time to time false accusations are made. Woodside Trails, like most, if not all, residential treatment centers, had a list of false accusations that the kids had made throughout the years. Strayhorn had this list printed in some report, but neglected to provide the results of the investigations.
On that Friday, we got a call from Child Protective Services. They said that they were coming to get the boys who were in our care because they were not safe with us. Within an hour, a line of black, rented suburbans pulled onto the property. Officials got out of their cars with a list of the names of the children that they would be taking. It was the craziest scene I had ever witnessed. The boys were running around crying, begging us not to let them go. I was told by several that they did not feel complete with their treatment, that they wanted to stay with us because they were afraid they would get back into drugs or gangs again. We tried our best to calm the boys down. We told them to act maturely, to show these people that they were learning with us. The boys were encouraged to cooperate and not cause problems.
This definitely undermines a Strayhorn political strength. Much like attacks on John Kerry's strength caused him to wither, this seems to have the ability to do the same. We'll see how this plays out.
Couple book reviews of what I read today.
Barone has an interesting life story: super-elite educated (Harvard, Yale Law), he was once a Democratic political consultant and still publishes the bible of all political junkies, the Almanac of American Politics. He's become one of the nation's leading public intellectual, and has slowly drifted from liberal to conservative. He writes for USNews, where he has BaroneBlog. [FYI to Barone -- in this recent post, you should've referred to Ben Barnes as Lieutenant Governor, I think. A mistake uncharacteristic of you, sir.]
The thesis of Hard America, Soft America is that educated elites have been turned off by the hardness of becoming elite and successful, and thus became fans of softness which attempts to cool the ardor of a dynamic society. He posits that this led to the malaise of the 60s and 70s, only to be changed by the re-hardening of America in the 80s and 90s. While this in some ways autobiographically reflects his own political shift, it's a relatively unique critique of recent American political history.
Barone is probably the pundit I most respect in Washington, so it's no surprise that I largely agree with him, though I wonder how his book has been received by those who haven't shared his right-shifting politics. But it's a serious study, and should be read by liberals who want an educated, dispassionate view of how much of the right views politics today.
Conversely, The Good Fight is a book the right should read to inform themselves of how the left views national security and the use of American influence, particularly as ultimately expressed in military force.
But Beinart's target audience is ultimately his fellow liberals. His thesis is that liberals have a cohesive national security position, and he attempts to explicate by weaving a story throughout the last half of the century (much like Barone, except that he focuses on foreign affairs and not domestic). He starts by telling how there was once a serious split in the left on fighting communism, but that ultimately Americans for Democratic Action (who knew the ADA was once a serious political organization, and not just people who want to Bork any Republican judicial nominee?) won the battle and fought communism. After his interpretation of 50 years of foreign policy, he brings us into his view of Iraq, but also how American hegemony ought be constrained today in multilateral organizations.
It's a valuable book, and appears largely to have been dismissed by the left's grassroots (at least as expressed in the blogosphere), which astounds me. I disagreed frequently, and thought he rather blithely dismissed some inconvenient history, but it's a well-expressed view that's provoking to those who disagree. It's also part of what a smart Democratic presidential candidate would adopt as a national security platform.
A classic in encouraging creativity, and deservedly so.
30 August 2006
CD23: Ciro Rodriguez withdraws?
Tonight's AFL-CIO meeting was supposed to be a crucial test for Ciro Rodriguez. If he got their endorsement, it'd be a good sign. If he didn't get the endorsement, then raising money would be an awfully tough row to hoe.
Instead, Rodriguez apparently decided to withdraw. No word as to whether he wasn't going to get the endorsement and thus decided to give up the race.
Pure speculation: my feeling is that Democrats in Washington weren't wild about his candidacy, and weren't willing to put money behind him. Rodriguez didn't think he'd be able to raise enough on his own to battle Gilliland's self-funding capabilities.
What happens now?
The campaign analysis shifts quite a bit now. The question is whether the race becomes a three man race, or simply a face off between Bonilla and Gilliland. Can Albert Uresti be a formidable challenger?
Voters tend to vote for candidates that they think is "someone like them." In modern American campaigns, race/ethnicity plays a big part in that. In a 60% Hispanic district, one has to wonder whether Anglo Democrat Lukin Gilliland will be able to unite a significantly Latino Democratic base against Henry Bonilla. Not only is Gilliland an Anglo, but apparently he lives in outside the district in Alamo Heights. That's probably not the greatest symbol to the South Side: Alamo Heights is the poshest neighborhood of San Antonio.
With Rodriguez out, Uresti may be a serious candidate. His brother Carlos is state Senator-elect (more or less) from an overlapping district, and Albert is a former district chief of the San Antonio Fire Department. He may carry some name ID from his brother's race. The main question with Uresti is raising money: can he impress the right people to raise enough money for his campaign? With Rodriguez in, the answer seemed likely to be no. With Rodriguez out, Uresti may be able to raise some money.
Still, one has to think that Bonilla's chances of avoiding a runoff go up a good deal.
Jaime Castillo, in a pre-Rodriguez withdrawal column, has a couple interesting tidbits:
"Tony Sanchez spent $60 million in 2002 and only got 49 percent of the vote in that district. It's not a hopeful sign," [Hernandez] said, referring to the one-time Democratic nominee for governor.Right now, I bet Garza is kicking himself for not getting in.
Former Mayor Ed Garza, who was courted at the last minute to enter the race, told Political Writer Greg Jefferson that the timing wasn't right to mount a credible campaign with only weeks to go before Nov. 7.
What Garza didn't say is that a private poll helped him make up his mind. The whispers say Garza's numbers weren't bad, but they didn't differentiate him enough from the current field.
29 August 2006
Perry meets with bloggers...in North Carolina
It's not all that newsworthy, but I doubt anyone else'll write about it, so I thought I would.
Do you feel special?
Gov. Perry called a special election today for the seats of DeLay, Luna, and Madla. Congress, state house, and state senate, respectively.
Is it good for Shelley's quixotic write-in bid? Bad? You could argue either way. Lots of folks have. Kronberg saw it as a cheap political ploy by the Governor. Kuffner also thinks it helps Shelley, whereas Chris Elam and Texas 22 Greg think it hurts Shelley.
I don't know. Maybe. There're some facts that fit that opinion, but now Shelley also has to explain to everyone that they have to vote for her twice. Write-ins only have a chance when it's an uber-super high-profile campaign. So the degree that this barely boosts the profile of the race, then maybe it increases Shelley's chances.
Shelley should probably win the special if it's her versus Lampson. If the point is just to lay groundwork to knock off Lampson in 2008 (or to make him spend money), then I guess the guv could've done it for that reason. But there's also the possibility that Lampson will win the special because Shelley can't raise enough money.
I still say this (the general election, not the special) has only about a 5% chance of being won by Shelley, and that's being generous.
I'm slightly frustrated that I keep wasting time talking about this race.
Stuff that's come in on CD23 recently.
1. The FEC has ruled this to be a new cycle. So each candidate can accept up to $2100 from any donor. If/when the millionaires amendment is triggered, then that amount will go up to $6300 from any donor.
2. Lukin Gilliland doesn't live in the district. No word on whether he'll move into the district for the campaign or if he's elected.
3. Ciro Rodriguez put out a Stan Greenberg poll showing:
Bonilla 44%Hat tip to Paul Burka and Charles Kuffner.
Albert Uresti 7%
Richard Perez 3%
Rick Bolanos 1%
Virgil Yanta 1%
If you're keeping track at home, that's 47% for Dems and 44% for Bonilla. Of course, that's somewhat akin to polling George W. Bush vs. John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, Joe Lieberman, and Howard Dean. In both cases, the Democrats will get more % of the vote.
