November 08, 2008
Time for Bell v. Huffman

The runoff between Chris Bell and Joan Huffman for the open SD17 seat is underway.

"We are very generous in our funding of public education," Republican Joan Huffman said. "We just do a really bad job of spending that money and spending it wisely."

Democrat Chris Bell said otherwise.

"When we look at the challenges facing Texas specifically in the area of education, we can all agree that we need to start bringing in enough money to address some of those challenges," he said.

Texas has ranked below the national average for several years in per pupil funding, and its school district funding methods based on local property taxes have been the subject of political struggles for just as long.

Huffman, a former felony court judge in Harris County, and Bell, a former congressman and gubernatorial candidate, made their remarks during the videotaping of a debate to be broadcast at 8 tonight and 5 p.m. Sunday on KUHT (Channel 8)'s Red White & Blue: The Great Debates.

Bell got 38 percent of Tuesday's vote to 26 percent for Huffman in a six-candidate race that included multiple entries from their parties because it took shape too late for the primaries in which parties could pick one candidate each. The election triggered a December runoff -- Gov. Rick Perry has not yet set a date -- because no candidate got a majority of the votes.

Bell shouldn't have any shortage of workers for this runoff. I've lost count of how many people have said to me that they plan to see what they can do for him since Tuesday. Runoffs are always about getting your voters back out, and it surely helps to have those resources available.

After a bruising first round in the campaign, Huffman and Bell said they would wage a clean fight.

"I hope Chris and I can pledge to have a civil, spirited campaign based on the issues and a factual discussion of our record," said Huffman, "and that's what I pledge, and I would hope that he would pledge the same."

"I don't think a pledge is really necessary from me because that is the campaign that I have been running," Bell responded.

Republican candidate Austen Furse accused Huffman of having been "soft on crime" as a judge while Houston home builder Bob Perry and tort-reform advocates funded a committee that criticized Bell in campaign mail.

Furse, who finished fourth in the race Tuesday, has endorsed Huffman.

Other than a line about offices Bell had run before in Huffman's rock-climbing ad, the two didn't really mention the other in Round One. Furse was the one throwing rocks at everyone.

For what it's worth, Bell's vote total was greater than Huffman and Furse's combined. If he can get some of Stephanie Simmons' supporters on board, he should be in a very good position. Even without that, he starts out ahead. It's never easy, but I feel reasonably confident about this race.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 08, 2008 to Election 2008
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