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Felix Alvarado

Still more polling

Via the Trib, there’s another gubernatorial primary poll out there.

The Texas Credit Union League Poll of Texas Primary Voters, released today, shows incumbent Rick Perry close to a majority, holding a 22 point lead over Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary race for Governor. According to the poll of likely primary voters, Rick Perry leads with 49%, Hutchison holds 27% and Debra Medina rose to 19%.

In the Democratic primary race for Governor, Bill White reached 51%, with Farouk Shami holding a distant 19%. Held a little more than a week before the start of early voting, pollsters questioned likely primary voters about top national and state issues, favorability rankings of state elected officials, and more, all broken out in terms of demographics including area of the state, income, ethnicity, and party affiliation.

Full crosstabs are available for the Democrats and the Republicans. Warning: they are each 181-page, mostly Courier-font, PDF files. Of greatest interest to me, from the Democratic side:

– As noted, White leads Shami 51-19. This is consistent with the PPP poll that had White up 49-19. I’m not fully clear how they screened for likely voters, however. They did ask if the respondent was likely to vote, with 80% saying they were very likely and 20% saying somewhat likely, but what I don’t know is if they pre-screened for a history of primary voting. As with all relatively low-turnout affairs, if you’re not in the habit of voting in them, you’re not really a likely voter in my book. Maybe they did this, maybe they didn’t, I couldn’t tell. Seems like they might have, since the TCUL folks used a pollster affiliated with the party in question for each poll, but I can’t say for certain.

– As with the other poll, the lesser-known candidates were basically non-factors. Felix Alvarado got 7%, Alma Aguado got 4%, and “other” got 3%. If those numbers hold up, I believe Bill White has an excellent shot at avoiding a runoff.

– The poll asked about favorability for White, Shami, and Alvarado. White was rated favorably by 51% of respondents, with only 5% having a negative view. An astonishing 93% of Houston-area respondents gave him positive marks. Shami’s numbers were 32/12, and nobody knew who the hell Felix Alvarado was.

– Despite having all kinds of data subsets, I couldn’t tell how the vote preference broke down along regional or ethnic lines. It may be in there, but I gave up trying to find it.

– Interestingly, basically the same number of people (90) claimed to have seen a White ad as a Shami ad (93). For all the money Shami has spent on ads, that’s gotta sting.

– This poll also asked about the Lite Guv race. Linda Chavez-Thompson was in the lead there, with 25%, followed by Ronnie Earle at 18%, and Marc Katz at 8%. Needless to say, that leaves a lot of room for “Undecided”.

– I did not delve into the GOP crosstabs, because life is too short. The one point of interest was there on the summary page, where it said Perry would defeat KBH in a runoff by a 58-34 margin. Poor Kay.

Finally, Burka reports that we’ll have a UT/Texas Trib poll soon, which means there will be three results to compare and contrast, plus Rasmussen’s GOP numbers. It’s so nice to have this much data, isn’t it?

White holds big lead in Dem primary poll

The headline and content of this Trib story is about another strong showing by GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina in a poll, this one by Public Policy Polling, but that’s not what interests me. I’ll get to that in a minute, but this is what caught my eye from the memo:

There is less drama on the Democratic side- Bill White leads Farouk Shami 49-19.

PPP surveyed 400 likely Democratic primary voters and 423 likely Republican primary voters from February 4th to 7th. The margin of error for the Democratic survey is +/-4.9% and for the Republicans it’s +/-4.8%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.

Far as I know, this is the first publicly released poll that includes Farouk Shami, and as you can see, it suggests he is not competitive with White. All of the poll data is included – text of questions, demographics, and so forth – and nothing in particular stands out as odd to me. The sample is 32% Hispanic, 19% African-American, 46% white, 3% other, which strikes me as reasonable. Shami does best among Hispanics, losing by a 23-39 margin. If there’s one more piece of data I wish this poll had, it would be a geographic breakdown. Does Shami do better in, say, South Texas than elsewhere? We don’t know.

The other data point of interest is that the no-name candidates, especially the ones with Hispanic surnames, barely register. Felix Alvarado got 5%, Alma Aguado 2%, Clement Glenn 1%, and that’s it. Alvarado and Aguado have the potential to force a runoff if they pick up enough stray votes from folks who have no familiarity with the topline candidates, but there’s no indication in this data of that – Alvarado and Aguado combined for 13% of the Hispanic vote, which isn’t enough to cause trouble. If this poll is accurate – and all the standard disclaimers apply – then Dr. Murray’s prediction of White winning comfortably in March looks good. Again, it’s just one data point, so apply salt as needed.

As for the Republican side, Medina’s 24%, which is well within striking distance of KBH’s 28%, certainly looks impressive and would make my repeated predictions of her not beating Ron Paul’s showing in 2008 look foolish. I’ll just note that 51% of respondents were not sure what impression they had of her, which suggests to me that her support is still pretty soft and may fade over time. Or I’m just deluding myself and she’s the story of the year in Texas. Who the hell knows with Republican primary voters? More from Burka, who seems to be mesmerized by Medina for reasons I can’t quite fathom.