I should mention that the poll was taken before some folks (like Lukin Gilliland) announced, and before others decided to stay out. So some of the folks shown aren't running (particularly Gallegos, who I'm sure was put in the poll partly to bring Bonilla's numbers down a little so that the gap between Rodriguez and Bonilla wasn't as large...savvy polling, Greenberg) and Gilliland isn't guaged. But then, Gilliland probably wouldn't have polled much anyway, as he hasn't had a chance to boost his name ID.
All this poll really says is that Dems have a very decent chance at getting into the runoff. But we already knew that.
Interview with Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, part 1
Here's a transcript of my interview with Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes. This is part 1 of 3.
We talked about a month ago, but for various reasons I decided not to post it until now.
His book is Barn Building, Barn Burning. I read it, enjoyed it, and recommend it.
One more thing: I wouldn't guarantee that this transcription is perfect. Some of the exact words used here and there might be slightly off. If you're a pedant, I plan on posting the audio after I've posted the transcripts, so you'll have an opportunity to listen to the source.
Part One below the jump.
CQ changes ranking on CD22
CQ has finally changed its classification of the CD22 Nick Lampson vs. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (write in) from No Clear Favorite to Leans Democratic.
Gee, you think? This race doesn't just "Lean Democratic." If this only "Leans Democratic," then surely Katherine Harris must only be in a "Leans Democratic" race against Nelson in Florida, right?
Wrong. In CQ parlance, it's "Safe Democrat." Or at least "Democrat Favored."
The only reason I can think of why CQ is playing it so conservative? They're too inside-the-Beltway and afraid to look foolish.
28 August 2006
Latest Zogby Interactive
I'm not a fan of Zogby Interactive polls (do a search, you'll find I've written about this for at least a year and a half).
Here's the general speech: we have no real track record of their accuracy, and their methodology raises questions. It's not that I'm against technology in polling. After all, automated polls are reliable. I just don't trust Zogby online polls.
Anyway, despite misgivings, here's the latest online poll numbers:
This is actually pretty similar to the last Zogby online poll, which had Perry 38, Bell 21, Friedman 21, Strayhorn 11.
So Zogby's sample hasn't changed too terribly much.
Chris Bell on Kinky Friedman
Tucked away in a Clay Robison Sunday column is a very interesting bit:
Considering that Friedman has more unfavorables than favorables among the general populace, this is an interesting bit indeed.
Bell's campaign, which has been collecting Kinky's quotes, believes the quipster's conservative viewpoints contradict those of his own strongest supporters.
An internal Bell campaign poll indicates Friedman's strongest base — a 51 percent favorable rating to 25 percent unfavorable — is among Anglo liberals, the type of people who normally would be expected to support Bell and who the Democrat desperately needs.
"He (Friedman) has stated contempt for a lot of the people who are supporting him," said Bell spokesman Jason Stanford.
Robison's column is about Friedman's off-color, un-PC remarks. It can be inferred that Bell's campaign fed Robison a list of quotes. The Bell campaign is in a tough place. They can't consolidate the Democratic base without white liberals, but lots of those liberals are flirting with voting for Kinky. Unfortunately for Bell, since Kinky isn't a politician, he manages to get a pass for un-PC statements that might sink other candidates.
List of folks who filed in CD23
August Beltran (D-San Antonio)
Rick Bolanos (D-El Paso)
Henry Bonillia (R-San Antonio)
Adrian DeLeon (C-Carrizo Springs)
Luke Gilliland (D-San Antonio)
Ciro Rodriguez (D-San Antonio)
Craig Stephens (I-San Antonio)
Albert Uresti (D-San Antonio)
Media news over the weekend
Cheers to the Statesman's Corrie MacLaggan for trying to do a substantive piece about health care policy and the gubernatorial candidates positions on it. The lede:
Here's Gov. Rick Perry's perspective: Texas children are safer today than a year ago, thanks to Child Protective Services reforms; more children are covered by public health insurance than in 1999; and the state is giving low-income Texans more ways to apply for help while saving taxpayers money.
Here's the reality, according to Perry's three main gubernatorial challengers: the privatization of public assistance enrollment is a nightmare; children are being recklessly dropped from public insurance programs; and the Child Protective Services reforms didn't go far enough.
The Statesman also had commentary by Gardner Selby noting that Strayhorn wasn't always so cozy with trial lawyers:
Craig McDonald goes soft on a political candidate instead of bashing them? Very odd.
Strayhorn warned in June 1996 that her challenger for a Texas Railroad Commission seat was a personal-injury trial lawyer. Strayhorn, then a Republican commissioner, wrote supporters that Democrat Hector Uribe "never saw a loophole for his fellow trial lawyers he didn't want to create, an expansion of social spending he didn't favor, or a tax bill he didn't like."
Now, as an independent gubernatorial candidate, Strayhorn has accepted more than $1 million from trial lawyers, with most of the money coming from John Eddie Williams and Joseph Jamail of Houston and Walter Umphrey of Beaumont.
The lawyers favor Strayhorn over GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who has championed changes in law intended to whittle lawsuits including medical malpractice cases. And they're obviously shrugging off Strayhorn's past positioning, including her anti-Uribe letter slamming lawyers eight times in 22 paragraphs.
Public Justice's Craig McDonald suggested that just because Strayhorn's fundraising posture has flipped, she's not necessarily a hypocrite. Then again, "those types of seemingly contradictory actions become fodder for your opponents to point fingers at you that you have no solid convictions."
Then, most of the papers around the state had some version of this story:
North Texas utility's political action committee gave $5,000 to Gov. Rick Perry's campaign last fall, only a few weeks after the governor had signed an executive order to speed up the state permitting process for coal-fired power plants.
Additionally, the retired chairman of the company, Dallas-based TXU, gave Perry $2,000 the day the order was signed, Oct. 27, and another $25,000 in April.
TXU, a significant source of political funding for Perry over the years, wants to build 11 new coal-burning units, primarily in East and Central Texas, a proposal that has drawn fire from environmentalists who fear increased air pollution.
The fast-tracking of the permits and the financial contributions also were criticized Friday by Perry's Democratic opponent, Chris Bell, who said the governor was unduly influenced by "polluters who write the big campaign checks."
Perry spokesman Robert Black said the change in the permitting process doesn't reduce environmental safeguards but simply trims six months or longer off the year that it can take administrative law judges to complete a contested case.
This strikes me as a normal media "we don't like money in politics" story. Considering that Texas has some problems with its electricity production and grid, speeding up the permitting process sounds reasonable.
And last, tax appraisal reform commission chair Tom Pauken has an editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram arguing that the commission's work shouldn't be pre-judged.
I hope they talk to some good economists and think through incentives on all sides.
Bushies for McCain
The Washington Post Magazine profiles McCain. They certainly aren't the first, but it is part of a general trend. While still relatively complimentary, the tenor of McCain media coverage is now he's just a politician. Either way, here's the Texas angle:
I'll give you two guesses as to who the senior Republican official is. I'll bet the person is either from Texas or Maryland.
"You're dealing with people who are professionals," says a senior Republican official with close ties to the president. "Everybody in Bush world understands the most important legacy this president will leave is in dealing with the war on terror with moral clarity. And there's been no more steadfast and articulate proponent of that central policy goal than John McCain."
Anyway, it's interesting to me (and topical to the blog) because it further suggests that the Bushies and thus Texans are going to largely jump on board the McCain campaign.
New Orleans trip report
On the drive over to New Orleans, I recorded a podcast that I may or may not post. It was a very spur of the moment idea. Upon arrival, I checked into the W New Orleans -- to see how the other half lives -- on points. The W wasn't too impressive; I've been to nicer Westins and Sheratons. The W was just overpriced and underwhelming. Service wasn't great, and I think I prefer classy to the W's trendiness.
