February 04, 2004
Raising money in Texas

Somewhat to my surprise, given how many members of our Congressional delegation have endorsed Wes Clark and how well-established the Howard Dean network is, John Edwards is the top money-raiser among Democrats in Texas.

Edwards raised $1.6 million in Texas through the end of January, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Edwards far outstripped the other Democrats in the race, but all were eclipsed by President Bush, who raised $12.6 million in Texas so far, out of $131.7 million across the nation.

Edwards raised a total of $14 million nationwide, including $427,595 in Houston.


Second to Edwards in Texas fund raising was Dean, who collected $678,986 in Texas, out of $41 million total. Dean raised $165,000 in Houston, and dozens of Houstonians campaigned for him in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Arthur Schechter of Houston, Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman and former ambassador to the Bahamas during the Clinton administration, gave money to Dean, Edwards, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

"I like everybody," Schechter said. "I think I have had six of the nine Democratic candidates as house guests at one time or another."

But Schechter, who recently was elected chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said he will be supporting Kerry.

"I think he sounds and looks and talks and walks more like a president than anyone we have had in a long time," he said. "And he's right on the issues."

In the Texas money race, Wesley Clark was third among Democrats, raising $477,949, including $94,000 in Houston.

Keir Murray, a Houston-area volunteer organizer for Clark, said the former NATO supreme commander has drawn a diverse group of supporters.

"There were some who were getting involved in politics for the first time," Murray said. "There were independents and even some disaffected Republicans."

Kerry, who has a campaign office in downtown Houston that had an overloaded voice-mail system Tuesday, raised $290,615 in Texas, including $89,975 in Houston. Now that Kerry is the front-runner, his fund raising and organization in Texas will mobilize quickly, Schechter and others predicted.

I suspect Schechter is right and that Kerry will be the top Democratic fundraiser here shortly, probably by next month.

I'm still scratching my head over Harris County Democratic Party chair Gerry Birnbirg's comments:

"It's all the trial lawyers," Gerald Birnberg, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, said of Edwards' Texas money base.

Edwards was a highly successful plaintiffs lawyer before his election to the Senate.

Raising campaign money is one thing -- but where is Edwards spending it? The first-term senator does not have an extensive campaign organization in Texas.

"Interestingly enough, it would appear that Edwards has a touch of Gore-itis," Birnberg said, referring to former Vice President Al Gore, the Democrats' 2000 presidential nominee. "Edwards flies into town, then takes the money and leaves. I have seen no evidence of him spending it here."

Gore and President Clinton made many fund-raising trips to Texas but spent little of it in the state.

I'm sure the first statement is true, but is it really smart to put it in black and white, given the extreme demonization of plaintiffs' lawyers around here? Isn't that a Republican talking point? What were you thinking?

As to the second point, I'd like very much for all of the Democratic candidates to spend some time in Texas, especially in the biggest counties (Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant, Travis, El Paso), all of which other than Tarrant are already Democratic-majority or are slowly but steadily becoming Democratic-majority. I'd also love for the eventual nominee to spend some time here. However, I'm quite certain that every state and county chair wants the same thing. Given that Texas is not going to be anywhere close to a swing state, it hardly makes sense to use a lot of the eventual nominee's scarce resources on it. What purpose is Birnberg serving by publicly carping about it?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 04, 2004 to The making of the President | TrackBack

It would be prudent for the eventual nominee to spend time and money in Texas, even though it's the President's home state. When Bob Dole shut down the New York cmapaign headquarters during the 1996 campaign, it appeared to indicate to some that he was giving up on the campaign as a whole.

Of course, if Al Gore had carried his home state in 2000, none of this would be relevant.

Posted by: William Hughes on February 4, 2004 9:32 AM

I am pretty sure that in his heart of hearts, Gerry is a Dean guy. He gave quite a speech at the Dean rally way back (God, it seems like another century now) in November.

Posted by: Rob Humenik on February 4, 2004 11:04 AM

Kuff wrote,

I'm sure the first statement [i.e., that John Edwards' Texas money base is due to "all the trial lawyers"] is true, but is it really smart to put it in black and white, given the extreme demonization of plaintiffs' lawyer around here? Isn't that a Republican talking point? What were you thinking?

You won't often find me complimenting Gerald Birnberg for telling the truth, but here I am doing it. And you're quite right, Kuff, that if Edwards is on either half of the ticket, his past participation in, and overwhelming financial support from, the plaintiffs' personal injury bar is definitely going to be an issue.

(I object to their and the media's co-opting the term "trial lawyers" by itself to refer only to them, by the way. Defense lawyers can be "trial lawyers" too; the opposite of "trial lawyer" is not "defense lawyer," but "litigator." As I wrote in my first-ever post on my own blog, I consider myself a "trial lawyer," but I'm not a member of TTLA or ATLA and do not exclusively represent plaintiffs in personal injury cases — although I have done quite a bit of plaintiffs' PI work too over the years, just never exclusively.)

Edwards, however — and the Dems, if they're to embrace him as a nominee in either spot on the ticket — should embrace that past, not shy away from it. From every account I've read of him, from serious and knowledgeable players on both sides of personal injury practice in his home state, Edwards was a crackerjack. He made those millions representing people who were genuinely injured in horrible ways (including a bunch of cerebral palsy/alleged birth-and-delivery injury cases), and wasn't afraid to take cases to trial. He'll never win votes from anyone to whom tort reform is an important goal anyway. But about the worst that can be alleged against him is that he, like others, offered up "junk science" very effectively in establishing the causation of his clients' injuries — and that's an issue that makes many just plain folks go MEGO (my eyes glaze over).

Edwards is skilled populist, far better at it than Al Gore ever hoped to be on his very best day. He is more than capable of defending himself, and very possibly — in the eyes of many voters — turning the tables on this issue. Maybe Birnberg had that in mind, or maybe not. But better to face the potentially controversial facts and deal with them than to pretend they don't exist IMHO.

Posted by: Beldar on February 4, 2004 1:00 PM