29 December 2008

That time of year

It's that time of the biennial year calendar: the Texas House Speaker's race. This blog doesn't frequently have too much to say on the subject even though it's the only thing happening, because I prefer to write about things on which I actually know something about.

The place to go is to Burka's blog. I'm reminded that Cory lists Paul Burka's blog in his sidebar and then adds "always read the comments here. Pure Gold." Well put. This is true all year, but especially right now. As soon as Burka posts, the comments fill up. If you're bored, you can play the parlor game I like to call "Member, Lobbyist, Staffer, or Idiot" where you guess which category the anonymous commenter falls under.

Note that the categories are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by Evan @ 12/29/08 11:22 AM | Comments (0)        


27 December 2008

Going corporate

I just ran across this week-old post at BOR by Katherine Haenschen that says:

This week I officially begin my new position as campaign manager for the Chris Riley Campaign for Austin City Council. Therefore, to avoid any conflict of interest, I will not be blogging about any municipal races in Austin this spring--including the mayoral contest and any other council elections.
It's certainly fine by me if Miss Haenschen wants to forgo writing about races which she is involved in. Yet, in my mind, the whole idea of blogging is to express your viewpoint...just because you're working for a campaign, why would you not express your viewpoint for that campaign? To me personally, it would make no difference whether I was doing so for money or not, as I don't do either unless I have a strong view for that candidate.

I think I've posted my own disclosure policy before here: I feel no duty to disclose. I've never accepted a dime for work in politics (yes, it's been offered), but if I did, it's unlikely that I'd feel the need to tell you about it.

Posted by Evan @ 12/27/08 10:28 PM | Comments (0)        


24 December 2008

Too clever by half?

Is it fair to say that the Dallas news media is not a fan of Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert?

Posted by Evan @ 12/24/08 01:40 AM | Comments (0)        


23 December 2008

"Yeah....about that"

Evan Smith, Eileen Smith, and Paul Burka -- the Texas Monthly blogging triumvirate -- all offered opinions this week about how the Democrats should be running a full slate of candidates in 2010, starting with the slot for governor.

This led Phil Martin to rejoin thus, in a post entitled Everyone Needs to Calm the Hell Down About 2010:

There will be a Democrat running for Governor in 2010 -- we've got a great roster of potential candidates. I mean, has anyone asked Senator Kirk Watson what he's planning on doing? He's young, got money, got great name ID, has the experience of running a statewide campaign, and is terrific on both policy and connecting with voters. Have we ruled him out? Is Congressman Chet Edwards definitely not going to run statewide? If Senator Van de Putte is willing to consider the U.S. Senate, why couldn't she just as easily wreck shop and run for Governor?

That's some hard spinning. Not to nitpick, but presumably Martin mentioned the three names that popped into his head first. Well...

When people think of Kirk Watson, they think about this: Maybe it's not fair -- I felt quite sympathetic to him. Maybe Chris Matthews is a blithering blowhard, but somehow the name Kirk Watson does not send fear down my spine.

As for Chet Edwards, I'd be quite surprised if he ran statewide. If he does, he hands a seat in Congress to Republicans in order to bid for office in a Republican state where his name ID is less than 5%. Does that sound smart to you? Especially when he's close to Speaker Pelosi and finally in the majority?

And then there's Van de Putte, and I'm surprised that Martin even mentioned her as a potential top-tier candidate.

Posted by Evan @ 12/23/08 05:10 AM | Comments (0)        


22 December 2008

Ship it

The Census press release:

Texas gained more people than any other state between July 1, 2007, and July 1, 2008 (484,000), followed by California (379,000), North Carolina (181,000), Georgia (162,000) and Arizona (147,000).

Texas now has 24.3 million, and grew at the first fastest rate.

Posted by Evan @ 12/22/08 06:31 PM | Comments (0)        


Chris Bell to run for two offices at the same time?

Well this is surprising! Apparently Chris Bell has announced that he is going to run for two offices at the same time:

Fresh off his defeat in the state senate runoff against Republican Joan Huffman, Democrat Chris Bell is trying a new tactic: running for two offices at the same time. In a unique plan announced today, Bell says that he plans to run for the Houston City Council in 2009 and Harris County Treasurer in 2010.

Bell, a lawyer and lobbyist, plans to challenge Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck in District C, as well as Orlando Sanchez in the Harris County Treasurer race. While he originally promised not to run for office again if he lost to Huffman, Bell has since changed his mind. Lawyers consulted by the Chronicle say that it is legal for Bell to campaign for both offices at the same time, as the elections are in different years.

