December 20, 2005
Filing news: Armbrister to retire

Democratic State Senator Ken Armbrister has announced that he will not run for reelection.

"After 38 years of public service, it's time for new challenges," said Armbrister, in a news release issued late Monday afternoon.

The senator said he has made no decisions on future plans, other than finishing his term, which ends January 2007.

Armbrister, a Democrat, was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1983. Victoria-area voters sent him on to the Senate in 1986.

Rumors began circulating last month that Armbrister would not seek another term and the 58-year-old lawmaker said he would talk with family members over the holidays and make a decision.

"He's now made his decision," said Mike Sizemore, the senator's press secretary, said Monday.

Chris Elam called this correctly a few weeks ago, and he's got the story link today. As I said before, this is a district that's very likely to flip now that Armbrister is leaving, and it's likely to stay that way for awhile. This isn't that great a loss for the Dems - Armbrister voted for the DeLay re-redistricting scheme, after all - but it is a loss, with the magnitude depending on who replaces him.

On the other hand, it's not a guaranteed loss for the Dems, assuming a strong candidate steps forward. According to Bob Dunn, there may be such a person:

Democrats apparently are urging Texas District 17 Rep. Robby Cook, D-Eagle Lake, to run for Armbrister’s seat. Cook is a former Eagle Lake mayor with close to a decade’s experience serving in the state House. He couldn’t be reached by phone late Friday afternoon and didn’t return an email asking if he’ll accept the challenge.

That's sort of good news/bad news. A Cook candidacy would likely give the Dems their best shot at retaining SD18, but it would also open up a moderately red House seat, which would make it that much tougher to make a gain in that chamber. HD17 isn't quite as red as I'd first thought - I make it to be 56/44, or 54/46 if you subtract the Presidential race - but Cook was the only Dem to carry it, and he won by a fairly modest 55-45 tally last year. I'd bet on both these seats flipping if Cook tries to move up before I'd bet on both of them staying Democratic.

It's more than a bit unfortunate that Armbrister waited this long to make an announcement, as perhaps there may have been candidates ready to go for this seat and whatever else may have become available. Perhaps if Armbrister is generous with his $1.2 million campaign warchest, which both Dunn and Elam alluded to, that could salve things a bit.

Oh, and since I've gotten a request to supply some geographical information with these district-number designations:

As senator from District 18, Armbrister represents the counties of Victoria, Goliad, Refugio, DeWitt, Lavaca, Jackson, Calhoun, Gonzales, Matagorda, Wharton, Aransas, Colorado, Fayette, Caldwell, Bastrop, Washington, Austin, Waller and a portion of Fort Bend.

In other State Senate news, CapInside has an interesting story about the SD7 race in Harris County and the big advantage Dan Patrick has had by using his radio talk station and talk show to promote himself.

As an unofficial candidate for an open U.S. Senate seat for the past three months, Patrick has enjoyed a major built-in advantage with the ability to effectively advertise his bid for office at no cost to his campaign while turning his radio show into a stump speech that he's taken out on the trail for live remote broadcasts in the past few weeks. If the poll numbers he released Monday are within the margin of error or anywhere near it, it would be fair to say that the advantage he's had a popular talk show host at a station he co-owns has been huge.

Beginning next week, however, the other three candidates in the race to replace Republican State Senator Jon Lindsay should be able to expect the playing field to level somewhat when the talk show host is forced by Federal Communications Commission regulations to sign off the air with his regular program until the campaign is over once he files as an official Senate candidate the day after his last remote broadcast from a local restaurant on December 28.

But there's a catch. While FCC rules will keep Patrick's live talk show off the air as long as he's a candidate, they won't stop his station from allowing that same amount of airtime or more to be devoted to paid campaign advertising that he can accept on an unlimited basis as an in-kind contribution from his own business between the day he submits his application for a place on the ballot until the race is over at some point next year.

Pretty sweet deal, huh? Greg has the poll numbers. Celebrity does have its advantages.

Staying in Harris County, Lanier Middle School debate coach Jim Henley will file his papers for CD07 tomorrow. From the press release:

To All Lanier Debaters,Come on out and watch history being made! Mr. Henley will made his campaign for Congress official when he files for office Wednesday, December 21, at 11 AM. The filing will take place at The Harris County Democratic Headquarters, 1445 North Loop, Suite 110 (just East of the IBFW builing)There is a map link at After the filing, which should take only a few minutes, we will head for lunch at the near by Cadillac Restuarant. There will be pictures and press, come and show your support!

I've not yet heard about the filing status of Henley's Democratic primary opponent, David Murff.

Finally, Kristi Thibault has officially entered the race to replace Moldy Joe Nixon in Harris County's HD133. From her press release:

Kristi Thibaut, a non-profit and political fundraiser, will file paperwork today for election to the Texas State House of Representatives District 133. Thibaut, a former legislative and Congressional campaign staffer, will run as a Democrat in the March 2006 primary.

"I am running to return common sense to the State Capitol", Thibaut said. "In session after session over the last several years, the folks running the show in Austin have talked a big game, but just haven't delivered for the people of Texas. The public school finance system is broken, more and more children do not have access to basic healthcare, and our property taxes are skyrocketing. It's time for a change. The people of District 133 deserve a strong, independent voice in Austin, and that's exactly what I'll be."

Thibaut (pronounced THEE-bout), is a native of Bay City and a graduate of the University of Texas-Austin. She has worked as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association, and as executive director of the Texas Youth Hunting Association, a program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Thibaut also worked as an aide to former State Representative Judy Hawley, and for former Congressman Greg Laughlin's campaign. Her most recent political work has been for Houston City Council Member Ronald Green.

House District 133 is an open seat in west Houston being vacated by Joe Nixon, who is leaving to run to replace retiring State Senator Jon Lindsay. Three Republicans have announced they will run to replace Nixon, and to date, Thibaut is the only Democrat who has filed. The district, once considered solidly Republican, is rapidly becoming politically competitive, much like neighboring District 149, which elected Hubert Vo in an upset in 2004.

Thibaut, age 41, and her husband Mark, an oil and gas professional, live in the Briargrove Park neighborhood of the district.

I'm told the website will be up soon. Stay tuned for more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 20, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack