January 03, 2006
Filing news: Coverage

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.

The Bell strategy right now appears to be to paint this race as being three Republicans and one Democrat, with the idea being that Perry, Strayhorn, and Friedman are chasing after the same voters while Bell just needs to consolidate the Democratic base. The Express News story runs with that quote:

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."

Before I address that, let me point out that someone ought to tell Dean Barkley about this youthful indiscretion on the Kinkster's part:

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."

Dean, meet Laura. Laura, this is Dean. Could y'all please get your stories straight and then get back to me? Thanks.

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."

Aiming for gains in the Lege makes a lot of sense, and it's certainly doable even though the Dems have a fair amount of defense to play there - by my count, 17 Dems won with less than 60% of the vote in State House races in 2004 (that includes the now-open Laney and Uresti seats), while only 12 Rs won with that small a margin (counting the open Joe Nixon seat among those, based on his vote total against an independent; Ray Allen and Todd Baxter also fall in this group). I've argued several times that 2004, with Bush at the top of the ticket and no statewide races of interest to go along with it, is more likely a high-water mark for the GOP than it is a new plateau, which if I'm right means that the danger level is lower on the D side and higher for the Rs. But I could be wrong; only November will tell. At the very least, the Dems have done a good job recruiting candidates, especially in the big urban counties where most of their pickup opportunities reside. Having a Juan Garcia on the ballot in Victoria is a bonus.

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.

Mando, look on the bright side: She could have filed as a Republican. At least this way it'll be over in March.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 03, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

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.

I'm with you, Kuff. As much as Democrats would like to believe this lineup will split the GOP, while leaving the entire Democratic vote behind Bell or Gammage, the way I see it is a little more complicated:

  • Perry has the wingnuts, er, "conservative Republicans;"

  • CKS has the conservatives, er, "moderate Republicans;"

  • Kinky will have the libertarian-oriented voters, who split between D's and R's if they vote at all; and

  • Bell or Gammage will have the Democratic base.

But you also have to factor in the "natural" Kinky or CKS supporters who won't vote for them because they "can't win."

With this lineup, it's impossible to predict what'll happen. It may well help the Democratic candidate, but it's hardly a slam-dunk.

Posted by: Mathwiz on January 3, 2006 2:41 PM

It is of my belief that if the proposed Bell Strategy is run correctly; then the Democrat would win the election in November.

However, as has been pointed out; it is not as easy of a task as Mr. Stanford made it seem. Many Democrats who do not keep up with politics constantly as most readers of this blog do will have at least one of a few problems, as I forsee it, in voting Democrat in the 2006 elections for governor:
1. The Democrats have not been able to win in the past, so why would they be able to win now? What makes them so special?
However, I think dispelling this belief will not be too hard of a task... But this could belief could cause one of the following sub-beliefs:
1a. My Republican friends are voting for Ms. Strayhorn. While I do not agree with many of Ms. Strayhorn, she is a Republican who is better than Perry, and Republicans have the better chance of winning the elections.
1b. My Republican friends are voting for Kinky. He must stand a decent chance of beating a Republican if he is pulling Republican votes.

Once beliefs get into 1a or 1b, they might be a bit harder to dispell. Then, of course, belief 1b could be supported by belief #2:

2. Kinky Friedman is cool; and is trying to solve some of the problems I see in the state. I'm voting for him. (hidden assumption: Friedman has liberal beliefs)
This belief will be hard to dispell. While Friedman is not a progressive, many Democrats DO like him. It seems he is easily more charismatic than Bell, and probably more so than Gammage as well (though I have never heard Mr. Gammage speak; it is just a guess - correct me if I am wrong).

Usually beliefs 1b or 2 alone will possibly come back to the Democratic side. Sometimes, however, it won't be that way. However, when beliefs 1b and 2 are combined; it will be a force to be reckoned with.

Posted by: Michael Hurta on January 3, 2006 4:41 PM