General Noise was good, and had a few songs I hadn't heard before. You should check them out.
On Saturday, we went and toured the Ninth Ward to see what the damage was like a year later. There was still plenty of trash strewn about, and most of the houses looked unlivable. On the other hand, compared to videos my parents brought back from Mississippi, the damage was much less visually striking. In Mississippi, everything was pretty much just flat out leveled. By contrast, in New Orleans most of the houses were still standing. In fact, churches were the large majority of collapsed buildings that I saw. I think that part of this is because we were in the Upper Ninth Ward and Eastern New Orleans, not in the hardest hit Lower Ninth Ward. I don't think we saw many watermarks above six or seven feet. Pretty much every house had TFW (toxic flood water) spraypainted on it, with a date. So you could figure out where the water was on that date, which was usually pretty close to the watermark.
Although there were some people in the streets, the areas I saw looked largely untouched post-Katrina. There were a few rebuilding projects (several of which were Habitat for Humanity), but by and large appeared to be fairly deserted. We saw quite a few military police and accompanying Humvees more than we saw police, which surprised me.*
As for the touristy spots, I took a walk down Bourbon Street. I'm guessing it wasn't as packed as it would have been two years ago, but it was more or less the same. The difference was on other French Quarter streets like Royal, Dauphine and Decatur, which were all dead even on weekend nights.
So that's what I saw. It's definitely something you need to see for yourself to understand, I think.
UPDATE: Oh, and on the drive back I started feeling sick for the first time in years. Fortunately, my body feels slightly better today.
* Only saw military police in the 9th Ward.
25 August 2006
Out of town
I'm out of town this weekend to New Orleans to hear my friend's band play a show.
So I'd be very surprised if I post this weekend.
Big endorsements for Edwards
Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards (CD17, Waco) received two endorsements from the right-leaning US Chamber of Commerce and the NFIB. The two represent large and small businesses, respectively.
24 August 2006
Tele town hall
Kronberg catches up to the trend:
We are not in the business of touting new companies or ventures, but a technology is emerging out of Washington that has potentially profound implications for elected officials, campaigns and even commercial marketing.Politicians have actually been using this technology for about six months. Dan Lungren out in California was the first, but it's caught on like fire since then.
Imagine being able to dial up 45,000 households in a half-hour and inviting them to participate in a town hall meeting while sitting on the phone at home.
Congressman Kay Granger (R-Ft. Worth) has now conducted two of these town hall meetings.
Apparently Granger is the first in Texas to use it. I thought I remembered another Texan using it first, but I can't immediately find proof of that. It'd be surprising to me if nobody has used it until now, but then many politicians are risk-averse when it comes to adapting to technology.
UPDATE: I don't know if he was the first Texas politican, but Republican Congressman John Carter (TX 31, Williamson County) has already used it at least once.
UPDATE 2: Dr. Michael Burgess (TX 26, DFW/Denton area) has used it too.
UPDATE 3: Mike Conaway (TX 11, Midland) did one back in May.
Another Henry Bonilla challenger in CD23
Lukin Gilliland announced for Congress today as another Democratic challenger to Henry Bonilla. Gilliland has hired Democratic political operative Kelly Fero and has announced that he will contribute $500K to the race. He joins former Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez in the race.
Interestingly, almost exactly three years ago to this day, Gilliland gave Henry Bonilla $250*. Gilliland has also given Ciro Rodriguez money -- at least five times in the last few years, for a total of $2000. Gilliland has been a fairly consistent contributor over the past few years to Democrats running for president (Edward, Kerry, Clark) and to Dem congressional candidates, as well as several sizable soft money donations. So he'll have to explain why he's running against two candidates that were previously worth donating to.
1. Runoff more likely. Gilliland looks like a serious candidate. He's got money and he's willing to use it. He's hired a well-known Democratic consultant, which gives an imprimatur of being a serious candidate. But Rodriguez is a former congressman, with mail lists and contacts. He should be able to raise money himself, although his fundraising against Cuellar was mediocre until liberal blogs started hyping him in January 2006.On the whole, this doesn't really appear likely to change Bonilla's chances too much as of right now. I believe I estimated Bonilla's re-election chances at 75% recently, and I see no reason to change my estimate. This would all change if Gilliland decides he's willing to spend a few million on the race, (or the DCCC decides it wants to invest heavily in the race, but I think that Rahm Emmanuel will probably believe he has a better return on his investment elsewhere, especially if there's a self-funder). Then the race changes substantially. But the most likely scenario in November appears to be something like 50% Bonilla, 30%ish Rodriguez/Gilliland, and 20%ish Rodriguez/Gilliland. If Bonilla has to go to a runoff, he'd be a pretty good favorite under that scenario.
But with two Democratic candidates spending money, it seems more likely that they'll be able to aggregate 50% of the vote than with just one Democratic candidate against Bonilla.
2. Millionaires amendment. For US House races, when an opposing candidate contributes $350K of his own money, then the Millionaires Amendment of the McCain Feingold bill (I refuse to call it BCRA) is triggered and two things happen: (1) The increased limit for contributions by individuals is three times the applicable limit. (2) The national and State party committees may make unlimited coordinated expenditures on behalf of the candidate.
So Bonilla and Rodriguez will be able to raise up to $6300 per donor through November. And the NRCC/RNC/RPT and DCCC/DNC/TDP can throw money around with abandon.
* It's possible that Gilliland's father gave this money -- his father appears to be a Republican donor -- but the address listed is the same as Gilliland used for his numerous other donations. I have an email in to Kelly Fero to find out.
UPDATE: Kelly Fero says that it is his father. Post is appropriately struck-through.
Full press release below the jump.
No Texans on the ticket
Dallas Morning News' Carl Leubsdorf has a column today on how Texas doesn't have a presidential candidate and won't decide who is on the ticket:
For the first time in a half-century, Texas looms as a nonplayer in the 2008 presidential race.Perhaps it didn't come across that clearly from the excerpts, but Leubsdorf's tone struck me as slightly sensationalist....almost an "oh no! Texas is losing its national influence" sentiment.
Barring an unlikely vice presidential selection, the state has no candidates for either national ticket. The strongly Republican tilt of recent years means Democrats are unlikely to spend much time and money contesting the state's 34 electoral votes.
All of this marks a dramatic change for Texas over the prevailing practice of the past 50 years. Four candidates with strong Texas ties – Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and the two George Bushes – have won the presidency, Lloyd Bentsen ran for vice president, and every election saw at least one Texan in a major role.
In fact, 2008 would be the first presidential campaign year since 1952 in which there won't be a single Texan serving as a major player, either as a presidential or a vice presidential candidate, or in the way the late John Connally helped Richard Nixon win the 1972 race.
Other than that, the only potential factor that could add to the state's long list of candidates would be if the 2008 GOP nominee picked a Texan, most likely Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, as his vice presidential running mate.
No, we don't have a presidential contender this year, but so what? That's because we have a Texan in the White House right now. In presidential politics, success does not beget success. Americans don't want any particular state to perpetually occupy the White House. George W. Bush is very closely identified with Texas, so it is very unlikely we'll have a Texan on either ticket this year. That's just how these things work.
And we've never really had any influence in the past few decades over who the nominees are, so why is it surprising that we don't this election cycle? Although several states have recently managed to encroach on New Hampshire and Iowa's domain as presidential kingmakers, Texas has never really put forth much of an effort into having a say on the parties' nominees.
So yeah, we won't have a Texan on the ticket in '08. But that's not a big deal. Or a surprise.
