Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Hank Gilbert

October 2020 campaign finance reports: Congress

This is it, the last quarterly finance report roundup for the cycle. It’s been quite the time, hasn’t it? Let’s do this and see where we are as voting continues. The January 2019 roundup is here, which closed out the 2017-18 election cycle, the April 2019 report is here, the July 2019 report is here, the October 2019 report is here, the January 2020 report is here, the April 2020 report is here, and the July 2020 report is here. For comparison, the January 2018 report is here, the April 2018 report is here, and the July 2018 report is here. The FEC summary page for Congress is here and for the Senate is here.

MJ Hegar – Senate

Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Colin Allred – CD32

Hank Gilbert – CD01
Sima Ladjevardian – CD02
Lulu Seikaly – CD03
Stephen Daniel – CD06
Elizabeth Hernandez – CD08
Mike Siegel – CD10
Adrienne Bell – CD14
Rick Kennedy – CD17
Wendy Davis – CD21
Sri Kulkarni – CD22
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23
Candace Valenzuela – CD24
Julie Oliver – CD25
Carol Ianuzzi – CD26
Donna Imam – CD31


Dist  Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
============================================================
Sen   Hegar        20,579,453 12,121,009        0  8,505,926

07    Fletcher      5,673,282  4,115,705        0  1,599,643
32    Allred        5,060,556  3,477,172        0  1,686,828  

01    Gilbert         595,890    321,193   50,000    274,697
02    Ladjevardian  3,102,882  2,373,600   50,000    729,282
03    Seikaly       1,143,345    580,360    3,000    562,985
06    Daniel          558,679    396,453        0    162,225
08    Hernandez
10    Siegel        1,994,611  1,712,734        0    285,368
14    Bell            226,601    196,623        0     35,078
17    Kennedy         190,229    161,093    8,103     30,563
21    Davis         7,917,557  6,035,908        0  1,881,649
22    Kulkarni      4,663,288  2,941,745        0  1,749,310
23    Jones         5,893,413  3,877,366        0  2,107,566
24    Valenzuela    3,589,295  2,601,580        0    987,715
25    Oliver        1,599,523  1,102,297    2,644    497,225
26    Ianuzzi         129,145     91,293   53,335     37,852
31    Imam          1,000,764    620,512        0    380,251

These totals are just off the charts. Remember how in the 2018 cycle I was freaking out as one candidate after another topped $100K? Here we have nine challengers to incumbent Republicans that have topped one million, with the tenth-place challenger still exceeding $500K. For that matter, nine out of those ten outraised their opponents in the quarter, though several still trail in total raised and/or cash on hand. I’ve run out of synonyms for “unprecedented”. All this is without accounting for DCCC and other PAC money being spent. Who could have imagined this even as recently as 2016?

The one question mark is with the incumbent Dems, as both Rep. Lizzie Fletcher and Rep. Colin Allred were outraised for the quarter. Both took in over $1.2 million apiece, so it’s not like they slacked, and they both maintain a cash on hand lead while having spent more. I don’t know what to make of that, but I’m not terribly worried about it. Republican money has to go somewhere.

MJ Hegar raised $13.5 million this quarter, and there’s some late PAC money coming in on her behalf. I wish she had been able to raise more earlier, and I wish some of the excess millions that are going to (very good!) Senate candidates in much smaller and less expensive states had come to her instead, but she’s got what she needs to compete, and she’s got a competitive race at the top of the ticket helping her, too. We don’t have a Senate race in 2022, and someone will get to run against Ted Cruz in 2024. All I can say is I hope some folks are thinking about that now, and taking some initial steps to build on what Beto and MJ have done before them.

I don’t have a whole lot to say otherwise, because these numbers speak for themselves. I mean, remember when we were a little worried about the ability of candidates like Lulu Seikaly and Julie Oliver and Donna Imam to raise enough money? Seems like a long time ago now.

Let me end with a thought about the future. Will what we saw in 2018 and 2020 carry forward? 2022 is the first post-redistricting election, so with new districts and the likelihood of some open seats, there should be plenty of action. We did see a fair amount of cash being raised in 2012, after all. If there are many more Dem incumbents, it’s for sure there will be more money flowing in. We’ll have to see how many competitive races there are beyond that. What I do know is that we have definitively proven that this can be done, that quality candidates can be found and they will be supported. We had the power, and we figured out how to use it. Hard to believe that will go away.

Endorsement watch: Menefee and more

The Chron endorses Christian Menefee for Harris County Attorney.

Christian Menefee

Christian Menefee was still celebrating his victory in the Democratic primary over longtime incumbent Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan when the coronavirus pandemic changed everything. Lockdowns and social distancing left the 32-year-old civil litigation attorney with a lot of time on his hands.

He used those spare hours well. During the last several months, Menefee told the editorial board, he has researched the inner workings of the department he hopes to run. He studied the office’s organizational charts. He talked to more than 30 current employees. He reached out to the Dallas County district attorney and the Travis County attorney.

That helped give him a solid understanding of the office he seeks and what improvements need to be made, Menefee said.

“You can’t just come in with ideas,” said Menefee, a Houston native who is a litigator with Kirkland & Ellis. “You need to come in with stuff that you know is going to work.”

That kind of energy, attention to detail and determination to make the county attorney office as effective as possible earn Menefee our endorsement. We also recommended him in the primary, noting his commitment to expanding the office’s environmental law section, which currently has four full-time lawyers.

In addition to the bread-and-butter work of representing elected officials, local entities and county employees, Menefee said he wants the office to bring more impact litigation to “hold polluters accountable.”

Menefee also wants the office to be a strong advocate for local control — no small feat, given the control officials in Austin have sought in recent years, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s recent challenges to the county on vote-by-mail applications and eviction policies.

If you listen to the interview I did with Menefee for the primary, you will definitely hear all of these themes from him. He’s got a lot of potential, and I expect big things.

Next, the Chron heads a bit north to endorse Hank Gilbert in CD01 over the hottest of messes that is Louie Gohmert.

Hank Gilbert

Ever since voters in Texas’ 1st Congressional District sent U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert to Congress in 2004 by a landslide, it’s been an open question as to how extreme, how divisive and how — there’s no other way to put it — how batty their congressman can get before he’s recalled.

If his electoral successes are any guide, Gohmert is in no danger of being held accountable for his antics, which include most recently refusing to wear a mask unless he got COVID-19 — which he promptly did. His positive diagnosis drew a worried rebuke from his own daughter on Twitter: “My father ignored medical expertise and now he has Covid,” she wrote.

Still, as congressman, Gohmert has never polled less than 68 percent. Time and again, despite a mountain of cringe-worthy examples, Gohmert has emerged stronger after Election Day.

This year, his opponent swears it will be different. “He’s never had a real challenger,” says Democrat Hank Gilbert, 60, a former rancher, high school ag teacher and two-time candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner.

We hope he’s right. The district deserves better than what it’s had these past 16 years. Heck, Congress deserves better.

Here’s my interview with Hank, who is a mensch through and through. No question, Congress and the country would be a much better place with Hank subbing in for Gohmert, but that’s on the voters, and this is a tough district. If you know someone who lives in that district, make sure they know about Hank.

Finally, the Chron endorses incumbent Rep. Mike McCaul for re-election, and while the have good things to say about Mike Siegel, they argue that “trading an accomplished and pragmatic congressman would not serve the district well”. Whatevs.

Interview with Hank Gilbert

Hank Gilbert

I will have a few interviews to present for the November election. Nearly all of the people I wanted to talk to in the greater Houston area were in contested primaries, and thus I have already interviewed them, but there are several more I’ll be trying to get. Beyond that, I’m reaching out to various Congressional candidates, and will hope to have as many of those as I can. We’ll start today with an old friend, Hank Gilbert, whom I interviewed before in 2006 and 2010 when he ran for Ag Commissioner. Hank is a rancher and high school agriculture teacher who grew up near Tyler, and he’s trying to do the world a favor by sending Louie Gohmert off to retirement in CD01. It’s a tough challenge in a red district, but if anyone is up to it, it’s Hank. If you’d like to close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to have a normal, rational, compassionate human being representing this Congressional district, go ahead and give this interview a listen:

I will be presenting further interviews as I can. Please let me know what you think.

Louie Gohmert gets COVID-19

The universe works in mysterious ways.

Louie Gohmert

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, he said in an interview with East Texas Now where he speculated that he may have caught the virus from wearing his mask.

Gohmert, who spends ample time on the U.S. House floor without a mask, was one of several Texas officials scheduled to fly to West Texas this afternoon with President Donald Trump. He took one test, which tested positive, then took a second test during a pre-screen at the White House which also tested positive.

“I can’t help but wonder … if I injected the virus into my mask when I was moving,” he said in an interview.

[…]

Gohmert said he received guidance from the doctors at the White House and the attending physician at the Capitol that he only needed to self-quarantine for 10 days. He said he will drive back to his East Texas home and that his staff is all getting tested for the virus.

“Like Dorothy said, there’s no place like home,” Gohmert said.

The Republican lawmaker has been known for speaking at length with Capitol colleagues while not adhering to social distancing guidelines. Last month, he told CNN that he was not wearing a mask because he was getting tested regularly for the virus.

“I don’t have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I’ve never had it,” he said in June. “But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask.”

We’ll see about that. Gohmert is truly one of the worst people in Congress, and one of the worst in Texas. He has spent his long, miserable career in Congress working to make his district, the state, and the country a worse, poorer, meaner, dumber, unhealthier, less safe, and more violent place. According to Slate, Gohmert “returned to his congressional office after his positive test to personally inform his staff of the result”, which is to say he knowingly put his entire staff at risk for no good reason. I have one wish for Louie Gohmert, and that’s that he gain some small measure of empathy for everyone who has suffered from this pandemic. I don’t have much hope for that wish, but it’s what I’ve got. The Chron and Mother Jones have more.

July 2020 campaign finance reports: Congress

Congratulations, everyone. Not only have we made it to the other side of another quarterly reporting period, we have also successfully navigated the primary runoffs. My next quarterly finance report post for Congress will thus be shorter, as this is the last time the folks who did not win their runoffs will be listed. So let’s get on with it already. The January 2019 roundup is here, which closed out the 2017-18 election cycle, the April 2019 report is here, the July 2019 report is here, the October 2019 report is here, the January 2020 report is here, and the April 2020 report is here. For comparison, the January 2018 report is here, the April 2018 report is here, and the July 2018 report is here. The FEC summary page for Congress is here and for the Senate is here.

