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August 27th, 2006:

The CD22 wrap-up story

It’s Sunday, so it’s News Feature Story Day, and today’s feature is an overview of CD22 and how Shelley Sekula-Gibbs came to be the One True Write-In. There’s lots of stuff here that’ll be familiar to those who’ve followed this all along, but we do get for the first time that I can recall some on-the-record comments about how the David Wallace Express went off the rails.

Some Republicans perceived Wallace’s filing as a pre-emptive move to discourage other candidates and force the party’s hand.

“There were concerns about the way he kept circumventing the party,” said Kathy Haigler, a GOP precinct chair in Harris County . “He decided he was going to bypass the whole process and win this race on his own. It was a flawed strategy. The more defiant Mr. Wallace was with the party, the wider and taller the wall got between us.”

Wallace questioned whether the closed-door gathering Aug. 17, at which a majority of the 83 precinct chairs in attendance voted to support Sekula-Gibbs, was representative of the party grass-roots. He’s still not convinced it was.

He did not attend the meeting, although his supporters were in evidence carrying his campaign signs.

Wallace’s tactics backfired, said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. “He had shown every proclivity up until that point to say he was in at all cost, period,” Bettencourt said. “The party called his bluff.”

Still, Wallace says he would not have done anything differently. “You go with the process as it’s unfolding and make decisions along the way. People can call it what they want,” he said.

Boy, you can see why Wallace was once considered the true heir to Tom DeLay. He’s got the “never admit I’m wrong, no matter how badly the course of action I chose turned out” thing down pat. You do realize what this means, right? If DeLay is like the Fonz, then Wallace must be Chachi. Nothing good can come out of this, I assure you.

More from Wallace:

“We were poised and ready to mount an aggressive campaign. But it was blatantly obvious that two write-in candidates would do nothing but hurt each other. Since Shelley’s name emerged as a result of that secretive meeting, I support her.”

Wallace had a natural constituency in the district as mayor of DeLay’s hometown. But he also has political enemies in Fort Bend County. He doesn’t speculate about who was behind the smear campaign against him as he and others were courting the precinct chairs for their support.

“When you’re in the business of buying insolvent companies and breathing new life into them, of course those things are going to show up,” said Wallace, an investment banker, referring to the bankruptcy documents circulated anonymously. “People can put whatever spin they want on that.”

Wallace says he wasn’t pressured to get out of the race but came to the decision on his own.

Will he seek the nomination in two years? “2008 is a long time from now,” Wallace said. For now, he’s committed to the Sekula-Gibbs campaign.

Translation: “Hell yeah! I can’t come out and say that because we all have to pretend that Shelley might win, but anyone who knows anything knows that this is what I’ve wanted all along. I may be sucking it up for now, but you better believe I plan to remind everyone about how I took one for the team starting on November 8.”

Meanwhile, Cragg Hines talks to Rick Hasen about the Guerra v. Garza case and other issues regarding what write-in votes will or may be counted. I still believe that this is unlikely to be of anything but academic interest, but we may as well start the discussion now just in case.

Elsewhere on the editorial page, former FEC chairman Bradley Smith uses the DeLay case as evidence that election laws should be loosened.

In Texas, for example, indicted former House majority leader Tom DeLay chose not to seek re-election. He moved his residence to the Washington area and withdrew from the race for his House seat. Texas Republicans sought to replace him on the ballot. But Texas law makes it difficult to substitute for a candidate nominated in a primary, and Texas Democrats successfully sued to prevent the Texas GOP from naming a replacement for DeLay. The result is that voters in that heavily Republican Texas district will not have a Republican nominee listed on the ballot in November.

This is an incredibly shallow and naive recapitulation of the events in CD22, which ignores DeLay’s manipulation of the process, the Constitutional logic used by the judges, and the rationale for Texas’ stringent candidate withdrawal laws in the first place. I believe Smith has a decent point in general, but there’s no way that the DeLay saga bolsters his case. I don’t have the time or energy to write a full-blooded response to this right now, but someone needs to.

