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.

Posted by Evan @ 07/04/06 07:30 PM


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If White continues with his current priorities (as opposed to tackling crime and HPD's manpower shortage), it's going to be tough for him to win a statewide race. A white urban Democrat who can be portrayed as soft on crime is going to have a tough time of it against a credible Republican in Texas.

Burka doesn't seem to be big into approving comments. Not a single one has been approved yet. Maybe he'll get the hang of it. Or then again, it's Burka. He may be more interested in seeing his own words in print than any responses. :)

Posted by kevin whited @ 07/04/06 08:55 PM

Kevin --

I agree with many of your substantive criticisms about Bill White's policies (eg not enough cops, counter-productive revenue earning red-light camera programs, unnecessary and regressive Safeclear). But it seems to me that the Chronicle will determine the conventional wisdom, and I think it's not too controversial to say that the Chronicle is Bill White's biggest supporter.

If so, it seems to me that White can only be attacked based on an increase in crime rates which White/Chronicle will (somewhat dubiously) spin as being because of Katrina.

So yeah, I don't think White has done a very good job on crime. But politically, I'm not sure he's been hurt.

Also, Burka has since approved plenty of comments, including ones I probably wouldn't approve. ;)

Posted by Evan_notsignedin @ 07/05/06 06:55 PM

But it seems to me that the Chronicle will determine the conventional wisdom, and I think it's not too controversial to say that the Chronicle is Bill White's biggest supporter.

White's Republican opponent will be more of a player in determining statewide conventional wisdom than the Chronicle, which nobody outside of Houston reads. Assuming that opponent is funded -- and I don't know why anyone would assume otherwise -- White will be defined as what he is: indifferent to skyrocketing crime in Houston while pursuing pie-in-the-sky projects like muni wifi.

Our good friend Google is going to make that case WAY too easy to chronicle(no pun intended!) for some opposition research guy, who will probably charge his client way too much for the info. :)

Posted by kevin whited @ 07/05/06 11:13 PM

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