22 August 2006
Chron/SAEN Austin bureau merger pays off
I'm not a huge fan of media mergers. They often lead to less competition and less trolling around government for stories.
But, the recent merger of the Austin bureaus of the Chron and the SAEN has meant that Peggy Fikac has been frequently updating the Chron's previously sparse Texas Politics blog. Yay for Fikac.
SciGuy interview John Culberson on nanotech research
Chronicle SciGuy Eric Berger has a podcast interview of Congressman John Culberson about nanotechnology. Here is the direct link. I recommend it, especially because it's only about twenty minutes. Culberson clearly knows what he's talking about.
Houston -- led by Rice -- is the number one hotspot for nano right now, and Culberson has been using his position on the House Appropriations Committee to funnel research dollars into Houston. Due in part to Culberson's efforts, Houston has the potential to be the next Silicon Valley. Seriously.
If you're interested in how research done on a nano-scale is going to revolutionize energy, healthcare, composites, computers, etc, then I'd recommend Richard Booker's Nanotech for Dummies. It's probably the most comprehensive look at nanotech today.
Culberson also points out something that has actually been known in the medical field: that ultimately adult stem cells will probably be able to do everything that embryonic stem cells can do. A couple smart folks told me about this a year and a half ago, and they regarded it as pretty likely at the time.
21 August 2006
USA Today does CD17
I've been surprised by how little media attention the CD17 race has gotten. USAToday had a lengthy piece this weekend, reporting that the messages were Taylor's military service versus Edwards' track record.
CD17, of course, is President Bush's home district. He won 69% of the vote there in 2004, while the statewide composite was 66%. In two downballot judicial races (good tests of a district's overall partisanship) the GOP candidates won 65% and 66.5%, although Victor Carrillo only won 63.3%. [All numbers from here.]
So while Edwars is probably a slight favorite, this is always a district that could switch. Edwards hung on in 2004 by effectively portraying Wohlgemuth as too extreme, based on her voting record as a state representative. He's also a former Aggie, which helps neutralize the GOP advantage down in College Station/Bryan.
Chris Elam reports that David Wallace will not be campaigning for CD22.
20 August 2006
The ups and downs of the Texas media cycle: Strayhorn 2006 edition
Awhile back, I wrote about how Carole Strayhorn was solidifying a poor reputation among the state's political cognoscenti. When a candidate gets a bad reputation, favorable media coverage becomes difficult to obtain.
This weekend, R.G. Ratcliffe writes a Sunday Houston Chronicle piece on Strayhorn's shifts over her career:
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, an independent candidate for governor, has politically reinvented herself time and again during the past three decades — repeatedly leading to questions of whether her actions are sincere or expedient.
Strayhorn is a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent. She has given up three elected positions and one appointed state job to run for a higher office. And her positions on issues have transformed more than once.
Political party switches
• 1985: "I have been a lifelong Democrat, but I'm going to spend the rest of my life vigorously and wholeheartedly in the GOP."
• Now: "I am a Republican. But I know I must set partisan politics aside and do what's right for Texas. That is why I am running for governor as an independent."
Toll roads• 2000: Strayhorn in a review of the Texas Department of Transportation recommended toll roads: "Building highways through toll financing rather than pay-as-you-go financing dramatically speeds the time it takes to complete a given project."
• Now: "I am adamantly opposed to this massive toll plan," Strayhorn said. "Rick Perry calls it Trans-Texas Corridor. I call it Trans-Texas Catastrophe, and as governor, I will blast it off the bureaucratic books."
Private school vouchers• Before: Won election as comptroller in 1998 with the help of a $950,000 loan from voucher advocate James Leininger. Strayhorn said she supported vouchers as a means of giving parents a choice when their children were trapped in failing schools.
• January: "When I've talked about vouchers; philosophically I wouldn't have a problem with that for disadvantaged kids. But let me tell you what, that was before we had five years of this administration that is absolutely totally dismantling our public school system day by day."
• Early February: "I will veto any type of legislation that puts a single dollar into any voucher program, period."
• Late February: "I'm not saying I would never support them. I'm saying that I would take vouchers off the table for discussion. No more talk until we address the needs of public schools."
• 1985: "She refused to discuss her position on abortion." — Austin American-Statesman
"She has been pro-choice on abortion, although she now says she opposes abortion personally and would rule out tax dollars for its practice, except in cases of rape incest or where the mother's life is threatened." — Christian Science Monitor
• 1990s: Signed pledges for the Republican National Coalition for Life to oppose abortion and told Greater Austin Right to Life that she supported overturning the Supreme Court decision allowing abortions.
• Now: "I have made my position very clear. As a mama and a grandmama, I believe in the sanctity of life, but I understand that there are those heartbreaking situations where heartbreaking decisions have to be made."
Meanwhile, the Statesman editorial page has Arnold Garcia:
When I read Strayhorn's outsider lament, I rolled my eyes. On reflection, though, the comptroller has a point. She was the first woman to run for mayor when she declared her candidacy in 1977. As progressive as Austin claims to be, a woman running for mayor caused a great deal of consternation in some tight little circles. She might win, after all, they speculated between harrumphs. Two business guys called a press conference to declare that a woman had no business being Austin mayor.Way back when it was beginning to become evident that Strayhorn would challenge Perry in 2006, Strayhorn was getting favorable media coverage while Perry was getting lambasted in the state's editorial and news pages. Somehow, Strayhorn has managed to lose her favorable media coverage. Her only chance now is the $8M she's sitting on for TV ads in the next 80 days. But unfavorable free media certainly complicates the paid media campaign.
They even got coverage. Her victory prompted each of them to send tongue-in-cheek telegrams to her blaming the other one for saying it.
Anyway, she was an outsider no longer and really hasn't been since.
Even though she may not have been the most popular Democrat or Republican, the Legislature can't write a budget she doesn't approve.
And if that weren't enough, she commands a respectable amount of time, money and attention from enough insiders to be taken seriously as a gubernatorial candidate. That rarely happens with independent candidates, but this isn't your normal election year.
Strayhorn wearing an outsider uniform is a fashion statement — just not a very credible one. Sure, it has a grain of truth to it. For that matter, so did Mauro's claim to being an outsider. It takes more than one grain of sand to make a beach, though.
Tape deck, rewind it back
Kinky Friedman on Saturday disavowed the criminal complaint that his campaign for governor filed against independent rival Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, but Friedman declined to withdraw the complaint or apologize to Strayhorn.So Friedman thought there should be a complaint filed, but he didn't want to be connected to it because he didn't want to pile on? If he won't apologize for it, and thinks the complaint has merit, then that doesn't seem like repudiation.
"That's not going to happen," Friedman said of an apology.
Friedman said he was shocked to see newspaper headlines that indicated he was the one filing the complaint when it was Barkley. Friedman said he was naive enough to think Barkley could file such a complaint without it looking like he was the one making the accusation.
But he said he will not ask Barkley to withdraw the complaint because Barkley thinks it has merit.
"I'm not totally convinced the charges aren't true, by the way. I'm just saying I did not want to be the one that's picking at the other candidates," Friedman said.
1. Bell gets a Huntsville Item write-thru of his stop in Huntsville.
2. The FWST ed board is happy with Gov. Perry and Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson for changing the route of the Trans-Texas Corridor around the DFW Metroplex.
3. Democratic Senate nominee Radnofsky was in Tyler:
Barbara Radnofsky, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said Saturday at a Cherokee County Democratic Party Rally that her opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and the rest of the Republicans in power have eroded American democracy.Interesting strategy. Insult 60% of the electorate, and they must be more likely to vote for you!
