June 18, 2005
My take on the Perry-Strayhorn matchup

Now that Carole Keeton Strayhorn has confirmed what we thought we knew when we first heard about today's hotdog social, it's time to think about the dynamics of a GOP primary matchup between Strayhorn and Rick Perry, instead of a KBH-Perry or three-way battle.

My first thought is that this development is good for the Democrats, at least in this race. I say that because I believe a Strayhorn-Perry primary will be different than a KBH-Perry primary. If the race were between Hutchison and Perry, it would be about who's the bigger, badder Republican, since there's so little to distinguish them from a policy perspective. We've already seen a preview of what it would have been like with the who loves Hillary more? silliness. Democrats certainly had hopes that Hutchison would land some blows on Perry in this fashion, and that the nine-month panderfest to the far right wing of the Republican Party would turn people off. Some of that would surely have happened, but I think a lot of people would have tuned it out. By the time the general rolled around, I think for many it would have been just another distant memory of another forgettable negative campaign.

Strayhorn won't run that kind of campaign. She has specific points of disagreement with Perry, on items ranging from cigarette taxes to the Trans Texas Corridor to slot machines to CHIP funding. Where I believe KBH would have tried to draw distinctions in personality and style between herself and Perry, Strayhorn is going to argue for doing things differently. She's doing it already.


"You know that Texans cannot afford another four years of a governor who promises tax relief and delivers nothing," she said.

"Now is time to replace this do-nothing drugstore cowboy with one tough grandma," Strayhorn told a cheering crowd.

Strayhorn specifically criticized Perry for his decision today to veto the state's $35 billion education budget and call a new special session without having a plan on how to overhaul public school finance.

"A leader does not call a fifth special session costing taxpayers another $1.5 million dollars when he does not have a plan," she said. "A leader does not hold our children's education hostage and certainly would never even allow a discussion about schools not opening on time."

Strayhorn offered two specific suggestions on what she would do as governor. One is to pass her proposed program to pay for two years of college for every high school graduate. And the other is to legalize video lottery terminals with the revenue going to pay for a teacher pay raise.


Now, I don't think much of what she's proposing actually resonates with GOP primary voters. Gambling in particular is a no-no in the GOP platform, which is why Perry eventually flipflopped on the issue after championing it in 2004. Just about everything else mentioned here and elsewhere involves higher taxes (okay, on cigarettes) and more spending. How do you think that's going to go over with the masses?

What this just might be, however, is a decent strategy for winning a general election for Governor. More to the point, there's a lot of overlap (CHIP funding and TTC issues especially) between what CKS will be advocating and what Chris Bell already is talking about. Strayhorn's criticisms will amplify what Bell (or perhaps John Sharp) is saying. Since this race will get a lot more attention over the next nine months than anything else, that will be a boon to the Democrats when the focus shifts to include them, because what they'll be saying is stuff people have already heard. And maybe, just maybe, it'll sound as good coming from a Democratic mouth to those who voted for Strayhorn as it does now coming from hers.

It certainly doesn't have to play out this way. Perry will want to run the same kind of Republican-credentials campaign against CKS as he would have against KBH, and he may very well set the tone of the race, forcing her to respond more than attack. Similarly, there may be a divisive Democratic primary in which attention is not focused on the shortcomings of Rick Perry. There are probably other scenarios which don't go according to plan as well. But this could happen, and if it does, I at least will feel good about Democrats' chances from there.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 18, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack
Comments

After this last session, Perry is vulnerable to a challenge by someone who is to his right on taxes/spending but who is not a "progressive" on social issues.

Strayhorn might have had a chance running as a Democrat, but I don't think Chris Bell does. His constituency is going to force him into the 30-40% position on social issues (like gay marriage), and just saying "Rick Perry is an extremist!" on those issues isn't going to move him beyond 30-40% on them. Proposing more spending when Perry is vulnerable on the property tax issue also seems to play right into Perry's strategy. Howard Dean's supporters may embrace the 40% strategy, but it's hard to win elections that way.

So I'm still not clear how Bell wins, other than hoping CKS produces photos of Perry molesting little boys or some such -- in which case, CKS wins and Bell is still out of luck.

Posted by: kevin whited on June 19, 2005 8:24 AM

Strayhorn might have had a chance running as a Democrat, but I don't think Chris Bell does. His constituency is going to force him into the 30-40% position on social issues (like gay marriage), and just saying "Rick Perry is an extremist!" on those issues isn't going to move him beyond 30-40% on them. Proposing more spending when Perry is vulnerable on the property tax issue also seems to play right into Perry's strategy. Howard Dean's supporters may embrace the 40% strategy, but it's hard to win elections that way.

See, that's the beauty of his battle against Tom DeLay. Bell already has cachet with the progressives, so he's free to run more to the center. Look at what he's actually been saying and you'll see what I mean.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on June 19, 2005 9:10 AM

KBH really blew it, she had a chance to shake things up and open up a host of offices where we have some people who need to be moving on.

She also had a chance to open the door on the possibility of Texas' first hispanic US senator.

As there is no viable state democratic party, cleaning house has to be done from within the gop and Strayhorn doesn't have KBH's immense popularity. She will have a rough time of it.

As for KBH, the gop primary and the general election were hers for the asking.

And of course now she totally lacks any credibilty as a critic of the governor. Watch what happens next time she opens her mouth to criticize what's going on in Austin.

Posted by: ttyler5 on June 20, 2005 11:49 AM

I'd like to send one tough grandma back to the Railroad Commission, frankly.

Posted by: Texas T-bone on June 21, 2005 2:36 PM