MJ Hegar – Senate
Royce West – Senate

Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Colin Allred – CD32

Hank Gilbert – CD01
Sima Ladjevardian – CD02
Lulu Seikaly – CD03
Sean McCaffity – CD03
Stephen Daniel – CD06
Elizabeth Hernandez – CD08
Mike Siegel – CD10
Pritesh Gandhi – CD10
Adrienne Bell – CD14
Rick Kennedy – CD17
David Jaramillo – CD17
Wendy Davis – CD21
Sri Kulkarni – CD22
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23
Candace Valenzuela – CD24
Kim Olson – CD24
Julie Oliver – CD25
Carol Ianuzzi – CD26
Donna Imam – CD31
Christine Eady Mann – CD31


Dist  Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
============================================================
Sen   Hegar         6,605,966  5,751,355        0    902,092
Sen   West          1,867,804  1,689,538  258,103    178,265

07    Fletcher      4,384,162    978,573        0  3,453,656
32    Allred        3,801,649    924,378        0  2,980,715  

01    Gilbert         245,146     96,526   50,000    148,619
02    Ladjevardian  1,674,680  1,129,634   50,000    545,046
03    Seikaly         409,531    370,312    3,000     39,219
03    McCaffity       507,661    441,938        0     65,723
06    Daniel          328,097    243,191        0     84,906
08    Hernandez
10    Siegel          917,771    756,306        0    164,956
10    Gandhi        1,276,854  1,200,742        0     76,112
14    Bell            103,734     81,576        0     11,247
17    Kennedy          97,859     87,125   11,953     12,161
17    Jaramillo        21,246     17,942        0      3,303
21    Davis         4,467,270  1,536,995        0  2,930,275
22    Kulkarni      2,530,971  1,352,948        0  1,205,791
23    Jones         4,133,598  1,215,227        0  3,009,888
24    Valenzuela    1,119,403  1,008,739        0    110,664
24    Olson         1,667,400  1,417,247   20,000    250,153
25    Oliver          681,850    591,851    2,644     89,999
26    Ianuzzi          84,645     66,691   46,050     17,954
31    Mann            372,445    353,802   44,500     20,080
31    Imam            449,274    407,175        0     42,099

First things first, any worries about fundraising capacity in these brutally awful times have been assuaged. The totals speak for themselves, but let’s go into some detail anyway. Basically, the candidate in nearly every race of interest is ahead of their 2018 pace, often by a lot. Let me put this in another table to quantify:


Dist  Year     Candidate     Raised       Cash
==============================================
02    2018        Litton    843,045    407,674
02    2020  Ladjevardian  1,674,680    545,046

03    2018         Burch    153,559     19,109
03    2020       Seikaly    409,531     39,219

06    2018       Sanchez    358,960     67,772
06    2020        Daniel    328,097     84,906

10    2018        Siegel    171,955     46,852
10    2020        Siegel    917,771    164,956

21    2018        Kopser  1,594,724    364,365
21    2020         Davis  4,467,270  2,930,275

22    2018      Kulkarni    405,169     89,434
22    2020      Kulkarni  2,530,971  1,205,791

23    2018   Ortiz Jones  2,256,366  1,150,851
23    2020   Ortiz Jones  4,133,598  3,009,888

24    2018      McDowell     61,324     28,091
24    2020    Valenzuela  1,119,403    110,664

25    2018        Oliver    199,047     78,145
25    2020        Oliver    681,850     89,999

31    2020         Hegar  1,618,359    867,266
31    2020          Imam    449,274     42,099

With the exception of CD31, where no one has come close to MJ Hegar (who as the US Senate nominee may help boost turnout in this district anyway), and CD06, where Stephen Daniel is a pinch behind Jana Sanchez in fundraising (but also a pinch ahead in cash on hand), each nominee is substantially better off this time around. Todd Litton, Joe Kopser, and the original version of Gina Ortiz Jones were all strong fundraisers, and they’ve all been blown out of the water this year. Mike Siegel, Sri Kulkarni, and Julie Oliver have all greatly outpaced themselves. I will maintain that we might have won CD24 in 2018 if we’d had a candidate who could raise money; that’s very much not a problem this year. Lulu Seikaly is well ahead of Lori Burch, who was herself quite a pleasant surprise in CD03.

There are still things to address. Seikaly, Siegel, and Valenzuela all needed to spend a bunch of money in the extended runoffs, and thus need to build up cash with less time to do it. Given their records so far, I’m not too worried about it. Both Jana Sanchez and 2018 Julie Oliver had May runoffs to win, so their modest cash on hand totals were understandable, but Stephen Daniel and 2020 Julie Oliver were both March winners, so I don’t understand why they’ve been spending as much as they have at this point. I hope that isn’t a problem. Donna Imam is not going to approach Hegar’s fundraising prowess, but she alone among the crowd in CD31 seemed to have some capacity for the task, so maybe she’ll at least make up some ground.

The big difference is that there isn’t a juggernaut Senate campaign, which was a boost to downballot candidates in 2018, this time around. On the other hand, we do have a Presidential campaign, which is already airing ads, and we have the DNC airing ads, and we have the DCCC, which has added CD02 to its already-long target list (though they may have dropped CD31 by now). Point being, there will be plenty of other money invested that will help with these races, directly or indirectly.

So overall, a pretty rosy picture, and the financial resources to support the notion that a whole lot of seats are actually in play. Remember how I spent much of the 2018 cycle talking about how there never used to be any Congressional money raised in Texas, outside of CD23? The world is in flames, but that one small part of the Before Times, I don’t miss.

Last but not least, a brief shoutout to Hank Gilbert, playing the part of Dayna Steele in this cycle – a great candidate and a swell human being in an absolute no-hope district against a terrible incumbent who is raising a surprising amount of money. If doing good and being good were all it took, Hank would be in the top tier of next year’s freshman class. Maybe someday we’ll live in that world. Godspeed, Hank.

April 2020 campaign finance reports: Congress

Hey, remember politics? You know, races and finance reports and stuff like that? Yeah, it’s still happening, weird as that may seem right now. As we are well into April, the Q1 Congressional finance reports for 2020 are in, and thankfully for me the number of candidates whose reports I need to review is much smaller. Let’s have a look. The January 2019 roundup is here, which closed out the 2017-18 election cycle, the April 2019 report is here, the July 2019 report is here, the October 2019 report is here, and the January 2020 report is here. For comparison, the January 2018 report is here and the April 2018 report is here. The FEC summary page for Congress is here and for the Senate is here.

MJ Hegar – Senate
Royce West – Senate

Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Colin Allred – CD32

Hank Gilbert – CD01
Sima Ladjevardian – CD02
Sean McCaffity – CD03
Lulu Seikaly – CD03
Stephen Daniel – CD06
Elizabeth Hernandez – CD08
Mike Siegel – CD10
Pritesh Gandhi – CD10
Adrienne Bell – CD14
Rick Kennedy – CD17
David Jaramillo – CD17
Wendy Davis – CD21
Sri Kulkarni – CD22
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23
Kim Olson – CD24
Candace Valenzuela – CD24
Julie Oliver – CD25
Carol Ianuzzi – CD26
Christine Eady Mann – CD31
Donna Imam – CD31


Dist  Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
============================================================
Sen   Hegar         4,830,038  3,781,873        0  1,095,647
Sen   West          1,363,387  1,242,563  242,162    242,162

07    Fletcher      3,375,004    723,963        0  2,693,107
32    Allred        2,370,113    555,774        0  1,917,783  

01    Gilbert         190,941     44,804   50,000    146,136
02    Ladjevardian  1,133,296    930,810   50,000    202,485
03    McCaffity       387,506    313,098        0     74,407
03    Seikaly         252,591    232,038    3,000     20,552
06    Daniel          196,861    187,942    7,500      8,918
08    Hernandez
10    Siegel          664,291    542,317   10,000    125,464
10    Gandhi        1,011,877    948,927        0     62,949
14    Bell             84,724     71,740        0     16,061
17    Kennedy          65,908     59,041   11,953      8,294
17    Jaramillo        20,681     17,864        0      2,816
21    Davis         3,047,765  1,094,009        0  1,953,755
22    Kulkarni      1,564,263  1,226,088        0    365,942
23    Ortiz Jones   3,310,358  1,024,041    3,024  2,377,835
24    Olson         1,231,183  1,028,804   20,000    202,378
24    Valenzuela      647,105    506,708        0    140,397
25    Oliver          464,623    427,972    2,644     36,651
26    Ianuzzi          82,254     63,909   47,032     18,344
31    Mann            277,815    278,885   44,500        367
31    Imam            363,194    223,126  100,000    140,068

Some real separation in the Senate race, as MJ Hegar approaches five million total raised. She is in a much stronger position for the runoff than Royce West, though there’s still time for him to raise a few bucks. Hegar has a long way to go to be on par with John Cornyn, but she’s at least putting herself into “reasonably viable for a statewide candidate” range. For what it’s worth, Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez and Amanda Edwards did eventually top a million dollars raised, and in the end they both spent nearly all of it. I still don’t know why Tzintzún Ramirez was unable to do better in this department, but that’s water under the bridge now.

As was the case in 2018, everyone in all of the interesting races is raising a ton of money. The two incumbents are doing what they should be doing. Six challenger candidates have now topped a million dollars raised, with Wendy Davis and Gina Ortiz Jones both over three million. Pritesh Gandhi and Kim Olson still have to make it through the July runoff, by which time their runoff opponents – Mike Siegel and Candace Valenzuela – may have also topped that mark. Of course, right now is kind of a lousy time to be raising money, so hold that thought for a minute. We’re at a point where it’s basically routine for everyone to pile up big money-raised numbers, so let me note that the thing that stands out here is the amount that some of these candidates have spent. It’s more than a little mind-boggling that four candidates so far have spent over a million bucks, and some people, even the big moneybags, have left themselves a bit bereft in the cash-on-hand department. I’m glad to see both CD31 candidates finally start to get on the board, but that’s quite the hole Christine Eady Mann left herself in cash-wise. I’m going to do a separate post with a direct comparison to April 2018 later, but let’s put a pin in that. We don’t know what the fundraising environment is going to be like over the next few months. Dems benefited from a lot of Congressional cash in 2018. We had every reason to believe the same thing would happen this year as of the last report, but that was in the Before Times. Now, who knows?

We can take a little peek at how the fundraising environment may be. Everyone had to report their totals as of February 22 as well, thanks to the March primary. So here’s a look at how the Raised totals varied from January to April:


Dist Candidate         Jan01      Feb22      Apr01
==================================================
Sen  Hegar         3,225,842  3,864,201  4,830,038
Sen  West            956,593  1,134,953  1,363,387

07   Fletcher      2,339,444  2,481,687  3,375,004
32   Allred        2,370,113  2,577,348  2,370,113

02   Ladjevardian    407,781    660,853  1,133,296
03   McCaffity       267,288    308,240    387,506
03   Seikaly         109,870    173,031    252,591
06   Daniel          148,655    179,330    196,861
10   Siegel          451,917    527,802    664,291
10   Gandhi          786,107    869,277  1,011,877
21   Davis         1,850,589  2,186,063  3,047,765
22   Kulkarni      1,149,783  1,246,943  1,564,263
23   Ortiz Jones   2,481,192  2,684,696  3,310,358
24   Olson           861,905    967,032  1,231,183
24   Valenzuela      333,007    442,351    647,105
25   Oliver          325,091    387,523    464,623
31   Mann            170,759    198,783    277,815

Donna Imam did not have a February 22 total when I went looking for these numbers, so I omitted her from this table. Honestly, it doesn’t look like there was much of a slowdown in March, which is what I had been afraid of. Hell, Wendy Davis raised nearly a million bucks just in the last five weeks of the period. With the primaries over, the federal contribution limits get reset, so I think Davis and at least a couple other candidates who emerged victorious reaped a benefit from becoming the official nominee. Certainly Sima Ladjevardian and Gina Ortiz Jones took in a decent haul in the latter half of the filing period. Julie Oliver and Stephen Daniel did not get such a boost, however. I don’t have much more to say about this, I was just curious about how this went. We’ll see what the next quarter brings. As always, let me know what you think.

