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June 11th, 2005:

Sandlin for State Senate?

Long as I’ve posted some rumor-confirmations, I’ll now link to another rumor: Katie hears that former Rep. Max Sandlin is thinking about running for the to-be-vacated Senate District 3 seat currently held by Todd Staples.

Now, I’ve previously advocated for some of the defeated Democratic reps to aim for the State Senate in 2006, so I approve of this. I had thought Sandlin underperformed a bit last year, but as Greg noted, he was running in a really unfriendly district. If he chooses to run in SD3, he’ll have name recognition, some infrastructure in place, and as good a shot as any Democrat would have.

On the other side, the Quorum Report has a press release from TxDOT Commissioner Robert Nichols which indicates he may run for this seat.

“I have received numerous calls over the past two weeks encouraging me to seek the Senate District 3 seat should Senator Staples seek higher office. Our region has benefited greatly from Senator Staples’ vision and leadership. Without question, we must continue along a path of economic growth and development. I am flattered to be considered and will make a formal announcement next week,” said Nichols.

Robert Lee Nichols is a friend of the family, so as much as this race interests me, I’ll likely stay more or less mum on it. We’ll see if he gets in or not.

Putting some faces to names

Tiffany and I attended the HCDP Texas Heroes event last night. It was a great opportunity to hang with some folks I’ve come to know over the past couple of years, and also to meet some people I’ve been blogging about. On the blogging side, Stace was there taking pictures, while Marc Olivier, Lyn Wall, and John Cobarruvias were there representing the Houston Democrats. We walked into the event with Keir, who was there with CD22 challenger, former Rep. Nick Lampson. Lampson was one of many Democrats to say a few words during the event. He’s a lot more fiery than you might think, something I’d experienced previously.

Quite a few of the Harris County State Rep delegation was there, along with US Reps Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green. All of them exuded optimism for 2006. All of the state reps felt that they had done quite a bit to block bad legislation, and that the Republicans messed up badly by not delivering on school finance reform as they’d promised. They all expressed the belief that Democrats can and will make gains in the Lege next year.

Towards that end, I had the pleasure of meeting three candidates for the Lege: Ellen Cohen, Borris Miles (note the spelling), and Janette Sexton. Cohen and Miles you’ve heard of, and both of them confirmed that they are in the races for HD134 (against Republican Martha Wong) and HD146 (against Craddick Democrat Al Edwards, who was also there last night), respectively. Sexton, who is a precinct chair in Pasadena, is set to run against Robert Talton in HD144. I collected business cards from Miles and Sexton and had a bit more of a chance to chat with them than with Cohen. Both of them expressed great frustration with their current representatives, and both of them sound like they’re ready to do what it takes to win. I told them both about Texas Tuesdays, and will be contacting them shortly to let them know what the online community can do for them.

One candidate whom I spotted but didn’t get a chance to say hello to was Robert Pham, who is reported to be running in HD133. That means that four of the top five priorities for State Rep races in Harris County (the other being HD138, Dwayne Bohac) are set with candidates already. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a great sign.

Other folks I spoke to: Barbara Radnofsky, who was showing off her new campaign manager (alas, I’ve forgotten his name), Chris Bell, whom I had not met in person before, City Council members Ron Green and Gordon Quan, and Council candidates Mark Lee and Jay Aiyer. I’m probably forgetting some others, and for that I apologize. One of my cousins now works in Gordon Quan’s office, which shows that however big Harris County may be, Houston is still just a big ol’ small town. I couldn’t resist asking Quan if he’d consider running in CD07. He laughed and said basically that anything was possible. He and Lampson are supposed to be having a sitdown soon, so we may hear something more there shortly.

All in all, a good time was had. I wish I’d had more time to talk to people, but I think the time I spent was pretty productive. I’ll follow up as I can.

UPDATE: Here’s Stace‘s writeup.

UPDATE: Barbara Radnofsky’s campaign manager is Andy Grout. Thanks to Robert for the reminder, and my sincere apologies to Mr. Grout.

Coverage of TAB ruling

Here’s the Chron story on yesterday’s ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that the Texas Association of Business must disclose information about how it raised money in 2002.

The Supreme Court, without comment, lifted a stay it had issued on Jan. 28, 2004.

“All the information we requested is due right now,” said Buck Wood, who represents James Sylvester of Austin, a Democratic candidate who was defeated in the November 2002 general election for District 50 in Travis County. “I’m sending a letter giving them a week.”

Sylvester, a Travis County deputy sheriff, was the subject of mailings from the business group that questioned his ethics in following Texas campaign laws.

Sylvester was one of several defeated candidates who sued the TAB after the election, accusing it of violating election laws by spending $1.9 million of corporate money on mailings to voters.

The business group has responded that its efforts were constitutionally protected voter education activities that did not urge voters to support or oppose any candidates.

Andy Taylor, a Houston attorney who represents the TAB and its president, Bill Hammond, said the court’s ruling does not require the group to disclose donors’ identities.

“TAB has refused to identify its donors in order to protect them from vilification and frivolous litigation,” said Taylor.

Taylor said the TAB has not yet decided whether to ask the Supreme Court for a rehearing.

Wood is asking for communications that were used to raise the money, the number and amount of donations, the date donations were made and whether the donor was a member of the TAB. He said he believes the answers will show that the group should have formed a political action committee and disclosed its donors.

The TAB targeted 22 Texas House races, with its endorsed candidates winning 18 of those contests. The wins were key to the Republican takeover of the House.

More from the Morning News:

In ruling against the state’s largest business group, the high court Friday directed the association to turn over information about its corporate solicitations used for 4 million mail pieces sent to voters that generally berated Democrats and touted Republicans.

The information is also at the heart of a Travis County grand jury investigation. The grand jury already has indicted three associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in connection with the use of corporate money by a separate political action committee to elect Republicans.

Attorney Buck Wood had sued the association on behalf of three Democratic legislative candidates who lost.

In his civil suit against the group and its president, Bill Hammond, Mr. Wood has sought information about the number of corporations giving money, how much they gave and how decisions were made within the organization.

Mr. Wood said the court decision would trigger the first in a series of “falling dominoes” in his bid to prove the business group broke the law by running a secretly funded political campaign.

“This activity of soliciting money to support or defeat candidates made them, under Texas law, a political action committee,” he said. “Once you are a political action committee, it has to be reported.”

Andy Taylor, an attorney representing the Texas Association of Business, said the group “is prepared to release the information.”

He noted that under the ruling, the identity of the corporate donors would remain secret.

The civil suit did not specifically seek the names of the corporate donors, only how many there were. Mr. Wood said Friday he’s confident he will be able to identify the contributors once he reviews the material.

May I just say that I sincerely hope Buck Wood enlightens the rest of us once he’s figured it out? Thanks.

There’s a little bit more here, including some bravado from Bill Hammond that his group will Never! Ever! give up its secrets. He’s so cute when he’s losing, isn’t he? Jesse noted my fear about how one can never be certain how plaintiffs against bidness will be treated by the Texas Supremes, but so far, so good.

(And boy howdy am I glad to have a working cable modem again. Thank you, AOLTimeWarner of Borg for not making me wait any longer to get this fixed.)