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November 13th, 2009:

KBH: Not resigning till after the primary

That sound you hear is me saying I told you so.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is planning to hold onto her Senate seat until after Texas’ March gubernatorial primaries are over.

[…]

Campaign officials provided The Associated Press a copy of a speech Hutchison plans to give to Republican women in Galveston, Texas, on Saturday. In it, Hutchison plans to say she is stepping down in 2010 regardless of who wins the Republican primary for governor. But she says there are too many important issues facing Congress for her to quit this fall as she had planned.

Remember when “some time in October or November” became “I may stay till the end of the year“? Good times. Now will someone please tell me why I should believe her “I’ll step down after the primary no matter what” statement even for a minute? Seriously, she’s changed her story about when or if she’ll resign more often than most people change clothes. I say her story will change again, and there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.

I had originally drafted this post to talk about that new Rasmussen poll for the GOP gubernatorial primary that has Rick Perry up on KBH by a 46-35 margin, with Debra Medina getting four points (via the Trib). You will note this bit, which maybe could possibly be related to this announcement:

Most voters — 60 percent — think Hutchison should keep her job as U.S. Senator while she’s running for governor. Hutchison has said she plans to resign to run, but that’s now on hold as she waits to vote on pending health care reform plans. Only 26 percent said she should resign. As for healthcare reform, 76 percent strongly oppose “the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats.”

Need I say more? There’s no pressure on her to resign from the electorate, which is happy to have her in there fighting to ensure that millions of Americans remain uninsured. And when that fight is over, whether before the year’s end or not, there will be something else that will have the GOP’s hair on fire. Sure, whoever Rick Perry named to replace her would do all the same things she’d be doing, just with less seniority, but that’s not how it will play. Team Perry may be bashing her now for being in Washington, but the minute she leaves they’ll attack her for abandoning us when we need her the most. I’m the least surprised person in the world by these developments.

Anyway. The other thing I wanted to note about this poll was Medina’s four percent. It’s my belief that generally speaking third-party and lower-tier candidates like her tend to poll better than they actually run, especially when they have little money. Remember when Chris Daggett, the indie candidate in the New Jersey Governor’s race was polling in double digits? Well, he wound up with less than 6 percent of the vote in the end, thanks in part to having no money, and in my opinion in part to people realizing that a vote for him was wasted. I’ve said before that I doubt Medina will do any better than the 4.87% her BFF Ron Paul got in the GOP Presidential primary last year, and I see no reason to change my mind about that.

UPDATE: More from the Trib on KBH.

UPDATE: The Bill White blog says:

Every day that Bill White campaigns, he earns support. We’ve always expected that the election for Texas’ next Senator would be a special election after the March gubernatorial primaries, and that hasn’t changed. Bill’s running to work for Texans in the U.S. Senate.

So there you have that.

UPDATE: More from BOR, who notes that KBH says she’ll be in it till after cap and trade comes up, and Hank Gilbert.

UPDATE: John Sharp says on Twitter “I said before this started last december, I will be a candidate for U.S. Senate when this seat becomes available, whether in 2012 or sooner.” Hope he can afford to keep loaning himself the dough to do that.

Friday random ten: Johnny, Johnny, Johnny

Apparently, there are a lot of songs – mostly, but not exclusively, folk songs – about someone named John.

1. John Barleycorn – SixMileBridge
2. John Doe #24 – Mary-Chapin Carpenter
3. John Henry – Bruce Springsteen
4. John Ryan’s Polka – Flying Fish Sailors
5. Johnny’s Room – Lager Rhythms
6. A Johnny Ace Christmas – Squirrel Nut Zippers
7. Johnny Come Lately – Joe Henderson
8. Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier – The Mollys
9. Johnny Strikes Up The Band – Warren Zevon
10. Juan In The Rearview Mirror – Eddie From Ohio

I’m pretty sure that’s the most sung about name in my collection. Who are they singing about on your iPod this week?

Sue Schechter announces for County Clerk

Former State Rep. and Harris County Democratic Party Chair Sue Schechter has announced her intent to run for the to-be-open Harris County Clerk position next year. Schechter was known to be interested in this position, and now she’s made it official. I’ve reprinted her press release beneath the fold, to which I’ll add two observations. One is that she’s already lined up a decent amount of support for her candidacy – there are a lot of elected officials and other heavy hitters in her list of who’s with her. And two, the timing of all this has been just awful for Council Member Sue Lovell, whose interest in the Clerk’s office is longstanding, as Lovell is engaged in a runoff for her Council seat that won’t be resolved until a week after the filing period opens. Will these things deter her from running? Hard to say. As for the Republican side of things, incumbent Clerk Beverly Kaufman has made no bones about whom she would like to see succeed her, though her man Kevin Mauzy will almost certainly not go unchallenged. It’ll be fun to watch, that’s for sure. Click on for Schechter’s release.

