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January 28th, 2005:

Stuart Rothenberg

In the matter of Stuart Rothenberg versus MyDD (see here, here, and here), I come down firmly on Jerome and Chris’ side. Greg went and saved me the time of writing most of what I think needed to be said about this. The strategy he discusses of recruiting Party Builder types to fill out the slates in low-return districts is one he and I have talked about at some lenghth, and it’s something I fully endorse.

There are a few things I’d like to add to this conversation. One has to do with something Jesse Lee says in response to Greg’s post:

Nobody at the DCCC is stopping [the Party Builders] from running. If there is such a person in every district, who is willing to do all that and much more (forget weekends, running for Congress is full time, so give up your income; having their name dragged through the mud, etc.), then please do come forth, as we would certainly prefer a candidate in every district as well. We don’t appoint candidates, we help recruit when we can, but we can not just “trot out 70 year old former State Supreme Court Justices” as Greg suggests for state races. We cannot “trot out” anybody in fact, as they need to consent to giving up their lives. We also do not maintain any monopoly on recruitment, encouraging candidates to run is open to all, from bloggers to state party chairs.

Jesse’s right – candidate recruitment is everyone’s responsibility. Frankly, this is an area where I’d like to see the DFA-type activist wing take more ownership. This is exactly the sort of cause that’s well-suited for rabble-rousing change-the-world idealists. You have the power, as someone once said.

There are a few things the DCCC could do to help grease the skids for this sort of thing. Both Chris and Jerome have suggested creating a pool of seed money to get these candidates started. Ten grand a pop to cover filing fees and startup costs for a hundred or so races (incumbents and those who can raise their own money don’t need this help) would probably be enough, and would I think give you a pretty decent return on the relatively small investment. Providing domain names and web hosting, plus some professional-looking templates for campaign sites that could be easily and quickly set up would be very helpful. If you really want to make a long-term investment, how about a national candidates’ school to train potential nominees in the basics of campaign reality? Such a thing may already exist, but how many people who aren’t already a candidate know about it and could get in on it if they thought they might want to give it a try? Some of these things could also be done at the state level, too.

An objection I’ve heard to this run-every-race idea is that by funding the Don and Donna Quixotes of the world, we’d be taking money away from the races we could win. I disagree with the premise that the amount of money available to a political party and its candidates is static and zero-sum. If we learned anything from the Year Of The Online Campaign, it’s that by reaching out to folks who haven’t been reached out to previously, we can grow the pie higher. Remember all those articles from 2003 which talked about President Bush’s insurmountable fundraising advantage? I’m not saying that there’s an unlimited amount of moolah out there waiting to be plucked, but I sure don’t believe we’ve reached the bottom of the well.

Rothenberg himself subscribes to that fixed-amount thesis when he writes:

Last cycle, Markos Moulitsas (whose Web bio does not mention any campaign experience) of Daily Kos promoted a number of Democratic House candidates, including Missouri’s Jim Newberry and Ohio’s Jeff Seeman and Ben Konop as good targets for fundraising assistance. Newberry drew 28 percent of the vote against Rep. Roy Blunt (R), while Seeman hauled in 33 percent against Rep. Ralph Regula (R). Konop topped the trio, taking 41 percent against Rep. Mike Oxley (R).

All three races were unwinnable from day one for the Democrats, so raising cash for those challengers was about as useful as flushing money down the toilet.

I won’t dispute the notion that it would have been foolish for the DCCC to divert money from more competitive races into these campaigns, but that isn’t what happened anyway and it isn’t what Kos was aiming to do with his adopted standard bearers. I daresay that the folks who raised a fair bit of the cash these candidates took in came from people who by and large would not have given that money to anyone else. I’m speculating here, but maybe some of those same first-time donors, having come to realize that even their little bit can help make a difference, also made donations to more “serious” candidates, and maybe some (most? all?) of them will now be receptive to giving again in 2006. If so, I call that an investment, not a waste.

(By the way, something Rothenberg doesn’t tell you: In 2002, Blunt’s opponent got 23 percent of the vote, while Regula’s got 31 percent and Oxley’s got 32. Sometimes it takes more than one cycle to beat an entrenched incumbent. Just ask Congresswoman Melissa Bean.)

The difference between a visionary and a crank isn’t always in the vision itself. Sometimes it’s in the execution of that vision. We may all be pie-in-the-sky idealists over here, but please wait until after the 2006 elections to see if we’re visionaries or cranks.

Rock revived

Rock music is back in Houston, and it’s even a little ahead of schedule.