January 2020 campaign finance reports: Congress

The big ones for this cycle the Q4 2019 Congressional finance reports. For the last time, we have new candidates joining the list, and a couple of folks dropping out. Let’s do the thing and see where we are going into 2020. The January 2019 roundup is here, which closed out the 2017-18 election cycle, the April 2019 report is here, the July 2019 report is here, and the October 2020 report is here. For comparison, the October 2017 report is here. The FEC summary page for Congress is here and for the Senate is here.

MJ Hegar – Senate
Chris Bell – Senate
Amanda Edwards – Senate
Royce West – Senate
Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez – Senate
Sema Hernandez – Senate
Adrian Ocegueda – Senate
Michael Cooper – Senate
Jack Foster – Senate
Anne Garcia – Senate
John Love – Senate (did not file for the primary)

Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Colin Allred – CD32

Henry Cuellar – CD28
Jessia Cisneros – CD28

Hank Gilbert – CD01
Elisa Cardnell – CD02
Travis Olsen – CD02
Sima Ladjevardian – CD02
Sean McCaffity – CD03
Tanner Do – CD03
Lulu Seikaly – CD03
Stephen Daniel – CD06
Elizabeth Hernandez – CD08
Laura Jones – CD08
Mike Siegel – CD10
Pritesh Gandhi – CD10
Shannon Hutcheson – CD10

Adrienne Bell – CD14
Rick Kennedy – CD17
William Foster – CD17
David Jaramillo – CD17
Jennie Lou Leeder – CD21
Wendy Davis – CD21
Sri Kulkarni – CD22
Nyanza Moore – CD22
Derrick Reed – CD22
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23
Rosey Ramos Abuabara – CD23
Jaime Escuder – CD23
Ricardo Madrid – CD23
Efrain Valdez – CD23

Jan McDowell – CD24
Kim Olson – CD24
Candace Valenzuela – CD24
John Biggan – CD24
Richard Fleming – CD24
Sam Vega – CD24
Crystal Lee Fletcher – CD24 (suspended campaign)
Julie Oliver – CD25
Heidi Sloan – CD25
Carol Ianuzzi – CD26
Mat Pruneda – CD26
Christine Eady Mann – CD31
Dan Jangigian – CD31
Eric Hanke – CD31
Donna Imam – CD31
Michael Grimes – CD31
Tammy Young – CD31


Dist  Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
============================================================
Sen   Hegar         3,225,842  2,269,671        0  1,003,653       
Sen   Bell            318,983    310,983        0      8,000
Sen   Edwards         807,478    476,485   30,000    330,993
Sen   West            956,593    430,887  202,162    525,706
Sen   T-Ramirez       807,023    577,782        0    229,240
Sen   Hernandez         7,551      7,295        0      3,891
Sen   Ocegueda          5,773      5,273    5,600        500
Sen   Cooper            4,716      2,598       41       -660
Sen   Foster            6,957      5,604        0      1,353
Sen   Garcia           10,000      6,058   22,844      3,941
Sen   Love             31,533     27,610        0      3,922

07    Fletcher      2,339,444    544,518        0  1,836,992
32    Allred        2,370,113    555,774        0  1,917,783  

28    Cuellar       1,530,976  1,140,095        0  2,935,884
28    Cisneros        982,031    366,588        0    615,442

01    Gilbert         107,625     21,733   50,000     85,891
02    Cardnell        284,514    193,910        0     90,603
02    Olsen            29,141     24,271   11,037      4,870 
02    Ladjevardian    407,781     30,035        0    377,746
03    McCaffity       267,288     54,939        0    212,348
03    Do               17,815     17,523        0        291
03    Seikaly         109,870     43,518    3,000     66,351
06    Daniel          148,655    128,989        0     19,665
08    Hernandez
08    Jones             4,250      2,698    1,910      1,552
10    Siegel          451,917    303,847   10,000    151,560
10    Gandhi          786,107    335,354        0    450,752
10    Hutcheson       750,981    295,404        0    455,577
14    Bell             84,724     71,740        0     16,061
17    Kennedy          48,623     38,593   11,953     11,457
17    Foster
17    Jaramillo        14,280        163        0     14,116
21    Leeder           29,112     25,444    9,475      3,662
21    Davis         1,850,589    635,794   18,493  1,214,794
22    Kulkarni      1,149,783    515,958        0    661,592
22    Moore           142,528    141,373   38,526      1,154
22    Reed            142,458    104,196        0     38,261
23    Ortiz Jones   2,481,192    544,523    3,024  2,028,187
23    Abuabara
23    Escuder           8,454      2,985        0        926
23    Madrid
23    Valdez
24    McDowell         67,351     73,140        0      7,531
24    Olson           861,905    357,238   20,000    504,667
24    Valenzuela      333,007    191,231   33,956    141,776
24    Biggan           62,887     58,333   27,084      4,554
24    Fleming          16,813     16,414      300        398
24    Vega
24    Fletcher        122,427     35,099      823     87,327
25    Oliver          325,091    195,265    2,644    129,826
25    Sloan           136,461     54,257        0     82,204
26    Ianuzzi          72,607     56,912   42,195     15,695
26    Pruneda          30,117     15,546   16,000     16,935
31    Mann            170,759    126,616        0     45,580
31    Jangigian        36,127     27,383   14,681      8,743
31    Hanke            46,390     35,111        0     11,278
31    Imam            207,531     20,461  100,000    187,070
31    Grimes           15,300          0        0     15,300
31    Young            50,939     14,430        0     36,508

In the Senate primary, there’s MJ Hegar and there’s everyone else. Her totals above understate her lead in the money race, because VoteVets will be spending on her candidacy as well. I would have thought Royce West would have raised more, and I thought Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez might have done better as well, but here we are. I do think the eventual nominee will be able to raise plenty of money, and will likely get some national help as well. For sure, we know Hegar is on the DSCC’s list; whether that transfers to someone else if she falls short remains to be seen.

I’ve expressed some skepticism about Jessica Cisneros in her primary against incumbent Henry Cuellar, but she’s proven she can raise money – in fact, she outraised him for this quarter, though obviously Cuellar still has a big cash on hand advantage. I can’t say I’ve ever been enthusiastic about her candidacy – she seemed awfully green at the beginning, and as someone who had moved back to Laredo to run this race she didn’t strike me as the kind of candidate that could give him a serious challenge. But man, Cuellar is a jackass, and I’m sure that’s helped her in the fundraising department. He’s also now got some national money coming in, which suggests at least a little case of the nerves. This is the marquee race that’s not in Harris County for me, though I will reiterate what I said before about taking out Cuellar versus taking out Eddie Lucio.

Sima Ladjevardian made a big splash in CD02, and around the same time as her announcement of her Q4 haul the DCCC put CD02 on its target list, adding it to the six other seats (CDs 10, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 31) that were already there. I assume the two are related, though Elisa Cardnell keeps chugging along.

Even though there was a long history of Democratic challengers to Republican Congressmen not raising any money, we all got used to the idea of our candidates breaking records and putting up very impressive totals in 2018. Look at the January 2019 summary that I linked to above, which adds it up for the cycle. Even candidates in completely non-competitive districts were topping $100K, even $200K or more. So maybe some of the totals you see here have you a bit jaded, like “oh, sure, we can raise money now, we’re good at that now”. If that’s what you’re thinking – and I don’t blame you, I feel that way too – I invite you to look back at the January 2018 summary, which is the point in time from that cycle that we’re in now. Look in particular at CDs 03, 10, 22, and 24, where candidates this time around have in some cases done better by an order of magnitude than their counterparts – who in some cases were themselves – did two years ago. Look at Julie Oliver in CD25 – she hadn’t even cracked $20K at this point in 2018. We are in such a different world now.

I could go down the list and look at all the race, but you can see the totals. There are no surprises here, in the sense that the candidates you’d expect to do well are indeed doing very well. Only CD31 is underperforming, at least relative to the other districts, but Christine Mann has stepped it up a bit and Donna Imam is willing to throw some of her own money in the pot. With the DCCC jumping into CD02, we’ve already expanded the field, and with the numbers so far it will be easy to expand it further. If this all still feels a little weird to you, I get it. Things were the way they were for a long time. They’re not that way any more, and I for one am glad to adjust to that.

After-deadline filing review: Congress

Let’s continue our walk through the filings. I’m going to take a look at some of the interesting Congressional races, skipping over the ones we just looked at.

CD01: It’s still not remotely competitive, but I once again want to salute Hank Gilbert for fighting the good fight against the preposterous Louie Gohmert. Seriously, if you saw a character based on Gohmert in a TV show or movie, you’d be complaining about what an insulting and outdated stereotype of a Texan he was. If only. Anyway, Hank’s candidacy is a reminder that good people do exist everywhere, and that Louie Gohmert is also complicit in Trump’s Ukraine-related crimes.

CD03: In the end, Tanner Do did file, joining Sean McCaffity and Lulu Seikaly. Not a top tier race, but on the radar.

CD17: Rick Kennedy is running again. He’s joined in the primary by David Jaramillo and William Foster. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pour one out for Chet Edwards.

CD21: It’s Wendy Davis and Jennie Lou Leeder, and that’s it. I’m actually a little surprised no one else jumped in, though the way Davis has been crushing it at fundraising, as well as her name brand, it’s not that surprising.

CD23: Basically, it’s Gina Ortiz Jones and a bunch of people who have not established much of a presence in the race. I do not understand why Rosey Abuabara has not filed a finance report. Liz Wahl, the first person connected with CD23 this cycle, did not file.

CD24: We’re familiar with the main players in this group – Kim Olson, Candace Valenzuela, Crystal Fletcher, Jan McDowell, John Biggan. I still feel like we could have won this seat last year with a stronger nominee. As long as we avoid that mistake this time, we should have a great shot at it now.

CD25: Julie Oliver and Heidi Sloan, and that’s it. Another not-top-tier race, but still one to watch.

CD31: All five of the people mentioned here, plus one more, filed. I would really like to see at least one of them post a strong Q4 finance report.

Incumbents: We know about the challenges to Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, and of course the Henry Cuellar/Jessica Cisneros matchup is the marquee attraction. Other incumbents who face primary opponents: Joaquin Castro (CD20, two opponents), Eddie Bernice Johnson (CD30, three opponents), Marc Veasey (CD33, one opponent), Filemon Vela (CD34, two opponents), and Lloyd Doggett (CD35, one opponent). I do not expect any of them to have any trouble. All other Dem incumbents are unopposed in March.

Other races: None of these outside-the-Houston-area districts are competitive, but they all have contested primaries anyway: CDs 12, 13, 14, 26, 27. They contain a mix of new and repeat candidates. Godspeed to them all.

Next up, state offices (may break that into two posts), and judicial races. Let me know what you think.

October 2019 campaign finance reports: Congress

Moving on to the Q3 FEC reports, we again have new candidates making their appearance. The January roundup is here, which closed out the 2017-18 election cycle, the April report is here, and the July report is here. For comparison, the October 2017 report is here. The FEC summary page for Congress is here and for the Senate is here.

