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November 6th, 2009:

Hopson switches, Agosto drops out

Two pieces of news for the 2010 cycle, one good and one not good. For the latter first, State Rep. Chuck Hopson, who won a very tight race for re-election in 2008, has announced that he will run in 2010 as a Republican.

A press release from Hopson’s campaign said he thinks President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats do not represent the concerns and values of his East Texas district. Hopson is scheduled to hold a press conference on his switch later this afternoon.

In 2008, Hopson won re-election by 114 votes. He likely would have faced even more difficulty in 2010, considering that Democrats have lost some of their momentum from the 2008 election.

“It takes strength and integrity to stand against the special interests — and while some members have that strength, others, like Chuck Hopson, do not,” said state Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie.

Richie said Hopson had told Democratic members that he’d rather retire from the House than become a Republican.

A letter from House Democratic Caucus Chair Jim Dunnam, which is more cordial to Hopson, is beneath the fold. It’s certainly true that as suburban Texas is becoming more Democratic, rural Texas is becoming more Republican, and Hopson likely read the same tea leaves that formerly-Republican State Rep. Kirk England did back in 2007. I’ll certainly take that trade demographically, but in the short run this is a blow to the Democrats’ chances of retaking the House, as was Rep. David Farabee’s retirement. At least we’re not still trying to get rid of Tom Craddick as Speaker. Greg and Phillip, who once worked for Hopson, have more.

On the better side, SBOE member Rick Agosto, a Democrat who was way too close to the wingnut faction of the Board, is not running for re-election.

Trinity University literature professor Michael Soto, 39, announced Thursday that he will seek the Democratic Party nomination for District 3, which stretches from San Antonio south to the border.

And several top Democratic Party leaders from San Antonio, including state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and former State Board of Education member Joe Bernal, are backing Soto.

Agosto, who was first elected in 2006, said he needs to spend more time with his family and investment business.

“I’ve enjoyed my time there,” but being a state board member basically can be a full-time job, Agosto said.

Agosto has been the subject of several recent newspaper stories about business relationships with companies vying for contracts with the board.

He has denied any wrongdoing and atrributes the criticism to political back-biting on the board.

Agosto said his re-election decision is not related to this scrutiny.

Good riddance, and Agosto will hopefully be one of many bad SBOE incumbents to be back in the private sector after next year. Read more about Soto here. I look forward to hearing more about him and his campaign.

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Friday random ten: Old school

Three weeks ago was my 25-year high school reunion. This weekend is Alumni Weekend at my university. I couldn’t attend either, but I could put together a school-and-nostalgia oriented Friday Random Ten.

1. Schoolhouse Rock Medley – Lager Rhythms
2. My Old School – Steely Dan
3. School’s Out – Alice Cooper
4. Bust The High School Students – Austin Lounge Lizards
5. Smoking In The Boys’ Room – Motley Crue
6. Bright College Days – Tom Lehrer
7. The Good Old Days – The Lodger
8. Didn’t Go To College – Austin Lounge Lizards
9. Old Friends – Simon and Garfunkel
10. Beer – Asylum Street Spankers

Ten songs about beer would have been a pretty good summation of my college career, but I thought I’d be a bit broader here, just for the heck of it. What are you nostalgic for this week?

Fort Hood

I just want to pause for a moment to express my shock and sorrow at what happened at Fort Hood. My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims. If you are in a position to do so, please give blood to help support those who will need it. If you’re in the Austin area, click here for a location. Thank you very much.

The Texas Trib and its polls

I’ve been so immersed in the Houston elections that I forgot to give a warm welcome to the Texas Tribune, which made its debut on Tuesday. I really like the look of the site, I like their lineup of writers, and I like what they’re aiming to do. Once their RSS feeds become available, I’ll be really happy. So welcome aboard, y’all. I look forward to seeing what you can do.

One thing in particular I’m interested in is their polling center, which assimilated the Texas Politics Project. Their first effort has drawn some criticism, much of which boils down to what Paul Burka says:

I will tell you up front that I do not know enough about statistics to know whether [their methodology] is reliable or not. I do know enough to know that this methodology is not truly random, because everybody who signed up has manifested enough interest in politics to want to be surveyed.

[…]

Internet polling is probably the future of polling, and the UT/Tribune poll is our best hope for a regular flow of campaign information, so I’m going to have to get used to it. But my confidence level is not very high.

The good news is that the more of this they do, the more of a track record they’ll build by which we can judge them. Remember that SurveyUSA, whose absence in Texas Burka rightly laments, was once viewed skeptically because it used an automated interactive script to get people to push buttons on their phone in response to questions instead of talking to a live person. If the TxP polls prove to be as accurate as SUSA has been, we’ll look back at this some day and wonder what we were afraid of.

But that’s a few years, or at least a few dozen polls, away. What we have to go on now is their October 2008 polls of the Presidential and Senate races. The results they got – McCain 51, Obama 40, Barr 1; and Cornyn 45, Noriega 36, Schick 5 – aren’t bad; they did come pretty close to the actual margin of victory in each race. Here’s what I wrote at the time.

I’ll note that whatever else one may think, the results are in line with most other recent polls, the last Rasmussen Senate poll being an exception. The (too) high number of undecideds skews things a bit – in particular, for the one bit of sample breakdown that we do get, the poll claims 16% of black respondents and 17% of Hispanics are undecided in the Senate race. I can just about guarantee you that a large majority of each will ultimately cast their ballots for Rick Noriega. On the flip side, I think the five percent showing for Libertarian Yvonne Schick is too high – I believe she’ll ultimately get two to three percent, with the rest mostly going back to Cornyn.

In case you’re curious, Yvonne Schick ultimately got 2.34% of the vote. Sometimes these predictions are easy to make.The point is that after they’ve polled the gubernatorial primaries in February, the general election races in October, and the (special?) Senate election whenever, we’ll have a much better idea if we’re dealing with reliable data or for-entertainment-purposes-only stuff. My advice is to poll as many races as you can, close to the election whenever possible, and let the chips fall where they may.

Thompson says he’s out, Shami says he’s in

Mark Thompson has ended his candidacy for Governor.

“There’s just too many people running,” Thompson said. “Any time someone jumps in, they cut your percentages down.”

Thompson said last week he was considering ending his bid. He had said he had launched his campaign earlier in the year assuming he would be in a three-way race with former ambassador Tom Schieffer and humorist Kinky Friedman.

[…]

Thompson said he is endorsing [Hank] Gilbert, who most closely matches him on several key issues including an opposition to toll roads.

I confess, I had forgotten that Mark Thompson had been running. In any event, his absence will hardly be noted as another contender gets set to jump in.

Houston hair care executive Farouk Shami said Tuesday that he’s definitely running for governor and that he’ll put in $10 million for the Democratic primary alone.

“I am in,” said Shami, 66, a political novice whose company sells CHI hair-straightening irons and BioSilk hair products. “I am 100 percent sure I will be the next governor of Texas.”

I look forward to hearing what he has to say, but I hope he remembers that writing your own check can’t substitute for raising money from actual donors. By all means, write the check if you can and you feel you must, but don’t forget to work the phones, either. Thanks to BOR for the Thompson link.

Galveston Shriners Hospital now open

The Galveston Shriners Hospital, which was closed down after Hurricane Ike and was set to reopen on Monday after a long battle to bring it back, has opened its doors a few days early. Kudos to all involved for getting this done.