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January 5th, 2005:

Morrison gears up

I’m a bit behind Greg and Byron in noting that Richard Morrison is more or less gearing up already for a rematch with Tom DeLay in 2006. That may sound a bit extreme, getting started so soon, but it’s entirely in line with the thinking of Mustafa Tameez, one of the architects of Hubert Vo‘s upset victory this year:

If you are running for a state representative office or a local district city council or a small public office, people have to feel like—whether I am a Republican or a Democrat—I know that guy, and by my knowing that guy, I have access to government. That is how you get people to cross party lines. That takes longer. I think campaigns can’t start after Labor Day anymore. From a candidate’s standpoint, if you are going to be running for office for a state-representative type of race—you need to start a year ahead of time.

That was a big part of Morrison’s strategy in 2004, and he had a fair amount of success with it (more on that in a minute). It’s got to be a key part of a repeat engagement, and it’s got to be a bigger success this time around. Starting early makes a lot of sense in that context.

The other key feature, of course, is money. Morrison raised a fair bit of cash from small donors, but had nowhere near the dough to keep up with DeLay. This time around, as a known quantity, he ought to be able to get some bigger players to kick in. It’s hard to say how much action there will be at the Congressional level in Texas next year – surely the GOP will gun for Chet Edwards again, but beyond that it’s pretty much up to the Democrats to make something happen. With no redistricted incumbents to draw all the attention and capital, Morrison should have a shot at evening things up a bit.

Which is a big deal, as Ruy Teixeira notes, pointing to new research which claims money and not redistricting is the prime factor in creating competition in Congressional races. TX-22 is not a high-risk Republican district in the sense that it was carried comfortably by President Bush, but it is an opportunity because of Morrison’s strong overperformance relative to that.

How strongly did he overperform? I’ve compared precinct data for the DeLay/Morrison race to the Bush/Kerry race (and some other races where applicable) for three of the four counties in CD-22: Galveston, Fort Bend, and Harris (Brazoria County doesn’t have precinct level data online as far as I could tell). The numbers are pretty striking. For the Galveston County precincts contained within CD22:

Candidate Vote Total Vote Pct =============================== DeLay 9193 42.62 Morrison 12377 57.38 Bush 11188 49.73 Kerry 11311 50.27

For Fort Bend (see also here):

Candidate Vote Total Vote Pct =============================== DeLay 58444 55.88 Morrison 46151 44.12 Bush 70489 63.38 Kerry 40730 36.62

And for Harris:

Candidate Vote Total Vote Pct =============================== DeLay 64590 60.72 Morrison 41778 39.28 Bush 74427 67.47 Kerry 35884 32.53

(Spreadsheets, which include comparisons to some other candidates in Fort Bend and Harris, are here: Galveston, Fort Bend, Harris.)

Basically, Morrison outperformed John Kerry – or, if you prefer, DeLay underperformed Bush – by seven points in each county in the two-party totals. He certainly has growth potential, as DeLay’s little capitulation on the DeLay Rule is far from the end of his ethical problems, and one would hope he won’t have the distraction of multiple third-party challengers. It’s certainly possible that he’s hit a plateau, and even if not he’ll still need a lot of things to break his way, but I think he’s got as good a chance as anyone of being 2006’s version of Melissa Bean. With that in mind, if you want to help him hit the ground running, here’s where to go.

Do I blog about “Lost” too much? Nah.

How happy am I that there’s a new Lost tonight? Very very happy. That said, having watched a lot of football on ABC and ESPN these past couple of weeks, I’m glad I won’t have to see any more promos for it.

Am I the only person who finds it odd that a show about plane crash survivors on an uncharted tropical island with mysterious beasties and powers has required less suspension of disbelief than a show about life in suburbia? Not that it has (so far) reduced my enjoyment of either show, mind you.

Next week: the shocking truth about Boone and Shannon. I’m ready.

One down, two to go

Former Rep. Jack Stick has dropped the challenge of his electoral loss to Mark Strama.

The former legislator calls the voting system in Travis County problematic and chaotic and he’ll continue to review the system.

Stick plans to submit his findings to the House elections committee.

Stick says he believes there were serious irregularities in voting that may indicate he won the race.

But Stick says it would be a waste of lawmakers time and taxpayers money to continue the contest.

Yes, it would have. And you’re dreaming about the “may indicate he won the race” part. But thanks for playing, and thanks for the belated sensibility.

The other challengers will have their hearings on January 26 (Eric Opiela) and 27 (Talmadge Heflin). I suppose it’s too much to ask that they come to their senses like Stick did by then.

Hat tip to Andrew D for the catch.

Ignore this post

Here’s an interesting suggestion for a more comprehensive way to fight comment spam: Create standard HTML tags that tell search engines to ignore the content within when indexing. With such a tag around your comments, there’d be no good reason for spammers to invade. The SearchEngineWatch blog has the scoop. Thanks to Scott for the tip.