MJ Hegar – Senate
Chris Bell – Senate
Amanda Edwards – Senate
Royce West – Senate
Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez – Senate
Sema Hernandez – Senate
Adrian Ocegueda – Senate
Michael Cooper – Senate

Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Colin Allred – CD32

Henry Cuellar – CD28
Jessia Cisneros – CD28

Hank Gilbert – CD01
Elisa Cardnell – CD02
Sean McCaffity – CD03
Tanner Do – CD03
Stephen Daniel – CD06
Mike Siegel – CD10
Pritesh Gandhi – CD10
Shannon Hutcheson – CD10
Rick Kennedy – CD17
Jennie Lou Leeder – CD21
Wendy Davis – CD21
Sri Kulkarni – CD22
Nyanza Moore – CD22
Derrick Reed – CD22
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23
Liz Wahl – CD23
Rosey Ramos Abuabara – CD23
Jan McDowell – CD24
Kim Olson – CD24
Candace Valenzuela – CD24
Crystal Lee Fletcher – CD24
John Biggan – CD24
Julie Oliver – CD25
Heidi Sloan – CD25
Carol Ianuzzi – CD26
Christine Eady Mann – CD31
Murray Holcomb – CD31
Dan Jangigian – CD31
Eric Hanke – CD31
Donna Imam – CD31


Dist  Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
============================================================
Sen   Hegar         2,058,080  1,211,904        0    893,657       
Sen   Bell            206,629     94,894   10,000    111,734
Sen   Edwards         557,430    219,645        0    337,785
Sen   West            347,546    172,926  202,162    376,782
Sen   T-Ramirez       459,442    233,953        0    225,489
Sen   Hernandez         7,551      7,295        0      3,891
Sen   Ocegueda          1,048        262      900        786
Sen   Cooper

07    Fletcher      1,789,359    391,448        0  1,439,978
32    Allred        1,705,723    355,711        0  1,453,457  

28    Cuellar       1,099,758    400,328        0  3,244,434
28    Cisneros        465,026    173,329        0    291,697

02    Cardnell        177,733    115,886        0     61,847
03    McCaffity       155,404      7,080        0    148,324
03    Do               16,947     15,725        0      1,221
06    Daniel          111,009     70,409        0     40,600
10    Siegel          355,691    207,532   20,000    161,650
10    Gandhi          527,967    209,989        0    317,978
10    Hutcheson       534,515    161,665    4,000    372,850
17    Kennedy          31,298     15,079   11,953     17,646
21    Leeder           15,697     14,509        0      1,188
21    Davis           940,581    336,645    8,863    603,936
22    Kulkarni        817,139    299,219        0    545,687
22    Moore           112,311    102,863   12,915      9,447
22    Reed            114,137     60,268        0     53,868
23    Ortiz Jones   1,652,739    303,861        0  1,440,396
23    Wahl              9,000      6,521    1,000      2,478
23    Abuabara
24    McDowell         57,515     52,519        0     18,316
24    Olson           567,394    241,708   20,000    325,685
24    Valenzuela      201,377     92,814        0    108,563
24    Fletcher        122,427     35,099      823     87,327
24    Biggan           45,893     35,999   13,834      9,894
25    Oliver          223,417     75,836    2,644    147,580
25    Sloan            56,043     23,125        0     32,918
26    Ianuzzi          67,828     35,539   47,604     32,288
31    Mann             95,449     58,685        0     38,200
31    Holcomb          66,610     57,770        0      8,840
31    Jangigian        23,265      2,248    1,500     21,016
31    Hanke            18,302      9,098        0      9,203
31    Imam             60,441      7,088        0     53,353

There’s a lot here – so much that it’s taken me this long to post, and so much that I thought about splitting this into two separate posts – but let’s start with the Senate candidates. MJ Hegar has been in the race the longest, and she has raised the most, matching her performance from the previous quarter. All the other candidates (save for the low-profile no-hope types, and hey isn’t it nice to finally see Sema Hernandez file a finance report?) entered during Q3 and their finance reports can be graded on a curve as a result. That said, time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking, and John Cornyn keeps on raising piles of money, so everyone needs to kick it up a notch or two. It was nice that every candidate at the Texas Signal candidate forum was asked about their path to victory, but raising money is a key part of that, even if it is a tacky subject to bring up. We’re going to need to see a lot more in the January reports.

Incumbents Lizzie Fletcher and Colin Allred are doing what they need to do. Their potential Republican opponents are raising a bunch of money, but they’re staying ahead of them, which they need to keep doing. Jessica Cisneros has done well in her challenge to Henry Cuellar, who is made of money, and she is getting some national press for her efforts. I still don’t know how much either money or national attention will mean in this race, but I do know that if she does win, it will be a very big deal and will make a lot of Dem incumbents look over their shoulders.

There are a number of new names on this report. Hank Gilbert is not going to win in CD01 because it’s a 70%+ Trump district, but Hank is a mensch and Louie Gohmert is a death eater from a hell dimension, so the least I can do is note that Hank is taking on the thankless task of challenging Gohmert. We noted last time that Lorie Burch has ended her campaign in CD03, and now several others have stepped in. Sean McCaffity, who is off to a strong fundraising start, and Tanner Do have reports for this quarter, and they will have company next time. Chris Suprun, whom you may remember as one of the wannabe faithless electors from 2016, has entered the race. He had also run in the CD27 special election last year, and had a brush with the voter ID law before that. Plano attorney Lulu Seikaly is also in the race, and I apologize to her for making her follow that.

Elsewhere in new candidates, Heidi Sloan has entered the race in CD25. Julie Oliver, the nominee from 2018, is well ahead of her fundraising pace from that year, so we’ll see how that goes. There are now a bunch of candidates in CD31, though I can tell you now that that article from August is out of date. I’ll have more on that in a separate post. Among the newcomers here are Dan Jangigian, Eric Hanke, and Donna Imam. Jangigian may have the most interesting resume of any Congressional candidate in recent memory – he’s a onetime Olympic bobsledder, and acted in the legendary bad movie The Room. He was subsequently portrayed in the movie The Disaster Artist, the movie about the guy who made The Room, by Zac Efron. And now he’s running for Congress. What have you done with your life?

A more familiar candidate making her first appearance here is Wendy Davis, who took in nearly a million bucks for CD21. That’s one of several top target races where there’s a clear frontrunner, at least as far as fundraising goes, which is a change from 2018 when most of the hotter primaries had the money more widely dispersed. Gina Ortiz Jones did even better, topping $1.6 million already. Rosey Abubara, who I thought might give her a challenge, has not filed a report. Candace Valenzuela and Crystal Fletcher have raised a few bucks in CD24, but Kim Olson is well ahead of them both, while Sri Kulkarni is lapping the field in CD22. The exception is in CD10, where all three candidates are doing well, but 2018 nominee Mike Siegel is a step behind Pritesh Gandhi and Shannon Hutcheson.

Rounding up the rest, Elisa Cardnell stepped it up in CD02, but faces a steep challenge as Dan Crenshaw is one of the biggest fundraisers in Congress now. Stephen Daniel is doing all right in CD06. I know their totals don’t look like that much compared to some of these other folks, but remember how much time we spent in 2018 talking about how rare it was for any Democratic challenger to raise as much as $100K for an entire cycle? We’ve come a long way. And I’m still hoping for either Rick Kennedy to start doing more in CD17 or for someone else to jump in, even if that race is a big longshot. The Quorum Report made my heart flutter with a teaser about a poll testing former CD17 Rep. Chet Edwards against carpetbagger Pete Sessions. I don’t know if this is a real thing or just someone’s idea of a cool thought experiment, but I’d be all in on another run by Edwards. We’ll see if there’s anything to it.

The UT/TT poll’s track record in past Democratic primaries

The one result in that UT/TT poll from Monday that has people freaking out is the one that shows nutball LaRouchie Kesha Rogers leading the Senate race with 35%, followed by David Alameel with 27%. I expressed my skepticism of that result at the time, because among other things I have my doubts that their sample is truly representative of the Democratic primary electorate, but I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at the Trib’s previous efforts at polling Democratic primaries and see how they’ve done in the past. There are two elections to study. First, let’s go back to 2010 when all of the statewide offices were up for grabs. Democrats had three contested primaries that the Trib polled: Governor, Lt. Governor, and Ag Commissioner. Here are the results.

In the Democratic primary race, former Houston Mayor Bill White has a huge lead over his next closest challenger, businessman Farouk Shami, pulling 50 percent to Shami’s 11 percent. Five other candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination; the survey found that only 9 percent of those polled prefer someone other than the two frontrunners.

Undecided voters are still significant in both gubernatorial primaries. On the Republican side, 16 percent said they hadn’t made up their minds. Pressed for a preference, 51 percent chose Perry, 34 percent chose Hutchison, and 15 percent chose Medina — an indication that Perry could win without a runoff if he can attract those voters into his camp. Among Democratic voters, 30 percent were undecided, and of those, 48 percent, when pressed, said they lean toward White. With White already at 50 percent, that means Shami would have to strip votes away from him in order to force a runoff or to claim a win.

[…]

Democratic primary voters have a couple of other statewide races to decide. In the contest for lieutenant governor — the winner will face Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in November — labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson took 18 percent of those polled, former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle got 16 percent, and restaurateur Marc Katz had 3 percent. Five percent of voters said they wanted “somebody else,” and a whopping 58 percent remain undecided on the eve of early voting, which begins on Tuesday. Kinky Friedman and Hank Gilbert — two refugees from the governor’s race now running for agriculture commissioner — are locked in a tight race, 32 percent to 27 percent. While Friedman’s ahead, the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. And, as with the Lite Guv race, “undecided” is actually leading, at 41 percent. The winner will face incumbent Republican Todd Staples in November.

And here’s the reality:

Governor Alma Aguado 2.83% Felix Alvarado 4.95% Bill Dear 0.96% Clement Glenn 1.44% Star Locke 0.92% Farouk Shami 12.84% Bill White 76.03% Lieutenant Governor Linda C-T 53.13% Ronnie Earle 34.67% Marc Katz 12.18% Commissioner of Agriculture Kinky Friedman 47.69% Hank Gilbert 52.30%

So White did have a big lead on Shami, but it was much bigger than they indicated. Linda Chavez-Thompson was indeed leading Ronnie Earle, but by a significant amount, more than enough to avoid a runoff. And Hank Gilbert defeated Kinky Friedman, despite the UT/TT poll showing Friedman in the lead.

How about the 2012 Senate primary, which is a reasonably decent facsimile of this one, as it’s a large field of mostly unknown candidates? Here’s the poll:

The Democrats, too, could be building to a July finish, probably between former state Rep. Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard, according to the poll.

Sadler led the Democrats with 29 percent, but was followed closely — and within the poll’s margin of error — by Hubbard. Two other candidates — Addie Dainell Allen and Grady Yarbrough — also registered double-digit support.

