Any casual glance at polling data would have suggested that this would be Carole Keeton Strayhorn's strategy for winning the Governorship.
The call came from a listener telling Carole Keeton Strayhorn he'd eagerly vote for her for governor in November 2006.
Strayhorn shot back Tuesday on Austin radio station KVET-FM: "November is great, but first I need you to vote on March 7. I want Republicans, Democrats, independents. All are welcome," Strayhorn said.
"And bring all your friends with you."
Strayhorn, the Republican state comptroller who is challenging GOP Gov. Rick Perry, has made few campaign forays since announcing her candidacy June 18, a tack that her office attributes to lawmakers remaining in special session to deal with school finance and tax issues.
But the former Austin mayor is well along in testing an unusual message: The March Republican primary is voters' only real chance to choose the next governor.
Her pitch asks voters to assume that the Democratic nominee will not prove to be a serious fall contender. Neither of the only announced Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston and educator Felix Alvarado of Fort Worth, has run statewide. And no Democrat has won statewide since 1994.
It's not like Strayhorn has many options, of course. Given the lengths the State GOP went through to keep KBH out of the Governor's race, CKS can count on one hand the number of endorsements she's likely to get, and she'll have fingers to spare. Her policy positions, from toll roads to CHIP to gambling, are generally at odds with standard GOP dogma. What else is she gonna do?
Perry's pollster, Mike Baselice, hailed Strayhorn's crossover message as helping Perry.
"As soon as I hear my opponent is relying on the nontraditional vote, I am dancing in the streets," Baselice said. "Their interest (in voting) isn't there. And the Republican primary electorate is more establish- ment-oriented, more likely to stay with who they know. All she's done is stir up the pot."
Baselice said Perry polls favorably against Strayhorn among the 1.5 million Texans who have voted in at least one of the four most recent GOP primaries, so Strayhorn has little choice but to glean support elsewhere.
"Waste those resources," he said. "Go. Do it. I wouldn't be surprised if she turns tail and runs as a Democrat."
(If she wants to consider an endorsement of the eventual Democratic candidate after she loses, then we can talk. Till then, she's made her bed.)
The story is not without its moment of high comedy:
Jeff Fisher, executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, said Republicans represent mainstream values. He accused Strayhorn of "courting liberals," which he said the party will monitor and combat. Perry's campaign has stressed that Strayhorn is drawing contributions from trial lawyers traditionally aligned with Democrats.
"It's one thing when a candidate tries to invite like-minded conservative Democrats and independents to make a lasting commitment to the Republican Party," Fisher said. "It's quite another to encourage liberals to vote in the primary like a one-night stand."
In a letter sent today to members of the State Republican Executive Committee, Strayhorn’s campaign manager, her son Brad, states he called Fisher and demanded he apologize for the “inappropriate and degrading comment.”
“I am sure that, as a member of our State Republican Executive Committee, you do not condone the use of such offensive language. Mr. Fisher would certainly be forced to apologize had he made a similar comment about” Gov. Rick Perry, the Republican being challenged by Strayhorn.
Bill Crocker of Austin, one of the state’s two members of the Republican National Committee, laughed upon hearing Fisher’s comment, adding he sees no reason to say sorry. Denise McNamara of Dallas, the other committee member from Texas, declined immediate comment.
Crocker, a Perry supporter, said: “I’m not offended by the analogy.”