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December 3rd, 2005:

As we approach the wire in the runoffs

Three more days of early voting. One week till the runoff. We’ll all need the break that Christmas will provide.

Couple things happening beneath the radar that you ought to know about. First, a little while back the question of whom Democrats ought to support in the City Council District C runoff was asked. That question has been pretty definitively answered, and the answer is Anne Clutterbuck, who has picked up endorsements from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and general election opponent Mark Lee. Perhaps realizing this, George Hittner has taken a turn to the right in his campaign. Greg has a copy of Hittner’s latest mailer, apparently sent by uberconservative Steven Hotze. Take a look if you’re in District C and still undecided.

Meanwhile, over in City Council At Large #2, there’s been a lot of heat coming from the Lovell camp over some inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric from Houston talk radio host Edd Hendee, which he said while also endorsing Jay Aiyer. Lovell and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus has demanded that Aiyer disavow Hendee:

We call on Jay Aiyer and his supporters to repudiate publicly the vile remarks made Tuesday by radio host Edd Hendee and Mr. Hendee’s endorsement, which Mr. Aiyer sought. Mr. Hendee’s statements attacking families and children, and implying that adopted children have an inferior status in the life of a family, are wrong, morally offensive, and have absolutely no place in what should be a civilized and informative campaign for public office. His attack on Sue Lovell’s children and family, and the families of her supporters, are particularly mean and vicious and he should be told loudly and by all that this is unacceptable.

Mr. Aiyer and his supporters should reject publicly Mr. Hendee’s endorsement and send a message that hate has no place in Houston. As Mayor Bill White said at his inauguration, “We’re all in this together and that’s the way we ought to approach solving the problems of the City of Houston.”

Aiyer responded as follows:

All too often in politics today, the low road is the one most traveled. In May, I signed the Texas Code of Fair Campaign Practices, partially in response to disturbing racially bigoted comments coming from Ms. Lovell’s campaign. In the spirit of having a rigorous contest on the substantive issues of importance to Houstonians, I called on the other candidates in the race to join me in signing the pledge. No one else signed.

Hate has no place in Houston. Any such prejudicial comments, be they based on sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other “lowest common denominator” divisive issue are wrong and have no place in public discourse. I will always oppose discrimination in all its forms, and reject personal attacks against candidates or their family members.

I take Mayor White’s call to never let people divide Houston very seriously. That is why I have worked hard to run an inclusive, non-partisan campaign that reaches out to Houstonians from all walks of life. There is far too much work to be done continuing to move our city forward to take the low road.

That wasn’t enough for Lovell:

I and my supporters renew our call on Jay Aiyer to repudiate the endorsement and vicious statements of Edd Hendee. Mr. Aiyer to this date has not done so.

I repudiated and rejected the unsought endorsement and ugly statements of James Galvan, immediately and without reservation. I did not want that kind of sentiment associated with my campaign.

Mr. Aiyer sought Mr. Hendee’s endorsement, according to Mr. Hendee. Mr. Aiyer should now reject that endorsement and prove to Houstonians that he will stand up to bigotry and hatred.

Greg has the transcript and more than a few choice words for Lovell, whom he accuses of hypocrisy in the whole affair. A site called Sepia Mutiny notes that one of Lovell’s senior campaign advisers has been publicly calling Jay a “dot-headed terrorist”. There’s more back-and-forth about it there, so go see for yourself. Is it just me, or does anyone else think this is the sort of thing that might, I don’t know, attract some media coverage?

Finally, as Stace notes, there have been some ugly things said in the HISD1 runoff as well. From Friday’s story, which was about a re-airing of the ethics charges against Anne Flores Santiago from her mother’s primary challenge to State Sen. Mario Gallegos last year:

At one point, Santiago’s aunt, 71-year-old Dolores Torres, shouted that people should vote for her niece because, “She’s Hispanic and grew up in the community. She’s not Iranian.”

Santiago’s opponent was born in Ohio to an Iranian-born father and a mother from Kentucky. She came to Houston in 1990 as a Teach for America corps member assigned to teach Spanish-speaking middle school students. Kamrani is now a lawyer, married to Chris Barbic, founder of YES College Preparatory Charter School.

“Foreigners are coming in not knowing the community,” Torres said. “Anne grew up here.”

Like I said, ugly things. But the end is in sight. If any of this makes you depressed and less likely to haul yourself to a polling place, please shake it off. The need to participate doesn’t change because of regrettable words. If anything, and however much I’m tired of the negativity, I’m more determined to cast my votes now.

Smokey Joe versus the BCS

Despondent because your team may not play for the national championship in college football? Sad because said championship is called a “mythical” one in the first place? Do you feel that your life will lack purpose until Division IA football becomes like any other sport and as a postseason playoff to determine a champion? Well, buck up, because Smokey Joe Barton is on the case!

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, charged with regulating America’s sports industry, announced Friday it will conduct a hearing on the BCS next week, after this season’s bowl matchups are determined.