And the actual result:

U. S. Senator Addie Allen 22.90% Sean Hubbard 16.08% Paul Sadler 35.13% Grady Yarbrough 25.87%

Sadler did in fact lead the field, but Hubbard came in fourth, well behind eventual second-place finisher Grady Yarbrough, whom the Trib pegged for fourth.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Mostly that we don’t have enough data to be able to evaluate the Trib’s ability to poll Democratic primaries. To be fair to them, they were quite accurate in the corresponding GOP races. They had Rick Perry winning in 2010, though not quite over 50%, with Debra Medina’s level nailed exactly, and they had David Dewhurst with a lead over Ted Cruz with Tom Leppert in third, but with the Dew falling short of a majority. As such, I’d put some faith in their GOP polling, at least until we see how they actually did. But I would not put much faith in their Dem results. They clearly pushed people to pick someone – anyone! – in the Senate race, they polled before David Alameel dropped a bunch of mail, which they themselves said (but didn’t acknowledge in their writeup) is exactly the sort of thing that could enable someone to win that race, and as I said I just don’t believe they’ve got a representative sample of the Dem primary electorate. I’ll be more than a little shocked if it turns out they got this one right.

One more thing: What if they are right about Rogers leading? Well, as long as she doesn’t crack 50%, I’d suggest we all remain calm. For all its constraints and limitations, the state Democratic Party has managed to get the nominees it has wanted in the last three Senate primaries. Rick Noriega cleared 50% in round one in 2008, and Sadler in 2012 and Barbara Radnofsky in 2006 both won their runoffs – Radnofsky has said that her overtime race against the now apparently dormant Gene Kelly was the best thing that happened to her, as it boosted her fundraising and made people actually pay attention to that race. I feel reasonably confident that if Rogers is in a runoff with anyone, everyone else in the party will fall as loudly and visibly as they can behind her opponent, whoever that winds up being. It’s already happening to a large degree – the TDP, the HCDP, and the Fort Bend Democratic Party have put out messages condemning Rogers and urging Democrats not to vote for her. I’d have preferred to see that happen earlier than this, and I’d much rather it not come to banding together to beat her in a runoff, but I’m not going to fall into a spiral of self-loathing over this one poll result. Do your part to help people make a good decision in this race, and be prepared to support someone other than Kesha in a runoff if it comes to that.

Interview with Hank Gilbert

Hank Gilbert

For the third and final Commissioner candidate, we have Hank Gilbert, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner. Gilbert ran in 2006 and was the top non-judicial vote-getter for the Democrats that year. Gilbert is a rancher from the Tyler area who has remained actively involved in state politics since his 2006 campaign. Other than the Governor’s race, this one has gotten more attention than any other. Gilbert has relentlessly attacked incumbent Commissioner Todd Staples on a wide variety of issues. You can hear more of that in the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

UT/TT poll: Perry 39, White 33

Another poll result.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry leads his Democratic challenger, Bill White, by 6 percentage points — 39 percent to 33 percent — in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Libertarian Kathie Glass has the support of 5 percent of the Texans in the survey; Green Party candidate Deb Shafto gets 1 percent. And 22 percent of respondents — more than one in five Texans — say they’re undecided about which candidate to support with only seven weeks to go in the fall campaign.

Clearly, the natives are restless: In addition to the high percentage of undecided voters up and down the ballot, the poll also found that third-party candidates are capturing enough of the vote to affect the outcomes of some statewide contests. And 31 percent of respondents — nearly one in three Texans — consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement.

“White has not yet faded and remains in striking distance of Perry,” says Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas who oversees the UT/Tribune poll with his colleague Jim Henson. “The downside for White is that Perry is up by 18 points among those who say they are extremely likely to vote. White needs a big turnout among young voters and minorities to be competitive.”

As for the undecided voters, Shaw and Henson say the high percentage isn’t that unusual when you consider that they weren’t pressed to say whom they’d support if the election were held today. The candidates have plenty of voters to fight for, they say — and there are enough unanchored votes to swing the election either way. The question to be answered between now and November is what those people will do when it comes time to vote.

“There are a lot of people out there who are not ready to respond to a poll about who they’re going to vote for,” Henson says. “If you look at the breakdown, there are a lot of moderates and a lot of independents.”

You can see more info here, though full crosstabs aren’t out yet. Color me a little skeptical of this one. I believe Rick Perry has a lot of soft support, but I don’t believe 22% of the electorate is actually undecided. Just hearing the words “Democrat” and “Republican” should get you a candidate selection over 80% of the time, as it did in their generic Congressional/legislative ballot question. Nor do I believe that the Libertarian candidates will collect over 5% of the vote in most of these races. No Libertarian candidate got as much as 5% in 2006 in a statewide race. Finally, if 14% of your sample is people who don’t know (6%) who they voted for President in 2008 or didn’t vote at all (8%), then I think you’re sampling a lot of people who will not be voting this November. Unless you were ineligible to participate in 2008, if you didn’t vote then you ain’t voting now.

Note that in their May poll, Perry was leading by 9, 44-35, meaning he lost five points and White two between the two polls. I didn’t see a “Who did you vote for in 2008?” question in their Day One toplines, so I can’t compare the two on that. Interestingly, every single candidate appears to have lost ground in this poll since May:

Candidate Race May Sept ================================ Perry Gov 44 39 White Gov 35 33 Dewhurst LtGov 44 41 Chavez-Thompson LtGov 30 26 Abbott AG 47 43 Radnofsky AG 28 26 Patterson LandCom 39 35 Uribe LandCom 27 25 Staples AgCom 39 33 Gilbert AgCom 28 26 Porter RRCom 39 33 Weems RRCom 27 25

All Republicans except Dewhurst, who went from +14 to +15, saw their leads shrink. That’s with the generic Congressional ballot going from 46-34 in the GOP’s favor in May to 48-33 in September. You’d think that might have been worthy of comment, but it went unnoted by the pollsters. Given my issues with the sample, I don’t think it means all that much, but it was striking nonetheless. I presume there will be more data coming, including the full crosstabs, so we’ll see what else there is soon enough. Burka has more.

More on the broadband map of Texas

Shouldn’t a map that purports to document broadband availability in Texas do a better job than this of actually including broadband providers?

At an unveiling last month, the Texas Department of Agriculture touted its map of broadband Internet availability as the first step in closing a “digital divide” that denies rural Texans critical services.

But a political divide has opened instead, as critics question the tool’s accuracy and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples’ relationship with the organization that created it.

Staples’ Democratic rival, Hank Gilbert, and a handful of local providers, consumer groups and mapping organizations say the agency tailored the application to fit Connected Nation, the nonprofit selected by the department and the Texas Public Utility Commission to create the map. The Agriculture Department and the company defend the process, while their critics contend that the map will direct federal stimulus money toward major telecommunications companies at the expense of smaller Internet providers.

“They hit the big guys,” said James Breeden, founder of LiveAir Networks, which covers rural parts of Central Texas. “I didn’t even know they were putting together a broadband map until I saw it on the news and went ‘Oh.’ Then I logged in and went, ‘Oh, really!’ ”

He said he couldn’t find his company or two nearby providers on the map. Some areas didn’t show the correct distributor. Others named one when none existed. “The map is just off. It’s not technically accurate,” he said.

Perhaps if the Department of Agriculture had hired a local non-profit to do this work instead of sending the stimulus dollars that paid for it out of state, the results might have been better. There’s a lot of other questions about the process that led to this map as well as the map itself, which the article does a good job of highlighting. I’m sure there’s more there as well, if someone has the time to dig in. Check it out and see what you think.

Fundraising: Other statewides

Bill White kicked butt in the fundraising department, but how did the other statewide candidates do? Not nearly as good, unfortunately. Here’s a look:

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458383&form=COH

Totals From Report For Linda Chavez-Thompson
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $94.00
Total Political Contributions: $331,023.42
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $1,442.55
Total Expenditures: $162,904.34
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $136,421.09
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458315&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For David Dewhurst Committee
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $3,172,765.68
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $987.03
Total Expenditures: $1,299,511.30
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $3,550,829.75
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $1,137,500.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458258&form=COH

Totals From Report For Barbara Ann Radnofsky
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $11,790.00
Total Political Contributions: $233,941.91
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $1,424.84
Total Expenditures: $176,092.13
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $415.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $463,852.09
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458479&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For Texans for Greg Abbott
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $30.00
Total Political Contributions: $1,717,734.99
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $2,861.64
Total Expenditures: $653,222.40
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $11,209,703.93
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458764&form=COH

Totals From Report For Henry E. Gilbert
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $51,701.98
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $6,229.72
Total Expenditures: $32,684.16
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $90,710.73
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458472&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For Texans for Todd Staples
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $1,455.00
Total Political Contributions: $387,462.34
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $3,616.61
Total Expenditures: $210,392.40
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $1,065,709.00
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458249&form=COH

Totals From Report For Jeffry D. Weems
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $168.00
Total Political Contributions: $63,716.53
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $100.00
Total Expenditures: $88,389.86
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $17,448.60
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=457583&form=COH

Totals From Report For David J. Porter
Filed on: July 14 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $782.00
Total Political Contributions: $128,482.00
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $63,133.72
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $74,727.48
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $15,000.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458410&form=COH

Totals From Report For Hector Uribe
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 22, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $1,295.00
Total Political Contributions: $44,703.85
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $33,008.80
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $7,289.77
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458409&form=COH

Totals From Report For Jerry E. Patterson
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $307,629.67
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $205,441.21
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $822,401.18
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

The Republicans break down into three groups: Dewhurst and Abbott, who have the resources to run a bunch of TV ads statewide if they want to (though I suspect Abbott will save a few pennies for a 2012 Senate race); Staples and Patterson, who have a comfortable lead in finances but don’t have enough to do more than spot some ads in select markets; and David Porter, who has a token amount, though still more than his opponent, Jeff Weems. None of the Democrats are going to approach the top level, but getting to the second tier is a doable goal, especially for Chavez-Thompson and Radnofsky. If you’re a big Democratic donor and you’ve already given five figures or more to Bill White, you can get a pretty decent amount of bang for those bucks if you were to write a similar check to some or all of his ballotmates.

Richie re-elected as TDP Chair, Two-Step survives

The first, Boyd Ritchie’s re-election as TDP Chair, was expected. The second was more unexpected.

Texas Democrats this afternoon overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to scrap the Texas Two-Step system of awarding presidential delegates through both a primary and caucuses.

Those pushing for change lost a preliminary fight in a rules committee meeting earlier today. But they had enough support to bring the matter to debate on the convention floor.

Some background is here, the Trib has a detailed writeup, and Bob Moser has more.

Also of interest yesterday was the new media panel (aside to Abby Rapoport – it’s Martha Griffin, not Grimes) and the speeches by downballot candidates. Stace, among others, has the prepared remarks of Lite Guv candidate Linda Chavez-Thompson; I have the speech given by Rep. Senfronia Thompson on behalf of Hank Gilbert, whose mother passed away on Thursday, beneath the fold. Martha, PDiddie and PDiddie again, The Texas Blue, John Coby, and Texas Politics have more.

(more…)

Was there no one in Texas that could tell us about our broadband situation?

I’m a little late in picking this up, so bear with me. Last week, the Texas Department of Agriculture published a map detailing where broadband access exists and doesn’t exist in Texas. Democratic candidate for Ag Commish Hank Gilbert, after criticizing the map as being much ado about not very much, then had some strong words about how the study that led to the map’s creation was funded.

“It was inappropriate for the Texas Department of Agriculture to outsource more than $3 million in federal funding to a Kentucky non-profit organization with a questionable record and significant ties to telecommunications companies when federal law allowed the state to conduct this project on its own,” Gilbert said.