On the other hand (and to be more charitable), presumably this run against Hutchison is an attempt to build name ID for a further run. In that case, Radnofsky needs to at least try to keep the Democratic base together, so Hutchison's margin of victory is less than expected.
4. Billy Joe Shaver on being Kinky Friedman's spiritual adviser:
Asked if he's really involved in the country-music performer/mystery writer's independent gubernatorial campaign as Friedman's "spiritual adviser,'' Shaver proudly said: "Yes I am! He'll be the next governor of Texas. He's ahead of the polls.'' Shaver said his spiritual advice is, "If you just stay honest you won't have to stretch your head to remember what you said before,'' and "keep it simple.''Shaver's quote "he's ahead of the polls" amuses me. He's certainly not ahead in the polls, so maybe Shaver is on to something.
"Kinky's that way, he's brutally honest. He won't be pushed around,'' Shaver said. "He knows what he needs to do.
"He admires Jesus Christ, he's a Jew, there's no doubt about it. But I knew his father and mother. He comes from good stock.''
19 August 2006
Bernie Rapoport on Hillary Clinton
Big time Texas Democratic money man Bernard Rapoport had some interesting quotes about Hillary in Time's snapshot on Hillary's presidential ambitions:
Her strategists tell Time they are urging her to make her intentions clear by next spring—by forming an exploratory committee, for instance—to lock up fund-raising and political talent. Those close enough to know say that she is genuinely undecided but that Bill is not disguising his eagerness to see her make a bid for his old job. "He thinks that she should run, and he's going to do everything possible to help her," says Texas insurance mogul and philanthropist Bernard Rapoport, a longtime Clinton friend and backer.I'm mildly puzzled by the idea that Hillary needs to send a signal by spring 2007. She can wait much longer than any other Democrat in the race: the money will still be there, the consultants will still be there, the endorsements will still be there, etc.
Even when Bill doesn't get in her way, Hillary has trouble pulling off what came so naturally to him. "I wish she hadn't come out against flag burning," says her supporter and funder Rapoport. "The worst mistake she can make is to move to the right. She's going to lose a lot of the enthusiasm of the people who can get her elected." But others point out that by supporting a statute banning flag burning, she helped defeat a more drastic constitutional amendment that would have done the same thing—very much like what her husband did in 1995 when he produced a balanced budget, horrifying the left with 25% cuts in domestic spending. That helped take the political momentum out of a balanced-budget constitutional amendment. "Do you pretend [an issue] doesn't exist, or do you find a way to beat it?" asks former Clinton White House domestic-policy director Bruce Reed. "The Clintons have always found a way to beat it."
In fact, until Hillary says she isn't running, people will assume that she is. So if I were Hillary's strategists, I'd keep her powder dry as long as possible.
David Wallace to announce his intentions Monday
Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace told the local ABC news tonight that he would announce his decision on Monday about whether to continue running for CD22 as a write-in. He plans a press conference from Sugar Land's Town Square on Monday afternoon.
He's already filed to be a write-in, so I don't know whether he can un-file, but he has virtually no chance of success after the local Republican party organizations united around Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. So that would make you think that he's not running.
But Wallace also commented to ABC13 that he had a database of voters across the district, and that it was undemocratic to let about 100 precinct chairs decide the GOP's preferred write-in candidate. So maybe he is running...
If he's not running, it probably wasn't too wise to say that and thus further anger the GOP grassroots in the district in advance of 2008.
UPDATE: Nod to Chris Elam, for predicting this morning that Wallace would drop out Monday.
Coming on the heels of the revelations that Strayhorn was using state employees to help do research that appeared to be campaign-related, this kinda cements the perception. It keeps the story alive a little longer. And it does seem inappropriate for the comptroller's office to be quoting from campaign press releases.
Colleyville home builder Will Edgington was stunned when he received a letter from Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn on state stationery that included a slam on Gov. Rick Perry's tax plan and a summary of her own campaign platform on tax policy and other matters.
The letter, dated July 18 and carrying the letterhead of the state seal, was sent in reply to Edgington's request for information on how local property appraisal review boards are supposed to conduct business.
The first half of the three-page letter explains how a property owner can appeal a review board's decision or request an arbitration hearing. The last page and a half, however, contain several paragraphs that are almost identical to those from a campaign news release that criticizes the tax plan that Perry pushed through the Legislature last spring as part of a school finance overhaul.
Strayhorn is running for governor as an independent.
"The first part of the letter was fine, but I was surprised to see her go on a rant about the governor's tax plan for a page and half," said Edgington, who is not aligned with any of the candidates for governor. "I was pretty shocked, actually."
But the letter does borrow wording from Strayhorn's stump speeches and campaign literature.
"Perry's plan is a staggering $23 billion short of the funds needed to pay for the promised property tax cuts over the next five years," one passage reads. The letter goes on to say that state leaders "must really fix our school system, really cut property taxes, rein in government spending, crack down on criminals who abuse our children and repeal the largest tax increase in Texas history."
In a May 18 news release issued by her campaign, Strayhorn called Perry's plan "a $23 billion hot check." And she goes on to say that "we can really fix our school finance system, really cut property taxes, rein in government spending, crack down on criminals who abuse our children and repeal the largest tax increase in Texas history."
It also feeds the perception that Strayhorn just has to attack Perry in every opportunity. It sounds like Edgington and Moritz were surprised by the attack, since it didn't appear to be relevant. But who knows, maybe being One Pissed Off Grandma will work.
Friedman: I didn't mean it the first time. Don't investigate Strayhorn
The Statesman has the story on Friedman's campaign changing its mind.
Originally, I thought this was a strange tactic from the Friedman campaign. Friedman is running as the anti-politician. If he starts attacking other candidates, then he loses credibility on his anti-politican plank. Of course, Friedman would love to see Strayhorn gone from the campaign, because then he might have an actual shot at winning. But unless he thinks there's a reasonable chance of a knockout blow, it's not a good idea.
Kinky Friedman has repudiated his campaign's call for Travis County to investigate Carole Keeton Strayhorn's possible misuse of state employees.
"I don't agree with it at all," Friedman said Thursday, a week after his campaign asked Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle to take a look. "It just wasn't right."
Friedman and Strayhorn are independent candidates for governor with GOP Gov. Rick Perry, Democratic nominee Chris Bell and Libertarian James Werner.
Friedman said he didn't know the investigation request happened until he saw it reported.
"Miscommunication," he said, indicating that he doesn't want to sully other candidates.
"Don't pick on Grandma," Friedman said, referring to Strayhorn's declared nick-name.
Friedman's campaign director, Dean Barkley, sought an investigation in reaction to news articles stating that Strayhorn, the state comptroller, has agency aides brief her before appearances, including her pitches for support for governor. Briefing papers given to Strayhorn identify leaders of communities she is visiting (including political party heads) and profile local educational and economic conditions, though political talking points do not appear to be included.
To date, it was the only time three of the four candidates have agreed on an ethics attack. For whatever that's worth, since Friedman doesn't agree anymore.
Which reminded me of this from Bell spokesman Jason Stanford:
"The statement that Kinky Friedman filed an ethics complaint against Carole Strayhorn, just that sentence, conveys levels of absurdity heretofore not known in Texas politics," he said.Now that he's repudiated it, does that make it even more absurd?
Never a dull moment in Texas politics. Hehe.
It's gonna be hard
By the way, the Chron article confirms that write-in votes will be counted if the intent of the voter can be determined. Nothing like subjectivity in elections!
Texas gets more hurricane aid
In a Friday announcement at a Houston medical clinic that cared for evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced the distribution of the $1 billion for Gulf Coast relief remaining after Louisiana's cut of $4.2 billion.Good job Kevin Brady! It's been frustrating to see the federal government act like Louisiana -- and New Orleans in particular -- was the only place that was damaged.
