Sometimes, I don't like to title my posts.
For the first time since Republicans claimed all statewide offices in 1998, the party faces the possibility of a big-name GOP primary showdown next year.An admitted game plan to turn the Republican primary into the general election.... interesting. However, I don't think that today's Texas is the same as the Texas of the 1960's, so that's a bit of a tall order.
The March 7 primary for Texas governor will likely pit Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a self-described "tough grandma," against her longtime foil and incumbent Rick Perry.
"I've never been the darling of the insiders. I run with the people," Strayhorn said. "Right after the new year, buckle your seat belt and hang on."
This month Strayhorn denied speculation she might consider a run as an independent, potentially postponing a contest with Perry until the November general election. She hasn't officially filed her candidacy papers yet, but she's expected to make the Jan. 2 deadline.
Perry, meanwhile, said he's only talking about his own Republican campaign.
"I know which party I'm for and which party I'm going to run. I made that decision a decade ago. I've got other very important things to spend my time on," said Perry, who switched from the Democratic Party before his run for agriculture commissioner in 1990.
If elected to another four-year term, Perry could hold the governor's office for 10 years, making him the longest-serving governor in Texas history. He was lieutenant governor under then-Gov. George W. Bush and assumed the state's top job when Bush was elected president in 2000. Two years later, Perry was elected to his first full term as governor.
"Perry has shown that he gives no quarter in political races. None should be expected," said consultant Bill Miller, whose company's political committee has donated to Perry's campaign.
Miller predicted a hard-hitting contest if Strayhorn makes good on her promise to run. "They're both going to go for the jugular," he said.
Both camps began shooting insults at each other early in the year. Strayhorn called Perry a "do-nothin' drugstore cowboy" who hasn't shown leadership on children's issues or school property tax relief. Perry's campaign questioned Strayhorn's ethics and accused her of using her state office for political gain.
Perry and Strayhorn are also veteran campaigners. Perry has never lost a race. Strayhorn lost a run for Congress in 1986 after she switched to the GOP from the Democratic party, and she lost a race for Railroad Commission in 1992. But she was later elected to the commission, then went on to become Texas' first woman comptroller. She was known at the time by the last name Rylander, before she remarried.
Perry's aides portray him as the real conservative. They cast Strayhorn as a pseudo-Republican whose support comes from Democrats and trial lawyers.
"I think the primary voters will see right through that," Perry spokesman Robert Black said. "Republican primary voters need to know if trial lawyers have picked a candidate in the Republican primary and who that candidate is."
Strayhorn's camp says it wants to attract more than the usual 600,000 people who typically vote in a Texas Republican primary.
"Our game plan is to turn the Republican primary in 2006 into the general election," said Mark Sanders, Strayhorn's spokesman. "We want everyone who wants to have a say in the future of this state. In order to do that, they need to vote in the March Republican primary."
As 2005 ended, Strayhorn and Perry were busy collecting campaign cash. At the end of the latest campaign reporting period, June 30, Perry had $8.8 million in cash on hand, and Strayhorn had $7 million.
They won't have to report their contributions for the second half of the year until mid-January, but each undoubtedly added millions more dollars.
It's widely believed Perry would outspend Strayhorn, who said she plans to counter Perry's power by debating key issues, bringing together supporters of all political stripes.
"I am looking forward to the challenge," she said.
The filing deadline is January 2nd. Other important dates:
December 31 -- End of campaign finance period. Last day to contribute for upcoming report.
January 2 -- Filing deadline for the Republican and Democratic primaries
January 17th -- Campaign finance filing deadline for state races
January 31 -- Campaign finance filing deadline for federal races
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