The battle of the party switchers
It days was 20 years ago today, Carole Strayhorn taught the band to play. [sic]The balancing act could be the subject of a column in and of itself.
Scotch that Beatle-ism and chomp on this: Two decades ago this week, Carole Keeton Strayhorn (then Rylander) shelved her lifelong affiliation with the once-dominant Texas Democratic Party — joining a trend that was just bubbling.
Up next: the Battle of the Party Switchers for the 2006 GOP gubernatorial nod. After all, Gov. Rick Perry went from D to R in 1989 before upsetting Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, a Democrat, in 1990.
Perry was encouraged to jump by the state's pre-eminent switcher, Phil Gramm, who won election to the U.S. Senate in 1984 after having gone from D to R and re-winning a U.S. House seat he'd first won as a Dem.
Talk about history: The number of GOP officeholders in Texas has more than quadrupled from less than 500 with nobody in a statewide post in 1984 to nearly 2,200 now, with Republicans clutching every statewide office for six years-plus..
George Strake of Houston, state GOP chairman when Strayhorn came aboard, said he approached right-leaning Dems with a phone call."I've heard through the grapevine that you are sounding a lot like a Republican," he'd say. "Should you ever come over, I want to be chairman of the red-carpet committee that welcomes you."
His footsie calls were often followed by dial-outs from Gramm and, occasionally, George Bush, then-vice president of the United States. More than 60 current or former Democratic incumbentschanged parties by the time Strake stepped down in June 1988.
Strayhorn, No. 50, recalled acting without courtship. "They welcomed me with open arms, but I made my decision on my own."
Strayhorn, who hopes Democrats and independents vote for her in the GOP primary, said she treasures a letter from President Reagan, but doesn't stress her partisanship. "Every single speech I give, I say Texas belongs to no special interest group, no special political credo, no special individual, it belongs to all Texans."
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