December 21, 2005
Have your people call my people

Is it just me, or does this seem more like blog fodder than a real news story?

A top aide to Republican gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn called Democratic candidate Chris Bell's wife last week and suggested that Bell drop out of the governor's race and instead run for comptroller.

Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said he told Alison Bell that "there would be support for him" if Chris Bell ran to succeed Strayhorn as comptroller. Sanders said that he and Alison Bell have known each other since they worked on a campaign together 15 years ago and that he wanted to advise his longtime friends that they could not win the governor's race.

Sanders said that the call was not prompted by Strayhorn or any campaign donors and that he was not trying to clear the Democratic field for Strayhorn to switch parties.

"I made this call to Alison on my own out of a sense of concern for them and their family," Sanders said. "And I did not make this call in reference in any way to the comptroller's gubernatorial campaign."

Chris Bell said that he will not run for comptroller and that there was no mention in his wife's conversation with Sanders of Strayhorn running as a Democrat.

He said, she said. I guess it's interesting if you like gossip, and if this is your kind of mill it's some decent grist, but it feels like junk food to me. I will give Jason Embry credit for this, though:

Sanders, who worked for 2002 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tony Sanchez, said he does not think that Bell can win the governor's race because the state so strongly favors Republicans. "A Democrat will not win in 2006," Sanders said.

Asked why the same logic did not apply to the comptroller's race, in which Republican Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs has been running for months, Sanders said he knew only that Bell could not win the governor's race.

Would somebody please hit Control-Alt-Delete on Mark Sanders? He's all locked up. Thanks.

Anyway. Eye on Williamson has a little fun with it, but the best response goes to Team Bell.

First and foremost, let me say emphatically and unequivocally that Chris is not going anywhere. Backroom maneuvering and wink-and-a-smile promises of “unnamed” financial support for a downballot run may get the chattering classes buzzing, but Chris has no interest at all in any race but this one. He’s running for governor because he’s fed up with Rick Perry’s Reign of Error and believes that our best chance to change the direction of our state is to start at the top. Chris is a fighter, and he’s not backing down one inch on this one.

Second, it’s worth noting that while One Tough Grandma was fearless enough to take on Rick Perry among Republican primary voters, she’s apparently frightened enough of Chris Bell’s strength among Democrats to want him out of the picture before considering a switch. It’s a little more validation that Chris’s optimistic New Mainstream message is resonating with Democrats across the state who are tired of Rick Perry’s failures and have no patience for candidates running as “Rick Perry lite.”

Third, it warrants mentioning that Strayhorn’s campaign, which has been floundering for months, appears increasingly desperate as we approach the Jan 2 filing deadline. Rick Perry’s continued low 40’s approval numbers are proof that there’s a clear majority out there ready to fire him next November, and its becoming just as clear that voters looking for an alternative to Perry need to start looking past Carole Strayhorn.

Ouch. Maybe CKS should be more concerned with the latest Astroturf effort than with what the Bell folks are up to. It's the race she's in, after all, even if it's not the race she's running.

And just because I loved his headline, I'm linking to Nate. A little snarkiness goes a long way, people.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 21, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

bell should run for lt. governor, he doesn't stand a chance against gammage when he was already struggling against that alvarado guy. get paul hobby, charles stenholm, max sandlin, jim turner and david bersen to run statewide, too. make the GOP lose sleep over the fact they redistricted some of those guys out of their seats.

Posted by: lonestar liberal on December 21, 2005 5:08 PM

Read tomorrow's San Antonio Express-News and then decide if this is blog fodder and not real news.

Posted by: d on December 21, 2005 8:27 PM

If I were Mark Sanders, I would have made sure the reporter mentioned that the Bells were former long time friends.

Turning a personal phone call into a political conspiracy is rather a stretch, don't you think?

Posted by: Baby Snooks on December 22, 2005 1:15 AM

Chris Bell may be only interested in running for governor now, but it was not always so. He seriously considered running for Attorney General before he made his decision. His chances are about the same in any statewide contest, but it's probably more fun running for governor.

Posted by: Dalicious on December 22, 2005 9:33 AM

Reading further down in the story... what's up with this?

"Bell spokesman Jason Stanford called Luis Saenz, Perry's campaign director, and told him about the Sanders call.

"Luis and I talk every once in awhile, trying to figure out what in God's name (Strayhorn) is going to do, and we've learned through observation that applying logic is an ineffective means of analyzing her," Stanford said. "He and I have a gentlemen's agreement to campaign aboveboard and do whatever we can to beat each other's boss."

Does anyone think it's odd that Bell's spokesman has Perry's campaign director on speed dial?

What's Jason Sanford doing.....?

Chris Bell needs a staff that's less friendly with Governor Goodhair's office and better at winning.

I've always thought Bell might be 'too nice' to go against the nasty machine that Perry puts together every 4 years. He hasn't made a dent in the polls in Texas (you'll never win with less than 25% of the vote). Now it seems that Bell's campaign staffer may be more interested in keeping the campaign 'friendly' with Perry than winning in 06.

Just who's side is Stanford on anyway? The worse thing you can do for 'your' candidate is to promote the notion (apparently to Perry's office, the press and the rest of the world) that anyone thinks YOUR candidate is weak that they should run for a much less high profile job. Sounds to me like he's not ready for prime-time.

P.S. Doesn't say much for Bell that he's okay with a hotline between his campaign manager and Perry's either

Posted by: Texas Dem 06 on December 22, 2005 2:13 PM

Texas Dem 06,

I'm here fighting like hell every day helping Chris Bell put together a campaign to beat Rick Perry and end his reign of error. And we must be doing something right, because 25% is better than where Tony Sanchez and Garry Mauro were at this time in their races. We have a long, long way to go, but let's not pretend that 25% now is 25% next year. Without one statewide ad, that's a solid beginning.

And the reason Strayhorn's guy tried to get Chris out of the race and not, say, any other Democrat is because precisely because he is the only strong candidate on the Democratic side. Republican Strayhorn is campaigning for Democratic votes in the Republican Primary, and we subscribe to the radical notion that perhaps a Democrat should represent Democrats, and maybe a strong Democrat at that. It's a symptom of the victim's mentality that would lead anyone to view these events as anything other than a sign that Chris Bell is running stronger among Democrats than Strayhorn would like.

Merry Christmas,

Posted by: Jason on December 22, 2005 2:39 PM

Dear Jason,

I'll remind you that both Sanchez and Mauro lost, and the way to win elections is not to play footsie with the opposition.

Since you've decided to post yourself (and that's a good thing), I'll ask.... what in the hell were you thinking?!

There's a difference between knowing 'someone on the other side' and actually sharing information. Can you imagine Chet Edwards' campaign manager last year picking up the phone to call Arlene Wohlmeguth's campaign about Dot Smith? Or Hubert Vo's campaign staff to call Talmadge Heflin about anything? or any Democrat (much less a campaign staffer) giving Tom Delay's office ANY information about an opponent.

I'm not so concerned with Strayhorn's guy calling Alison Bell, that's pretty par for the course when a candidate who's played musical chairs with their party affiliation finds themselves without a seat to sit in (or an office to campaign for). What the news story relates is that your reaction was to pick up the phone and call Perry's campaign director.

At what point did you decide that was a good idea? Not a particularly smart political move.

There is actually another way to look at all this. That Chris Bell's campaign was the only one who might take their phone call.

Posted by: Texas Dem 06 on December 22, 2005 3:57 PM

"And the reason Strayhorn's guy tried to get Chris out of the race and not, say, any other Democrat is because precisely because he is the only strong candidate on the Democratic side."

Obviously the point of all of this is merely to give the illusion that Chris Bell is the only strong candidate. Jason Stanford seems to want to forget that Gammage has officially filed. And has a political resume that Bell just simply cannot measure up to.

As for the "further revelation" in the San Antonio Express News that Mark Sanders also contacted a Republican county commissioner about Strayhorn "handpicking" a replacement, it is very interesting that Mark Sanders didn't confirm this phone call the way he confirmed the call to Alison Bell. First question is why Carole Strayhorn would care who succeeded her as comptroller. Second question is why she would care who won the Democratic primary. Third question is why anyone would believe that the mother of two very prominent Republicans in the Bush Administration would switch parties and run as a Democrat instead of hoping the family association with the White House might help her in the end?

As for Jason's contact with Perry's office being "good political strategy" I think some of the comments made already indicate that the implied alliance is anything but.

As for "Strayhorn's guy" even Chris Bell admitted he was a friend. I suspect emphasis on the was. I would imagine the phones at the Bell house may not ring as much after this.

It reminds some of the "Sylvester Turner conspiracy" in which Chris Bell claimed that Sylvester Turner was behind a cloak-and-dagger move to put another Bill White on the ballot. Never proven. Only intimated. Or perhaps insinuated is a better word.

"This guy calls and says he's Mark Sanders and that he works closely with Carole Strayhorn," Larson recalled."

But of course he doesn't know for sure that it was since he doesn't know him. It was just someone saying they were Mark Sanders.

Another mystery no doubt. Was it or wasn't it Mark Sanders? Always a mystery around Chris Bell. And usually a conspiracy. One of the first was the "anthrax letter" sent to Chris Bell while he was on Houston City Council. Did anyone ever determine who sent it? Or why anyone would have? Except that obviously he was so very, very important. Obviously he was. Someone sent him an "anthrax letter."

Obviously this is going to become a circus. So go buy your popcorn and remember not to sit too close to the dancing elephants.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on December 22, 2005 4:59 PM