"I believe that my long career running for office qualifies me to be a Houston City Councilman, and if the voters again choose my opponent in 2009, then I will just keep on running for Harris County Treasurer," said Bell at a press conference.

Experts say that while the move is highly unusual, it just might work. "It's not something that a candidate would do in normal times, but District C is a district that reflects the changing demographics of the county at-large," Rice University Professor Bob Stein commented.

"As the county becomes more Democratic, Bell has a real chance to actually get elected to something," Stein continued. "Plus, Bell has always been upset that [Harris County Treasurer] Orlando Sanchez entered the 2001 mayoral race. At the time, then-City Councilman Bell thought he could run as a de facto Republican against Democrat Lee Brown and win. When a Republican like Sanchez came along and screwed Bell's plans up, Bell lost."

Critics point out that by Chris Bell's own admission, a dead corpse would have done better against Rick Perry in 2006 than he did. Still, Bell says he will not be deterred. "My occasional successful election is proof that if you run for office enough, sometimes the voters will make a mistake," Bell joked.

It's kinda crazy, but who knows...it just might work. It remains to be seen whether 2010 will complete the Democratic wave of 2008 or whether Republicans will take back the judiciary. You'd think that the voters wouldn't reward a guy who can't figure out what office he really wants, but...who knows? It may not matter if the Democrats sweep countywide in 2010.

Posted by Evan @ 12/22/08 06:34 AM | Comments (0)        


19 December 2008

On the road again

FWST's Bud Kennedy gets the only Democrat currently running for governor on the phone:

So far, only one Democrat stands between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and another four years as the holdover Last Governor of the 20th Century.

That's even a shock to the Democrat himself: Hill Country humorist Kinky Friedman.

"All the other Democrats are afraid of me, I guess," Friedman said jokingly Thursday by phone from his pet rescue ranch near Utopia, a day after Houston Mayor Bill White announced that he has decided to run for U.S. Senate instead of governor.


Actually, they're afraid they might wind up running for governor against Kay Bailey," Friedman said, sounding as if he might be chewing on one of his namesake brand cigars.

"They're all afraid but me. Anyway, I think it's entirely possible that Perry wins that primary. I don't trust people who come from Washington. If somebody comes from Washington telling you they're going to help you, run the other way."

Kinky's run for office -- and lost -- as a Republican and an Independent. Why not complete the trilogy and run for the Democrats? Maybe the Libertarians didn't want him...heyo.

I know that just about all the Texas media sneers at the Governor, but you might think that they'd refer to the longest-serving governor in Texas history by something other than "the holdover Last Governor of the 20th Century."

Posted by Evan @ 12/19/08 06:03 PM | Comments (0)        


Maine Congressman criticizes Ron Kirk to be US Trade Rep

Some anti-trade Congressmen are criticizing Ron Kirk to be USTR, calling him too pro-free trade.

Full Mike Michaud press release below the jump. Meanwhile, Ben Smith reports that Rep. Phil Hare is also criticizing the pick.

[Read More]

Posted by Evan @ 12/19/08 05:38 PM | Comments (0)        


18 December 2008

Prediction markets

Right now I really wish there was a prediction market for the speaker of the Texas House. It it was legal, I'd put serious thought into making a trade if the market appeared inefficient.

I guess the closest thing is late train lobbyist fundraisers?

Posted by Evan @ 12/18/08 01:55 AM | Comments (0)        


16 December 2008

And now Michael Williams is running

Railroad Commish Michael Williams is running for KBH's seat.

Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, state senator Florence Shapiro, and Williams' colleague on the Railroad Commission Elizabeth Ames Jones are all running too. Meanwhile on the other side, John Sharp is in, Bill White is set to announce and Van de Putte is rumored.

Anyway, Michael Williams' press release below the jump. He's close to party activists in the state, so if he can raise the money, he might have a shot. On the other hand...you gotta wonder if a guy with a beard can pull it off.

[Read More]

Posted by Evan @ 12/16/08 02:29 PM | Comments (0)        


11 December 2008

Gallegos and Van de Putte do what?

Color me amazed. I've truly seen it all now. After Chuck Schumer has done an excellent job as chair of the DSCC -- the US Senate Democrats' campaign arm -- Texas state senators Mario Gallegos and Leticia Van de Putte are criticizing him. It's not enough that Schumer has put Democrats in position to achieve a filibuster-proof 60 vote supermajority in 2010.

Hark, forthwith, Alan Bernstein from the Chron:

Noriega, too, is Hispanic, and Gallegos and Van de Putte implied in their letter that ethnicity figured into the national Democratic strategy.

