March 06, 2004
Early voting ends

With early voting over and the regular voting to take place on Tuesday, we'll finally get a better picture of who's in and who's out in all of these hotly contested primaries. Among others, we ought to know who'll carry the flag in the ninth district, where I think the end of the race will be a boon to everyone.

A group of African-American ministers supporting Al Green for Congress demanded Friday that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting withdraw his endorsement of U.S. Rep. Chris Bell.

The demand came on the heels of a claim by Bell that Green has violated federal campaign laws in a week of heightened rhetoric in the Democratic primary for the new 9th U.S. Congressional District.

Bell is white and Green, a former justice of the peace and former head of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is black.

Friday, the Rev. Bill Lawson of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and several other black ministers said the Soechting endorsement creates a double standard.

Soechting endorsed Bell earlier in the week because Green took a $2,000 campaign contribution from former Harris County GOP Chairman Gary Polland. Soechting said Polland has worked to oppose affirmative action and other interests supported by blacks.

Lawson echoed Green's original complaint that state party officials didn't complain when Bell received Republican money or when he got the Political Courage Award from Polland and the local GOP for opposing a city tax hike in 2001. At the time, Bell was a City Council member running for mayor.

Texas Democratic Party spokesman Mike Lavigne said Soechting stands by the endorsement because "Gary Poland and the Republican Party aren't going to pick our candidates."

I'll say again that I think Charles Soechting should have remained neutral in this fight, which Harris County Democratic Party chair Gerry Birnbirg did do. Unfortunately, his taking a side is just furthering one of the GOP's goals of re-redistricting, which was to sow dissension within the Democratic Party. Greg Wythe has been following this pretty closely (see here and here), and he predicts a nailbiter finish, with the possibility of a runoff, as there is a third candidate (Beverly Spencer) in the running.

Over in HD 131, the race between Ron Wilson and Alma Allen is largely being funded by competing PACs.

Allen's latest campaign report shows she raised $152,000 between Feb. 10 and March 1 -- $136,000 of it from the Texas Democratic Party and two groups of trial lawyers.

Texans for Insurance Reform, a new political action committee formed by a dozen state law firms focused on personal injury cases, poured $116,000 into Allen's campaign.

Wilson is one of seven Democratic legislators who were members of Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick's leadership team and are now caught in the new PAC's cross hairs. The biggest contributor to the PAC has been the Houston law firm of Williams and Bailey, which gave $125,000. The PAC's treasurer is Austin plaintiffs' attorney Mike Slack, past president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.

That association's PAC gave Allen $10,000 during the reporting period. Another $10,000 came from the Texas Democratic Party.

These three sources accounted for all but $16,000 of Allen's contributions during the period.


Of the $206,250 Wilson raised during the Feb. 10-March 1 period, the largest contribution was $22,500 from the Hillco PAC; Hillco is a major Austin lobbying firm with close ties to Craddick. Other contributors include big-name Republicans like Austin consultant Reggie Bashur and Houstonians Richard Weekly and Bob Perry. Weekly heads Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which advocates limitations on lawsuits and damages, and Perry is a homebuilder and major GOP contributor.

Craddick also has held two fund-raisers for Wilson, one in Austin earlier this year and a recent one in Houston. Spencer Newman, a Republican political consultant who worked for former mayoral candidate Orlando Sanchez, also is working for Wilson.

Wilson is doing his usual bleating about racism. I gotta say, if the Democratic Party is treating him so badly - and I for one would submit that it's no worse than how he's treated the Party - he's more than welcome to switch. For all intents and purposes, he's playing for the other team now anyway.

And speaking of the other team, I confess to finding a certain amount of amusement in this.

Justice of the Peace Russ Ridgway appears to have picked up another endorsement this week -- from his opponent.

That's the way it looked Friday from the street in front of a house leased by City Councilman Mark Goldberg, who is challenging Ridgway in Tuesday's Republican primary for Harris County JP Precinct 5 Place 1.

Right there in the front yard of the house in the 6100 block of Dumfries were two Ridgway campaign signs.

Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack, who backs Ridgway, admitted putting the signs in the yard Thursday to support his contention that Goldberg doesn't really live in the JP precinct as required by law.

Repeated attempts to reach Goldberg on Friday were unsuccessful.

"He's either for Ridgway or he doesn't live where he says he lives. Anybody can pretty much figure that out," Radack said.

Goldberg leased the house in December, right before he filed against Ridgway.

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I have to wonder why Marc Goldberg is taking on an established incumbent who clearly has the support of their party without having all of his ducks lined up first. Whatever he thinks he's doing, it sure doesn't look like to me like it's helping to enhance his future viability as a Republican candidate.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 06, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

I'm quite amazed with the amount of $XX.27 contributions for Alma Allen. Yay.

Posted by: Byron L on March 6, 2004 4:25 PM

I, too, regret that Soechting took sides in the Dist. 9 race. That said, in all fairness, while I admire Al Green for reasons apart from partisan politics, I heard his stump speech before Harris County Democrats, and it was undeniably racially divisive... something I haven't often heard from African American candidates in the Democratic Party. In short, his message was, "an African American deserves this seat," presented in almost those words. While I agree that African Americans deserve, on average, to hold high office in proportion to their numbers, I don't believe the argument "vote for me because I am Black, and Blacks deserve this seat" is a valid one. And it certainly isn't good for the party. While Green has every right to run in an open district, Bell is, in fact, an incumbent congressman... mine, in fact, for a few more months... and that counts for something. And despite the NAACP's reluctance to have Bell say it, Bell quite correctly notes that he has approximately a 90 percent positive voting record with the NAACP. While I no longer have a dog in this race, neither am I neutral about it. I wish I could support Green, based on all the good work he has done apart from politics, but given his racially oriented stump speech, I cannot.

On another topic, I was present for (and occasionally a minor participant in) a conversation between Garnet Coleman and an active rank-and-file Democrat this weekend after the Kerry event. Coleman noted that he is taking on Wilson (for the reasons all of us have expressed), but that he feels John Whitmire is getting a bye on his caving on reredistricting, and that someone should take on Whitmire as aggressively as he (Coleman) says he is taking on Wilson. I don't know. Garnet is sometimes, ah, over-energetic in his statements. But I have to agree with him: if the one (self-proclaimed) Dem is being lambasted for being in bed with R's, the other should be as well.

Posted by: Steve Bates on March 7, 2004 10:27 PM

Double standards abound this year. The interim (unelected) state chairman is taking sides in a contested primary for a new (read: open) congressional seat, because Al Green got a donation from a Republican who happens to be a lawyer and probably practices in his JP court. OK. But wasn't it Chris Bell who campaigned as a Republican when he was running for City Council and then for Mayor against an incumbent Democrat, Lee Brown - with Republican support (anybody remember the Jim Evans ad)?
Wasn't it Chris Bell who bragged about all the money he raised from Republicans and "Independents" 2 years ago after he made a backroom deal to beat Carrol?
Maybe I'm not seeing something here. If you don't like the fact that Judge Green is campaigning for black voters, who are the backbone of the Democratic party in Houston, fine. Vote your heart. But the double standard is getting to be entirely offensive. Maybe this doesn't apply to all the people here, but at least try to have a little understanding when folks get frustrated and feel the need for change.

Posted by: Gerald on March 8, 2004 5:12 PM

Is it not about time that this 2004 piece be removed from the computer, to be replaced by what is current?

Posted by: John Victery on October 10, 2006 2:58 PM