Breakdown of the $973 million total by state is:For many, it was the culmination of months-long efforts to rectify what had been perceived as a massive shortchanging of Texas in the first round of Gulf Coast recovery grants. The state got less than 1 percent of the first $11.5 billion made available for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida in the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
Rita struck Texas on Sept. 24, less than a month after Katrina ripped New Orleans and the neighboring Mississippi coast to pieces.
As Jackson pointed out during his announcement, Texas had opened up for evacuees after Katrina and then had to cope with its own devastation.
Jackson was flanked by U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands. Texas Railroad Commission member Michael Williams also was in the group.
Brady had convinced Jackson to tour the devastation in East and Southeast Texas, seeing that the federal official eventually inspected about 1,100 square miles for himself to see that Texas needed help.
It's good to see our congressional delegation working together. It's frustrating that it's taken this long.
18 August 2006
Let's pretend I'm like Texas Weekly...
I know, I haven't posted all week. I was busy, out of town some, and my desktop died. Boo to that. So, let's just pretend this is something like Texas Weekly, and I just write a mega-post on Fridays. Of course, even Ross Ramsey now posts through the week, so that's not true anymore. But it used to be! Jokes aside...
CD22: Do you want to spin the wheel to spell out Shelley Sekula-Gibbs?
The drama continues in CD22. First, Tom DeLay announced he'd resign, but would wait awhile to do so. Then, the state and county parties started a drawn-out process of picking a replacement, but was soon enjoined by a judge ruling for the plaintiff state Democrats. Eventually, the Democrats won -- when the GOP exhausted its appeals -- and the replacement process was dead. DeLay withdrew, and now we don't have a Republican on the ballot.
Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace announced he would run as a write-in (and has already filed), despite the fact that the party chose Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to be its unofficial standard-bearer as the write-in.
Although it's still somewhat early, it appears that Wallace's strategy failed miserably. He hoped that by filing early he could force everyone else out of the write-in race, and thus be the frontrunner against Lampson in 2008. That didn't work, and now he's probably significantly reduced his chances in 2008 by angering much of CD22's GOP grassroots. Instead, now Sekula-Gibbs has to be seen as the early 2008 GOP frontrunner.
The GOP's best hope of defeating Lampson in 2006 was to unite behind Bob Smithers, who is on the ballot as a Libertarian. He's got some name ID, and his name is actually on the ballot. A few Republican officeholders endorsed his candidacy. He even offered to caucus with the Republicans if elected, thus denying Nick Lampson a chance to vote for arch-liberal Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
But Republicans refused to endorse Smither, instead opting for Sekula-Gibbs. There are reasons not to endorse Smither: 1) Republicans ought be wary of promoting the Libertarian Party in any way. Arguably, Libertarian candidates on the ballot have cost Republicans a few US Senate seats over the past decade or so. A viable Libertarian party would do the opposite of the Libertarian party's goal of small government: it would ensure that Democrats would control the government. 2) Endorsing and promoting Smither as an alternative to Lampson complicates the GOP's efforts to urge straight-ticket Republican votes.
So, will enough people spin the wheel for Sekula-Gibbs?
You're joking, right? Of course not. Nobody should kid themselves. The GOP write-in campaign will not succeed. A week or so ago, I put the odds as "longer than 22:1." I don't see any reason to change that.
Here's the reality: this is not your father's write-in campaign. While CQ (and 2006's OH DCCC-backed Dem primary write-in campaign by Charlie Wilson) have shown us that write-in campaigns are theoretically possible, this is a different era. Back then, they could actually write in the name of a candidate. Now, voters will have to choose the write-in option on the eSlate, and then spin the wheel to spell out Sekula-Gibbs. Folks, that just ain't gonna happen. Despite rumors of the NRCC spending $4 million (I highly doubt NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds is that dumb, and I doubt Ken Mehlman is going to be spending the RNC's money either), no amount of money is likely to make this a probability. I was an election judge when eSlate's came out in Harris County in 2002, and I remember the confusion voters had. While they've gotten more used to the eSlate, they haven't been writing in names.
Further complications: 1) does the voter have to spell out "Shelley Sekula-Gibbs" or just "Sekula-Gibbs"? Will "SekulaGibbs" be good enough? This reminds me of "voter intent" in 2000, and it's not a fond memory. 2) Wallace's name will be among the write-ins, and he may campaign too, further complicating the process.
So congratulations to soon-to-be Congressman Lampson. Despite losing by more than he should have to Ted Poe (in a district that he actually lived in!) in 2004 (56%-43%), his moxie (or hubris, depending on your point of view) has a very strong possibility of paying off.
Texas money men for McCain
Chris Cillizza keeps a regularly updated list of the Bush Pioneer or Ranger fundraisers who have joined up with a presidential candidate. He counts Senator Bill Frist with 7, Governor Mitt Romney with 14, and Senator John McCain with 11.
I wrote briefly about Romney before -- and I still recommend my friend's blog The Romney Report. For a long time, I'd written Romney off, but he's one guy that will probably be able to raise the money. He's got ventural capital, Bain Consulting, Boston, Republican Governors Association, Michigan (where he grew up), Utah (Olympics), Mormons (he's Mormon).
But what's more striking is that five of McCain's Rangers/Pioneers are from Texas: Rob Mosbacher, Tom Loeffler, Kent Hance, Carter Pate, and former Gov. Bill Clements. Add to that the apparent support of Dallas brothers Charles and Sam Wyly, who have hosted a fundraiser for McCain's PAC, and it sends a few signals.
First, some former McCain enemies look like they're hopping on board. The Wylys spent a few million dollars in the 2000 primary attacking McCain, and McCain filed an FEC complaint against them. There was some animosity, certainly. But it looks like that animus has attenuated quite a bit, to say the least. Two, it means that Bush isn't sending signals to his former fundraisers that he'd prefer someone other than McCain. Three, no Texas Pioneers/Rangers have signed up for any other presidential candidate. This might point to Texans deciding to support McCain
It will be interesting to watch this develop.
Friedman not a fan of the Kossacks?
Transcript of Kinky's appearance on Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Kinky, could the argument be that both parties are extreme, vote for the new independent?This amuses me, since I'd surmise that most of the Kinky Friedman bumper stickers I see in my area are on cars whose owners support Ned Lamont. In fact, I'm pretty sure I actually saw a car with a Lamont bumper sticker and a Friedman sticker.
FRIEDMAN: That could certainly be. I think the mood of the country is really, really independent. I mean, I think the winds of change are really blowing right now. And all the—the way I see Lieberman, he's very—he's pro-America, unashamedly, and he's pro-Israel. And these liberals are not.
Cornyn and Hutchison at odds?
Lufkin Daily News editorial board:
Kay Bailey Hutchison told us in an editorial board meeting this week that past Texas senators have "all gone national," in that they focused on matters of importance to all Americans at the expense of issues at home.Seems like the LDN ed board interpreted Hutchison's remark as somewhat of a shot against Cornyn. Others have reported that Cornyn and Hutchison were supposed to have a breakfast sit-down in DC, but that Hutchison ended up re-scheduling. They are on opposite sides of each other on the immigration debate. But I haven't heard much either way, so it's all conjecture to me.
Her attention to Texas hasn't gone unnoticed.
A story in the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday examined the track records of Hutchison and fellow Sen. John Cornyn during the four years he's been in office: While Cornyn has worked to make a name for himself outside of Texas, Hutchison has devoted much of her time to such constituent issues as hurricane aid and military base closings.
In case it matters, the LDN's editorial was very pro-Hutchison in regards to her re-election.
