The Statesman has a good piece on how the Strayhorn independency may affect the gubernatorial race.
Although many analysts still see Perry as the favorite to win re-election, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's decision to challenge him as an independent instead of as a Republican changes what Perry must do to get there. Also having to revisit their playbooks are the field of Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination and writer/musician Kinky Friedman, who also hopes to make an independent bid.
"You'd have to say as of today (Perry) is still the favorite but a new dynamic was introduced," said Bruce Buchanan, who teaches government at the University of Texas. "The new dynamic is that Perry will have an opponent with relatively deep pockets and a relatively high profile for eight more months than he would have if Strayhorn had stayed in the Republican primary."
A candidate does not need a majority of the vote for victory.
"What somebody like Strayhorn has to do is capture all the independent vote, which is not much more than 15 or 20 percent, and then detach a significant number of Republicans and Democrats in order to get to a margin as great as the margin that Perry would get," Buchanan said.
Mike Baselice, a pollster who works for Perry, said the 2002 statewide elections indicate that about 50 percent of Texans are Republicans and 35 percent are Democrats.
"Give Strayhorn all the independent votes and give her 5 percent more from Republicans and Democrats, and she's up to 25 percent," Baselice said. "That's like the worst-case scenario for the Republican and Democrat and the best case for her. And what about Kinky Friedman getting some of the independent vote?"
In San Antonio, Strayhorn was joined by former Bexar County Republican Chairman Roy Barrera Jr., who was the GOP nominee for attorney general in 1986. Barrera said he is supporting Strayhorn over Perry because she is a friend and because Perry has failed the test of leadership as governor.
"I'm one Republican who does not want four more years of what we've had," Barrera said. "Texas is ready for a change."
Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, a Republican, joined Strayhorn at her Dallas event. Mayfield said Perry has failed the citizens of Texas on transportation and education issues.
Mayfield said a long campaign to the general election will allow Strayhorn to draw Perry into a real debate on issues rather than a contest of "just trying to out-Republican somebody."
Two major Strayhorn donors — trial lawyers Walter Umphrey of Beaumont and John Eddie Williams of Houston — applauded Strayhorn's decision to run as an independent.
They each contributed $100,000 to Strayhorn in June, and Williams said he gave another $100,000 last month. Each said he plans to give Strayhorn more. Texas law doesn't limit individual contributions to a candidate except for some restrictions in judicial races.
Plaintiffs' lawyers traditionally have been major contributors to Democratic candidates. Umphrey was a key financial backer of Democrat Ann Richards' successful gubernatorial race in 1990.
But they have been giving money to selected Republican candidates in recent years because of the Democrats' inability to win statewide races. No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994.
Another Strayhorn contributor, Tommy Whaley of Marshall, a former member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said he will continue to support her candidacy.
Austin criminal defense lawyer Roy Minton, a Democrat, said he also will continue to support Strayhorn. His law firm gave her $10,000 last year and $11,000 the year before.
"I've known Carole since I don't know how long. She's an old family friend. I've represented her through a divorce or two," he said.
Umphrey predicted Strayhorn's campaign will be adequately funded.
"She has quite a lot of money now she doesn't have to spend on a primary and can save for the general election," he said.
Back to the Statesman piece:
With Strayhorn and Friedman trying to play down partisan leanings, the election could hinge on whether Perry or the Democratic nominee can turn out more of their loyal party voters. Perry has a larger base to work with, but Democrats hope that advantage will be diminished because Strayhorn still calls herself a Republican.
Democratic consultant Ed Martin said Strayhorn could attract voters who have supported Republicans since President Bush was governor but do not have the same loyalty to Perry.
"In the long term, this schism in the Republican Party will benefit a rebuilding Democratic Party," Martin said. "In the short run, Strayhorn's candidacy could accelerate that trend in this governor's race. She's not pulling our loyal Democratic voters off of us."
Dems who would have voted for Kinky in a field of three, might vote for a Dem in a field of four under the premise of "hey, we could win this thing." (This provides a direct answer to Kinky's campaign slogan "Kinky, Why the Hell Not?").
Richard Murray, who teaches political science at the University of Houston, said he expects Strayhorn, Friedman and Bell (whom he expects to be the Democratic nominee) to all focus their attacks on Perry.
"Perry probably ignores Kinky Friedman but will have to make some decisions based on how the campaign is playing out as to whether the greater threat is Strayhorn or Chris Bell," he said.
What I've just suggested may of course be a stupid strategy for B/G to pursue. It appeals to me, sure, but Bell or Gammage will have to decide for themselves what the path to vote maximization is. The point is that with four candidates in the race, each one of them will have to recognize that some particular group which may have been theirs in a less-crowded field may now choose to go elsewhere because they have a choice. Whoever guesses right about which groups to go after and which ones to concede will be in the best position to win.
PerryVsWorld has his own take on the Strayhorn Effect. One quibble I do have is this:
Who is the Democrats' base? It's white liberals and African-Americans. Now, is the Democrats base solid? Quite possibly not. Like Kuffner, I see significant numbers of cars with Kinky Friedman and KerryEdwards bumper stickers. These aren't African-Americans. I always check the ethnicity of the driver, and it is invariably white, and it is invariably an expensive car.
If you're not analysis'ed out yet, Karl-T points to another thought piece by consultant Dean Rindy on behalf of the Bob Gammage campaign. It was done to advocate for Gammage, but I think you could substitute "Chris Bell" in therer as appropriate and reach the same conclusions. In any event, it raises a lot of similar points and sheds light on the December polling that led to all this.
Her poll confirms the theory that Friedman will fade away into single digits with Strayhorn in the race as an independent. She simply sucks the air out of Kinky’s message, hogs the media spotlight, steps on his story line, and makes it very difficult for him to attract significant numbers of Perot type conservatives. Kinky will have to go after Democrats, and a strong Democratic candidate will make that very difficult. On the issues Kinky is a bland centrist who doesn’t offer much to a progressive constituency.
OK, enough for now. If you think I sound too pessimistic, I'm not trying to be. I have always thought that the Governorship was winnable for the Democrats, and I certainly still think that today. A lot of things have to go right for that to happen, though, and just because the dynamic of the race has changed doesn't automatically mean that it has changed in the Democrats' favor. This may be a honeymoon period for Strayhorn, who's long been a media darling but who's been down on her luck lately due in part to circumstances beyond her control and in part to her own handling of her change in status, but I'm starting to think that my previous skepticism of her potential as an independent was overdone. Have I mentioned that I can't wait to see some polling in this race? Yes, I believe I have.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 04, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack