November 06, 2003
Off and running

And so now the candidates who couldn't quite clear the 50% pole are gearing up for the runoff. Bill White and Orlando Sanchez are all about the money right now.

White, CEO of the Wedge Group, an investment consortium, indicated he will spend whatever it takes in his bid to succeed term-limited Mayor Lee Brown.

So confident was White of making the runoff that he mailed a fund-raising letter on Election Day to supporters who got it Wednesday. Polling in the days before the election showed him leading the race.

White did not say how much more he expects to spend from his own pocket.

"I don't know how much it will be," White said. "But I do know that we will have more volunteers and small donations than Mr. Sanchez."

I got one of those letters yesterday. I confess, it didn't occur to me at the time that it must've been mailed before Election Day. That's certainly a lot of confidence, but it was also certainly warranted.

To counter White's ability to dip into his own pocket, Sanchez said he intends to focus on his anti-tax message, which includes streamlining City Hall.

He expects to get considerable support from the Harris County Republican Party, which spent several hundred thousand dollars in the general election attacking White, the former chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, as a liberal Democrat.

During that campaign, Sanchez sometimes downplayed his support from Republicans, boasting of support from Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas GOP leaders in directed mail-outs to Republican voters but not to Democrats.

White, similarly, emphasized his Democratic background before grass-roots Democrats, while focusing on other issues in other appearances.

Last week, Perry visited Houston to help with a fund-raiser for Sanchez. But they did not conduct the joint news conference that typically accompanies such visits just before an election.

Sanchez said he has not heard from national Republican leaders about whether they will help fund his runoff campaign.

Though Sanchez did finally get President Bush to make a recorded phone call just before Tuesday, he's apparently been out of luck with the national party, and it isn't likely to get better.

[A]n emergency trip to Washington last month to appeal for Republican National Committee cash netted him nothing in the way of immediate relief, according to GOP sources.


According to a GOP source, Sanchez's financial prospects will not improve in a runoff, particularly against White.

"The RNC made no promises to Orlando when he asked for a million, and they also said, 'If it's White [in the runoff], forget it.' The cavalry has not come, and from what I was hearing, the cavalry ain't coming."

Meanwhile, Sylvester Turner is still smarting from his second loss. I sympathize with his complaint that people associated him with Lee Brown, but I also think Turner needs to realize that he just never really excited the Democratic base, which fairly or unfairly can be pinned on his role as speaker pro tem in the state House. One may say that having a Democrat like Turner on Tom Craddick's leadership team is a good and necessary thing, but I'd like someone to point out to me some instances of Turner's presence making Republican-sponsored legislation more palatable, or giving a needed boost to Democratic-sponsored legislation, before I'd be inclined to agree with that.

As for Turner endorsing someone, I think he'll either endorse White or he'll endorse no one. Endorsing Sanchez would make him as popular with his Democratic colleagues in the Lege as Ron Wilson is. It's not out of the question, but it would sure look spiteful. Turner and Sanchez didn't agree on a whole lot of issues as well, so it would be hard to take such an endorsement seriously. You just never know, though.

Elsewhere, Annise Parker and Bruce Tatro are ready to go at it. Tatro thinks he's in good shape, and maybe he is.

At first blush, it may appear that Tatro has the more difficult task. Parker, who won 42 percent of the vote Tuesday, outpolled him by more than 2 to 1.

But Tatro points out that the runoff is a new race and that he has until the Dec. 6 runoff to catch Parker.

"Without rail and Sylvester (mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner) on the ballot, those dynamics work in my favor," he said. "I'm optimistic."

Perhaps, but there's still the matter of the mayoral runoff, which if it goes as polls suggest will skew turnout at least somewhat in Parker's favor. Strictly speaking, if Parker can pick up fellow Democrat Mark Lee's support, she ought to be in great shape.

There's another factor that can work in Parker's favor, and it's in the City Council runoff races, in particular the one between Bert Keller and Ronald Green.

With Michael Berry winning the historically black Position 5, the contest between Keller and Green is considered key.

Berry, who jettisoned his mayoral bid shortly before the filing deadline, said he had promised Keller, another white Republican, that he would not run against him. Instead, he ran for the Position 5 seat now held by term-limited Carroll Robinson.

The seat had been held by blacks since Judson Robinson Jr. became the city's first black councilman in 1971.

"I'm not going to say, and never have said, that this is a black seat, but I know this is a sensitive issue from a community perspective," said Dwight Boykins, who trailed Berry with 25.1 percent of the vote after a campaign season rife with racial overtones.

Boykins is director of governmental affairs and community relations for Texas Southern University.

Keller was upbeat Wednesday, saying he has run a positive campaign and will not change.

"This whole conspiracy stuff about some people wanting to keep blacks out of City Hall is just confusing people," he said. "Obviously, there's no conspiracy or a lot of the right-wing members of the Republican Party would not have opposed me.

"Now that some of that is all over, you have a two-candidate race and everybody will completely focus on the merits and the issues. I'm running on efficiency."

As I understand it, someone at right-wing talk radio station KSEV endorsed Green because he was mad at Keller for his vote against a property tax rollback (see this Press article for some background). I have no idea how this will play out over the next four weeks, but it does have some potential for unintentional comedy.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 06, 2003 to Election 2003 | TrackBack

Sylvester Turner didn't excite the Democrat base, but apparently Bill White did? So does that make Turner the real non-partisan moderate of the race, and the former state party chair and big fundraiser the real partisan Democrat?

Just wondering. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on November 6, 2003 9:58 AM

I was just musing the other day -- since property taxes and property tax cuts were mentioned, isn't it a bit coincidental that tax bills for Harris County were mailed out to reach taxpayers just a few days before the election?

If I were a cynical bastid, I'd suggest the timing was a ploy to get voters riled up into a "tax revolt" mood...

Posted by: Tim on November 6, 2003 11:51 AM

Kevin - We certainly knew that we'd be facing a partisan Republican candidate. I can't speak for anyone else, but my excitement came from having a candidate that I felt good about and who I thought had a great chance to win.

I think once you get outside of safe districts and one-party states, most successful candidates are seen as bipartisan. A lot of people bought George W. Bush's "uniter" line, after all.

Tim - I wouldn't put anything past Paul Bettencourt.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 6, 2003 12:06 PM