"Rick Noriega has an impeccable pedigree to run in Texas. He is an old-fashioned Democrat — a family man, a man of faith, a combat-decorated veteran, a legislator, with an Ivy-league education and time spent defending the border," they wrote. "He has a heart for the people, impeccable Democratic credentials and is an awesome retail campaigner. To some who chose to sit on the sidelines in this election, those characteristics were apparently not enough — he is not wealthy or white. We have always believed Democrats are better than that."

The pair also wrote, "The heat of election night had not cooled before the speculation began about DSCC support for several Anglo candidates in future races. This is not only disrespectful; it's shameful."

Including a racial angle is awful politics at best.

Schumer's job is to raise money, and then spend it where it will have the most incremental value in electing Democrats to the Senate. He did that, and pretty well. Under Chuck Schumer's tenure, Democrats went from 45 seats in the Senate to 58.

Noriega lost 43%-55%! It wasn't because of his heritage that Noriega didn't get more money, but because he wasn't a very good candidate, something the Burnt Orange folks seemed to agree with. Very few rational political operatives even with the benefit of hindsight would suggest that Schumer should have spent more money in Texas. Certainly they wouldn't suggest that spending more might have changed the result. And for that, they seem to suggest a racial bias in the DSCC. It's not like it is Robert Byrd running the DSCC. Sheesh.

Posted by Evan @ 12/11/08 01:46 PM | Comments (1)        


The trickle in effect

With the news that Edmund Kuempel has filed for speaker, something occurred to me. Do the ABCs -- House Republicans against Speaker Craddick -- think that they can generate news coverage by filing one at a time?

Somehow it just seems oddly spaced to me to not have been a concerted effort. If so, smart thinking, I guess.

Posted by Evan @ 12/11/08 01:16 PM | Comments (0)        


08 December 2008

Strange bedfellows

I read a quote from Houston superlawyer Pat Oxford recently (can't find the article now), but it made me think about good ol' Team Texas Giuliani.

Who chaired Rudy's campaign? Pat Oxford (who, by the way, can see Rice from his front door), who has also chaired a few Kay Bailey Hutchison campaigns. Who did Rudy's mail and such? Olsen and Shuvalov, and now Todd Olsen is doing Kay's campaign against Rick Perry.

And who was Rudy's Iowa surrogate-in-chief? That'd be Rick Perry.

So I think we should see if Rudy returns the favor and endorses Perry.

Posted by Evan @ 12/08/08 12:00 AM | Comments (0)        


06 December 2008

Noriega not to head VA

Losing Senate candidate Rick Noriega has been told that he won't be the next Secretary for Veteran Affairs:

Texan Rick Noriega has learned he won't be Barack Obama's cabinet secretary for veterans affairs, though he may be under consideration for other federal posts, a source close to Noriega just confirmed.

Instead, Eric Shinseki will be the VA head.

Posted by Evan @ 12/06/08 08:15 PM | Comments (0)        


It's on? (part 3)

According to my reading of the Secretary of State's info, January 15th is the filing deadline for all statewide candidates and officeholders. The cutoff date for the report is December 31, 2008.

So, KBH has a month to show how much money comes out of the gates.

Anyone want to play the expectation setting game in the comments?

Posted by Evan @ 12/06/08 09:51 AM | Comments (0)        


05 December 2008

A modest proposal

Given the current political situation in Texas, I wonder if now is a good time to propose two good-government changes to the ballot.

1. Stop electing judges.
2. End straight-ticket voting.

I happen to think that they dovetail together quite well, and that now is the perfect time. Democrats have the motivation to change because it will greatly increase their chances of winning statewide in 2010, 2012, or 2014. Republicans have the motivation to change because there is a latent fear that hegemony may not last forever.

If we stop electing judges, we'll shorten the ballot to the point where we don't need straight ticket voting as a convenient option anymore.

Posted by Evan @ 12/05/08 05:34 PM | Comments (0)        


It's on? (part 2)

It's been pointed out to me that my post yesterday sounded somewhat harsh against Senator Hutchison, which was not my intent. Instead, it rather assumed that the reader views this race in context.

Four years ago, this blog got started and had some immediate attention, probably because I was one of the few predicting that Senator Hutchison was unlikely to defeat Governor Perry. Hutchison loudly explored the race, to the point where I assumed that her candidacy was a foregone conclusion. I wasn't alone, of course. Among others, I remember a Dallas publication -- the DMN, I believe -- announcing that it was 100% that Kay was going to run on its Kay-o-meter. Meanwhile, Perry's political people maintained all along that it was unlikely she'd make the race. I assumed all along that they were just trying to portray her as indecisive, but they were ultimately shown perspicaceious. I think she took a hard look and realized that she was not a favorite to win in 2006.

