31 July 2006
All the semi-latest polling
Three polls came out last week. I'd been holding off posting until I could find internals on all of them.
Ha! Internals! The joke is on me.
Numbers in the link.
The Romney Report
A Rice friend of mine has launched a blog called the Romney Report, which is chronicling Romney's 08 adventures.
Romney's campaign should be interesting. On the face of it, you'd think a Mormon Republican from Massachusetts wouldn't even have a shot. Especially after he has seemingly shifted his position on abortion (I think he was actually rather consistent, but there's certainly some nuance there) and recently signed a bill mandating health-insurance.
But Romney has quite the bio: Harvard Law, Harvard MBA, Bain Consulting, Bain Capital, and the 2002 Winter Olympics. He's known for being articulate in speeches, as well as charismatic in retail politics. He should be able to raise plenty of money from his consultant and venture capital connections.
Given that there's a substantial portion of the GOP who won't vote for Giuiliani or McCain, he may have a shot at the nomination. Conventional wisdom holds that it will end up in a head-to-head battle between McCain/Giuliani and a candidate perceived as more conservative. If so, Romney has a pretty good shot to be that candidate, and anything can happen.
So it's quite possible the blog will end up being a fascinating look. Or, Romney could end up dropping out months before the first caucus. That's what makes politics fun.
No posting in a few days?
Transcribing is slow and I've been busy.
28 July 2006
Interview done; blogging soon; running now
I got done my interview with Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes a bit ago. We talked for about 45 minutes, although because I haven't done any interviews in awhile...the conversation was all over the map. I haven't decided how to put this online. My plan right now is to try to transcribe the conversation. I'll probably serialize this, because transcribing takes a long time even when you used to be a secretary like me. At the end of this -- although the sound quality isn't great -- I'll probably put up an MP3 of the whole conversation.
We didn't talk too much about current things. I may call him back and get his thoughts on some of the more current things I had for him.
I'm off for a run. When I come back I'll catch up on blogging and perhaps start transcribing.
27 July 2006
Interviewing Ben Barnes
I have a phone interview scheduled with Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes tomorrow afternoon to talk about redistricting.
It is yet to be determined whether I'll put up a podcast, a transcript, or simply write it up.
Pretending to be a journalist is fun.
25 July 2006
between the Sabine and the Rio Grande...
1. Bell attacks Strayhorn again:
In early June, a lawyer and an accountant who represent businesses challenging taxes collected by state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office met with a legal adviser to Strayhorn. By month's end, the visitors and their colleagues had given more than $400,000 to Strayhorn's gubernatorial campaign — 13 percent of the $3 million she raised from January through June.I guess it's too dangerous to attack Friedman, because as a non-traditional/non-serious (choose your own label, I'll provide them both) candidate, he is tougher to attack.
Strayhorn's office said Monday that there was nothing inappropriate about the confab initiated by an Austin lawyer and a Dallas tax consultant. Aides said talk focused on drafting plans for rules implementing the business tax created by lawmakers in a spring special session.
2. Strayhorn wants in with CLOUT:
Comptroller and gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn has joined a Houston taxpayer group that is suing legislative leaders over a constitutional spending cap.I don't see Strayhorn weaving a consistent message for voters. It surprised me that she wants to join the lawsuit, but maybe it shouldn't: she can't seem to help herself from criticizing Perry, Dewhurst, or Craddick whenever she gets the chance.
Strayhorn had been named as a defendant by Edd Hendee, executive director of Citizens Lowering Our Unfair Texas, which filed the lawsuit in June. But in a court filing last week, Strayhorn said she wanted to be aligned with CLOUT.
Meanwhile, I had a few talks with different friends in the last week. I just like to take people's political pulse and see what is trickling down through the media filter. Two friends -- who I'd describe as Republicans but not partisan (one said that he planned not to vote for anyone in the gubernatorial race) -- said Strayhorn reminded them of Hillary Clinton. As far as I could tell, it was because they didn't like her tone. Interesting. We'll see how it develops.
3. The Waco Trib:
Fighting a proposed Oklahoma-to-Mexico thoroughfare has long been a pet plank in Carole Keeton Strayhorn's gubernatorial platform. Now, speaking up at public hearings about the controversial superhighway is becoming a pet tactic in her campaign strategy.Hailing from Paint Creek, the Guv has always been strong in rural Texas. So, if successful, Strayhorn would be striking at a piece of Perry's base. Maybe she'll be successful, but I doubt that the TTC is palpable enough yet to really change voting behavior significantly.
Monday evening's Trans-Texas Corridor hearing at the Waco Convention Center was the fifth one that Strayhorn has attended since the Texas Department of Transportation began its 54-meeting circuit two weeks ago, Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said.
"She's trying to get to as many as she can," he said.
At each meeting, she argues that an efficient highway system does not require funding from toll roads and criticizes Gov. Rick Perry for his "secret contract with a foreign company" -- the U.S.-Spanish consortium that the state has approved to build and operate the $184 billion corridor, which would parallel Interstate 35. The Perry administration is now battling an attorney general's ruling to fully disclose the contract.
Strayhorn's tactic of touring public hearings seems to be working. Her complaints about the project are applauded at such forums by rural Texans afraid of losing their farmland.
4. It's hard to keep up with the immigration bill machinations* in Congress, so here's Michelle Mittelstadt in the DMN on how John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison are on different paths. I still doubt anything is going to happen. Here's what I wrote on May 21, disagreeing with Michael Barone (a scary, scary place to be indeed):
I'm still skeptical that anything ultimately gets done [on immigration]. There are too many complicated issues, too many divergent political interests. And the political interests are often different long and short-term.*Machinations doesn't exactly fit meaning-wise, but I like the way it sounds. And it's my blog, so I'll alter dictionary definitions when I want to.
22 July 2006
I guess it depends on who you read
SurveyUSA polls monthly on the gubernatorial approval ratings for all 50 states. In Texas, these polls are paid for by KEYE (Austin) and WOAI (San Antonio).