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The HCRP view of the candidates

Here, in PDF format, you will find a copy of the mailer that Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill sent out to his flock before the election. In it you will find three things of interest. One is all the ads several candidates reported spending $5000 on. Another is the official endorsement that Roy Morales got from them; he’s the only one whom they endorsed, at least at that time. They may not have trumpeted it on the internets, but they did make their feelings known the old-fashioned way. Finally, there’s the 16-question “How much do you agree with our positions?” test, which some candidates answered but quite a few did not. For the runoff elections, here’s how many questions the candidates got “right” from the GOP’s perspective:

Annise Parker – 8 out of 16
Gene Locke – Did not respond
(For comparison, Roy got all 16 “right”. Peter Brown did not respond.)

MJ Khan – 16 out of 16
Ronald Green – Did not respond
(Pam Holm got all 16 “right”.)

Stephen Costello – 4 out of 16
Karen Derr – Did not respond

Andrew Burks – 14 out of 16
Sue Lovell – Did not respond
(Griff Griffin got 14 out of 16. Keep that in mind the next time he’s on the ballot.)

Jack Christie – 12 out of 16
Jolanda Jones – Did not respond

For the two district races (A and F), only Al Hoang (16 out of 16) responded.

You can make of this whatever you want, I’m just presenting it. From my perspective, some of the questions are inconsequential, while others are very much not. Read through the questions and answers and see for yourself what you think.

Raising the gas tax

This is long overdue.

Members of the Texas Senate’s Transportation Committee said Tuesday that an increase in the 20-cents-per-gallon state fuel tax may be necessary to overcome a drastic shortage of money for new roads.

“We are in the critical position in this state where we are growing and will need more roads. But we have no money to build them and no more debt that we can issue,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said during a meeting in El Paso.

“The fuel tax has been the same since 1991, and that’s frankly one of the best solutions to the funding shortage we have in our hands.”

[…]

“For 20 years, the fuel tax has been the same no matter what. The state is not making a killing on the higher gas prices,” said [State Rep. Joe] Pickett, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “No matter how much each gallon costs, we still get just 20 cents. That’s why things need to change.”

Pickett said bipartisan support exists for the tax increase, and that could make a campaign to pass it in the Legislature smoother.

I’ve talked about this a lot before, and it’s really simple. If we want TxDOT to be able to meet the state’s transportation needs – building new roads, maintaining existing ones, and now doing some non-road things like high-speed rail, it needs to have a funding source that keeps up with inflation and the growth of the state’s population. A tax that hasn’t increased in 18 years isn’t cutting it, and a statewide network of private toll roads was a lousy alternate solution that has finally died a justifiable death. This is what’s left. I will have a lot more faith in that “bipartisan support” that Pickett speaks of if we have a different Governor in office the next time the Lege meets – Hank Gilbert has explicitly called for a gas tax increase plus an indexing of the tax to inflation to cover our transportation needs, while Tom Schieffer and even KBH would be better on the issue than Rick Perry. It’s a simple choice – do we want to pay for the things we need or not? – but getting there isn’t nearly so simple. Click on for a statement from Hank Gilbert that shows some of that bipartisan support we can hope is still there in fourteen months’ time.

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Commissioners Court wants a lapdog, not a watchdog

Back in June, we learned that County Attorney Vince Ryan was going after polluters that had been ignoring court orders to clean up their acts. You would think this would be a good thing to do – you know, enforcing the law while helping to make Harris County cleaner – but apparently not if you’re a County Commissioner. They want a County Attorney that does exactly what they tell him to do, nothing more and nothing less.

Members of Commissioners Court this morning informed County Attorney Vince Ryan that he is to come to them for permission to do anything that costs money or employee time.

Ryan had already signed a deal with the city to help it prosecute polluters in exchange for use of experts and monitoring equipment with which the county can build cases.

“I think that it’s your responsibility to do those things that we, Commissioners Court, ask of you, and I see that you’ve got the cart in front of the horse,” Commissioner Jerry Eversole told Ryan.

The county attorney’s office is the legal counsel for the Court and receives its budget from the five-member board. The county attorney is elected by voters, though, and Ryan did not agree that his office is wholly subservient to the Court.