UPDATE: BOR has more.

Roundup and reaction to White’s announcement

Bill White isn’t officially a candidate for Governor yet, but he’s already picked up endorsements from State Sens. Kirk Watson and Eliot Shapleigh. I feel confident that many more such endorsements will follow, perhaps even before he commits to the race.

For now, at least, the other Democratic contenders for Governor are still in the race. I figure Kinky is in till the end – he has books to sell, after all. Shami has already sunk a bunch of money into TV ads, so it doesn’t make sense for him to decide anything until that runs its course. Alvarado is an afterthought. It makes sense for Hank to switch, either to Land Commish or back to Ag Commish, but I expect he’ll dig in his heels a bit. He got into this race for a reason, and he won’t get out of it without one. He could wind up staying in, but I think a lot of folks will want him to switch. He’s the one to watch.

(Speaking of ads, I saw that KBH for Governor ad last night during the local news. My God, it was as awful as I’d heard. Hard to believe she was once seen as an unstoppable juggernaut in this race.)

Speaking of the other races, there’s already been talk about who else might run for the other offices now that White would be at the top of the ticket. I don’t want to get too far out there in the speculation game, but let me suggest a name anyway: State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte for Lite Guv. She isn’t on the ballot in 2010, so it’s a free shot for her, she would provide a nice bit of regional and ethnic diversity, and she would generate as much excitement for that office as she did as a potential candidate for Governor. There would be some issues to work out first – she would have to want to do it, and there’s the matter of her endorsing John Sharp in the Senate race – but it’s nothing insurmountable. I have no idea what anyone else is thinking here, but this is what I think.

Ross Ramsay lists winners and losers as a result of White’s likely move. I would suggest that it’s too early to call Sharp a winner – we still don’t know for sure that there will be a Senate race before 2012, after all, and for all we know someone else could get into it by then. I’ll say this much – Sharp no longer has an excuse for his lousy fundraising in that race. I’d also suggest that a potential loser is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. If White’s entry into the Governor’s race is the boost for Democrats in Harris County that a lot of people I’ve talked to think it will be, that may attract a stronger candidate to the County Judge’s race, and could put Emmett in jeopardy. Which would be a bit ironic, given the link White and Emmett have for their work during Hurricane Ike, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

I’m sure there will be a lot more to talk and think about between now and December 4, when White will announce his decision. In the meantime, here’s more from Burka and Swartz, BOR, PDiddie, Hal, Juanita, John Coby, Erik Vidor, Andrea White (not actually related to these events, but amusing to read), and Evan Smith.

UPDATE: Forgot to add in Rick Casey, too.

UPDATE: Here’s Purple Texas.

Shami and Shapleigh

Farouk Shami will make his entry into the Democratic primary for Governor official tomorrow afternoon at his business’ headquarters in Houston; details are on his website. The Trib gives us a peek behind the curtain.

Shami, running as a Democrat, has lined up an experienced gang to run his campaign: campaign manager Joel Coon, general consultants Robert Jara and Dan McClung, pollster Ben Tulchin, and media specialist Tad Devine.

Coon has worked on several campaigns, helping Democrat Travis Childers win a Republican congressional seat in Mississippi in 2008. Jara and McClung are old hands at Texas and especially Houston races. Tulchin is a California-based pollster who works on races around the country. Devine was an advisor to John Kerry and to Al Gore and has managed several campaigns in other countries.

The field for the Democratic primary is crowded, but more than half the voters are undecided. The names at this point include Felix Alvarado, Kinky Friedman, Hank Gilbert, Tom Schieffer, and maybe Ronnie Earle and Eliot Shapleigh, who haven’t declared but have been making gubernatorial noises. In a UT/Texas Tribune poll earlier this month, Friedman had 19 percent and Schieffer had 10 percent with everyone else in the single digits. Undecided had 55 percent, leaving plenty of room for new candidates.

I think the Ronnie Earle ship has sailed by now. I’m not aware of any buzz around him, haven’t really heard his name get mentioned in weeks, and at this point it’s hard to imagine him getting any traction. Shapleigh’s an interesting case. Since his announcement that he was not running for re-election to the Senate, it has appeared that he’s interested in running for something statewide, a subject that another Trib story explores. With five candidates already in the race, it seems to me it’d be a crapshoot – 20% of the vote might be enough to get into a runoff in a six-person field, and any of the five declared candidates strike me as being capable of doing that. Lite Guv, on the other hand, is wide open (yeah, yeah, Marc Katz – like I said, wide open) and if you’re really lucky you might wind up opposed by some non-officeholder selected by a committee. Certainly the odds of being on the ballot in November are much better in the latter case.