In a not-so-subtle jab at KLOL, which for 35 years billed itself as “The Texas Rock ‘n’ Roll Authority” before switching to a Spanish hip-hop/reggaeton music format aimed at a young Latino audience two months ago, the new station’s call letters are KIOL.

At noon Thursday, Cumulus Media flipped the former KRWP-FM Power 97.5 urban contemporary station to Rock 97.5. The first song played was AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).

The station is led by radio veteran Pat Fant, who managed KLOL in its heyday from 1983 until 1995, when he introduced the Buzz alternative music format at KTBZ-FM (94.5).

“This town is too big, too fast, too fantastic not to have a real rock station,” Fant told an excited crowd at a launch party at the Fox Sports Grill.

Former KLOL personalities Jim Pruett and Dayna Steele Justiz were among those in the audience. Pruett said he is negotiating with the new station to helm a midday show.

Rumors were flying that the station hopes to sign former KLOL disc jockeys Outlaw Dave and the morning duo of Walton & Johnson when their non-compete clauses expire in the next few months.

Fant said no contact has taken place with the former KLOL DJs, but “when this talent is free to negotiate, my phone is always open, and I’m eager to talk.”

I listened to 97.5 on the way in. So far, so good. I’m hoping they’re a little less metal and (at least) a little more innovative than KLOL was, but this leads me to believe I’ll be disappointed. Oh, well. I won’t tune in to Walton and Johnson, but for now their DJ-free style is just fine.

The hearings

Lawyers for Talmadge Heflin and Hubert Vo had their day in the House yesterday.

Heflin’s lawyer, Andy Taylor, maintains that Vo’s “razor close” victory margin was decided by illegal ballots, and that the election otherwise would have gone to Heflin.

Taylor said he contacted 129 voters who cast ineligible ballots and agreed to reveal their votes, and that Heflin would have won by 10 votes if the ineligible ballots hadn’t been counted.

But Vo’s lawyer, Larry Veselka, said his examination of the ballots increased Vo’s margin of victory to 37 votes.

Taylor, who previously has alleged fraud in the election, toned down that language Thursday, saying only that there were “serious and deep flaws.”

Most errors resulted from actions of unspecified election officials, Veselka said.

“It should be clear what we have at stake here,” he said. “We don’t have voter fraud, but honest mistakes by people living busy lives.”

He said Taylor failed to seek enough evidence to prove that the election results should be overturned.


[Rep. Will] Hartnett, the presiding lawmaker, appeared skeptical of arguments by both sides.

“You are asking me to assume an awful lot,” he said during discussion of the eligibility of one voter. “There’s no clear evidence in all of this. It’s muddied up.”

In considering a dispute over whether signatures on an Election Day list indicated a double vote, he said: “It’s suspicious, but it seems to me we are speculating. At best we have sloppy activity.”

If that sounds like good news for Team Vo, Rick Casey would agree with you.

As the lawyers began arguing over individual cases, Hartnett made it clear he was holding Taylor and Heflin to a tough standard.

Under the law, evidence must be “clear and compelling” in order to throw out a vote as illegal. As Vo lawyer Larry Veselka put it, that is higher than the “preponderance of evidence” needed to decide ordinary lawsuits but lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal trials.

Here’s an example of Hartnett’s use of the standard.

Both sides agreed that scores of voters had voted illegally, mostly because they had moved. Often they were mistakenly told by election officials that they could vote at their old precincts.

In those cases, their votes would be subtracted if it could be determined for whom they voted. They were sent written questionnaires with questions from both attorneys, and signed them in front of a notary.

In one case a voter testified that he voted the straight Democratic ticket. But in a later question he was asked if he possibly voted for Heflin. He answered “Don’t know.”

It is possible, on the electronic ballots used, to push a button for the straight ticket but to then vote for individuals of the other party down-ballot.

Veselka argued that the voter may have done that. Taylor argued that it was pretty clear that “straight ticket” meant “straight ticket.”

Master Hartnett responded: “My inclination is that under ‘preponderance of the evidence,’ yes. But ‘clear and convincing? No.”

So far, so good. I don’t think I or any other Vo supporter will truly breathe easily until we receive Hartnett’s final recommendations, though.

Finally, this wouldn’t be our Lege if there weren’t an element of unintentional comedy.

Heflin has fellow Houstonian, former legislator and lawyer Ron Wilson on his side. Wilson, a Democrat who lost the primary race in March, said he offered his services — for free — to Heflin because “it just so happened that he’s the one that came out on the bottom.”

They sure don’t make the downtrodden like they used to, do they?

We’re Number 22!

A hundred and sixty thousand new jobs in Texas! That’s so great! Well, until you read the fine print. Lasso explains, here and here.