Is Strayhorn's aide searching for Combs opponent?

This story gets more bizarre by the day. Today, the San Antonio Express News reports that Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders has called Lyle Larson to try to get him to run for comptroller, just like he called Chris Bell:

The story sounded familiar to Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson.

A top aide to Republican gubernatorial hopeful Carole Keeton Strayhorn calls the wife of Democratic hopeful Chris Bell last week trying to get Bell to abandon his bid for governor and jump into the state comptroller's race.

During the exchange, reported by the Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday, Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders tells Alison Bell that "there would be support" for Bell should he run for comptroller.

Larson, who heard about the story Wednesday morning from Republican strategist Frank Guerra, said the same thing happened to him about six weeks ago.

"This guy calls and says he's Mark Sanders and that he works closely with Carole Strayhorn," Larson recalled. "He tells me there's a large group of people who would like to find someone else to run for comptroller against Susan Combs."

As an enticement, Larson said, Sanders claimed the group could raise $3.5 million for his campaign and facilitate a meeting with a top staffer in the comptroller's office to give Larson a crash course in the ins and outs of the statewide post.

"I thought it was preposterous that somebody could offer $3.5 million in contributions to a person they've never met," Larson said.

Larson, who is publicly supporting Combs, a Republican, for comptroller, said he never bothered to call Sanders back because he's "never been interested in comptroller."

Sanders, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, told the American-Statesman he did not call the Bells on behalf of the Strayhorn campaign. Instead, he said, he wanted to advise his longtime friends that they could not win the governor's race.

Robert Black, a spokesman to GOP Gov. Rick Perry, Strayhorn's chief rival, said he doesn't believe Sanders acted without Strayhorn's blessing.

A little background, if you're new to the story. First, Jason Embry first broke the story that Mark Sanders had called Allison Bell and told her that Chris Bell should run for comptroller instread of governor. Sanders claimed to be acting on his own, and in Bell's self-interest, because he had known Allison Bell for a long time. Now Sanders is reportedly calling a Republican, seeing if he'll challenge Combs in the primary.

Go back to January 24th in my archives, and you'll find:

Ag Commisioner Susan Combs has been saying that Strayhorn told her she could run for Comptroller. Today, however, Strayhorn spokesman said:
The people of Texas are certainly asking her (Strayhorn) to run for Governor and she is listening. But the Comptroller never told Commissioner Combs she is not running for Comptroller again. And Commissioner Combs knows it.
When it became apparent that Strayhorn was going to run for a higher office, Agricultural Commissioner Susan Combs claimed that Comptroller Strayhorn had given her permission to run for Comptroller. But Strayhorn clearly didn't like the way Combs maneuvered and declared so early that she was running for Comptroller.

Posted by Evan @ 12/22/05 05:15 PM


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