Here's KEYE, since I couldn't find the story on WOAI's site:
In a new, exclusive CBS 42 News poll by Survey USA, Texas Governor Rick Perry's job approval rating has slipped slightly since mid-June, but his numbers are still looking good compared to where he was a few months ago.Here's RG Ratcliffe in the Houston Chronicle:
In the poll, taken July 20, Perry registered a 47 percent job approval rating while 48 percent said they disapproved. That's down from a 51-45 spread in mid-June.
Perry is still well ahead of the 40 percent approval ratings seen in polls for most of 2006.
Perry's strength does not bode well for his three opponents' chances heading into the full-blown campaign season.
A new poll conducted for a pair of Texas television stations has found Gov. Rick Perry's job approval rating declining and nowhere more than in Harris County.
The county has become a particular weak spot in the governor's re-election campaign, largely because of conservative anger over his inability to pass property tax appraisal caps and for adopting a business tax to pay for property tax cuts.
That's a drop from the June poll when Perry's approval rating was 51 percent positive and 45 percent negative.
But that June poll also was done shortly after Perry had saturated the state with television advertising touting that the average Texas homeowner will receive a $2,000 property tax cut under legislation passed in a special session he had called.
The June poll found 55 percent of those surveyed in Harris County approved of Perry's job as governor. The July poll found that number had declined to 35 percent approving and 65 percent disapproving.
Those are certainly two divergent views, aren't they?
The "poll" is by Survey USA, done 7/14-7/16 of 600 adults (not registered or likely voters), +/- 4.1%. Many pollsters don't like SUSA, as they are automated surveys, not polls. As I've written before, I think these concerns are largely unfounded. SUSA has a good track record.
I have two big problems with Ratcliffe's story:
1. His story focuses on the fact that Perry's Harris County support has dropped precipitously. The problem is that this was a subsample, and thus not very reliable. Harris County contains about 16% of Texas population. Thus, if 16% (or even 20%) of SUSA's poll was from Harris county, then only about 100-120 were surveyed.To Ratcliffe's credit, he did add a short sentence mentioning that the survey was simply of adults, and not likely voters. He didn't explain that this is likely to understate Perry's electoral support.
You know where I'm going with this right? The margin of error on a subsample of 100-120 is huge. The margin of error is so big that
However, it's even more complicated than that. Because SUSA is a survey, not a poll, it's possible that the survey size could have fluctuated. Given what I know about their surveys, I don't think they ensure that they get a proportional subsample. So really, the subsample probably could be anywhere from 50-200.
How reliable is the Harris County subsample? Frankly, we really have no clue. And yet Ratcliffe didn't even mention this in his article.
2. Here's my other problem: even if you assume that the Harris County numbers are statistically valid and significant, it is pure conjecture on Ratcliffe's part that Dan Patrick, the business tax, and appraisal caps are the reason. Now, I think he might be right, but he has no evidence to back that up. He hasn't polled it. He's just taking an educated guess.
It's a nice storyline that Patrick has so much influence that he's stirred up a hornets nest. It's probably true, but since Ratcliffe has no proof, shouldn't he at least mention the possibility that (if there is a drop) it might be for other reasons?
In short, did Perry's approval go down in Harris County between mid-June and mid-July? Probably. But we don't know how much, because this subsample is so small and unreliable that it's not worth writing a story on. Unfortunately, Ratcliffe didn't even mention that.
21 July 2006
1. Chron editorializes on gubernatorial race:
Even more disheartening for the Democrats [than Bell's fundraising] is the fact that the strongholds for Kinky's successful petition drive to get on the ballot as an independent are in normally Democratic neighborhoods in Austin and Houston. In order to win a plurality, Bell needs to carry those neighborhoods and hope that Perry and Strayhorn split the state's Republican majority.
2. Kirsch writes up Strayhorn's talk in Fort Worth. Lead:
Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Wednesday that she favors higher teacher salaries and cracking down on sexual predators.
3. Hutchison announces $1mil for test reactor at UT-Permian Basin. It's good to have a senator or two on Appropriations.
4. The Wright Amendment compromise has hit some procedural hurdles in the Senate. Democratic senators Leahy and Schumer have some concerns.
5. Sec. State Roger Williams reports that Friedman and Strayhorn had 140,542 and 120,514 valid signatures, respectively, up from 137,154 and 108,512.
6. Kelley Shannon of the AP gives some ink to famers' complaints about the Trans-Texas Corridor. I'm not exactly sure why this was current; maybe it was a slow news cycle for her.
19 July 2006
1. Kristen Hays covers Bell's environment presser for the AP.
2. R.A. Dyer writes on Friedman, Strayhorn and Bell's attacks on Perry over state parks.
3. RG Ratcliffe notes that two Dem statewide candidates went to a Strayhorn fundraiser. The story is most notable for this bit of humor:
"I don't believe I gave $25 to her. I bought a ticket to an event she attended," Head said, admitting last month's event was a Longview fundraiser for Strayhorn.Neither candidate is endorsing Strayhorn.
Throw away post
Sometimes I think that sociologists should study the Pink Lady's comments.
18 July 2006
State Sen. Eddie Lucio to back Strayhorn
State senator Eddie Lucio is going to endorse Strayhorn, reports Harvey Kronberg. Lucio says that he told teachers in his district -- he's from Brownsville -- that he would support whoever the TFT endorsed. Since the TFT endorsed Strayhorn, he's going to back her.
Sometimes, my heart bleeds...
A week or two ago, Chris Bell met with bloggers in Houston. Here's part of a writeup from Stace Medellin:
Let me make sure I have this straight: Chris Bell thinks that immigration isn't an issue? Period? That sure seems to be what it sounds like, particularly with the context that Medellin gave Bell's remarks.
One of the bloggers asked about the "I" issue, immigration. Apparently, it was a problem to the questioner. According to Chris Bell, "why should we make a Republican issue our issue?" Bell also asked the question, "Has anyone at this table lost a job that was taken up by an immigrant?" Now, that's the type of response ALL of the candidates should be using.