Finally, Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert has responded to charges that he broke State Code of Judicial Conduct rules by publicly endorsing candidates in the One True Write-In anointment process. I’m still not convinced of this, but I wasn’t convinced that the Dems’ lawsuit to prevent DeLay’s replacement was going to work, so what do I know. Muse has the background on this.

The mouse that roared in CD10

This is the funniest thing I’ve read all weekend.

Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik has asked Democrat Ted Ankrum to withdraw from the race against U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, to give the Libertarian a better chance at unseating the freshman representative.

[…]

“There’s a lot of people, who, without a Democrat in the race” would cast a ballot for Badnarik “just to vote against the Republican,” Badnarik’s spokesman Jon Airheart said. “We feel we draw from both parties.”

Apparently, the concept of straight ticket voting is not one with which Mr. Badnarik is familiar. And just for the record, Badnarik has already been the Libertarian in a two-way race against a Republican before. In 2000, he challenged then-State Rep. Terry Keel in HD47. He garnered 15,221 votes, for 16.87% of the total. That’s about 1300 votes more than write-in candidate Lorenzo Sadun got in CD10 last time.

All I can say is that for a guy who got 0.52% of the vote in Texas as a Presidential candidate, he’s got quite a bit of cheek. And as for Badnarik’s big campaign warchest, well:

In the latest campaign filings, Badnarik reported having $9,504 on hand, though a press release Friday reported he had received an additional $17,000 from supporters in recent weeks.

That may be more than Ted Ankrum currently has on hand, but color me unimpressed anyway. My prediction of the usual 2-3% for a Lib candidate in a three-way race stands.

One more thing:

Ankrum was not immediately available for comment Friday.

The timestamp on the Postcards from the Trail post is 4:53 PM Friday. The following press release that I got from Ankrum hit my Inbox at 11:17 AM on Friday:

“This race is only improved by three candidates,” said Ted Ankrum, Democratic candidate for Congressional District 10. “Michael Badnarik has asked for me to drop out of the race, but the common good of the district is not served by that outcome. I won a four-candidate primary election, and won the runoff by 71%. I welcome a three-way race in the general, and the opportunity to unseat the Republican candidate who seems to hold office because Tom Delay Gerrymandered a district for him.

“Mr. Badnarik loudly proclaims his fundraising, but his money comes primarily the National Libertarian Party. My fundraising is local, coming from numerous donations within the district, and without the support of the national Democratic party. They’re concentrating their support in only a few places in the country, and no challengers in Texas are being supported by the national party. In Texas, we don’t give up when the odds are against us. It only makes us fight harder.”

“Prior evidence shows that a third-party candidate won’t win, and I have no intention of leaving this race to be decided because the Republican incumbent happens to be married to the daughter of the owner of Clear Channel Communications. I welcome the competition, and Mr. Badnarik’s candidacy. It’s what America and this district are all about,” said Ankrum.

“Michael Badnarik and I agree on many issues, including that the one-term Republican incumbent has betrayed his constituents. We have great support in the district, and I have no intention of letting the district down,” Ankrum said.

I should note that this was a corrected press release. The original arrived at 2:43 AM. Tara Copps at the Statesman needs to check with her colleagues on these matters before she hits the Publish button.

Poll favors Ciro in CD23

Greenberg Quinlan Rossner Research has released a poll that shows some good news for Democrats and Ciro Rodriguez in CD23. I’ve got a copy of the poll memo here (PDF) for your perusal. To summarize:

Congressional Vote Candidate Vote Total for Dem candidates 47% Republican Henry Bonilla 44% Libertarian Cecil Lamb 1% None 2% Undecided 6% Cong Vote Among Dem Candidates (among all general election voters) Candidate Vote Ciro Rodriguez 24% Pete Gallego 11% Albert Uresti 7% Richard Perez 3% Rick Bolanos 1% Virgil Yanta 1%

Gallego is not a candidate, though at the time the poll was taken (August 10-15), he was talked about as a possibility. Lukin Gilliland has now joined the race, and with the money he says he’ll bring, he ought to be a force to contend with. He’s also issued a press release saying that State Rep. Robert Puente of San Antonio is his campaign treasurer, so he’s already got some establishment support. And I’m starting to hear whispers that Lukin Gilliland will have more names behind him than that, so this definitely bears watching.

