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October 12th, 2004:

Yard signs in Sugar Land

Would you like to hear about some more bad electoral news for Tom DeLay? Yes, I think you would.

Richard Morrison may live in Sugar Land like Tom DeLay, but they’re not in the same neighborhood politically.

In the neighborhood of the 22nd District, sometimes what is side-by-side can seem to be a political contradiction.

In Ft. Bend County, there are signs of unprecedented political interest.

At Republican Headquarters, the big demand is for Bush-Cheney signs. This is longtime Tom DeLay turf and by their count, 600 DeLay signs have headed out.

People here will argue that if Washington’s most powerful politician is having to exert a little more power at home this time, it’s because 30 percent of DeLay’s district is new.

They discount DeLay’s string of personal and ethical controversies.

“I think the more people hear of the accusations that have been brought around and uh, some of the unkind things that have been said about him, the more determined they are to get in here and support him,” says Linda Hancock of Ft. Bend Victory 2004.

Political analysts continue to give DeLay an edge in the race. His campaign staff says DeLay himself will be in the district this weekend to campaign.

He may come across a scattering of other political signs of the times such as Bush-Cheney signs coexisting with Richard Morrison signs. Democrat Morrison has worked what is often considered the heartland of Republican voters, and some Bush voters say they will cross over.

“It’s a fresh start and I think he can add a lot of new blood. He believes in bi-partisan working together. It’s kind of an answer as to why there’s two different representations in the signs,” says voter Tom Suter.

For those with such signs, what seems like a contradiction is the beauty of the American system at work.

Oh, and according to the Morrison campaign, they’ve handed out 6000 yard signs. Don’t look back, Tom – someone is gaining on you.

Candidate forum in Clear Lake

Want to see Richard Morrison take on Tom DeLay in person? Check out this upcoming candidate forum in Clear Lake.

The Clear Lake High School Debate Club will be hosting a Candidates Forum for the Congressional Race in District 22, with participation from all the candidates, Congressman Tom DeLay (R), Richard Morrison (D), Mike Fjetland (I), and Thomas Morrison (L).

The forum, which is open to the public, will provide an opportunity for voters to visit with each candidate, ask questions, and obtain literature from their campaigns. Topics important to Clear Lake region, such as the San Jacinto Rail, education funding, Bayport, and the NASA Space Program, will be discussed with an emphasis on questions submitted by the audience.

”Although the members of the Debate Club are not eligible to vote, we believe this Congressional race will be very important to our parents as well as to our future. That is why we are hosting this event”, says Vikas Lonakadi, Treasurer of the Clear Lake Debate Club.

Tuesday, October 19th — 7:00-8:30 pm

North Pointe Elementary, 3200 Almond Creek, Houston (Clear Lake), TX 77059

There will be a social time from 6:30-7:00 pm for voters to meet the candidates. Candidates will have tables with signs and campaign literature.

I heard about this last week via email from Mike Fjetland. He was told by the student who called him that “Mr. DeLay has said that he will attend or send a representative.” I’d say the odds of the latter are greater than the odds of the former, but you never know. In any event, if you want to ask DeLay a question your own self, there’s your chance to do so.

UPDATE: You lucky duckies in CD07 can see John Martinez debate John Culberson tonight:

John Martinez, Democratic candidate for District 7, will be on stage with incumbent, John Culberson, at the Candidates’ Forum at Fondren Middle School, 6333 S. Braeswood, TONIGHT, Tues Oct 12 at 7 pm. It is not clear whether the Independent candidate, Paul Staton, will also be there.

Via Patrick in the comments and the Katy Corridor Coalition mailing list.

Sales tax deduction passes

Congress has passed the sales tax deduction bill, which should be signed into law shortly.

Texans will be allowed to deduct state and local sales tax payments from their federal income taxes for the next two years under legislation approved Monday and sent to President Bush.

The tax break — which is likely to affect about one-fourth of Texans — is part of a corporate tax bill the Senate approved before adjourning until after the Nov. 2 elections.

Also cleared by the Senate was a bill providing $14.5 billion in disaster relief for Florida, a vote-rich state hit by four hurricanes this year, and several farm states being wooed by presidential and congressional candidates.

The two bills were approved last week by the House, which adjourned Friday so members could go home for the final three weeks of the campaigns. Lawmakers are expected to return in November to work on unfinished spending bills for the 2005 budget year, which began Oct. 1.

The tax bill cleared the Senate 69-17, with 13 senators not voting and one voting present. It gives American businesses about $136 billion in tax breaks over the next decade. It is the fifth major tax bill of the Bush administration.

Obviously, this will benefit me, since we do itemize our taxes. Too bad about the deficit, though. I’m sure someone will eventually come along and do something about it.

Pushed by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rep. Kevin Brady and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, all Texas Republicans, the provision would save Texas families an average of $310 a year if they itemize deductions on their federal tax returns.

“This is going to be welcome news for people who have had this inequity since 1986,” Hutchison said.