I think anyone running for office in the state of Texas should have spent some time thinking about where he or she wants to take Texas. This includes thinking about our border region, and immigration is obviously an issue for the border and the state. While it's a federal issue, anyone who wants to be governor of Texas should have thought about the issue.
Perhaps Bell is quoted out of context (although Jason Stanford linked to Medellin's post, which seems like tacit approval), but I read Medellin's post at the same time I was finishing Hard Line. Hard Line is written by Ken Ellingwood, a former LA Times reporter, who relied on his reporting to offer a portrait of the border in Arizona and California. Ellingwood wrote a remarkably evenhanded book that presents the point of view of everyone involved on the border in Arizona and California. I highly recommend it.
Does Bell not think there's a problem? Ellingwood elicits real sympathy for ranchers whose lands are trampled every night, and who are consequently afraid to sleep at night (in the midst of immigrants, there are also drug traffickers). These innocent bystanders have their livelihood and their quality of life threatened. Frankly, I was shocked at what some people who live on the border have had to go through.
Way more importantly, what about the fact that in 5 years in the late 1990s** (I believe the book was written in 2002), almost 1000 immigrants in just California and Arizona suffered horrific, gruesome dehyrdration and heat stroke deaths. One might agree or disagree with their decision to enter America, but surely no one deserves to die such a disgusting death simply for immigrating. How many more have died since?
[For comparison's sake, let's compare the number of people affected by the death penalty and immigration. About 150 people were executed in the state of Texas during a similar time period. In other words, magnitudes more innocent people are dead from the status quo of immigration compared to convicted murderers who get the death penalty.]
In short, Bell's words are not the words of a statesman. Immigration is not a Republican issue. It's an issue which demands the attention of serious political leaders. I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that ignoring the problem raises serious issues as to whether Bell is ready to lead the great state of Texas.
UPDATE: ** The death toll spiked because border enforcement increased around 93-95 (eg Operation Gatekeeper), forcing illegal immigrants to take more dangerous routes through the desert. Those programs have mostly stayed in place since this time frame, so I assume that the death toll is similar.
Redistricting, LULAC v. Perry, speculation
I've just slogged through LULAC v. Perry again. Sigh. Redistricting law is a murky cesspool of shifting standards which the Supreme Court decides to "clarify" every 10 years. At least Congress didn't decide to change any of the text of the Voting Rights Act, because then it would really be fun.
A few thoughts:
1. Kennedy definitely seems to want Webb County put back together.If I'm right, then the court will look for a plan that a) puts Webb County back together, b) makes CD25 (Doggett) more compact, c) protects incumbents, d) alters as few districts as possible.
2. Kennedy definitely seems to have a problem with Doggett's district. It seems to me that he suggests that having Austin and the border in the same district isn't going to fly with his swing vote.
3. Stevens wins the award for funniest line:
This is a suit in which it is perfectly clear that judicially manageable standards enable us to decide the merits of a statewide challenge to a political gerrymander. Applying such standards...Perfectly clear? Please articulate what those standards are, Justice Stevens, instead of just telling us that there are standards and that you're applying them.
4. The left-leaning justices were footnoted several different times that Justice Scalia had called sec 5 VRA compliance a compelling state interest. That heightens the scrutiny that they can use in future cases.
Analyzing the state's plan in detail might have made it look like I really thought that was a likely plan for the court to adopt. Actually, I just happened to have free time, and I'm a redistricting junkie. I think I just missed spending hours of free time on Redviewer.
Most likely scenario: the court starts from scratch and draws their own map. Second most likely scenarios: state's plan or LULAC Plan B. But that's just conjecture on my part. I really have no clue as to what the court will decide to do in regards to ordering a new primary or not, but my operating assumption would be that we get new primaries.
A good sign for Texas Republicans?
For at least two decades, Mexican pundits had forecast that the millions of Mexican voters in the U.S. could decide Mexico's elections. Such expectations were substantially lowered earlier this year when Mexican electoral authorities and the Mexican Congress, fearful of the possible logistical nightmare of counting millions of ballots cast abroad, limited eligible voters to the 4 million Mexican citizens who were already registered. If 400,000 of them voted, these officials said, they would declare their experiment in getting Mexicans abroad to cast ballots a complete success.Such a small number to have voted, but definitely a good sign for Republicans that Calderon was such an overwhelming victor. It's particularly surprising because, as I understand it, the majority of Mexican immigrants are supposed to come from poor and left-leaning states. Of course, the sample might not be representative, but on the whole it's more likely a portent of good things to come for Republicans.
The pundits not only badly misjudged how many Mexicans in the United States would turn out, they were wrong about who those voters would pick.
Beginning in the 1980s with Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, founder of the Democratic Revolution Party and a former presidential candidate, the Mexican left believed that the Mexican diaspora would be its natural constituency. After all, these Mexicans left their country because of its failure to provide them with jobs and a decent standard of living. Give them an opportunity to vote and they would vote for the radical change called for by the left.
As it turned out, of the 28,000 in the U.S. who cast presidential ballots, 58% voted for Felipe Calderon, the conservative candidate — and declared winner — who fervently favors free market economics.
Maybe if more Mexican expats had voted in 88, then Salinas' PRI wouldn't have had to steal the election from the PRD and Cardenas.
17 July 2006
Chris Bell on the air
Chris Bell is going on the air to try to raise name ID.
Bell's spokesman, Jason Stanford, said the ads won't run in Houston, the largest city in the state where Bell served as a congressman and city council member and has better name identification. The ads will run in cities where Bell is not so well known by voters and will appear throughout the day during major network programming, Stanford said.
You can watch the ad on YouTube.
Who needs polling when you have anecdotes?
Janet Elliott filed a piece in the Houston Chronicle looking at the petition gathering by Strayhorn and Friedman in Houston/Harris County. I'm not really sure what the point is, since signature gathering doesn't tell us anything. You gotta love anecdotes like this though:
One of those volunteers was Katy Whelan, a 47-year-old resident of the Timbergrove neighborhood who works in the oil and gas industry and collected 400 signatures for Friedman. She said most of the signatures were gathered at a popular weekend farmers market in the Heights.