That was a few years ago now; will she run this time? Well, she's doing everything she can right now to make it look certain. For example, after posting the press release on her site, she followed up by posting again later the same day. And what was the message? I'm running:

cannot tell you how honored I am by the enthusiastic response from so many Texans today.

Let there be no mistake…I am certainly not undecided.

mechanics about running snipped

That's rather a surprising follow-up, were the campaign occurring in a vacuum. Normally political candidates play coy, act undecided even when they aren't, pretend they want to be drafted even when they are running full steam, etc. Not this time. By signalling that she's running, she keeps Perry from sweeping up endorsements and money while it is nominally an uncontested race. There's some downsides to starting early too, of course, but given her coquettish history, it's probably a wise tactical move to do as she is.

Unlike this time last cycle, I no longer think Perry is a favorite to beat Hutchison, for the simple reason that he's been governor for 10 years by the time this term is over. That's not to say I think Hutchison is an overwhelming favorite, quite the contrary I think she's just slightly more likely in a head-to-head matchup, though a Perry v. Hutchison heads-up match is far from certain right now.

We all more or less know the Governor's political weaknesses. 10 years, after all, is a long time. And, to think, if he wins re-election, he'll have been governor of Texas for almost 10% of its statehood. Frankly, I think that's a weakness. I'm not certain he'll choose to run for re-election, though I think it's probably about as likely that he runs as that KBH runs.

As the most popular political figure in Texas for over a decade, it's clear that KBH has strengths. But some of the weaknesses are less obvious, and that's why I wrote my previous post. When politicians have been around for awhile, people in politics have a tendency to assume that the politician is a known brand. To some extent, that is true, though my unverifiable hypothesis is that it is far less true than most political consultants assume.

Brands tell voters about the past and elections are about the future. Unless you can translate a brand into telling voters about the future, then a brand doesn't mean much (again, see John McCain 2005 v 2008). Kay Bailey Hutchison currently has a brand as being...popular. nice. Mainstream Republican. Maybe moderate, maybe conservative; no one is too sure. I don't think many people could tell you many issues that she's strongly for or against; or what her main accomplishments are in 14 years in the Senate. She'll have to answer the "why do you want to be governor?" question...and as I implied yesterday, when you've flirted with running for governor for the better part of a decade, it implies a strong desire to be governor...but maybe not so much a defining agenda as to why you want to be governor.

It will be a tough line for her to walk. There are certainly people on both sides of the aisle who are ready for change in the political leadership of the state. She has the advantage that she is popular and isn't tied to the old terrain of trench warfare. To me, this is of primal importance: balancing her need to not get dragged down into politics with her need to translate her brand into the future.

Posted by Evan @ 12/05/08 02:09 PM | Comments (0)        


It's on?

Senator Hutchison filed the paperwork today to form an exploratory comittee to run for governor. In doing so, she's transferring $1 million dollars (cue Dr. Evil) from her federal Senate account to the gubernatorial account. She also unveiled Texans for Kay, which is in blog form.

Doing so, allows KBH to raise unlimited amounts of money from individual donors, including during the upcoming legislative session. That $1m is just the beginning.

Paragraphs five and six are the ones that signal what she plans to run on:

Texans deserve a Governor who, in the context of sound budgetary policies and low taxes, works for quality schools and universities, access to health care for our families, communities safe from crime and drugs, protection of private property rights, safe transportation and a government that listens and responds to them.

There's too much bitterness, too much anger, too little trust, too little consensus and too much infighting. And the tone comes from the top. Texans are looking for leadership and results.

That's near the end of the press release, as there are only 7 paragraphs total. Frankly, I wouldn't have waited until the end of the press release to talk about issues. Candidates who can't articulate why they are running are at a disadvantage with voters. See, eg, John McCain 2008. Moreover, I'd have wanted to get my reasons for running into the soundbite. Waiting until the end of your first formal press release to talk vaguely about issues might lend credence to the notion that running for governor is the valediction of a career rather than about an explicit agenda for Texas. It doesn't help that she's been rumored for over 6 years to be running for governor.

I mention the above because I think it's illustrative of a potential pitfall: while Senator Hutchison is widely liked, she isn't widely loved. If fact, I know no one who feels any great passion about her, either for or against. She's not tied to any issue, for better or for worse. I bet the Perry team is thinking about this as we speak.

Full press release pasted below the jump:

[Read More]

Posted by Evan @ 12/05/08 12:09 AM | Comments (0)        



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