He accused [Ag Commissioner Todd] Staples and the Texas Department of Agriculture of bypassing state agencies and public universities within Texas that could have completed the project.

“The fact of the matter is that federal law allowed the state or any of the public universities in Texas to conduct this project,” Gilbert said, citing the provisions The Broadband Data Improvement Act, 47 U.S.C. §1304, which states that multiple entity types-including government bodies-were eligible for the funds.

Gilbert also questioned why Staples would allow the Texas Department of Agriculture to do business with a company that has left controversy in its wake in North Carolina and Kentucky, signed restrictive non-disclosure agreements with telecom companies prohibiting disclosure of detailed coverage information, and has been accused of providing misleading information to the Federal Communications Commission.

Staples’ response to Gilbert’s charges came from his campaign. As yet, as far as I know, there has been no comment from the TDA itself about the substance of Gilbert’s remarks. (For that matter, neither has the Staples campaign.) Politics aside, that’s a pretty straightforward question: Why not fund the study through a Texas university? Surely any number of them could have done it, quite possibly for less than $3 million. This was paid for with stimulus money, so regardless of the actual price tag, it would have been nice to keep it here. It would be nice if the TDA could tell us why it chose not to do that.

Meet the statewides: Uribe and Gilbert

Continuing with the TDP’s “Meet the Statewides” production, here we have intro videos for two more candidates. First up is my favorite candidate for this cycle, Land Commissioner hopeful Hector Uribe.

Next up is the Democratic candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hank Gilbert.

You can see all the Meet the Statewides pages, in English and Spanish, here.

The Commissioners

Here’s a look at how the candidates in the three Commissioner races did across Texas.

– In the Democratic primary for Land Commissioner, Bill Burton won a majority in an astonishing 193 counties; of those, he scored better than 70% in 123, and better than 60% in 161. So why isn’t he the nominee for Land Commish? Only 55 of those counties had as many as 1000 votes cast in them. There were 317,597 votes cast in those 193 counties he won, and 247,923 in the 53 counties carried by Hector Uribe (some counties had no primary votes cast in them). Uribe also had big margins, and they came in such places as Webb, Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces, El Paso, Bexar, and Travis, all of which he won with 64% or more of the vote. Burton carried Dallas and Harris Counties, where he won 20 of the 25 State Rep districts (Uribe took 134, 136, 143, 145, and 148) thanks in part to endorsements from various African-American groups, and he won his home county of Henderson with 82%, but for the most part he was running up the score in places with few people. That 82% total netted him 566 votes; Uribe’s 86% tally in his home of Zapata County was worth over 2,000 votes. In the big counties he won, Burton’s wins were closer – his combined margin of victory in Dallas and Harris was about 16,500 votes, or about 500 votes fewer than Uribe’s margin in Hidalgo. Uribe’s win wasn’t broad but it was deep, and it was in places the Democratic Party hopes to do well this fall.

– I had no idea where Kinky Friedman’s strongest showings would be. Turned out he did pretty well in South Texas and along the border – his 63% in Webb County was his best performance, and he also took places like Zapata, Jim Wells, Val Verde, Maverick, and Hidalgo. He also had a comfortable win in Collin County, and squeakers in Montgomery, Galveston, Denton, and Tarrant, where he had been endorsed, albeit somewhat casually, by the Star-Telegram. He did not carry the other major counties in which he received endorsements, Dallas and El Paso; perhaps the latter didn’t like the song. He did win his home Kerr County, for a total of 66 all together. Hank Gilbert won 179 counties, including big wins in Travis and Fort Bend, and smaller but solid margins in Williamson, Bexar, and Harris, where he took 20 State Rep districts. He won his home county of Smith with 55%.

– I don’t know what I expected when I looked at the GOP primary for Railroad Commissioner, but it was ugly. Victor Carrillo won a grand total of six counties, four of which had less than 100 votes each in them. They still loved him in his home county of Taylor (that’s Abilene, in case you were wondering), and he collected over 60% of the votes in Webb, but it was all downhill from there. David Porter took 60% or more of the vote in 186 counties. He won by a two to one margin in neighboring Lubbock, and was over 60% in Bexar, McClennan, Denton, and other places too numerous to name. He won 15 of the 25 State Rep districts in Harris County, which he carried with “only” 53% of the vote. You can explain his win over the better-funded incumbent, who ran a competent campaign despite what the spinmeisters would have you believe, however you like. All I can say is that had I not known better, I’d have thought Porter was the incumbent and Carrillo was the unknown challenger.

Election results: Other statewides

The big story in the other statewide primaries is the loss of Railroad Commission Chair Victor Carillo to a first-time candidate.

David Porter, who moved to Giddings after building a business in Midland, ousted Victor Carrillo, the highest-ranking nonjudge Latino in Texas government, in an election some said was determined by ethnicity.

Carrillo, who was appointed to the panel in 2003 before winning election a year later, had the support of top Republicans and vastly more money, according to campaign filings. Through Feb. 20, Carrillo had $322,601 on hand; Porter had $11,251.

Porter, who said he spent about $50,000 on his campaign, played up his lack of political credentials in his campaign, and he credited his outsider status for the victory. “People are tired with professional politicians, and looking for a change,” he said Tuesday night.

But Carrillo’s camp thought his biggest problem might have been his last name.

“We’ve got the problem of an Anglo surname versus an Hispanic,” said campaign consultant Susan Lilly, who said Carrillo’s campaign had spent at least $600,000. Candidates with any kind of unusual name are at a disadvantage, she said.

Hold that thought, because we’ll be coming back to it when we look at the Harris County results. I had the opportunity to finally meet Jeff Weems last night at the Bill White event. As you might imagine, he was happy with that result. The question is whether the industry support in this race will switch from Carillo to Porter or Weems. Their July finance reports will be a lot more interesting to look at now.

Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson won without a runoff in the Lite Guv primary; the SOS shows her at 53.10% to Ronnie Earle’s 34.67%. You have to figure there might have been a runoff if Mark Katz had run an actual campaign. Hank Gilbert won what turned out to be a not-too-close race against Kinky Friedman, getting over 52%. Friedman is now a three-time loser, once as an R, once as an I, and now as a D. Turn out the lights, dude. Hector Uribe won a closer-than-I-expected race to be the candidate for Land Commish, winding up with 51.67% after early returns had him trailing. When I went to bed last night, Bill Burton was up on him by about 10,000 votes, but Uribe’s turf in South Texas had largely not reported yet. The Democrats got the slate their best slate.

Finally, there will be a runoff for the Republican nomination for Harriet O’Neill’s open Supreme Court slot, with four candidates finishing within 2000 votes of each other. The leader, former State Rep. Rick Green, is the worst of them.

Green, who represented the Dripping Springs area in the Texas House from 1999 to 2003, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the night’s returns and “real thrilled” about the prospect of a runoff, and that he thought his campaign had “good ground game and a good Internet presence.” The former lawmaker made headlines in 2006 for a public row with his Democratic successor, state Rep. Patrick Rose, whom he allegedly punched and shoved on Election Day. While in the Legislature, Green attracted criticism for using his Capitol office as the setting for a health supplement infomercial for a company and arguing successfully for the parole of a man who had lent $400,000 to his father’s company. He also made Texas Monthly’s list of the 10 worst legislators.

The libertarian-style candidate has earned the endorsements of rightwing celebs Chuck “Walker, Texas Ranger” Norris and the prolific Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of TLC’s 18 Kids & Counting!, as well conservative lawmakers like state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. Green is also cozy with the Aledo-based organization WallBuilders, a group that wants to close the gap between church and state, and advocates for other causes that preserve America’s “moral, religious and constitutional heritage.”

Yecch. Barring anything strange, Green will apparently face off against Fort Worth District Court Judge Debra Lehrmann, with the winner going up against Jim Sharp in November. In the other Supreme Court primary, the newly-appointed Justice Eva Guzman won easily against Rose Vela.

Two Trib primary stories

The Trib has done a series of good, informative stories on primary battles across the state, which I recommend you read. Two of their most recent are especially worthwhile:

First is HD43, in which freshman Dem Rep. Tara Rios Ybarra is being challenged by JM Lozano.

Lozano’s strategy is to label Rios Ybarra a “red Texan.” Her campaign contributions from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry ($10,000 from Jan. 22 through Feb. 20) and the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC (about $145,000 in-kind during the same time frame), both well-known backers of Republicans, are all the evidence he needs. His vision is of a blue Texas, he says, and that means weeding out what she represents. “The first thing we have to do is get rid of all the closet Republicans from the Democratic Party. My opponent is one of them,” he says. “You cannot have a strong Democratic Party if you have people that are beholden to the other party because you take 90 percent of your funding from them.”

Rios Ybarra defends her “moderate” approach and her bipartisan tendencies, and the support she says comes with them, because of the economic hardship in District 43, which is one of the poorest in the state. It covers six counties — Jim Hogg, Brooks, Willacy, Kenedy, Kleberg and northern Cameron — and about a third of the families with children live in poverty. Nearly 40 percent of residents have less than a high school education. “I believe, in this country, that it isn’t about handouts,” she says. “I believe ultimately it’s about creating opportunity, and that is done when we have a strong small-business sector. If that resonates across the aisle, that resonates across the aisle.”

But Lozano’s accusations carry weight with at least one party mainstay. In a rare endorsement before a contested primary, the Jim Hogg County Democratic Party is backing Lozano. “A Democrat primarily financed by Republicans is no Democrat at all,” its chair, Juan Carlos Guerra, said in a Feb. 19 statement. Guerra claimed Rios Ybarra “hijacked” the term “Democrat” to claim victory in 2008 in this Democratic-majority district. “We will not sit back as a Democratic Party any longer and allow Republicans to infiltrate our party,” the statement continued. “She misled the voters once, but that will not happen again.”

An unfazed Rios Ybarra contends that her first term in the House, when she passed seven bills, shows her mettle. One that she’s most proud of, she says, allows access to Texas beaches by disabled people in motorized vehicles — and yet Lozano has criticized her for it. “He made fun of a bill that was given to me by the mother whose son was a quadriplegic and he couldn’t have access to the beach,” she complains.

A stone-faced Lozano says, “Ask her who gave her that bill. It was a lobbyist.”

I don’t care so much about who donates to whom as I do how you vote and what you support, and I don’t really know enough about Rios Ybarra’s record to judge. Having said that, anyone who is that strongly supported by TLR is a concern. And Rios Ybarra was widely considered to be a Craddick supporter in 2008 when she knocked off Juan Escobar. That turned out not to matter then, and it’s unlikely to be an issue this time around, but it’s not impossible. On balance, if I were voting in that race, I’d be voting for Lozano.

And in a race where I already know who I’m voting for, the Ag Commish race.

Gilbert and Friedman, who were both running for governor in those now-forgotten days before Bill White threw his hat in, may find themselves coveting the same job, but their notions of what that job is could hardly be more different. Gilbert emphasizes wonky expertise and hands-on experience, while Friedman is all showmanship — few campaign stops go by without him uttering his one-liner “No cow left behind!” or mentioning his desire for his ashes to be scattered in Gov. Rick Perry’s hair.

