December 12, 2004
Hutchison gets testy

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison lashes out against big campaign contributions after being asked by Governor Perry supporters not to challenge him in 2006.

"We didn't expect that reaction," El Paso businessman Ted Houghton said. "That's when the meeting fell apart, unfortunately. Our point was, we like what we have for El Paso and we like what we have for the state of Texas.

"We're not going to get into a (shouting) contest with her, but it fell all apart," Houghton said. "We did not expect that."

After word of Hutchison's comments in the private luncheon began circulating, her spokesman confirmed that the senator condemned the role of large donations in the Texas political system.

"Senator Hutchison is appalled that people are being strong-armed, feel they have to hand over huge contributions in order to be heard in the state's political process," spokesman Dave Beckwith said Friday. "What she's been hearing around the state is encouragement -- to provide the leadership to clean up that system."

That statement -- perhaps the harshest yet from the Hutchison camp as she considers a 2006 Republican primary showdown with Perry -- brought a swift response from the governor's campaign.

"Others can deal in the Washington-style politics of personal destruction and blind ambition to do what is best for themselves, but Governor Perry will continue to be a strong, ethical and effective leader for El Paso and Texas as a whole," said Luis Saenz, Perry's campaign director.


El Paso businessman Woody Hunt said he reminded the senator that El Paso had not fully participated in state politics in the past and has long been neglected. He and others decided to open up their checkbooks and become players.

"We need to be better connected to the state. We need to be able to have access. We need to be able to communicate," said Hunt, who's donated almost $200,000 to Perry in the past four years, campaign finance records show. "And we endeavored to do that, and we thought we were succeeding."

He and others told Hutchison that she and Perry are both doing good jobs for El Paso.


"It was obvious by the way she was inching up in her seat that she was fixing to let everybody have it," one of the business leaders said. He did not want to be identified because he has supported both Perry and Hutchison and doesn't want to stay in the crossfire.

"She did lambaste the idea of large contributions of the nature that we had been encouraged to make. She said she would never be a party to that," he said.


Houghton, Hunt and others fear that a bruising primary battle between Perry and Hutchison would turn incendiary and threaten the Texas Republican Party.

"We don't want to go through a process where the Republican Party devours itself in internal conflict, which, in this case, is unnecessary," Hunt said. "We have two people doing a very good job where they are.

I'm tingling all over at the very prospect. The only way it could be better would be if more candidates, especially Comptroller Strayhorn, joined in.

Now, of course, KBH isn't exactly pure here. She's got six million bucks in her Senatorial campaign war chest, and she didn't get that by holding bake sales. She also stands to be a big beneficiary of a proposed change to campaign laws which would allow her to use that money in the gubernatorial race. I know she'd say there's no need for her to disarm unilaterally, but one does have to start somewhere.

Anyway. It's a little sick to be this excited about an election matchup in 2006 that isn't even a sure thing yet, but hey. We all need something to look forward to.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2004 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

According to word on the street, what went unreported in this story is the Hutchison also threatened the fat cats with witholding federal funding for El Paso projects. If true, it sounds like she is ready to give Rick a run for his money in the corrupt abuse of power category, too.

Posted by: Gus Rinaldini on December 13, 2004 11:27 AM