She also tapped her friends and neighbors at wine parties and other gatherings.
"We're all like-minded, pretty much basically Democrats," she said. "Everybody is such a fan of Kinky's."
Joyce Aquil, a 60-year-old educator, remembers signing a petition for Strayhorn at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in the Third Ward. But she acknowledged last week that she didn't know much about the candidate.
"What's her claim to fame?" she asked. "Is she the grandmother person?"
Aquil said she considers herself an independent. "I usually vote all over the board. I'm not partial to a particular party," she said.
Brad McClellan, Strayhorn's son and campaign manager, said the campaign is pleased with its diverse support.
"We've always had very good support from African-Americans and Hispanics," he said.
Your loving don't pay my bills
Money totals from the latest filing deadline:
Rick Perry -- $10 million cash on hand, $4.7 million raised, $6 million spent
Carole Keeton Strayhorn -- $8 million cash on hand, $3.1 million raised in six months, $3.1 million spent in 6 months.
Chris Bell -- $0.65 million cash on hand, $1.6 million raised in six months ($1.3 since end of Feb), spent $0.53 million since end of Feb.
Kinky Friedman -- $.49 million cash on hand, $1.5 million raised in six months, spent $1.2 million in six months
Here's Kelley Shannon's lead for the AP:
Republican Gov. Rick Perry revealed Monday he had more than $10 million in campaign cash entering the final four months of the Texas governor's race, putting him in a strong position against four challengers.
Perry's campaign reported raising $4.7 million since January, some in large chunks from wealthy individual donors and powerful political action committees.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, an independent candidate and Perry's top rival in raising money, reported more than $8 million in cash on hand as of June 30, the end of the campaign finance report period. Some of her largest contributions came from wealthy trial lawyers who typically donate to Democrats.
Perry and Strayhorn have a healthy money advantage in the wild five-way governor's race that includes Democrat Chris Bell, independent candidate Kinky Friedman and Libertarian James Werner.
16 July 2006
Strayhorn gets one state teacher endorsement, Bell gets Houston affiliate
It's certainly not good for Bell when he can't get the endorsement of one of the most reliably Democratic groups in the state.
The Texas Federation of Teachers on Friday endorsed independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn, but the group's Houston affiliate is sticking with Democrat Chris Bell.
The 51,000-member group became the second teachers union to endorse Strayhorn, the Republican comptroller running for governor as an independent. In January, she got the nod from the Texas State Teachers Association.
"As a former teacher and longtime supporter of public education, Strayhorn has shown that she will keep the interests of our schoolchildren at the top of her agenda," said Linda Bridges, TFT president.
Fallon said she's asking the TFT not to send any mailers endorsing Strayhorn to the group's Houston members.
Bell and his campaign staff have often said that they'll win if they get all the Democrats to vote for the Democrat. I'm not sure that's true anyway -- though it might be -- but it doesn't look like Bell has a good chance of a unified Democratic bloc.
A Norquist mention does not a boomlet make
Grover Norquist keeps plugging Perry as a possible 2008 presidential contender:
Norquist has to know that there's no way that two consecutive governors of Texas will become President of the United States.
Watch Rick Perry, Texas...second-best governor in the country. He cut spending $10 billion after Bush left because somebody had been spending too much money in Texas before Perry had taken over. And he could go, "Hey, I've done this before guys."
Ballots, conventional wisdom, and Grandmas
Strayhorn maintains "Grandma" is part of her identity. Of course, her campaign slogan maintains she is "one tough Grandma." No one really believes Strayhorn thought she could actually get the "Grandma" tag on the ballot, but she used the opportunity to get some much needed free publicity.Emphasis is mine. Like I said, I can understand why she wants to be "Grandma" on the ballot:
Strayhorn's own campaign surveys indicate her name identification jumps about 10 points if "Grandma" is attached, thanks to the "One Tough Grandma" political slogan she has used for several years.I believe her name ID is higher right now when associated with Grandma, but it seems to me like the point of her paid media should be to splash "Carole Strayhorn. One Tough Grandma." over every ad she does.
So it's a mild loss not to be on the ballot as Grandma, but the greater cost is further solidifying a reputation.
15 July 2006
Literally, it's a five-way race
San Antonio EN's Bruce Davidson files a column on the fifth candidate in the race for governor, Libertarian James Werner.
So, if there is a debate or two -- and I assume there will be -- will independents Strayhorn and Friedman support including Werner in a debate?
14 July 2006
1. The State's map: The map submitted by Attorney General Abbott -- presumably after consultations the triumvirate of Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick -- avoids pairing any incumbents. The districts look very different on the map, but aren't nearly as different as they look, since lots of the shifted counties are not population-centers. Here's what happens to each incumbent affected:
Bonilla -- His old district's population center was northwest Bexar county (San Antonio), then took in Kendall and Kerr before stretching down to take in the western half of of Webb County (Laredo) and then stretching all the way along the border to El Paso (stopping before population gets dense). His new district is a very similar section of NW Bexar County (though it looks like it is slightly different) combined with Kerr and Kendall again, but adds Blanco County and a similar section of western Travis County (eg, basically all of western Travis that isn't in the city of Austin).
Cuellar -- His old district was centered around eastern Webb County (Laredo) and stretched from the Zapata and Webb county borders up into southern Bexar County (the other population center) and then further north into Guadalupe and even Hays County (no kidding). His new district reunites Webb County and then takes all of Bonilla's old district extending along the border over to about the El Paso city limits. Cuellar still has part of Bexar County, but instead of all of southern Bexar, he now has southwestern Bexar. I'm guessing that Cuellar will have 50%-60% less Bexar County residents in his district compared to what he used to have.
Doggett: His old district stretched from the Starr County border up into his base of Travis County, where is had the southeastern portion of Travis County. It is an odd looking district, but at least it is mainly contiguous whole counties from the border up into Austin. His new district subtracts all of Travis County, and then adds southeastern Bexar County, and then five counties south of Bexar: Wilson, Atascosa, Frio, La Salle, and McMullen.
