Beldar on White
Beldar, nom de plume of Houston lawyer Bill Dyer, analyzes the gubernatorial contest. Though I hope it won't surprise you, dear reader, that I prefer my own analysis, he does tell a better story than I do.
Although he's unconventional in many respects, Bill White is the most viable and attractive candidate the Dems have run for any state-wide Texas office in quite some time. I know Bill reasonably well: He was the editor in chief of the Texas Law Review in 1978-1979, one year ahead of the editorial board on which I served. A few years later when I was at Baker Botts, I was heavily recruited by him and his then-law partners at Susman Godfrey. I like him and I respect him. Bill is industrious and just wicked smart -- as smart as anyone I've ever met, period.
Thus, I’m one of many conservative and Republican Houstonians who happily voted for Bill for mayor twice. I wish him well in life. I’m grateful for the good he's done. Yet I will not vote for him for any state-wide or national office -- precisely because he is indeed a devoted member of the Democratic Party.
White was a cabinet undersecretary (Energy) in the Clinton Administration, and he's now running for a place on the political ticket (Dems) that hasn't won a contested race in a Texas state-wide election since the early 1990s. I believe he'd govern as a progressive Democrat at either a state or national level, in a way that Houston's local politics simply wouldn't have permitted him, or anyone, to do as mayor. And I just have no confidence that he would — or would even want to — stand up against the leaders of the national Democratic Party; I just can't see him defying the national party line on anything important.
I think this highlights Bill White's problem. If he wants to win, he's going to need to convince Texans that he's less than a standard issue nationl Democrat. It sounds like he's not convincing the folks that know him personally. Which, perhaps isn't too surprising if he's emphasizing to reporters how liberal he grew up.
Compared to, say, Chicago, Houston’s local politics are still amazingly nonpartisan and usually even non-controversial; there’s a positive passion for “business as usual” here in a city of amazing opportunity, and a mayor who can preside as a reasonably good steward over that process, without screwing up too obviously, will end up looking pretty good in hindsight. Bill certainly at least met that low hurdle.
There's that, and there's also the benefit that the standard of comparison was the corrupt and inept Lee Brown Administration. White certainly compared very favorably to Brown. Talk about low hurdles!
That said, White had a chance to fix some of Brown's messes that he inherited -- pensions, crime lab, HPD staffing -- and basically punted. So if he's going to be attacking Rick Perry for alleged failures of leadership.... well, his own record may not withstand that sort of campaign against a candidate who is not Orlando Sanchez.
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