July 25, 2004
Not much Texas in Boston

Not too surprisingly, the Democratic Convention won't be featuring too many Texans.

While the delegation includes political activists and elected officials well known in their parts of the state, there are no delegates who are recognized names statewide, such as Ann Richards or Lloyd Bentsen.

And the state's most senior elected Democrat -- U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas -- is skipping the convention to attend his daughter's wedding in New Mexico.


Dallas trial lawyer Fred Baron, who is not a delegate, is a national finance vice-chairman for the campaign of Kerry and vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

And in the national Democratic battle cry of "Recount, recall and redistricting," Texas plays a pivotal role.

Recount refers to the 2000 presidential election recount, recall to the recall election of California Gov. Gray Davis and redistricting to the Republican plan to take control of the Texas congressional delegation by using three bitter special legislative sessions last year to redraw the state's congressional district boundaries.

"We've actually been brought to the center stage in a lot of ways," said Texas Democratic Chairman Charles Soechting, who heads the state's convention delegation. "There's a lot more enthusiasm than people expect. It's a mistake to write off Texas for November."

Democratic National Committeewoman Sue Lovell of Houston said Texas' prime purpose for the national ticket will be to provide funding for the campaign.

"They'll come in here with their bags, fill them up with money and take them out," Lovell said.

But for the party activists who attend the convention in Boston, she said, it will energize them to work in local races that Democrats can win, such as Beaumont U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson's fight for a congressional district against Republican Ted Poe of Houston.

"If you can't win on the national ticket, you can be inspired to be involved and win locally," Lovell said.

Democratic National Committeewoman Blanch Darley of El Paso said Kerry's campaign is trying to organize Texans to work in Las Cruces, N.M., to help get out the vote in that swing state.Darley said Democrats are fired up in the belief they can beat Bush nationally.

"A lot of people will be looking at us feeling sorry for us because we might get him (Bush) back," Darley said.

Democratic National Committeeman Ed Miller of Texarkana said Texas delegates along the border of Arkansas and Louisiana can go to the national convention to prepare themselves for work in the neighboring swing states.

Miller said whether a delegate is from Texas or a swing state, there really is not much work to be done at a national convention any more.

"Going to a national convention now is more like going to one of these television shows where they hold up the applause sign," Miller said. "It's more of a pep rally and a staged television event."

I don't think they'll have to do too much to get the faithful fired up. The more important task is getting the casual folks to check them out and be impressed.

The Morning News had reported previously that most of the redistricted Congress members will not be in attendance.

Mr. Frost calls it an accident of timing. His daughter Mariel is getting married in Santa Fe, N.M., a week from Sunday, and he'll be spending much of the week there after a few days of campaigning in Dallas.

"It's a big family occasion," Mr. Frost said, adding that his daughter picked the date months ago without checking on the convention. "You can't go every time. I'm supporting Kerry and Edwards. I think it's a great ticket."

Members of Congress are automatically convention delegates, and 10 of 16 Texas Democrats plan to attend.

Reps. Max Sandlin of Marshall, Nick Lampson of Beaumont and Chet Edwards of Waco all targets of redistricting decided to campaign instead. So did Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, who survived a tough primary in a district designed to favor a Hispanic and likely to stay Democratic.

The final redistricting target, 13-term Rep. Charlie Stenholm of Abilene, is being honored at an agriculture dinner Tuesday night in Boston, so he'll spend the day at the convention and the rest of the week stumping in West Texas. His opponent is freshman Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock.

"Since I'm being honored, I felt I ought to be there," Mr. Stenholm said


The only other Texas Democrat skipping the convention is Rep. Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi, who will be greeting Chinese businessmen exploring investment opportunities in his hometown.

Three early casualties of redistricting will play prominent roles at the convention:

Rep. Jim Turner of Crockett, top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, will speak on the main stage Monday night, just before the broadcast TV networks plan to start live coverage.

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio has several public appearances as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. But he's almost certainly on his way out of the House, after losing court appeals on a contentious Democratic primary recount.

Freshman Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, who has an ethics complaint pending against redistricting mastermind House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land, is sponsoring the Texas delegation breakfast Tuesday. And the national party wants him to spend an hour or more each day on talk radio. Mr. Bell lost his primary to a former NAACP leader, Al Green, in a district drawn to favor black candidates.

Keep an eye on Jim Turner. If he really plans on a statewide run in 2006, he probably wouldn't take a job in a Kerry administration, but I'll bet he'd turn up on a high-profile appointed committee to study how to implement recommendations from the 9/11 panel.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 25, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack