I'm not going to dwell too much on the Strayhorn goes independent story, since I think by now we're all a little tired of it. The one thing I'll comment on is this:
The two top Democrats in the race — Chris Bell and Bob Gammage — praised Strayhorn's decision as a positive step for Texas and their own campaigns.
"The current Republican leadership has turned its back on the needs of our families and children," said Gammage. "Strayhorn's defection is just the beginning of an exodus of thinking and caring Republicans from the ranks of a badly served GOP."
Bell spokesman Jason Stanford said having two independents in the race against Perry will help a Democrat like Bell.
"All Chris Bell has to do to win is get Democrats to vote for a Democrat," Stanford said.
Bell spokesman Jason Stanford said the possibility of a four-way general election arguably works in his candidate's favor.
Noting that Friedman ran as a Republican for justice of the peace in Kerr County in 1986, Stanford said, "If the race comes down to three Republicans and one Democrat, all Chris Bell has to do to win is get Democrats to vote for a Democrat."
Friedman spokeswoman Laura Stromberg said Friedman ran in 1986 as a Republican because Kerr County is so heavily GOP. She said Friedman "has ideas that span both parties."
Mr. Friedman's campaign director, Dean Barkley, said it would be up to voters to decide who is the true independent: "Kinky Friedman, who has never been a Democrat or a Republican, or Carole, who has been both."
Perry and The Jeffersonian are thinking along the 3-R-and-one-D lines, while Jack thinks Bell needs to be more visible for it to work. I believe this strategy could work, and maybe Perry's math is sound, but as long as I'm seeing cars with both Kerry/Edwards and "Why the hell not?" bumper stickers on them, I'm not going to take the Democratic base vote for granted. We'll know more when we start seeing poll numbers, but I'm not all that much more sanguine about this race than I was before. Perry's poor popularity makes this race winnable, but there are many hurdles to be jumped first.
Enough of that. The Morning News has a good story on the bottom-up game plan that the state Democrats are generally pursuing.
Outgunned at the top, Democrats are trying to revamp the party from the bottom up. Officials are focusing on state House races and developing ways to raise more money for the legislative campaigns this season.
"Democrats are working from the ground up to earn voters' trust, and we recognize the importance of local and state legislative offices," party Chairman Charles Soechting said Monday. "Democrats have a number of first-rate candidates in a number of state House districts, and we feel good about our opportunity to gain seats."
Republicans control all statewide offices, both the state Senate and House, and the congressional delegation. Analysts say Democrats are in for a long period out of power, though some Democrats hope to be back in mix before the Legislature's next regularly scheduled redraw of state and congressional districts in 2010.
"They have an uphill climb," said Andy Hernandez, a political scientist at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. "They are building for the future. They are developing a farm club, and one day their players will move up to the majors."
For some leading Democrats, rebuilding the party's infrastructure has a higher priority than trying to lure formidable candidates onto the ballot this time.
Dallas lawyer Fred Baron, a national fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and John Edwards, has developed a political action committee, the Texas Democratic Trust.
The group already has paid to bolster the state party leadership by hiring about 20 staffers, including an executive director, communications director and field workers.
Mr. Baron said the effort could result in up to $3 million being spent to rebuild the party.
"It's an exercise in re-creating a vibrant, relevant Texas Democratic Party," he said. "It's not going to happen in a year, but Texas is beginning to become a very different state."
Other Democrats agree. "There is a real opportunity for Democrats at the state House level," said former congressional aide Matt Angle, who is helping in the rebuilding. "It must be if we're going to have a two-party system in Texas."
Here's the Chron's list of Harris County candidates. It's not quite complete - the info comes from the county party websites, so independents like Steve Stockman are omitted, plus there are still some oversights on the county party pages; Jim Sharp is running again as a Democrat for First Court of Appeals, Place Nine, for example. It's a pretty good list, though, so check it out.
Finally, make of this what you will.
Democratic state Rep. Armando "Mando" Martinez, a 13-year incumbent from Weslaco, faces a primary challenge from his wife, Jessica Reyes-Martinez. The District 39 seat covers part of Hidalgo County.
Reyes-Martinez, 28, filed as a candidate in the March 7 primary only 30 minutes before the Monday deadline, The Monitor reported in its Tuesday edition. She's making her first bid for public office and is now a homemaker.
"I'm actually running for office, not against him," Reyes-Martinez told the McAllen newspaper. "It just happens he's in office right now."
The two live in separate houses in Weslaco, and did not speak with one another after making short speeches at the Hidalgo County Democratic Party kick-off on Monday night.