This is what counts for coverage in the downballot races. Lack of coverage means that voters are even more likely to vote on partisanship. Big advantage: Republicans.
A Cooper & Secrets poll done for Chris Bell. 7/31-8/6 (quite a long time to have a poll in the field); 1010 likely voters (as usual, we don't know the screen)
In the poll, 58% disapprove of Perry's job performance. That seems a little high, which means Democrats might've been slightly oversampled. Overall, the fact that Bell is only gettin 18% in his own polls is bad news for him.
Can you think of another time when a major party candidate would release his own poll showing him at 18%? Yikes! I can't, although I bet Schlesinger in Connecticut would love to.
A week ago, the candidates agreed on a four-way Strayhorn, Perry, Friedman, and Bell debate. Strayhorn criticized Perry for the debate being the night before the Red River Shootout between UT and OU.
Other quick gubernatorial stuff before I head out the door for a soccer game
Perry attacked Strayhorn several times this week on ethics. He attacked her for a contract her office gave her brother's law firm, as well as a $130M refund her office gave Texas Instruments (and that will wreck the budgets of several small cities). Personally, I found this part odd:
Sanders said this week that Strayhorn didn't even know about the Texas Instruments refund — which represents about a tenth of $1.4 billion refunded annually — until she read about it in a newsletter.Comptroller Strayhorn didn't sign off on a $130M tax refund? That seems like the sort of thing that should be approved by a Comptroller. Odd.
"The decisions (about the refund) were made by her staff," Sanders said.
Meanwhile, Strayhorn called Perry the "most ethically challenged governor" and is probably the source/instigation behind the articles around the state (example here) which mention governmental appointments given to some of Perry's biggest contributors.
Meanwhile, Friedman offered an energy plan.
And I am now late for my soccer game.
10 August 2006
Sekula in too
Shelley Sekula-Gibbs has joined David Wallace in saying that she'd like to be the write-in candidate for DeLay's seat. Unlike Wallace, it appears that Shelley won't run if she doesn't get the GOP's grassroots' blessing.
Meanwhile, Chris Elam says there is no grassroots support for either.
Of course, this is really all about 2008. While there are some rumors about national committees promising to pour in millions, I don't think anyone seriously believes that we can get 50%+1 to spin a wheel for a write-in candidate. But folks would like to be that candidate, because that means they're likely to be a Congressman in January 2009...unless they're totally incompetent and can't beat Nick Lampson in a 65% GOP district.
The battle of the party switchers
Rick Perry -- elected to the Texas House as a Democrat, he made his name as part of a group of conservative Democrat budget hawks known as the Pit Bulls. In 1989, he switched parties to run for Ag Commissioner. A decade later, he was governor.
Carole Strayhorn -- once a Democrat in the Austin mayor's office (elections are non-partisan), she switched to the GOP to run for Congress. Later she became a railroad commissioner, and then comptroller. Now she's running as an independent.
Kinky Friedman -- once ran for office as a Republican, but only because he was running in a heavily Republican area. Now he's an independent.
Chris Bell -- he's never actually switched parties. Although I guess his wife has, because she once was a Republican. But in 2001 Bell was planning to run for mayor of Houston against Lee Brown as the de facto Republican/centrist opposition. As part of that, he voted for tax cuts and then accepted an award from the Harris County Republican Party. Bell's strategy was foiled when Orlando Sanchez entered the race, but he still went to many, many Republican events in 2001's campaign season. Every GOP event I was at, there was Chris Bell.
Ciro Rodriguez to challenge Henry Bonilla in CD23
Former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez stopped playing coy Wednesday night and said he's in the race for U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla's post.
Last week, federal judges redrew the boundaries for Congressional District 23, pulling in more Bexar County voters — many of them Democrats — and forcing a Nov. 7 open election for the seat. That has moved many ambitious Democrats to look anew at the district, which stretches from San Antonio nearly to El Paso.
But Rodriguez on Wednesday escaped what could have been a strong challenge from a fellow Democrat. Former mayoral candidate and former City Councilman Julián Castro said he'd opted not to vie for the office.
In the meantime, Rodriguez — who's midway through a tour of the far-flung district — said he'll formally announce his candidacy Tuesday in San Antonio.
Monday night, he told several dozen supporters at his West Harding Boulevard headquarters that he'd take the following week to decide whether to run.
He said he'll campaign on beefing up education, infrastructure and access to health care, as well as Bonilla's voting record.
Rick Bolanos is also in the race, but Ciro Rodriguez is clearly the main Bonilla challenger.
Of the voting age population, 33.7% are Anglo, 3.3% black, 61.2% Hispanic, and 2% other. In 2002, the statewide composite index showed the district to be 49.3% Republican, and in 2004, the number rose to 53.7% Republican. Two tweakers to those numbers: in 2002, Tony Sanchez ran for governor, while in 2004 George W. Bush did surprisingly well among Hispanics in Texas.
As I predicted, the court started from scratch in drawing its own plan. In doing so, they certainly did Republicans no favors. Bonilla's 2002 district -- in which now-CD28 Congressman Cuellar nearly beat Bonilla -- was arguably a better district for Bonilla than his new one. In the 2002 election, Bonilla beat Cuellar 51.5% to 47.2%. However, the statewide composite for his 2002 district was 47.5% in 2002 and 56.4% in 2004. As Charles Kuffner has shown, Bonilla would have been likely to defeat Cuellar by an increased margin if the districts had remained unchanged in 2004.
Let's look at money. As of June 30th, Henry Bonilla had $2.2M on in cash on hand. Ciro Rodriguez had $0.05M ($50K). Rick Bolanos had even less. While Rodriguez might get help from the DCCC, he has a short time to raise money while trying to campaign at the same time. Unless the DCCC gets numbers showing Bonilla looking weak, they probably won't have the money to target Bonilla.
Rodriguez's base is on the south side of San Antonio just added to the district, but Bonilla happens to have his own strengths there as well. Not only is Bonilla a former San Antonio news broadcaster, but Bonilla grew up in the new parts of district and went to high school there. Rodriguez has no name ID outside of Bexar County, and Rodriguez's name ID is probably also very low in the northwest Bexar County part of the district that Bonilla has represented for years.
Rodriguez has a pretty liberal voting record, while Bonilla's definitely leans right. As for overall campaigning strength, Rodriguez managed to lose twice to Cuellar in CD28 Dem primaries despite the power of incumbency. He will be without those powers of incumbency in this election.
So it appears that Bonilla should have a pretty good shot at re-election. He starts out way ahead in both money and name ID, and is in a unique position to dig into Rodriguez's base. There's the possibility that multiple Democratic candidates might force a run-off (at least, my understanding is that the redistricting-affected districts are operating Louisiana style), and in run-offs, anything can happen. At Paul Burka's blog, I estimated Bonilla's chances of re-election at 70%, but I think I probably understated them. They are probably closer to 75%. [Burka put them at 60%.] I would put them even higher except for the possibility of a wind at the Democrats' backs this election cycle.
Bonilla is probably strong enough to carry this district through the next few cycles, if he is willing to face a rough campaign every two years. The bigger question is what happens when Bonilla retires or runs for higher office. If it's before the 2012 cycle, then Republicans won't be able to shore up Bonilla's district in redistricting. If they're smart, state Republican leaders will start planning who will run in this seat in the future. If George Antuna can win his seat in the legislature, he'd appear to be an attractive possible choice. And perhaps Bonilla will help Antuna win, now that their districts overlap.
09 August 2006
Perry campaign attacks Strayhorn for using state resources to campaign
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has been using her state staff to prepare her for public appearances as an independent candidate for governor, according to records released by her office Monday.
