May 20, 2008
Bell for SD17?

Clay Robison mentions a possibility for the Dems in SD17.

Democrat Chris Bell, who lost a race for governor two years ago, is being encouraged by some Democrats to run for the District 17 state Senate seat soon to be vacated by Republican Kyle Janek. He says he is thinking about it.

A recent poll commissioned by Texans for Insurance Reform, a trial lawyer-backed PAC, indicates the Houston-area district has become more Democratic.

According to the survey by Opinion Analysts Inc. of Austin, 60 percent of the residents disapprove of Perry's job performance and 53 percent disapprove of President Bush's performance.

Bell, who used to represent part of the district in Congress, has higher name identification than Janek, the poll determined.

Austen Furse, the Houston money manager who is the favorite of Janek and many business lobbyists and Republican mega-donors, is mostly unknown.

Postcards (via BOR) has more.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who won election to the 31-member body in 2006 after being his party's nominee for attorney general in 2002, has called Bell to offer encouragement.

"I've known Chris a long time, and was excited about the prospect he might consider it. I talked to him on Saturday," Watson said.

"He would be a formidable candidate in that district because of his length of service in the Houston area," Watson said, referring to Bell's background as a one-term U.S. House member and before that as a member of the Houston City Council who ran for mayor.

"My guess is he'd start that race with the sort of name ID that an incumbent usually enjoys, maybe even better than an incumbent," Watson said.

Bell told me he's not decided to make the bid, but he's considering it.

A potentially significant wrinkle: Bell has resolved nearly $42,000 in outstanding bank loans he reported on his gubernatorial campaign committee finance report filed in January.

"We negotiated a settlement of the amount of interest owing with the bank," Bell said. "We will pay $26,000 as full and final settlement of the amount owing and that will be the end of it." The money will be paid from his gubernatorial campaign kitty.

I think Chris Bell would make a fine candidate, especially for a November special election, as that would surely preclude State Rep. Scott Hochberg from jumping in. I will also note that I mentioned it first. Bell would have the credentials and should have no trouble getting full support from Dems. The only issue would be fundraising, as this has got to be a million-dollar race. At least on that score, there's more than a few traditional Democratic donors who owe him one for their regrettable backing of Carole Keeton Strayhorn in 2006.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 20, 2008 to Election 2008
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