June 09, 2005
Is Sharp jumping in?

I'm a little late on the draw with this, but it's been a weird week for me. In the Pink and PinkDome both report on the rumor that two-time near-miss Lt. Gov. candidate John Sharp is about to throw his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination for Governor.

I have a lot of respect for John Sharp. But for less than 70,000 votes and a couple million of James Leininger's dollars, he could have beaten Rick Perry in 1998, which among other things would likely have averted the re-redistricting fiasco of 2003. He had the strongest Democratic showing statewide in 2002. I've no doubt he'd be able to raise money and make a good run against Perry this time around. But like Greg, I don't feel that Sharp is the right person at this time.

I believe that in order to win in 2006, a Democrat will have to excite the base (which is something we really haven't had since what, 1994?) while still being able to reach out to folks who haven't been voting Democratic lately. Sharp has proven in the past that he can do the latter, but I don't believe he'll be able to do the former. I don't think he's oppositional enough to say something like "We need to do things differently because what this group and this Governor are doing now just plain doesn't work". Maybe I'm wrong, but I've never seen that as Sharp's style.

It still remains to be seen how well Chris Bell can do these things, of course. He's gotten some good traction among the faithful so far, and like Greg I think he's got the right message and the right resume for it. I feel pretty good about his chances to reach those he's reaching out to.

There's another factor to be considered, which is the Kinky Friedman effect. I've written that I think Kinky will draw more from Perry supporters than from Bell supporters. I'm far less certain that this will be true in a Perry-Sharp matchup, and that gets back again to my doubts about Sharp's ability to fire up the base. I think a nontrivial number of Democrats will see Sharp as the same old (losing) stuff, and will find solace in voting for Friedman on the grounds that at least he's forceful about criticizing Rick Perry.

Again, I could be wrong about Sharp. He could surprise me. Losing can have a tonic effect on candidates. I don't really expect that to be the case here, though.

As long as we're speculating here, Gardner Selby (via PinkDome) tosses out a couple of names in addition to Sharp's: former Austin Mayor and candidate for Attorney General in 2002 Kirk Watson, and former State Senator Ted Lyon. As with the Republican side of the equation, I expect to see a lot more action here once KBH officially tells us what we're pretty sure we already know.

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

Anyone who thinks Sharp will get into this race and NOT draw a very "sharp" contrast with Perry hasn't talked to Sharp lately.

I have, and he is fed up with these extremists lining their own pockets and letting our schools go bankrupt and our children go without health care while taxpayers are asked to dig deeper and deeper into their pockets.

Sharp has the respect of the business community, the education community, the medical community, the environmental community, and ordinary folks across the political spectrum.

If Democrats insist on a nominee that toes to the left, they will lose. And so will our schools, our children without health care, and our taxpayers.

Posted by: Oh, Sarah! on June 9, 2005 4:03 PM

I agree that Sharp's entry in the governor's race would be great news for Democrats. He could help carry the entire ticket and a number of state senate and state house seats with him. The hip crowd that thinks it needs a "new" face (or heaven forbid some novelty candidate like Kinky Friedman) ought to stop and think about the stakes in this election.

Posted by: Marty Jackson on June 9, 2005 9:45 PM

Having seen Bell speak on several occasions I believe he is good man with good intentions...

However I believe that he comes accross as stilted and wimpy. I am not saying that he is weak, I am saying that his presentation and demeanor is easily misinterpreted as weak. This unfortunately is not something that can be changed by "spin" or campaign strategy. I hope that I am wrong about Bell, and that he is a viable canidate.

I will say that his "exploratory" effort is very organized and becuase of that he may well be the nominee.

Chris Bell is good guy, but he is not the right guy to run for governor in my opinion.

Posted by: concerned on June 9, 2005 11:13 PM

The powers that be, in both parties, are vastly underestimating the anger and frustration felt by the "silent majority." All the white middle class folks that I know, from both parties, are angry and frustrated with both parties. Kinky has a very good chance of connecting with this group.

Bell is just another middle of the road guy without the courage or vision to make a difference.

All the GOPers are seen as extremists who are no longer true to their conservative ideals.

Posted by: Jost on June 10, 2005 1:09 PM