Back to Shami, about whom I daresay there will be many questions asked by primary voters, starting with “Who’s he?” and working towards “What has he done before now?”

Shami’s business, founded in 1986, took off when he signed a distribution deal with Austin-based Armstrong McCall. John McCall is a part owner of Farouk Systems now, and the two men — particularly McCall — were the biggest contributors four years ago to Kinky Friedman’s campaign for governor. Shami gave Friedman $24,400 for that run; McCall was in for $1.3 million and was listed, until last February, as Friedman’s campaign treasurer.

Shami also contributed to former Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, who lost a 2006 race to Democrat Ellen Cohen. And in May of this year, he gave $5,000 to Republican Ted Cruz, who had his sights set on a run for attorney general. In federal races, he’s contributed to candidates of all political stripes this decade, including Democrat Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Houston, Houston Mayor Bill White (for the U.S. Senate race), Ralph Nader (in 2004 and 2008), Tennessee Democrat Graham Leonard, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (the same month he gave to Cruz), and the Republican National Committee (most recently in 2007).

Yeah, that’s going to cause some heartburn. All I can say is I hope he has a good, pithy explanation for folks who ask him about it. Beyond that, I look forward to seeing how his launch goes tomorrow.

The state of the Governor’s race

So we know that Tom Schieffer is in. So are Mark Thompson and Felix Alvarado. Ronnie Earle may or may not be in. Hank Gilbert now says that he’s in. Kinky (sigh) is fixing to be in. Some people think that one or the other of Bill White and John Sharp ought to be in. Here’s what I think.

I think we’ll have a pretty good idea soon if the fundraising will exists to make one of these people a serious challenger for the Governor’s mansion. I was on a conference call with Gilbert and a number of my blogging colleagues yesterday morning, and one of the things he said was that he’s set a goal of raising $100K online between now and his official launch on September 21. I don’t know if he can do this, but I do agree that if he does, he’ll establish himself as a viable contender, and that it will make it easier for him to attract support from the conventional donors. (Though it must be noted that this doesn’t necessarily follow. Just ask Rick Noriega about that.) Schieffer’s recent announcement about receiving endorsements from House Democratic leaders may be an indication that the establishment has decided to coalesce around him; if so, expect him to post better fundraising numbers for the third and fourth quarters. And despite adamant denials about changing races from White and Sharp, I believe that one of them, most likely the one who has had the least success in raising money for the Senate race, could be cajoled into switching if a promise of an open money spigot came with it.

Basically, my thesis is that the Democratic donor class has finally started to wake up to the realization that there’s an excellent chance Rick Perry will be on the ballot for another term in November, and that unless they get in the game, there’s an even better chance he’ll get it. Six months ago, they could have rationalized that Kay Bailey Hutchison was inevitable, but as she has morphed into Strayhorn 2.0, such thinking is increasingly wishful. Barring any Tuesday morning surprises, the options are to actually support the Democratic ticket (I know, what a radical concept) or brace yourself for four more years. And if you’re going to choose the former, you may as well get started now and have a say in who will be at the top of that ticket. Oh, and if you’re going to do that, you may as well go ahead and fill out the rest of the ticket as well, lest all the resources Democrats put in to retaking the State House get wiped out by an all-Republican (or four-fifths Republican if there’s a Democratic Speaker) Legislative Redisctricting Board. Why make 2012 a repeat of 2002 if you don’t have to?

So keep an eye on the fundraising, and see if any more Democratic elected officials start giving endorsements. If there’s a frontrunner for the nomination, we’ll know it soon enough. Hopefully, along with all that will come candidates for the remaining offices, with each of them having decent fundraising potential. Honestly, it’s not too much to ask, is it?

Kirk Watson not running for Governor

Phooey.

There’s been a lot of speculation about my plans for the next election. Well, I’ve decided what I’m going to do, and I want to announce it to you all first.

I will run for re-election to the Texas Senate in 2010.

While I consider Tom Schieffer to be an acceptable candidate for Governor, Watson became my first choice when his colleague, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, declined to run and urged Watson to do it instead. We’ll have to see if anyone else jumps in – Ronnie Earle, anyone? – or if this is the field we get. And if so, what it means for the rest of the ticket. All I know is that we can’t afford to punt at the statewide level like we did in 2006.

Speaking of 2006, would-have-been candidate Felix Alvarado, whose check for the filing fee bounced, says he’s going to try again this year. I’m somewhat less worried than David Mauro is of Alvarado’s chances of actually winning the nomination, on the grounds that Schieffer, and Earle if he runs, will have enough money and institutional backing to prevent this from being a referendum between random unknowns, as the Lite Gov primary in 2006 between Alvarado’s sister Maria and Ben Grant was. But I admit it could happen.

Finally, here’s Schieffer’s statement on Watson’s decision. We’re waiting to hear from you, Ronnie.