May 09, 2005
Fjetland's challenge

I had a chance to chat with Michael Fjetland (who's started a blog about his potential primary challenge to Tom DeLay) on Friday. He's an interesting guy, and I enjoyed the conversation. In talking about what Pete McCloskey has in mind, the basic deal is this - if Fjetland can raise a decent amount of seed money, about $50K or so, McCloskey's group will pony up $500K to help. They're apparently serious about challenging the DeLay wing of the Republican Party - they're supposedly looking at a couple more races (no word on which yet) with the same kind of deal for their chosen insurgent.

Fjetland's task, therefore, is pretty straightforward. If there is an undercurrent of resentment/fatigue/dissatisfaction/whatever with The Hammer, and if he can tap into it for some financial support, then he'll have the wherewithal to make a race out of it next March. It wasn't clear to me that there were any milestones or deadlines for him at this point, so I'll check in later on to see where things stand.

The logic of a primary challenge is simple enough - you don't need as many votes to win. If you believe, as Fjetland does, that it will be very hard to top the 110,000 votes Richard Morrison got in last year's general election, then the thought of aiming for 30,000 votes in a primary is appealing, especially in an open primary state where you can hope to woo independents and the odd Democrat or two. I'm trying to decide what level of turnout would be most favorable for someone like Fjetland. No matter how you define it, the number of disaffected DeLay supporters has to be limited, and that suggests that a lower volume might be better. On the other hand, it's certainly possible that a wide-open Governor's race featuring both Strayhorn and Hutchison might bring a bunch of non-traditional Republicans out to the ballot box, with those people being more likely to consider an alternative to DeLay. That's not something one can control, of course. Coming up with a strategy for this is going to be a bit risky.

One thing that struck me in our meeting was how much agreement the two of us appeared to be in on many issues - the budget deficit, spending on infrastructure, foreign policy, and more. Funny how some things that used to be Republican articles of faith are now firmly Democratic, isn't it? I can't help but think that anyone who'd push the button for Fjetland in March would be open to doing the same for Nick Lampson in November if Fjetland isn't his opponent. Just something to keep in mind.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 09, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Just so we'll know -- what was it he said about "the budget deficit, spending on infrastructure, [and] foreign policy?"

Posted by: kevin whited on May 9, 2005 3:02 PM

Bearing in mind that this was a chat over lunch and not an in-depth dissertation, we both expressed the view that the deficit is a huge and looming threat that's not getting the attention it warrants; that the US is at risk of losing a competitive edge in technology because there's not enough spending on R&D; and that North Korea getting nukes will probably be considered the biggest failure of the Bush Administration some day.

(Michael, if I'm remembering anything incorrectly, please feel free to set me straight.)

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 9, 2005 10:09 PM

It'll be interesting to see the turnout dynamics next year. Since the GOP is widely presumed to be the dominant party and there will probably be some bloody statewide primary battles, it could draw out more of the not-crazy Republicans than usual.

That said, primaries are dominated by ultraideologues and the hyperpartisan. Although beating DeLay in the primary would require fewer votes, it would probably require a bigger swing in the turnout dynamic, because, simply, you'd need a whole heck of a lot of independents and Democrats
crossing over to dilute the "ugly" base.

Posted by: Jim D on May 9, 2005 10:51 PM

I worked on Floy Evans' campaign against Terri Leo for SBOE 6. My observation there, any hint that someone has crossover appeal, and that fact will be used to rile the base. What happened to Floy was that she mentioned on her website that we have open primary in Texas and there were a few democrats working on the campaign, hm, okay, basically, they were school board people who knew Floy from her days on SBISD school board & not particularly partisan democrats, but, why let facts get in the way. It's a republican primary. Like a general election, only meaner. Anyway, Terri sent out an extremely deceptive direct mailer that said, "Floy Evans is soliciting democratic votes, do you really want the evil libr'ls to choose our Republican candidates?", among other half-truths.

Posted by: Sarah Berel-Harrop on May 10, 2005 10:21 PM

I really think DeLay's toast. He's got a big enough ego that he'll definitely run, unless he gets indicted (and may run even then), in which case a primary challenge is the GOP's only hope for holding the 22nd next year.

It looks like the GOP is where all the primary action will be next year, so I suspect there'll be a lot of Dems and indies who become temporary Republicans from primary day through runoff day in '06. (I may be one of them myself.) That's bad news for DeLay, Rick Perry, and their ilk, but good news for Texas.

Posted by: Mathwiz on May 12, 2005 5:11 PM