Both Paul Burka and PerryVsWorld think that Gilliland’s entry into the race makes an eventual runoff more likely. Burka notes that the poll memo “cheerleads” for Ciro, but may help him get some national money. I say the DCCC and any other national group that was planning to throw money into CD22 should take that dough and split it between CDs 23 and 14. Make the Republicans play defense as much as possible, and see if anything good happens. At the very least, be prepared for the runoff that is increasingly probable.

BOR has a complete list of candidates in this and the other special Congressional elections, one of whom will not be former San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza. (How did Ruben Hinojosa in CD15 get lucky enough to lose his only opponent?) Vince adds commentary on all the filers. It’s a pretty crowded field in the 23rd. I hope everyone keeps their fire aimed at Henry Bonilla, and as commenter RBH observes, that someone spends a little time in Medina County. I still think Ciro is the candidate with the best shot to take out Bonilla, but we’ll see how things develop.

Would you believe there could still be a special election in CD22?

Believe it.

[W]ith all eyes on the November election, overlooked is the fact that the Constitution states that the governor shall call a special election to fill DeLay’s unexpired term.

Despite previously declaring he would call a special election, Gov. Rick Perry has yet to do so. His office is now leaving open the possibility he may decide against calling one.

The deadline for calling a special election is Tuesday, said Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections in Texas.

In April, Perry said he would call a special election to fill the final two months of DeLay’s term.

But spokeswoman Kathy Walt indicated Friday that Perry was weighing his options.

“The matter is being reviewed, and no decision has been made at this time,” Walt said in an e-mail response to The Daily News.

Incredible. As I said several weeks ago, we’re way past the point where anything in this story could shock me. And Lord knows, I’d never put anything past Rick Perry if he thought he could milk political advantage out of it. If someone could convince him that calling a special election to coincide with the general election might help boost Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ chances in the latter, I’ve no doubt that he’d do it.

Having a special election and the general election poses some risks. That’s especially true for Sekula-Gibbs, who must not only convince voters she is the best candidate, but also must convince them to write in her name.

A special election that could include more candidates could confuse voters, and some might simply skip the race.

Lampson plans to be on both ballots, should a special election be called. Campaign manager Mike Malaise said a staff member was set to deliver the necessary paperwork and a $3,000 filing fee.

Smither said he was hoping the governor would not call a special election.

He noted how confusing the race already is.

Even if Perry does call a special election, Smither does not plan to run for the unexpired term. He plans, instead, to concentrate on the bigger prize.

Sekula-Gibbs would not speculate about what she’d do. Her spokeswoman, Lisa Dimond, noted that the governor had not called a special election.

I don’t see a special election as much of a risk to Sekula-Gibbs, since it would be a vehicle for getting somewhere on the ballot, and it would increase the level of coverage of the race. Anything that boosts her visibility and generates more discussion of her write-in bid is good for her. Yes, some people might be confused by seeing her name on one location, and assume that that’s the only place they need to vote for her. I’m not sure how solidly I’d count on those folks to write her in under any circumstance.

We’ll see what happens. Whatever it is, it will have nothing to do with what’s best for the citizens of CD22 and everything to do with political calculations. If there were going to be a special election to fill out DeLay’s term, it should have happened well before CD22 became the longest standing vacant Congressional seat in Texas history (PDF). Greg in TX22 argues that the Governor is Constitutionally required to call a special election, and notes that Kathy Walt sang a different tune on the subject back in April. Note Perry’s statement at that time: “If I don’t get it [DeLay’s resignation] by close of business tomorrow, the election will be in November.” If that’s what he intended to do all along, then why is he waiting till next week to make it official?

Thanks to South Texas Chisme for the catch.