Before Friedman’s run for governor as an independent in 2006, he says Clinton told him, “Find a few issues that are close to your heart and hammer them relentlessly.” He took the former president’s advice then and chose a couple things this time too, focusing on his passion for animal rescue and shelters. The rest, he says, he’ll leave to the experts.

“Clearly Kinky has no direction other than he wants animals to run free, and for those that nobody wants anymore he wants to build shelters in every county,” says Gilbert. “Those are noble ideas and a fairy-tale way to live life, but it’s just not practical.”

Well, this race is a clear choice, that’s for sure. Either you like what Kinky is selling, or you grew tired of it four years ago and you prefer the clearly better qualified Hank Gilbert. I really don’t know how this one will turn out, but as I said, I know who I’m supporting.

Eight days out reports

The 8 days out reports aren’t available on the TEC website yet for the Governor’s races, so I can’t show you the details. The Trib did it the old-fashioned way, by viewing the actual paper forms, so go look at their numbers. Bill White raised another ton of money, and we can see that Rick Perry and KBH have spent down their kitties considerably. No surprise – you cannot escape their ads, no matter how you try, if you turn your TV on. The end result is that all of a sudden, the playing field is a lot more level than it’s ever been. And that’s a mighty good thing.

Beneath the fold are the reports from the other Democratic statewide races, with my comments. Click on to read them.

(more…)

Endorsement watch: Land Commish and Ag Commish

Two more endorsements from the Chron, both for the Democratic primary. First, for Ag Commish:

In the Democratic primary contest to select an opponent to face Republican incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples in November, the Chronicle recommends native Houstonian and longtime Northeast Texas rancher Hank Gilbert. (Kinky Friedman’s jokey candidacy does not deserve serious consideration.)

Take that, DMN and FWST!

And for Land Commish:

In the Democratic primary to select a nominee to face incumbent Republican Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson in the fall, the Chronicle believes the best-qualified candidate is former South Texas state Sen. Hector Uribe, a lawyer with a wealth of legislative experience on the issues he will confront if elected. While serving in the Senate for 12 years, Uribe chaired a standing subcommittee on water resources and vice-chaired a joint subcommittee on oil spills and water pollution abatement.

On the other hand, the El Paso Times goes Kinky.

Friedman would bring a Texas-maverick personality and outlook to the rather colorless post and bring attention to Texas agriculture.

And personality aside, he has some good ideas when it comes to such matters as animal rescue and biomass and bioenergy projects. He’s also keen on going after grants in various areas, something important in a money-tight Texas and nation. Also, he wants to market Texas agriculture in new ways.

What does he know about agriculture? Not as much as we would like, but if he surrounds himself with experts, that will fill the gaps.

Much like the Star-Telegram, it’s not really clear why they think he’s the better choice. I mean, the “Sure he’s an idiot, but he’ll have smart people around him so who cares if he doesn’t actually know what he’s doing” thing worked out so well with our last President, didn’t it? They also included an endorsement of Bill White for Governor, but did not mention Land Commish or Lite Guv. (No mention of Farouk Shami, either, despite the fact that he appears to have some actual support in El Paso. A little, anyway.) So Gilbert and Friedman each get three endorsements out of these papers, while Hector Uribe goes 5-0 (it’s not clear to me that his opponent, Bill Burton, actually bothered to screen with any ed board) with the EPT still pending.

Endorsement watch: Star-Telegram goes Kinky

I’m not sure if there’s something in the water up in the Metroplex, but the Star Telegram joins its sister paper to the east in endorsing Kinky Friedman for Ag Commish.

Although Friedman has pockets full of one-liners at his disposal, he has been restrained in using them, talking instead about family farms and soil and water conservation. Gilbert, who has a pocket full of endorsements from several political organizations and members of the Texas Legislature, possesses knowledge and passion for the responsibilities of the Texas Agriculture Department. Both candidates want to increase the production of biofuels and bioenergy.

Friedman offers a vision for how the department can best serve all Texans, as well as the lands and animals entrusted to them. He supports more farmer co-ops, restoration of the pine and hardwood forests and repairing pasture lands damaged by tidal surges.

The primary winner will face Republican incumbent Todd Staples in the general election.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Kinky Friedman for commissioner of agriculture in the Democratic primary.

Unlike the DMN, whose endorsement of Kinky was really a litany of complaints about Gilbert, it’s not really clear to me why the ST board came to this conclusion. As such, I’m sticking with my theory that it’s something in the water up there. Makes as much sense as anything else.

Endorsement watch: A split for the Lite Guvs

The two major Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor split a pair of endorsements yesterday. The Dallas Morning News went with Ronnie Earle.

Given the choice facing Democrats in the March 2 primary, the better candidate is Earle, who served 31 years as Travis County district attorney before retiring in 2008. He also draws on two terms in the Texas House from the 1970s.

Neither candidate details a clear vision of how to deal with such issues as the state budget crunch, under-funded highways and challenges for public education.

Chavez-Johnson, 65, of San Antonio, has an inspiring personal story of leaving school in the ninth grade to help support her family in the Panhandle. Self-schooled, she rose through labor leadership in Texas, ultimately spending 12 years as a top AFL-CIO executive in Washington before retiring.

[…]

Earle has the better insight into the levers of power in government. To make a creditable run against Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in the fall, he would have to sharpen his message beyond his current call for a big study of state finances.

I can’t say I’m surprised by the DMN’s distaste for a labor-oriented candidate, but neither can I dispute their final sentence, mostly because at this point I have little idea what either of these candidates are saying. (Here’s a video of Chavez-Thompson, so at least we have that much.) I really really really hope whoever wins that race can raise the money to hire some staff and get his or her message out there.

On the flip side, the Express News goes with Chavez-Thompson.

Chavez-Thompson is undoubtedly the best Democratic candidate in the race. She has a long record of working for Democratic causes and candidates. She also serves as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

A native of the Texas Panhandle who grew up working in cotton fields, the former labor leader earned a reputation as a tough but reasonable advocate for her causes when she represented San Antonio’s chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Chavez-Thompson, currently a member of the VIA Metropolitan Transit Board, is a straight-shooter who would function well managing a legislative body such as the Senate.

She would be an effective advocate for the state’s public schools and higher education, which are a key focus of her platform.

In the same piece, they also recommend Hank Gilbert for Ag Commish, though in a rather lukewarm fashion, and Hector Uribe for Land Commish.

Two more polls

We are suddenly awash in hot polling goodness. First up, a new result from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll:

Gov. Rick Perry is well ahead of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and former Wharton County GOP chair Debra Medina, who are locked in a statistical tie for second place in a GOP gubernatorial primary that could go to a runoff, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Perry had the support of 45 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters — short of the majority required for an outright win. Hutchison had 21 percent and Medina had 19 percent, a two-percentage-point divide that’s smaller than the poll’s margin of error.

In the Democratic primary race, former Houston Mayor Bill White has a huge lead over his next closest challenger, businessman Farouk Shami, pulling 50 percent to Shami’s 11 percent. Five other candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination; the survey found that only 9 percent of those polled prefer someone other than the two frontrunners.

Not much to see here, as this result is well in line with the others, including the fact that the remaining Democratic candidates are non-factors. One wonders if Medina’s recent 9/11 trutherism gaffe will cost her. Perry rounds up some evidence to say that it will. One never knows with the Republican base, that’s all I can say.

In general election matchups, the Republicans trump the Democrats. Perry would beat White, according to the new poll, 44-35. Hutchison would, too, and by the same margin: 43-34 (in our earlier poll, she outperformed Perry in hypothetical general election matchups). Medina and White would tie, 36-36. Shami would lose a hypothetical race to Perry, 48-25; to Hutchison, 49-23; and to Medina, 40-24.

That’s the first general election matchup featuring Farouk Shami I’ve seen. After the latest Rasmussen poll came out, Team Shami circulated a press release claiming that those results meant Bill White couldn’t win in November. I’m thinking they may need to try a different tack now.

Democratic primary voters have a couple of other statewide races to decide. In the contest for lieutenant governor — the winner will face Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in November — labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson took 18 percent of those polled, former Travis County District Attorney Earle got 16 percent, and restaurateur Marc Katz had 3 percent. Five percent of voters said they wanted “somebody else,” and a whopping 58 percent remain undecided on the eve of early voting, which begins on Tuesday.

Friedman and Gilbert — two refugees from the governor’s race now running for agriculture commissioner — are locked in a tight race, 32 percent to 27 percent. While Friedman’s ahead, the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. And, as with the Lite Guv race, “undecided” is actually leading, at 41 percent. The winner will face incumbent Republican Todd Staples in November.

Now we have two Lite Guv results, and one for Ag Commish. I think Team Hank needs to be a little concerned about these numbers.

More from the Trib is here, with full crosstabs available at either link. And before I could finish posting about this poll, we get a Research 2000 result, which BOR summarized:

Question: If the election for Governor were held today, for whom would you vote for if the choices were between Bill White, the Democrat, and Rick Perry, the Republican?

All voters: White 42, Perry 46
Independents: White 45, Perry 42

The poll was taken from Feb 8 – Feb 10, and has a 4% MOE. A total of 600 likely voters who vote regularly in state elections were interviewed statewide by telephone.

Needless to say, that’s a fine result, and given that Perry is well known and White isn’t yet, it suggests a lot more room for growth for the Democrat. Even in the results where White has trailed by more, he’s generally been around “generic Dem” numbers, while Perry and now KBH have consistently been below 50%. Usually, the conventional wisdom in those cases is that means trouble for the incumbent. Make no mistake, Perry’s strategy will be to try to bury White under all kinds of negative attacks, since after nine years in office he’s got nothing else to say to convince people to stick with him. All these results have shown that he will have his work cut out for him, too.

Statesman on Hank versus Kinky

Pretty good overview of the Ag Commish primary race between Hank Gilbert and Kinky Friedman.

The winner will face Republican incumbent Todd Staples, who heads the state Department of Agriculture, which has a biennial budget of $905 million, 666 full-time employees, and oversees initiatives concerning consumer protection, healthy living, and rural economic development.

The outcome of the Democratic primary is hard to predict. Gilbert, a 50 year-old rancher, has swept the endorsements of mainline Democratic organizations and, according to the latest campaign finance filing, has more cash on hand, thanks largely to contributions totaling $150,000 from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami. But Friedman, a 65 year-old author, has vastly more name recognition. At a Veterans of Foreign Wars event in late January in North Austin, veterans and, especially, their wives, lined up to have their photos taken with Friedman as he chomped on his cigar. They plunked down $20 for copies of his 2009 book “Heroes of a Texas Childhood.”

“Gov. Perry is going to have a hard race on his hands,” said G. Paul Hayes, a veteran who lives in the East Texas town of Burkeville, where he is senior vice commander of Texas VFW district 2.

He could be forgiven for the mistake, as Friedman hammered home another point about Perry: “Rick Perry talks about vets while he’s here, then walks out the door and forgets them,” he said. “That’s standard operating procedure.”

[…]

Some Democrats want nothing to do with Friedman, who they say acted as a spoiler for Democratic candidate Chris Bell in 2006 and appears to them to be a self-promoter.

“He likes dogs more than he likes people in Kerr County,” Marguerite Jones, an Austinite who lived in Kerr County, said at a confab of local Democrats at Scholz Garten in January. “He changes with the winds. He’s a personality, but he’s not a candidate. He’s a character. He’s not serious.”