“In most cases you are correct,” Ryan responded to Eversole, “but there are items all through the responsibilities of the county attorney’s office that we are independently charged by state statute or even federal (regulations) in some cases to look at.”

To put it bluntly, Eversole and El Franco Lee, who was quoted later with the same attitude, are full of it. Ryan is an elected official, not an appointed employee of the Court, and he answers to the voters. The Court certainly has the right to question how he’s spending money, and can try to rein him in if he’s acting irresponsibly, but otherwise should defer to him on how he runs his office, not demand that he defer to them. The subtext I get from this is that they don’t want Ryan to think he has any real independence, lest he get it into his head some day to take a critical look at some of the stuff they do. Sorry, fellas, but checks and balances are supposed to work both ways.

West U bans texting while driving

The West University Place City Council voted on Monday night to ban texting while driving.

Drivers who text behind the wheel in within the city’s limits have one week to stop before the council votes unanimously again to ban the practice.

[…]

The ban also applies to Web browsing and accessing sites like Facebook and Twitter for drivers.

“We already had no texting in school zones during school zone hours, and we expanded that tonight to include to texting in a motor vehicle in the entire city of West University Place,” said Mayor Bob Kelly.

We first heard about this in September. The ban becomes official next week when they take a final vote on it. West U was out in front of the trend when they banned cellphone use in school zones last year, and I suspect we’ll see more stories like this around the state as well. Like it or not, this is going to become more widespread, and I’ll bet it’s a hot agenda item for the Lege in 2011.

Farmers Branch single member Council district lawsuit appealed to SCOTUS

A lawsuit on behalf of three Hispanic plaintiffs in Farmers Branch to force the creation of single-member City Council districts, which was filed last April and dismissed in November, will be appealed to the Supreme Court after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their argument.

Valentine Reyes, Irene Gonzalez and Gary F. Garcia alleged the at-large City Council system in Farmers Branch diluted minority votes. They wanted to create single-member districts, in which a council member is elected to represent a specific section of the city.

Their attorneys argued before a federal court in Dallas that Hispanic citizens of voting age would form a majority of the voters in one of the proposed districts. On appeal, they contended that citizenship wasn’t a requirement in showing Latinos of voting age would make up the majority in the proposed district.

A three-judge panel at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument. In a ruling Tuesday, the New Orleans-based panel insisted that the number of minorities of voting age in a proposed district must be citizens and needed to account for a majority of the total population of the district’s voting-age citizens.

“That’s really a change of how voting rights law has been interpreted in the past and would make a very bad precedent if it was adopted,” Garcia said.

Hmm. I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that the Census counts state prison inmates as residents of whatever county the prison happens to be in, and that this is used for the apportionment of legislative and Congressional districts, even though these prisoners may not have otherwise lived in that county and certainly can’t vote there. As such, I don’t buy the Court’s ruling – it strikes me as inconsistent with other established practices. Be that as it may, I would not hold out any hope for the Supreme Court to do anything about it. Not this Court, anyway.

It’s ironic that this ruling comes down at the same time as the final touches are being put on the court ruling that required the city of Irving to create single member Council districts. Makes you wonder why one city is not like the other.

On a side note, the nature of Farmers Branch’s City Council may not be changing, but that doesn’t mean that its politics are the same as it ever was. Consider this recent exchange in a debate over allowing expanded alcohol sales.

The measure to permit alcohol sales in a city known for its tight controls inspired contentious debate among residents and even a City Council that frequently votes as a bloc.

The new ordinance allows for the sale of alcohol at events in city parks by vendors or contractors who show they have liability insurance and a license with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The new ordinance covers beer, wine and even frozen margaritas.

After residents took to the podium, telephones and e-mail in opposition, Mayor Tim O’Hare said he opposed the measure because “a majority of our residents do not want this.”

O’Hare likened a yes vote to Washington politicians who push measures and “don’t listen to the people.”

Councilman David Koch took offense. “I think what you said at the end is not appropriate,” Koch said.

“Your attack at me is inappropriate,” O’Hare responded.

“I have the right to express my opinion after you express your opinion,” Koch retorted.

This was flagged for me by the proprietor of the DARE to LIVE in Farmers Branch blog – which you should be reading for a good perspective on that Dallas suburb – who says it’s “the first time I’ve heard of City Council members actually opposing the Mayor!” O’Hare, you may recall, is the guy who spearheaded the successful referendum to ban apartments from renting to undocumented immigrants; that ordinance, and a stricter one that preceded it, have been struck down or restrained by the courts as legal fees and other costs mount. Anything that helps knock O’Hare down a peg or two is fine by me.