Lamar Smith: His old district was an odd shape of northeast Bexar, Comal, Hays, Blanco, and western Travis (the part that Bonilla has now). His new district has a similar-but-not-identical-northeast Bexar, Guadalupe (from Doggett), Comal, Hays, and the southastern portion of Travis County (from Doggett).
1a. I don't know of Ciro Rodriguez lives in the portion of Bexar County still in the district, but I don't think it matters. [134k of the districts 333k Latinos are in Bexar County, whereas Webb County has 182k of the district's Latino's. The old district had 201k Latinos in Bexar and only 96k Latinos in Webb.] Any primary challenge to Cuellar would come from state Rep. Richard Raymond instead of Ciro Rodriguez. While Cuellar's district looks MUCH different on paper, I'm guessing that population wise he probably represents 50% or so of it right now. I would think he'd be a favorite over Raymond.Note: All the preceeding analysis is based on the map submitted by the Attorney General because I think it has the best chance of being adopted or being the basis for what is adopted by the court. Of course, even if it's the best chance, that doesn't mean that it's likely. I think it's still under 50%. LULAC's maps are probably almost as likely.
1b. Depending on whether new primaries are ordered -- a key legal question -- will determine whether Raymond gets to challenge Cuellar this cycle or have to wait until March 2008.
2. Bonilla is re-elected, but instead of having a San Antonio suburbs plus border district, he now has an Austin suburbs plus Hill Country and SA suburbs district. His partisanship doesn't change very much, maybe a slight twinge (1% or so) less GOP. This becomes a district that has 46% of Travis County. Why is this important? Bonilla is largely expected to run for statewide office in the next few cycles. When the seat becomes open, the geography will definitely favor someone from Travis County.
3. Doggett should be very vulnerable to a primary challenge from a Latino. On the other hand, he should've been pretty vulnerable already, and yet somehow managed to get 64% of the vote against Leticia Hinojosa in the inaugural primary of the district. I'm not sure who'd run against him, but he's entirely isolated from his traditional base of Austin.
Doggett's old district was 63% Hispanic among the voting age population. His new one isn't much more -- only 66% -- but when you take out his Travis County base, Doggett should lose. In 2004, Doggett won by winning 18,299 to Hinojosa's 2,425 in Travis County. That was almost all his margin of victory. You have to assume that Doggett is done right now. It was impressive when Doggett won in 2004, but it would be amazing if he were to win under this map.
4. I don't know what's up with Lamar Smith. He's facing a semi-credible candidate this cycle, but I can't really tell how the partisanship of his district changed by eye-balling it. UPDATE: Actually, his new district is about 60% GOP. His old district was 60% GOP too.
2. LULAC maps: Charles Kuffner looks at the LULAC maps.
UPDATES: Sprinkled throughout the post as I further research.
(post in progress)
12 July 2006
Strayhorn to sue over ballot name
Here's the AP:
Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn sued the Texas secretary of state Wednesday in her attempt to have the nickname "Grandma" listed with her name on the Nov. 7 ballot.I'm not quite sure what Strayhorn and her campaign are thinking. She could be trying to use free media to have voters associate her new name Strayhorn with her long-time slogan, "One Tough Grandma." Or she could just be firing a long shot, hoping that a judge will agree with her.
Strayhorn had promised to sue earlier this week after Secretary of State Roger Williams ruled that "Grandma" is a slogan, not a nickname permitted on the ballot.
At the same time, Williams allowed independent candidate Kinky Friedman to be listed as Richard "Kinky" Friedman on the ballot. Friedman has used the nickname for years.
The problem is that the state's political chattering class thinks the whole ballot name is silly, and this lawsuit particularly so. She already disagree with Secretary of State Williams once before, and the courts agreed with Williams. Both times, Friedman's campaign declined to sue the Secretary of State. Even more damaging for Strayhorn, it helps cement the growing reputation that she's...running a personal campaign rather than an issues campaign. Paul Burka (whose new blog is already probably the best in the state) articulates this perfectly:
I can't quite get rid of the idea that the Strayhorn campaign has tended to view the governor's race as a video game in which the object is to score points by zapping Rick Perry and his toadies in made-up battles. That isn't how elections are won and lost.
I once worked for a candidate who reminds me of Strayhorn. She was running for re-election, but she hadn't managed to get along with any of her colleagues. She was the only woman, and she quickly came to regard her colleagues as a good ol' boys club. Like Strayhorn, she had blistering words for those she disagreed with, arguing that she only worried about the people who elected her. In my view, she was substantively right on most of the issues, but in retrospect she could have been much more collegial. If she'd done so, she'd probably have been more effective.
By the time of her re-election, the newspapers were very unsympathetic and her colleagues all supported her opponent. She lost, because the conventional wisdom (particularly among the media) was that my candidate just couldn't get along well enough with people to effectively represent her constituents.
Based on what I've seen for the past few months, Carole Keeton Strayhorn could learn from my story. It seemed to me (especially in the initial redistricting aftermath) like the Texas media was ready to be sympathetic to Strayhorn, but the tone of Strayhorn's coverage has certainly changed since, and deservedly so.
Statesman's Selby talks to Bryan Eppstein
Gardner Selby talked up the state's political consultants, and filed this state of the race:
I wish Selby had given us more of what Epstein said, as I think that would have been more informative.
Republican operative Bryan Eppstein, who is not part of Perry's inner circle, cites voter turnouts and election results since 1988 as indicators that the gubernatorial election is over: Perry wins.
History says that GOP voters solidly outnumber Democrats and that more voters align with the parties than with independents. Barring a seismic surge in turnout (which reached a piddling 36 percent four years ago), the Dept. of Conventional Expectations advises Perry to plan his inauguration.
Eppstein skipped one stone toward Perry's challengers: "Don't spend any of your personal money" on the campaign.
I had asked eight pols not working for the hopefuls to speculate how Friedman, Chris Bell or Carole Keeton Strayhorn might surprise.