The deduction will be good for sales taxes on purchases only during 2004 and 2005. Unless Congress intervenes, the deduction will expire Jan. 1, 2006.

Taxpayers wanting to take advantage of the deduction will have to keep receipts of sales tax payments or rely on a federal tax chart of allowable deductions based partly on income and number of dependents. Only taxpayers who itemize expenses can claim the deduction.

“Most Texas families gain nothing from this change,” said Dick Lavine, a senior fiscal analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.

Federal tax data indicate that of the 9.2 million returns filed by Texans in 2001, the most recent available, less than 2.1 million itemized deductions, and most of those are in the income brackets over $75,000 a year.

Among Texans with incomes under $30,000 — or about half the state’s tax filers — about 5 percent itemize their deductions.

Lavine said that to benefit from the new deduction, a family would have to accumulate mortgage interest, property taxes or other deductible expenses totaling more than $9,700, which is the standard deduction for couples filing jointly.

“Most Texas families don’t do that now and wouldn’t even with the new deduction,” he said.

More on that here and here. The CPPP’s analysis of the bill is here.

Texas Tuesday: Nick Lampson

Today’s Texas Tuesday feature is Rep. Nick Lampson, running to keep his seat in the new CD02. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Lampson is the first candidate I ever gave money to, back in 1996 when he ousted the nutjob Steve Stockman. I’ve had a couple of chances to talk to him over the years, and he’s always been very generous with his time. I want to see all of our candidates win, but I really really want to see Lampson win. As with Martin Frost, you can help in the usual ways: give to Lampson, give to all Texas Tuesday candidates, or give to the DCCC’s Million for a Majority campaign. Lampson had the money edge as of the last quarterly reporting period, but the NRCC has been going hard after him. Let’s not let them drown us out.

Mixed news in CD32 poll

I wouldn’t call this poll from CD32 good news for Martin Frost, but it’s not all bad.

[Rep. Pete Sessions] leads his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, 50 percent to 44 percent in their quest to represent Texas’ 32nd Congressional District, according to a Dallas Morning News poll.

Both campaigns declared the results encouraging, though the poll’s director gives Mr. Sessions the edge – for now. The survey indicates that Mr. Sessions enjoys a solid base of support in a district where voters traditionally back Republicans.

Among voters who say they could still be persuaded to choose another candidate, Mr. Frost and Mr. Sessions are virtually even, which doesn’t bode well for Mr. Frost, pollster Ann Selzer said. Election Day is Nov. 2.

But in this district designed by Republicans in the Texas Legislature to end Mr. Frost’s 26-year congressional career, Mr. Frost is appealing more to women, minorities and independents than Mr. Sessions does, according to the survey of about 800 likely voters in the district.

Mr. Frost’s strength among independent poll respondents – 56 percent favored him, compared with 37 percent for Mr. Sessions – and an unusually high Hispanic voter turnout are Mr. Frost’s best hopes for victory, Dr. Selzer said.

“Frost will really have to make some serious inroads, and quickly,” she said.

When Hispanic voter turnout exceeds expectations, Mr. Sessions will understand how many inroads he has made, Mr. Frost argued.

And because only 4 percent of the poll’s respondents are Hispanics – they represent 36 percent of the district’s total population, including nonvoters – Mr. Frost said he thinks a higher Hispanic turnout will close the poll’s 6-percentage-point margin.

Eighty-two percent of respondents identified themselves as white, while 7 percent said they are black.

Although the poll’s racial and ethnic breakdown doesn’t match the overall district makeup, Dr. Selzer said, the poll accurately represents the political will of the district at one moment in time. In selecting respondents, the pollsters randomly selected 32nd District households with published telephone numbers.

Byron has already done a lot of the heavy lifting on this. I agree that the sample seems a bit skewed. I also think anyone who claims to know what the racial and ethnic breakdown will be on November 2 is bluffing. There seems to be more room for Frost to grow – surely Hispanics will make up more than four percent of the eventual total – but for now I’d rather be in Sessions’ position.

One other mixed message from the story:

Neither candidate has released complete details of internal polls they’ve conducted.

If Sessions’ poll showed him with a solid lead, we’d have heard about it. Similarly, if Frost’s poll showed him tied or leading, we’d have heard about it. Frankly, I think no one really knows how close this race is.

You know what you can do to help: Give to Martin Frost, give to all Texas Tuesday candidates, or help the DCCC by giving to their Million for a Majority campaign. There’s only three weeks to go.

And on they go

Hey, how about those Astros? Well done all around. And how sweet it is for Biggio and Bagwell to come up big in the decisive 7th inning. Nothing quite like a little redemption, is there?

The championship series ought to be a lot of fun, with bitter division rivals facing off in each league. And let me now just agree with Rafe about how Fox has promoted the Yankee-Red Sox matchup. Somebody buy Jeannie Zelasko a box of Depends – she might just wet herself at the first measure of chin music.

Anyway. Go Astros, go Yankees. Damn, I love the playoffs.