January 08, 2004
Watch them scramble

Having finally gotten the map of his dreams, Tom DeLay says he's ready to spend whatever it takes to win the seats that the new map offers. One might hope that recent revelations will slow down the TAB spigot, but make no mistake: As long as DeLay has influence to peddle, he'll get whatever money he wants.

Over in Austin, the races of interest are in the 25th and 10th CDs. Lloyd Doggett is the early favorite in the 25th, but he will be contested in the Democratic primary.

Uncertain is whether it has been so good that he might scare off serious challengers.

State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, has said he was leaning toward running and will announce his plans today.

Barrientos' entry could divide the important Travis County vote in the new district.

Also uncertain is whether state District Judge Leticia Hinojosa of Edinburg, who has indicated she will run, will actually jump in.

Doggett has used an early start, $2.1 million in the bank and name recognition from previous statewide races to become the front-runner in a district with hundreds of miles he has never represented.

"This is not a slam dunk; this race is not over yet," said Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. "But he has some very significant advantages as we move into the primary campaigning."

Even the potential opposition acknowledges the edge.

"The advantage he has, number one, is he's already a congressman (who is) high-profile. Number two, his name has been on the ballot, and he's well-known in the area," said La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, a Hinojosa supporter.

Hidalgo County Democratic Chairman Bobby Guerra, who respects Doggett but would prefer a local candidate, said Doggett's intense efforts in South Texas have paid off.

"Doggett has in the past had a very good voting record," Guerra said. "But yes indeed, we deserve our own congressman."

The Quorum Report is now saying that Sen. Barrientos will back Judge Hinojosa, so Doggett will apparently face a concentrated challenge in the north and south.

In the new 10th, which stretches from Austin to the Houston suburbs, the most likely outcome is a race decided in a GOP runoff.

The GOP battle in the 10th is shaping up as something of an east-west civil war. About 43 percent of the district's population is in Travis County. About 41 percent is in the Houston suburbs. The rest is in a strip connecting the two.

Austin lawyer Michael McCaul, a former federal prosecutor, has worked to be the lone candidate from Travis County, a distinction that would put him in good position to get into a runoff with whoever prevails among four Harris County candidates who have announced for the seat.

"I've done everything I can to make that happen," McCaul said Wednesday prior to announcing his candidacy at the Dell Jewish Community Center in Northwest Austin.

Apparently, that effort will fail. Teresa Doggett Taylor, an Austin mortgage banker, will announce her candidacy in the GOP primary next week, said spokesman Adam Mitchell.

Though she's never held public office, Doggett Taylor is a known ballot name from her unsuccessful bids for state comptroller in 1994 and the U.S. House in 1996, when she ran -- as Teresa Doggett -- against Lloyd Doggett, to whom she is not related.

The Houston-area candidates seeking the GOP nomination in the 10th district are, so far: Cypress lawyer Dave Phillips; Spring businessman Ben Streusand; former Houston state District Judge John Devine; and former Houston City Councilman John Kelley. Former Washington County GOP Chairman Pat Elliott of Brenham also might run.

On the Democratic side in that race, the only buzz about a possible candidacy has come from former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia, who did not return telephone calls Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, Garcia told the Quorum Report, a political newsletter, that he is thinking about seeking the seat.

"Even though it is a Republican, Bible-thumping district, I think Democrats ought to have a presence," Garcia told the Quorum Report. "We should not just give up."

I certainly hope Garcia runs, quixotic though his effort may be.

Meanwhile, the Morning News suggests some hope for a few of the endangered incumbents.

"Come November, I'll still be a white Democrat," said Rep. Charlie Stenholm of Abilene. "The bunch on the other side are making a better Democrat out of me every day."

But unless courts stop the highly partisan remapping, legislatures will continue "to balkanize American politics along [ethnic] lines," Dr. [Bruce] Buchanan said.

"There's something unsatisfying about it to most friends of the system who are not thinking about it in purely partisan terms."

He and SMU's Dr. [Cal] Jillson predicted that [Martin] Frost and Mr. Stenholm, both 25-year veterans, may survive, along with one or two others with strong name recognition.

WD-40s given the best chance of surviving are freshman Chris Bell and six-term incumbent Gene Green, both of Houston, and Austin's Lloyd Doggett, who is campaigning in a newly drawn district that stretches from his hometown to the border.

"WD-40s" refers to white Democrats over the age of 40, a term coined by several Killer Ds in Ardmore and used by them until the manufacturer of the lubricant by the same name sent them a cease-and-desist letter. Only in Texas.

As I noted on Polstate, Stenholm is ready to run and will file for reelection next week.

Stenholm's Abilene home rests in the 19th District, which is currently represented by [Randy] Neugebauer, a freshman. Stenholm's farm land lies in the 13th District, represented by [Mac] Thornberry.

Stenholm, speaking from a cotton conference in San Antonio, said he will likely announce Thursday the district in which he intends to run.

Also noted was Mike Conway, runner up to Neugebauer in last year's special election in the 19th CD, who will run in the new 11th CD, the one that's based in Midland.

Finally, Ralph Hall's defection to the Republicans has turned into a boon for Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio.

The Democratic leadership wants to hand Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, Hall's seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight of air standards, hazardous materials, telecommunications and public health.

Gonzalez, 58, was nominated by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The nomination goes to the Democratic Steering Committee for approval.

He was the only candidate nominated for the position.

"Charlie will be a strong voice on the committee for consumers and joins a proud tradition of Texans serving on the Energy and Committee," Pelosi said.

Energy and Commerce is the oldest standing committee in the House of Representation.

"It is something that I sought earlier in the year. I am just grateful as can be. It's a wonderful opportunity," Gonzalez said.

"I don't think there is not a major issue in the United States that doesn't come before this committee," he said.

Gonzalez would be the first Hispanic from Texas to sit on the committee.

Good for him. I have no doubt he'll do a better job than Hall would have anyway.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 08, 2004 to Killer D's | TrackBack

boy, it would be ironic if Martin Frost survives. he was the main target, though i urged DeLay to go after the stupidest woman in Congress, Sheila Jackson Lee. She's the dean of the democrat Congressional Braintrust who, when touring a NASA facility while the previous Mars rover was creeping around the Red Planet, asked her hosts whether the rover would drive over to where the astronauts planted the American flag.

I think Martin Frost's best chance for survival would be to change his name to Senor Martino Frosterino, and to campaign for that new Valley district wearing a nine foot sombrero and a pair of outrageous bandito mustachios.

Posted by: abelard on January 8, 2004 10:26 AM

I'm pretty sure that if DeLay thought he could make SJL disappear without violating the Voting Rights Act, he'd have done it. Hell, if he could've legally drawn 32 GOP districts, he'd have done it. I think we can agree that magnaminity is not his long suit.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 8, 2004 11:34 AM