-Bell wins by staying the tortoise in the race, keeping his shell up and head down. The Democratic nominee and former U.S. House member hopes fireworks set off by other candidates explode in their faces. If Democratic voters stick with him and if fiscal conservatives desert Perry over the new business tax, maybe he edges ahead. The general election is won by whoever leads, regardless of hurdling 50 percent. Like other challengers, though, Bell hunts a wake-up issue reminding voters that he's running.
-Strayhorn, the state comptroller running as an independent, suffers from not having a party behind her to reinforce her message. But she could topple Perry if drifting conservatives and tired-of-losing Democrats warm to her zeal, especially if she remains the best-funded challenger (think TV ads). Maybe she vexes Perry in debate or benefits from a scandal not foreseen by Los Pundits. Perry has a record open to critique. But she does, too.
-Friedman cannot win, most pundits aver, because voters will tire of/grow squeamish at his parade o' jokes marinated in venom. Yet if he hammers three memorable issues (like George W. Bush, 1994), who knows? The humorist, who draws the attention of the national media simply for cracking wise with a cigar in hand, promises a lively finish, surely fueling a post-election book.
Eppstein sees Perry winning, with Bell probably placing second as most voters stick with the major parties . . .
I don't often update what I think will happen, because my analysis hasn't really changed. The macro-situation is the same as it was since Strayhorn first announced she'd run as an independent. Perry is an overwhelming favorite to be re-elected. Bell is still the most likely to finish second. Perry managed to get out of school-finance alive, and he still has his base. Bell is having a hard time keeping his base together, and even if he did, it still might not be enough to pass Perry. Moreover, he flat-out just won't have the resources to compete, but he does have the ballot line which will deliver enough of the vote to be 2nd. Friedman is running a turnout campaign, and we have a name for turnout campaigns: losers. Besides, Friedman just doesn't seem to have the discipline to grow beyond a certain segment of the electorate (although he could prove me wrong.) Strayhorn hasn't found the silver bullet issue that will give her a shot.
Posting at BadSports
I'll probably not comment too much. When I do, I'll probably comment mostly on the Texans, the Texans draft failure this year (can you say Mike Mamula?), the Dynamo, and some sabermetrics. And maybe the occasional Rice sports. I won't be averse to writing about my inexplicable fandom of TO either: does that mean I have to root for the Cowboys?
Friedman: Poll for me.
Kinky Friedman proposes that media outlets hold online polls.
His campaign's latest proposal, which calls on the state's news organizations and blogs to conduct informal Web site polls to determine the true leader in the race for governor, has a certain flimflam quality to it.I'm not sure why the San Antonio Express-News didn't name the blog, which I assume was Burnt Orange Report.
In a way, Friedman has a very good point. Traditional polls, which rely on consistent voters, aren't an accurate barometer in a race with two well-known independents trying to topple GOP incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.
Whether Republicans or Democrats want to admit it, Friedman has gotten the attention of the state's vast pockets of residents who are sick of all politicians.
On the other hand, Friedman has got to be kidding if he wants us to take a bunch of Web polls with more than a grain of salt.
While these polls routinely allow only one vote to be cast from any single computer, nothing is to stop an organized entity like a political campaign, labor union, church community or a building full of college frat boys from stacking the ballot box by issuing an online call to arms.
Not only that, such polls are mere snapshots of who happens to be viewing a Web site on a given day. Nobody really has any way of knowing if the respondents are 8 or 80, or if they intend to vote.
But these are mere details to Friedman's campaign. In an e-mail to the media Friday, Friedman touted the results of eight recent online polls from Amarillo to San Antonio that all had him running in first place.
Asked if this was a strategically selected assortment of polls, Friedman spokeswoman Laura Stromberg insisted "these are the only polls we're aware of," except for one. The one they left out was conducted by a Democratic blog that showered Democratic Party nominee Chris Bell with 78 percent of the "vote."
Friedman's full release is here.
I may just do a poll myself. Why the heck not?
Perry first to chat with DMN
The Dallas Morning News is planning to hold online chats with each of the four gubernatorial candidates. Today Rick Perry took his turn in the chat.
I don't know how well they publicized it in their paper, but I missed any online notifications.
07 July 2006
Stinson: He who is without sin...
I thought SAEN columnist Roddy Stinson had a pretty interesting column this week. His point was that Democrats often get away with politicking in churches to a degree that Republicans never could.
My experience (once upon a time, I took a Sociology of Religion class that required and inspired me to visit quite a few churches) is that this is true. My (not that impartial but this doesn't need much objectivity although it's anecdotal) take: I've seen Democrat officeholders say things from the pulpit that a Republican wouldn't even say on the premises.
I love Texas politics
John Kelso's latest:
If I recall correctly, Lynne Cheney wrote a romance novel. Besides, I happen to be writing my own novel right now, and it's a bit romantic in a Fitzgerald-esque kind of way.
[Democratic Comptroller nominee Fred] Head is pointing fingers at Combs for writing a paperback 16 or 17 years ago in which the characters fall into two distinct categories: 1. hot, and 2. bothered. Head figures this will bring Combs down. "I think it's going to come to roost, and she's going to be in another line of work in November," said Head, an attorney in Athens and a former state rep.
It doesn't bother me that Combs penned a book way back when that includes: "You have to tell me I'm wonderful at least five time a day, kiss me senseless more than that, and make love to me until we're exhausted."
Being a paranoid columnist with an ego problem, I can empathize with a character who needs to be told he's wonderful at least five times a day. Besides, if Combs wins Carole Strayhorn's job, we'll go from One Tough Grandma to One Hot Mamma.
I realize that Head has name ID problems. And so, getting anyone (especially Kelso) to write about him is a coup. But is this really the best he could do?
Interview with Ben Barnes
The Austin Chronicle briefly profiles and then gives a more extensive interview to Ben Barnes. I highly recommend it, though I disagree often.