“College football is not just an exhilarating sport, but a billion-dollar business that Congress cannot ignore,” said committee Chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican. Barton’s panel is separate from the House Government Reform panel that tackled steroids in baseball.

The committee announcement called the hearing, scheduled for next Wednesday, a “comprehensive review” of the BCS and postseason college football.

“Too often college football ends in sniping and controversy, rather than winners and losers,” Barton said. “The current system of determining who’s No. 1 appears deeply flawed.”

The first order of business will be to determine why there is no college football PAC funnelling money into Barton’s reelection campaign.

Barton said he does not have legislation in mind to force a change, but said he hopes congressional hearings will spur discussion and improvements. It won’t be the first time Congress has looked at the BCS. In 2003, the Senate probed whether the system was unfairly tilted against smaller schools.

What he’s really hoping for is a little free publicity and the chance to do some gratuitous grandstanding against a system that nobody really likes or can reasonably defend.

Look, I dislike the BCS as much as anyone, especially since the team I root for is in a non-BCS conference. I’m perfectly happy to see it trashed. But even I, big-government-loving, BCS-hating liberal that I am, don’t think this is a job for Congress, just as I don’t think Major League Baseball’s steroid policy is a job for John McCain. It would be nice if the next reporter who writes about this would ask ol’ Smokey Joe why he thinks it is.

If this is how it’s gonna be, wake me up on November 8

Today is the start of filing season for the 2006 elections. If this is typical of the coverage we’re going to get, it’s going to be a long, long year.

As the 2006 political season officially opens with the start of candidate filing today, Texas Republicans are targeting another sweep of statewide offices and gains at the local level, while the grand plan for the Texas Democratic Party is to think small.

On paper, the year could be a year of opportunity for Democrats: The Republican Party’s national support has slid over the war in Iraq, and Texas polls have shown that many voters are frustrated by the failure of a Republican-dominated Legislature to pass a school funding plan.

“This is a perfect storm politically, and I think we’ll benefit from it,” said Texas Democratic Chair Charles Soechting.

But Texas Democrats appear to lack the infrastructure to capitalize on the Republican shortcomings in statewide races and have not yet attracted any candidates with widespread name recognition.

“A good year for the Democrats would be a gain of four or five seats in the House, maybe one or two in the Senate,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. “The table is set for modest gains.”

If you can tell from this context whether Dr. Jillson is referring to national Democrats or Texas Dems, drop me a line and let me know. If he’s talking nationally, a gain of four or five House seats plus one or two in the Senate would be actually a bit disappointing given trends, history, and expectations. If he’s talking statewide, a four or five House seat pickup would indeed be good, but even I wouldn’t predict any gains in the Senate, given that the last time I looked there weren’t any announced Democratic challengers to Republican-held slots. Flip a coin and decide for yourself which it is.

So far, there are announced Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, but no other statewide offices. The party instead is focusing on rebuilding for 2010 and capturing some seats in the Texas House and on the Third Court of Appeals.


The only Democratic candidates formally announced for any statewide office so far are Houston lawyer Barbara Radnofsky for U.S. Senate and former Houston congressman Chris Bell for governor.

Umm…David Van Os? Running for Attorney General? Been on the campaign trail for, I don’t know, six or eight months now? Was on the statewide ballot in 2004? Hello? Anyone there?

And though she’s nobody’s idea of a serious candidate, Maria Alvarado has announced her intention to run for Lite Guv. If you’re going to use words like “only”, you really should check to make sure you’ve counted everyone. I expect better than this from RG Ratcliffe.

Bell wants to take on the winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary. Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage also is looking at entering the Democratic primary for governor.

But a search of on-line news libraries showed independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, mystery writer and singer, has garnered more ink in the Texas press in 2005 than Bell and Radnofsky combined.

That sound you hear is me grinding my teeth. Friedman gets the ink because he’s a Celebrity, which seems to be the one thing that guarantees coverage these days. Meanwhile, the newspapers ignore what Bell and Radnofsky have to say (never mind poor David Van Os), then criticize them for not getting into the newspapers. How stupid can you get? Just shoot me now.

Meanwhile, a bit of unintentional comedy from the latest Statesman blog, Postcards from the Trail.

Don’t count Tony Sanchez out of making a second try for governor quite yet.

Sanchez, the deep-pocketed Laredo businessman who won the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial nod before getting walloped by GOP Gov. Rick Perry, said this week he’s still mulling his options.

“I’m still looking at the landscape,” Sanchez said. “Obviously, I’ve got to make a decision over the next four weeks,” he said, a reference to the candidate filing period that starts Saturday. “I want to think about the direction of the state.”

Tony Sanchez will be the Democratic nominee for Governor approximately five minutes after a squadron of javalinas is spotted doing aeronautics over the Capitol. That’s all I’m going to say about that, and it’s all you need to know. Thanks to the equally skeptical Eye on Williamson for the catch.

It’s gotta get better from here, right? Please tell me it’s gonna get better.