Bad doctors cause lawsuits…who knew?

News flash: A big part of the medical malpractice litigation problem is caused by a few bad doctors. So says a study commissioned by the Bush Administration, ironically to support their contention that damage award caps need to be implemented.

“There’s a need to protect the public from substandard performance by physicians,” said Josephine Gittler, a law professor at the University of Iowa supervising part of the study. “If you had more aggressive policing of incompetent physicians and more effective disciplining of doctors who engage in substandard practice, that could decrease the type of negligence that leads to malpractice suits.”

Randall Bovbjerg, a researcher at the Urban Institute, said, “If you take the worst performers out of practice, that will have an impact” on malpractice litigation. “Most doctors have few or no claims filed against them. But within any specialty, a few doctors have a high proportion of the claims.”

Boy. Who’d have ever thought of that?

And who’s the leader in taking action against these insurance premium inflating malfeasors? Why, that decadent socialist haven of Taxachusetts.

Massachusetts has adopted an approach that experts say may provide a model for other states. Without waiting for a complaint to be filed, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine conducts a clinical review of any doctor who has made three or more malpractice payments to patients, as a result of jury verdicts or settlements. Nancy Achin Audesse, executive director of the board, said: “Three is a magic number. Doctors who have to make three or more payments are also more likely to be named in consumer complaints and to be subject to discipline by hospitals and the medical board.”

In Massachusetts during the last 10 years, Audesse said, “one-fourth of 1 percent of all the doctors — 98 of the 37,369 doctors — accounted for more than 13 percent of all the malpractice payments, $134 million of the $1 billion in total payments.”

Yeah, but it’s more fun to go after the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Who cares if the underlying problem gets addressed or not?

On DeLay’s retreat

David Donnelly has an op-ed in today’s Chron about why Tom DeLay and the Republicans reversed course on the DeLay Rule.

There are three reasons why DeLay caved on the provision, which was enacted by the House Republican conference back in mid-November and was designed to protect him if he gets indicted for his role in the on-going investigation into corporate fund-raising in Texas politics: constituent anger; a measurable rebellion among House members that emboldened House Democrats; and the growing sense that DeLay is becoming politically radioactive.

[…]

The second reason DeLay & Co. backtracked was that they simply didn’t have the votes to win on the floor of the House. While the DeLay Rule only applied to Republicans, Democrats smelled an opportunity and were preparing a straight up-or-down vote on whether House rules would allow any member of Congress to maintain a position in leadership after being indicted. That vote was to have happened Tuesday, the day after DeLay proposed revoking his rule.

I’m convinced that the Democrats wouldn’t have pushed for this vote if it weren’t for the prospects of winning. A blog I run, the Daily DeLay, tracked responses from members of Congress from constituents’ inquiries and news reports and built the only comprehensive and public record of where members stood on the matter. In the end, 23 Republican members of Congress went on record as having voted against the DeLay Rule and 10 to 12 more said they missed the vote but would have opposed it if they were there, or were given another chance. Outgoing House Ethics Chairman Joel Hefley, R-Colo., issued a timely statement saying he was siding with the Democrats. The potential of cleaving off 20-30 Republicans emboldened the Democratic minority, which pressed to take the issue to the floor. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, DeLay retreated in defeat.

The Chron chimes in as well, while on the blog Donnelly reminds us that the GOP still managed to give itself a way out of any future ethics complaint regardless of its merit.

I must say, I’m rather amused by efforts to paint DeLay’s capitulation on the DeLay Rule as a loss for Democrats. By his own words, DeLay’s about-face on this issue had everything to do with political strategy and nothing whatsoever to do with recognizing the difference between right and wrong, so it’s just a matter of time before he does something else as vile and venal. But if I’m wrong, and Tom DeLay really has learned his lesson and reformed himself into an honest and ethical person who respects the law, then I’m sure that Democrats everywhere would consider that to be a triumph for all Americans. Wouldn’t you?

So much for Kirk

Guess that NY Metro fellow will have to redo his odds: Ron Kirk has dropped out of the race for DNC Chair.

Kirk, who made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2002, wrote a letter to DNC members Tuesday saying he would not run but was endorsing fellow Texan Martin Frost, a former congressman.

“Martin is … a winning strategist, innovative grass-roots organizer and tough, disciplined spokesperson,” Kirk said in his letter.

Oh, well. Byron has Kirk’s letter endorsing Frost. I have some qualms about Frost – not quite as many as Greg does, perhaps, but for sure I don’t see him as an innovative thinker with bold new ideas for reviving the Democratic Party. He’s not my last choice for the job, but he’s not far from it.

Who is my last choice? After reading this, that would be Tim Roemer.