You can count me among those who still bear a grudge from 2006. Look, I’ve said this before, but I don’t buy Friedman’s conversion act. If he’d been serious, he’d have been out there visibly supporting Barack Obama in 2008. I have no idea what he was doing then, other than starting to lay the rhetorical groundwork for his eventual aborted run in the Democratic primary for Governor, but if he lifted a finger to help any other Democrat that year, it sure slipped past me. As for this year, he’s playing gigs while early voting is going on. I’m supposed to believe he’s going to take the task of campaigning seriously this time around? I don’t think so.

Endorsement watch: DMN for Ratliff and Kinky

The Dallas Morning News has a couple of endorsements of interest, one good and one puzzling. In the good one, they endorse challenger Thomas Ratliff in his GOP primary race for the SBOE against wingnut Don McLeroy.

McLeroy, a board member since 1999, undoubtedly cares about education. But this panel could use Ratliff’s more practical approach to keep its work focused on essential issues. He’s not an ideological brawler and could develop consensus.

Ratliff has had experience doing just that while serving on boards at his children’s public schools in East Texas. And he says he would listen to teachers and superintendents in determining what students should know. Setting standards is a key function of this board, and Ratliff, 42, would be more in touch with educators than McLeroy. While Ratliff shouldn’t become their captive, Texans are better served by someone who takes teachers’ points of view seriously in crafting curriculum.

We also prefer Ratliff’s emphasis on depoliticizing appointments of outside advisers, including those who handle the state’s sizable education funds. The board has run into problems in selecting investment advisers.

I think that first sentence is too generous to McLeroy, who as far as I can tell cares only about advancing his ideological agenda. The single best thing that could happen to the SBOE would be for Ratliff to beat McLeroy.

And in the puzzling one, they recommend Kinky Friedman for Ag Commish. Sort of. Actually, they just express dislike of Hank Gilbert and go from there.

Gilbert knows agriculture issues in vastly greater depth than Friedman, but he would lead Texas in the wrong direction in key areas. One is a move away from globalization and toward protectionism for farm products. He says he is not a big fan of crop subsidies, yet he thinks Congress caved to foreign nations that complained Washington was propping up U.S. producers too much.

Gilbert, 50, of Whitehouse, also opposes key parts of the state water plan. He would take the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir off the table as a possible water source for the burgeoning Dallas-Fort Worth area. He would bank on a less-certain strategy of shipping in water from other regions and building massive desalinization plants to purify brackish water.

Friedman, 65, of Austin, doesn’t get into such details. He says he’d hire experts to hash out policy so he could concentrate on being a spokesman for family farms and kindness to animals. That’s not a great model for the job, but a better one than Gilbert proposes.

Inspiring, huh? How seriously is Friedman taking this job and this election? Well, he’s got gigs scheduled in Dallas (warning: music) and here in Houston while early voting is going on. I guess hiring experts to do the actual work really frees a guy up to do what he wants. Hey, DMN, did it occur to you that you could just not offer an endorsement in the race? Sheesh.

Kinky drops out of Governor’s race, will run for Ag Commish

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Musician and author Kinky Friedman will drop his Democratic bid for Texas governor and seek the agriculture commissioner post, instead.

“This has never been about me; this has always been about what is best for the people of Texas and the Democratic Party,” Friedman said, in a statement released Monday to The Texas Tribune.

Friedman finalized his decision after meeting with Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bill White and Farouk Shami separately over the weekend.

[…]

[Friedman campaign consultant Colin] Strother says while Friedman did consider the land commissioner post, he felt the agriculture commissioner job was “the best fit”. Friedman spent the past week getting advice from his friend, former Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.

No, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either. I certainly understand why Kinky didn’t see any way he could win the nod for Governor, but why he thinks he can beat Hank Gilbert eludes me. Putting aside the silly notion that Kinky has any idea what’s best for the Democratic Party, and despite the rationale he offers for this switch, I still don’t get why he isn’t throwing in for Land Commissioner, which is an office for which he seems more suited and for which even I might consider voting for him. Yes, there’s already a Dem in that race, but so what? Kinky’s star power, such as it is, might actually help him win that primary and would serve him well in November, whereas he doesn’t stack up well against Gilbert, who has far stronger Democratic credentials and more than enough of his own personality to make Kinky seem more quaint than colorful.

Whatever. I wanted Hank to run for Ag Commish from the beginning, and this does nothing to change my mind about supporting him for that office. Mostly what this means is that I’ll need to try to add Friedman and Gilbert interviews to my to-do list for the primary, as this is now a contested race. Election season never truly ends. BOR, Martha, PDiddie, McBlogger, John, and Stace have more.

Carole the chameleon and Kinky the commissioner

This would be a little too weird.

[Bill] White, expected to say Friday that he’s shifting his political sights from the U.S. Senate to the Democratic nod for governor, confirmed Thursday that [former Comptroller Carole Keeton] Strayhorn has tried to reach him.

Asked if he’d welcome Strayhorn to the Democratic ticket as, say, a candidate for her former office of state comptroller, White weaved. (The only Democratic figure otherwise believed to be eyeing the state comptroller slot: former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson.)

“I’m not a political commentator,” White said. “I return telephone calls from people but I really don’t get into the business of giving people political advice.”

Strayhorn, who lost a run for mayor of Austin last year, hasn’t yet returned my calls on if she’s eyeing a statewide run, though two people close to her—her son, Bradley McClellan, and her long-time adviser, Mark Sanders—each said he hadn’t heard she was looking at another campaign.

There was a time when I would have welcomed a return by Strayhorn to her political roots in the Democratic Party and a run for statewide office under its banner. That was in the 2003-2005 time period, when she was probably the single most effective critic of Governor Rick Perry, thanks to her high profile and non-shyness in seeking attention. Since then, we’ve seen her disastrous, amateurish run for Governor as an independent, followed by a third-place finish in this year’s Austin mayoral election, and my reaction to this is “oh, good Lord, would you please retire already?” Carole, if you feel you must be involved somehow, by all means please feel free to host a fundraiser or two for White. Maybe you could write some op-eds bashing Perry for old time’s sake as well. But let’s leave it at that, OK? Thanks.

And as long as we’re discussing one of the 2006 gubernatorial alumni, Ross Ramsey speculates about Kinky Friedman.

Take a look at this teaser from gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, issued after Hank Gilbert exited the governor’s race, set his heart on being agriculture commissioner, and endorsed Farouk Shami:

“I think that all of these things are good for the party and good for the ticket. We all want new leadership in Austin and I think each candidate should be evaluating how best to achieve that. Everyone on the ticket or thinking of joining the ticket should be thinking about what will be best for Democrats in November. We will take the weekend to visit with all of the candidates, my advisors, and many of my supporters and have an announcement about how I believe I can best support our party on Monday.”

Don’t be surprised if he moves to another race. And don’t forget that one of the people in this particular smoke-filled room is former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, who knows a little something about one of the agencies on the ballot.

[…]

A bit of ballet lies ahead if Friedman wants to run for agriculture commissioner. Gilbert endorsed Shami and Shami “accepted” his endorsment and said nice things about him. But he didn’t endorse Gilbert for ag commissioner. Shami is a longtime business associate of John McCall, who was Friedman’s financial angel in the 2006 race for governor. McCall hasn’t been nearly as generous this time around — you have to wonder if that has anything to do with having two friends in the same race — and might be more comfortable if Friedman ran for, say, ag commissioner. As long as there’s no deal to break between Shami and Gilbert, that could work.

Friedman will make his announcement after the weekend.

Shami, of course, is also a friend and associate of Friedman’s. BOR thinks he might wind up running for Land Commissioner instead. I have to say, Kinky versus Jerry Patterson would provide the most colorful set of characters that office has ever seen. Beyond that, I can’t say I really care what Kinky does.

White makes it official

Well, between a dead car battery, a preschool that closed early, and a wife that had an unbreakable noon appointment, I am at home instead of at the Bill White for Governor launch. At least I have Elise Hu’s liveblog to keep me informed. Here’s the release that Team White sent out at noon on the dot:

Today, after listening to thousands of Texans from all backgrounds, Bill White filed to run for Governor, pledging to fight for Texas’ future.

“I am proud of the people of Texas, and as Governor I will move us forward as America’s great state of opportunity,” White said. “I’ll be a Governor who challenges Texans to lead, not leave, the United States.”

White highlighted ways of creating new jobs with businesses small and large across the state. He emphasized that Texas could not be its best with skyrocketing insurance and electric rates and college tuition that increases faster than the incomes of Texans.

The son of San Antonio school teachers, White vowed to focus on improving educational achievement in K-12 grade levels, improving high school graduation rates, and reducing the costs of college.

White, a successful businessman, was first elected as Houston Mayor in 2003 and was twice re-elected with margins averaging 88%. He has been hailed as a strong leader and a problem-solver, with the Houston Chronicle noting that he has “deftly steered Houston through fiscal and tropical storms.”

During White’s administration, Houston led the nation’s cities in job growth, adding more jobs than 16 states combined. At the same time, he cut property tax rates five years in a row. After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike, Bill White mobilized an effective disaster response including first responders, businesses and churches.

“I don’t have the polish of career politicians. But as a businessman and Mayor I know how to be accountable for results, not just rhetoric. I have a track record of bringing people together to get things done,” White said. “That’s what Texas needs now.”

Last December, White launched a U.S. Senate campaign that in 11 months attracted more than 1500 volunteers, more than 5500 contributors, and more than $6.5 million. He has visited 70 Texas counties to date.

This is the race I wanted him in from the beginning, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that it has happened. It was a long, strange trip to get here, to say the least, but getting there is what matters. It will be a tough campaign, but I’m as confident as I can be about it.

In related news, Hank Gilbert announced that he was dropping out of the Governor’s race, and will run instead for Ag Commish, which is where he started out. He also endorsed Farouk Shami for Governor. Whatever – next summer at the convention, when White is the nominee, no one will remember that. Time to move forward, we’re eleven months out.

Today’s the day for Bill White

If you’re anything like me, you have probably received multiple communications from the Bill White campaign inviting you to come down to the Hilton Americas at noon and hear White say officially what office he’ll be pursuing. The Chron attempts to preempt him.

Mayor Bill White will formally enter the race for governor today, instantly becoming the Democrats’ best hope of winning a statewide office in seven years.

White, a three-term mayor who is balding and known for something of a bland personality, is expected use self-deprecating humor to tell a Hilton Americas crowd of supporters that he knows he is not a “perfect candidate” but is someone who can get things done.

White has said he wants to end “strident partisanship” in Austin. He will tell supporters he wants to improve high school graduation rates and slow the rising costs of insurance and college tuition.

He will build his campaign on a record as Houston mayor, claiming lower crime rates and successful battles with polluters to clean the city’s air even while being opposed by the state’s environmental protection agency.

Boy, where have I heard those themes before? As I am fortunate enough to be off work today, I will be at the Hilton, assuming we don’t all get snowed in, to witness the announcement. I’ll write about it later today. In the meantime, as the Trib notes, Hank Gilbert will be holding “a virtual press conference with Texas media to address his status in the race for Governor of Texas.” That will be going on at noon as well. Like the Trib, I have no idea what he will say, but we’ll know soon enough.

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.

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.

(more…)