Spokesmen for Strayhorn said there is nothing inappropriate or illegal in having the state staff do such work because Strayhorn is a state official even when campaigning for office. But state law says no public money can be spent in connection with a political campaign.
But the records show Strayhorn has used her taxpayer-financed research staff to prepare briefing papers for her public appearances whether they were state or campaign related.
Those include background materials for appearances before organizations that range from teachers' groups to the Texas AFL-CIO, from which she sought — but didn't receive — an endorsement in her race. A number of those documents offered critical facts about actions taken by Gov. Rick Perry, the Republican nominee who is seeking re-election.
The papers also indicate Strayhorn's state staff is editing speeches she delivers to these groups. E-mail traffic at the agency shows 18 state employees were involved in coordinating her briefing papers and speech analysis.
Strayhorn's office released about 9,000 pages of documents under the Texas Public Information Act to the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News.
A reader emailed me a video that the Perry campaign put together. The video shows Strayhorn -- at an ostensibly official (non-campaign) appearance -- making rather campaign-type statements.
Perry to campaign for NC state senator
On Saturday August 26th, Texas Governor Rick Perry will campaign for the re-election of State Senator Fred Smith. Governor Perry, a strong fiscal conservative, has held the line against new income, sales, property, and nursing home taxes. He has also protected the state’s Rainy Day fund, signed a balanced state budget and used his line-item veto authority to trim more than $500 million in new spending from the state budget.
Senator Smith said, "It is an honor for my wife, Ginny, and me to have Governor Perry at our home. I first met him at the 2005 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC and have followed his career ever since. He is a fiscal conservative who understands that state government must live within a budget and set priorities."
After the Supreme Court rejected the appeal to replace DeLay on the ballot, DeLay announced he was withdrawing from the race. He called his move to Virginia "irrevocable." Noble, I suppose, but perhaps he should've previously been more judicious in his speech when asked whether he might run if forced to remain on the ballot. Now Sugar Land mayor David Wallace has decided on a quixotic bid for the seat as a write-in. Of course, Wallace's bid isn't about winning in 2006. It's about winning the 2008 GOP primary for the right to send Lampson back into retirement.
Chris Elam reports that party leadership is hoping to find a write-in candidate to "bless" and then hope that the other hopefuls will withdraw if they are not blessed.
It seems to me that Republicans would've had a better chance to elect the libertarian nominee rather than backing a write-in. Unfortunately, history will record that DeLay somehow managed to find the one way this seat could elect a Democrat. In a 64% GOP seat, the odds a Republican will be elected are longer than 22:1.
New Rasmussen poll
August 3 poll of 500 likely voters, +/- 4.5% MoE (with a 95% confidence interval)
Perry 35% (-5% since 7/13 poll)
Bell 18% (+5% )
Strayhorn 18% (-2%)
Friedman 18% (-1%)
Rasmussen notes that:
Equal numbers of Texas voters have "very favorable" and "very unfavorable" views of Governor Perry. [Excerpt Rasmussen opinion.] Bell is viewed very favorably by 7% and very unfavorably by 12%, very low numbers for a major party challenger. For Strayhorn, the numbers are 14% very favorable and 18% very unfavorable. Friedman’s numbers are 17% and 21% respectively.
06 August 2006
If I could make everyone read one blog, it'd easily be Greg Mankiw's eponymous blog.
We used Mankiw's text in my micro-econ class during my first semester of undergrad. My professor (not at Rice; I transferred) was a Democrat who told us several times that Mankiw was also a Democrat. So I was quite surprised when Mankiw accepted a position in the Bush administration. Either way, he's quite bright, and writes clearly. He's back teaching econ at Harvard now.
UPDATE: I didn't intend to post this until I had finished writing it. I had set the post to a future date, and forgotten to finish writing it. Oh well, I guess.
05 August 2006
Strayhorn on switching
While I was doing some background research for my interview with Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, I happened upon this snippet from the December 2003 issue of Texas Monthly. Editor Evan Smith interviews Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn:
Evan Smith: But you do consider yourself a Republican?
Carole Strayhorn: Oh, yes!
ES: Once upon a time you were a Democrat. Any plans to become one in the
future? Because that's one thing out there in the rumor mill: that
you're going to switch parties again. Any intention of running as
anything other than a Republican?
Strayhorn: Absolutely none.
ES: Okay. Let me go back to 2002 again for a second. When Rick Perry,
David Dewhurst, and Tom Craddick were candidates for office, were you
all on good terms?
Strayhorn: I was always on good terms with everybody. I
learned long ago, during my mayoring days in Austin, that you can
disagree on philosophy or issues, but you charge ahead in the
03 August 2006
It's the end of the road, still I can't let go*
I just read the Tom DeLay replacement opinon by the 5th Circuit panel. This was a pretty big judicial smackdown.
The panel affirmed on both the constitutional question AND the "alternative state law ground".** Moreover, the review was de novo, meaning that the court didn't have to defer to the trial judge's opinion. There was a low standard of review, and they still decided on two different grounds that DeLay would have to be on the ballot.
The smackdown is so clear that it is likely to be the end of the judicial road. The Texas GOP will still file some papers (that's the second half of the post title but you'd already figured that out), but I doubt they'll be effective. The best chance for the GOP would be to focus on standing -- in fact, given the "alternative state law ground", standing is probably the only possible issue to appeal to the Supreme Court -- but the opinion goes to great lengths to establish standing on multiple grounds. An en banc hearing is possible, but seems awfully unlikely, given the unanimity of this opinion.
I'd say that it's now 99% likely that Tom DeLay will be on the ballot in November, unless he withdraws and leaves Nick Lampson without a Republican opponent. But that seems unlikely.
* People of my age will recognize this as lyric from the worst song played as the last slow dance at high school dances.
** In case you haven't noticed, I prefer to put my quotation marks inside of punctuation, and only rarely bow to grammar convention.
UPDATE: Texas GOP lawyer James Bopp appears to be arguing that the constitional question and the state law question are one and the same. It seems to me that because of the way the court issued its opinion, he'd have a higher hurdle.
I suppose it's always possible that the Supreme Court will issue cert to decide the constitutional question. Unfortunately for the Texas GOP, because the 5th Circuit affirmed on state law grounds, it doesn't appear that a favorable constitutional ruling would allow Republicans to replace DeLay. Also, because of the state law affirmation, it might make the constitutional question moot, so SCOTUS won't look at it.
5th Circuit: DeLay on ballot
A panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Tom DeLay must stay on the November ballot as the Republican nominee.
I expect that the TexasGOP will request an en banc hearing. You'd think they'd be unlikely to get the hearing of all the judges on the 5th Circuit, but who knows? I certainly don't: I didn't give Democrats much chance to keep DeLay on the ballot. Generally election law is always construed as loosely as possible to allow voters a choice.
But this was a unanimous opinion, with recent SCOTUS runner-up Joy Clement joining the two Clinton appointees in affirming Judge Sparks' opinion. That seems to bode very poorly for chances of Supreme Court certiori or 5th Circuit en banc re-hearing.
DeLay has indicated that he'll run if the 5th Circuit wouldn't allow the party to replace him on the ballot. This may mean I have to dust off the old DeLay vs World that I haven't really maintained since DeLay quit (or tried to, anyway) the race. I wasn't particularly interested in writing about the legal maneuverings (boring!) or the replacement process (Chris Elam was doing a much better job of covering it than I could have). But if there's a race...
02 August 2006
I'm long overdue for headin out of town*
For the next week I'll be up visiting my parents and going to a wedding. I leave imminently.
I don't know how much I'll be posting. Maybe it'll be lots; probably not. So I hope to have transcripts of my talk with Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes to read.
* Nod to Radney Foster.