I read Barnes' memoir on a Wednesday about a month or so ago and took extensive notes. It was an excellent read, and I'd recommend it, but I lost my notes. So I'll wait to give it a fuller review until I reread or find my notes. Instead, I'll excerpt the portions relevant to this year's gubernatorial race:
I'm supporting [Carole Strayhorn] to get rid of a person who gets an "F" on his report card for what he has done as governor of Texas.I don't want to make it personal, but where Texas is today is back with Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. We're No. 1 in public education dropouts, we're No. 1 in prisons, we're No. 1 in children's deaths. We're getting statistics that just make us almost a Third World country. And if Texans really understood that, I don't think they'd be willing to accept that.Barnes is very bright and someone I'd very much like to meet. I don't mostly agree with him, but I recognize his acumen and respect him. It's mildly depressing that at about my age he was Lt. Guv. So, if he ever wants a fair but challenging blog interview, I'd be willing. Heh.
The Republicans are going to have a lot of reasons to be mad at me because I'm going to travel the country with this book, and I'm going to talk. And they can't get on me and say I'm out there trying to sell this book to make any money, because the proceeds from my book are going to the Boys & Girls Club [in Austin], and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Jack Kennedy said that sometimes party loyalty asks too much. And man, I like Chris Bell. I think he's a great candidate and a good guy, but he's not going to have the money to have an impact when Perry pulls in the money from the Jim Leiningers and Bob Perrys. [Rick] Perry has unlimited funds. Carole Strayhorn understands government, she's been there, she's comptroller. People have forgotten that Carole will have to have the Democrats in the Legislature to do anything if she got elected governor. And if she was governor, she'd have to be hoping – not publicly – but she'd have to be hoping more Democrats got elected. So it works in my mind that this can be a step in the right direction.
Look, we're not going to elect anybody statewide this time, even if we had the money. I think because of my age that I've become more of a political realist. I'm not Don Quixote as much as I was at one time.
I'm going to continue to support Democrats with my money, my time and energy, but it was very easy for me to see and to encourage my friends that Carole Strayhorn is the only possible person to beat Rick Perry. And I'm sorry Kinky's running. I like Kinky Friedman. But if Kinky was not running, Carole would be ahead right now; there's that much dislike for Perry. So it'll be interesting to see how independents run in Texas. We haven't had an independent governor since Sam Houston.
Here's the one thing he said that I agree with:
California has nine flagship universities, and we've got two. U.S. News & World Report ranked them the lowest they've ever been since they started doing the rankings.I quibble with how many "flagships" he gives California, but I absolutely agree that Texas needs more flagships universities.
05 July 2006
Teachers, teachers, teachers*
I'm a little behind here (what's new?), but all the candidates showed up to talk to teachers:
I thought Shannon did a particularly good job with this write-up.
Challengers to Republican Gov. Rick Perry took turns Friday trying to woo a statewide teachers group by saying they want higher teacher pay and less classroom time devoted to standardized testing.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn tried to separate herself from the other four gubernatorial hopefuls, declaring she's the only one facing Perry with enough broad support and campaign money "to take him out."
"Let me tell you, this is a two-person race. You can have four more years of Rick Perry or you can have Carole Keeton 'Grandma' Strayhorn, a teacher in the governor's office," Strayhorn, a former educator, told the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.
She noted the last major campaign disclosure reports showed Perry with $9.4 million in campaign cash to spend, while she had $8.1 million. The other candidates each had far less than $1 million.
"It costs a million dollars a week for TV in Texas," she said, referring to campaign advertising that has become a staple in Texas governor races.
Perry spoke to the teacher group Thursday, when he praised the work teachers do and talked up the Legislature's school finance plan he recently signed into law that included a $2,000 teacher pay raise.
Perry called Democrat Chris Bell his "principal opponent" in the Nov. 7 election and criticized him for wanting to use the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test only for diagnostic purposes, not for promotion to the next grade level or graduation, as it is used now in some grades.
Bell said Perry doesn't have a clue about what's going on in classrooms. He said he believes teachers agree that it's time to move away from "high-stakes testing."
The state's high dropout rate and poor SAT scores show that the emphasis on standardized testing isn't helping and isn't holding schools accountable, Bell said.
"My sense in talking to teachers all across the state is that they've had it. I think parents have had enough, students have had enough and principals and teachers have had enough when it comes to high-stakes standardized testing," he said.
Strayhorn proposed moving TAKS testing from the spring to the fall each school year. She said that would make it a truly diagnostic test and allow teachers and students to spend the rest of the year working on subjects that need the most attention.
Independent candidate Kinky Friedman said he wants to end the TAKS test. He also proposed legalizing casino gambling in Texas, a move he contends would provide $6 billion to $8 billion annually to help fund education.
"Right now we are fueling the economies of five separate states, none of them Texas. It needs to come back to us. We invented Texas Hold 'Em. We can't even play it here," said Friedman. A number of teachers approached him after his speech to wish him well and take photographs with him.
*With apologies to Jay-Z. I'm guessing 90% of the readers don't get the reference.
Thought I'd highlight Peggy Fikac's article on gambling:
Only Gov. Rick Perry, who has favored loosening restrictions on gambling, says he won't try it again, but all three of his major opponents said Friday that they would support expanded gambling efforts.Quite a few of the candidates have been on both sides of the fence (actually, I think they all have flip-flopped except for Kinky, but I'm not going to factcheck it), so it'll be interesting to see if this becomes an issue. Voters can be skeptical of gambling, but are often willing to bite the bullet if gambling is sold as in lieu of taxes. So who knows? Something could happen.
"It has already been stated that the economy has to grow at least about $2 billion a year just to meet the property tax reduction requirements," said Bill Stinson, president of Let The Voters Decide, a group of real estate developers that favors bringing in casinos. "And that doesn't start to address the needs for school finance and health care and transportation and prisons and all the other areas that the state provides for the citizens.
"The only thing that's left is increasing the sales tax, which is one of the highest in the nation, or an income tax, or to allow the voters to decide whether or not they would like to allow full casinos to come in that generate jobs and bring in revenue to Texas," Stinson said.
Opponents say a gaming expansion would foment gambling addictions and a host of social ills, all for an unreliable funding stream.
"I'm going to oppose it until I have no breath left to oppose it," said Cathie Adams, president of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum. "It would so change the culture of Texas, it would be devastating.
