In the course of discussing how expensive modern campaigns are now in Texas, this Statesman article talks about three contested general election races for the State Senate. But first, a little nitpicking:
Unlike the 150-member Texas House -- where scrappy, every-two-year campaigns for office are the norm and a dozen or more new lawmakers must be elected to change things -- the clubby, 31-member upper chamber can shift politically with just one new senator, who could mean the difference between what legislation gets considered and what gets blocked.
The Senate's arcane two-thirds rule allows 12 members to block consideration of a bill. At present, there are 11 Democrats.
It appears the political landscape in some parts of Texas could be shifting. And the emerging Senate races will test how that will play out.
Example A: [Kim] Brimer's Senate District 10, a politically diverse zone that stretches from western Fort Worth through downtown to southern Tarrant County and Arlington. Affluent, working class, poor, white, Hispanic, black: The district has them all, [Dana Chiodo, a government affairs consultant and author of the Source Book, which analyzes legislative races,] and other analysts say.
In the last elections, it voted 55 percent Republican, meaning it's a "swing district" that could go for a Democrat if the circumstances are right, according to Chiodo.
And that could be now, observers say, because it is a presidential election year, with the GOP's fortunes arguably on the wane over the war in Iraq, the shaky economy and the mortgage crisis, among other factors.
"This will be the first (election) cycle in 22 years where there won't be a Bush on the ballot or sitting in office after the election is over. That will make a difference, too," Angle said.
In many respects, Brimer and [Democrat Wendy] Davis are opposites. With his trademark white hair and familiar cigar, the Republican Brimer, 62, is an insurance man and fifth-generation Texan with almost two decades in the Legislature, 14 years in the House. Davis, 44, a Democrat, is a Harvard-educated lawyer and former Fort Worth City Council member who represented many of the working-class neighborhoods that she hopes turn out against Brimer -- neighborhoods like the ones she grew up in.
In many ways, the early stages of their battle highlight the issues in other races as well. The incumbent has become too close to Austin lobbyists, spends too much time in Austin, has lost touch with his or her district.
For Brimer, that translates into criticism of his purchase with campaign funds of an Austin condominium, debate about a poll touted by the Davis campaign showing that most folks in his district didn't know who he was, and discussion of the changing political flavor of his district.
"The Democratic candidate for DA ran against a longtime Republican and got 48 percent of the vote, even spending only $50,000," Davis said. "That's a real tell-tale sign. ... The juxtaposition between us could not be more extreme: He's been in office 20 years and almost no one knows who he is, and I've been in office eight years and have an eight-year record on the council of working very hard for this district that everyone knows me for."
Brimer did not return a phone call for comment. His initial reaction to Davis' candidacy has been silence, much like his low-key manner in the Senate.
South of Houston, in Senate District 11, also considered a swing district by many, Sen. Mike Jackson, a La Porte Republican and owner of an industrial construction firm who has served since 1999, faces an announced challenger, attorney and former Galveston City Council member Joe Jaworski, a Democrat.
"There are plenty of politicians in Austin. What we need now are a few more leaders," Jaworski says on his Web site, calling for "independent leadership for a new direction."
In far south Texas, [Sen. Judith] Zaffirini faces two announced challengers: former Webb County Judge Louis Bruni and San Antonio trial lawyer Rene Barrientos. Zaffirini has faced challengers in every re-election race but one since she joined the Senate in 1987, she said. As before, she's taking no chances.
"This election is different, and I need your help," she said in a recent fundraising letter. "I face two opponents, each of whom is independently wealthy and pledges to spend $2 million of personal funds and to focus on negative advertising and personal attacks on my family and me."
I'm still waiting to hear about a challenger to Sen. John Carona in SD16, which I had misidentified as SD04 previously. If no Democrat runs in this moderately purple district, where some county Democratic candidates topped 46% of the vote, it'll be a huge missed opportunity.Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2007 to Election 2008