"You (will) have people no longer having a work ethic, but instead an ethic of last chance, spending the family's fortune and not ... providing for the future."
The name game, perhaps with resulting blame (no plame!)
The Express News editorial board doesn't think "Grandma" is a nickname, and urges Sec. State Roger Williams to leave it off the ballot:
Strayhorn, the Texas comptroller since 1999, has campaigned as "One Tough Grandma" throughout the race, and her Web site says she is "One Tough Grandma, watching out for Texas." The Web address www.onetoughgrandma.com links to her campaign site.Meanwhile, Austin's Statesman pontificates:
Sounds a lot like a slogan.
To show just how serious she is about appearing on the ballot as "Grandma," gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn hired Austin legal legend Roy Minton to represent her. Minton wrote Secretary of State Roger Williams (who, coincidentally shares a name with a famous '50s pianist) urging him to reconsider a decision to deny Strayhorn the use of a nickname.Minton may be a fantastic advocate, but it seems that he should hire a proofreader: his letter to Roger Williams has two errors in the title. One is a minor typo but the other incorrectly labels his candidate as Carol instead of Carole. Given his "Strahorn" mistakes in the past, you'd think that Minton would take particular care to get his client's name correct. We all make mistakes, but screwing up your client's name twice isn't good.
If you're new around here, the name Roy Minton may not mean much, but he's quite a powerhouse. To illustrate: Minton got on an elevator full of statewide political and business luminaries after lunch at the Headliners Club a couple of years back. Noting Minton's presence, one of the distinguished passengers asked rhetorically: "You know what the headline in the paper would be if this elevator crashed? 'Minton, others killed in elevator accident.' "
Ballot name is just as important as ballot position, and given that we've had a Jesse James and a Daniel Boone on the Texas ballot, Grandma doesn't seem all that exotic.
Meanwhile, Friedman has his own letter about being on the ballot as just "Kinky Friedman" instead of "Richard "Kinky" Friedman."
04 July 2006
Burka joins the blogosphere
Texas Monthly writer and editor Paul Burka has a new blog. You should check out his commentary on the political consequences of the recent Supreme Court opinion -- it's easily the best I've seen. [Side note: Perhaps it's only me, but am I the only one troubled by the fact that minority Congressmen are essentially protected by law if they are Democrats, but not if they are Republicans? Yes I know it's more complicated than that, but this seems like the nub of it to me.]
I'll let this one go:
I expressed some of these concerns in a column I wrote for our March 2005 issue, about the role of the bloggers in bringing down Dan Rather. It reads a bit too much like the work of an old dog confronted by a new trick, but one of my biggest gripes stands: the anonymity of many bloggers and the inability to hold them accountable.I'm still semi-anonymous...and heck, I admitted that Evan isn't even my real name!
Levity aside, Burka also has a post on whether Bill White will choose to run for the Senate against John Cornyn in '08 or against Kay Bailey Hutchison for guv in '10. There's little doubt at this point that White is the Democrats' best chance at winning statewide in the next few election cycles. White is a pretty savvy guy, who will probably (as Burka implies) run wherever he has the best chance of winning...so where will he run?
I think White passes on a race against Cornyn. If he runs against Cornyn, then he has to take on more controversial federal issues. That'll make it harder for White to run again statewide if he loses. Also in favor of waiting for '10: potentially there will be a rough, divisive GOP gubernatorial primary. Kay Bailey might make it out of the primary (you'd have to label her the favorite right now), but I don't think it's an absolutely done deal. Plus, if Kay Bailey wins (even if by beating Bill White), you'd have to think Bill White would have a decent chance against whoever Hutchison nominates to replace her in the Senate. If he ran well against Hutchison, he'd have the name ID.
Hence, I think it'd be smarter for White to pass on Cornyn and focus on being mayor instead. Since he knows this, I think White will stay mayor until 2009, when he is term-limited out of office.
One more thing, which I'll go ahead and quibble with Burka about. He implies that a Hutchison Senate departure might be a reason that Texas' political establishment would back replacing Cornyn:
Plus, if Hutchison, who has been superb at bringing home the bacon (most recently in getting funding for Hurricane Rita victims), does indeed quit the Senate to run for governor, community leaders all across Texas will be wondering whether Cornyn has enough clout and respect to attend to the state's needs.My initial take is the opposite: because Hutchison appears likely to leave the Senate, keeping Cornyn becomes more important.
A few reasons why: 1) seniority, 2) majority, and 3) reputation. First, seniority. Yes, Cornyn doesn't have much of it, but if Hutchison were to leave, would the state really want to have two brand new Senators? I think not. Cornyn serves on Armed Services, Judiciary, Budget, and Small Business. He already chairs two subcommittees; one each on Armed Services and Judiciary. So, Cornyn's advantage is small numerically, but there's a definite learning curve. Texas probably doesn't want two freshman senators at the same time, if it can possibly be avoided.
Perhaps even more importantly, it appears likely that the Senate will be held by Republicans for the next decade. While Republicans appear to lose 2-3 seats right now in the Senate** (Santorum, Chafee/Burns/Talent) I think it's probably more likely that the GOP will have the Senate majority for most of the next decade. It's pretty key to be in the majority (though more so in the House than the Senate).
Last, reputation. Cornyn had more influence early in his freshman term than is normal. Granted, much of that influence was due to close relations with the White House. Granted also that most of that influence was on national issues, not on Texas-specific issues. Yet Cornyn's reputation is more of a hard-working serious legislator than that of a political grandstander. Or, if you prefer the old political metaphor, work-horse instead of a show-horse.
So, all-in-all, I would think that the threat of losing Hutchison in the Senate would probably weigh in Cornyn's favor. But then again, Burka probably has a better sense of the political establishment than I do. So maybe I'm wrong.
** There's still plenty of time for this to change. I'm cautiously optimistic that it will and I think that Republicans actually have more potential sleeper candidates right now (yeah, sorry, I have a hard time taking folks like Jim Webb too seriously), despite the lackluster candidate recruitment by NRSC Chair Liddy Dole.