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June 14th, 2005:

Pass-the-hat time

You may have read on one of the other fine Texas progressive blogs out there that Chris Bell is hoping to raise $30K online by midnight tomorrow. (What’s significant about June 15? It’s the one year anniversary of his ethics complaint filing against you know who.) He’s passed the $25K mark, so you can help him bring it home.

We had another Bell conference call last night, this time organized by his campaign. Some previous attendees and some new folks were on, and we had a good spirited conversation once again. Eileen has a good overview, fellow first-time caller StoutDem was favorably impressed by Chris’ outreach, and the Panhandle Truth Squad got some followup answers on their education questions. I expect there will be more of these, and not just for Bell – if you’ve not gotten any emails about them previously, please drop me a note so I can make sure you’re notified in the future.

Meanwhile, Barbara Radnofsky emails to say:

The second quarter of this Texas US Senate campaign is closing. As I reach this milestone and nearly 200 trips since the beginning of this journey, I’ve raised $450,000 towards my end of June goal of $500,000.

Your contribution toward my half-million dollar goal will help me to run a strong and vigorous campaign.

Please help me with a donation to the address below before the end of June. The need really is urgent…

I’ve added the URLs to her online secure donation site, but if you prefer the old-fashioned kind of giving, send your checks to

Barbara Ann Radnofsky for US Senate Committee, Inc.
PO Box 550377
Houston, TX 77055-0377

The continuing lottery shortfall

In our last episode, we talked about the Texas Lottery’s funding shortfalls, and how it had exaggerated a jackpot total because it didn’t have the sales receipts to cover it. Today, the Chron writes that the shortfalls are ongoing.

The Texas Lotto jackpot has fallen short of the amount advertised on three occasions since November because of lower-than-anticipated ticket sales, a lottery spokesman said Monday.

Sales are running almost 26 percent behind last year’s pace, said spokesman Bobby Heith, blaming the problem on increased competition for the Texas gambler’s money.

Overall lottery sales, including tickets for scratch-off games, are up almost 11 percent over fiscal 2004, he added.

[…]

Wednesday’s shortfall prompted lottery officials, for the first time, to freeze the advertised jackpot at $8 million for last Saturday’s drawing, which also went unclaimed.

Normally, estimated Lotto jackpots are increased when there is no winner.

According to Lottery Commission calculations, sales plus interest for last Saturday’s drawing totaled $8.2 million, enough to have covered a winner. Heith said lottery officials also are confident the $9 million jackpot advertised for this Wednesday’s drawing is solid.

“Once it (the jackpot) rolls to $9 million, we begin to see the sales increase,” he said.

The lottery was created by the Legislature and approved by Texas voters in 1991. Total lottery sales, including the Lotto and scratch-off games, reached a peak of $3.7 billion in fiscal 1997. After declining, they climbed back to $3.4 billion in fiscal 2004 after the Legislature approved Texas’ participation in the multistate Mega Millions game.

Sales for Texas Lotto alone, however, dropped about 9 percent from fiscal 2003 to fiscal 2004 — to $477.8 million. And Lotto sales for the first 40 weeks of fiscal 2005, which began Sept. 1, are down almost 26 percent, compared to the first 40 weeks of last year, Heith said.

He blamed the decline on increased gambling opportunities in neighboring states, including casinos in Louisiana and New Mexico. The multistate Mega Millions game also may be cutting into Texas Lotto.

My first reaction to all this is “boy, it sure is a good thing we don’t actually rely on this for education funding”. Beyond that, what did we all expect? The number of people who gamble is limited, and yes, they have many options to squander their money. Among other reasons, this is why we should all laugh at those who claim that slot machines at horse tracks will generate billions for the state. We’re just resizing the pie slices, not growing the pie.

The Texas Lottery Commission has a long history of miniscandals and other questionable activities. Ken Rodriguez gives a taste, as does a recent Dallas Observer piece, reproduced here on Lotto watchdog Dawn Nettles’ site. Even if I didn’t think the Texas Lottery was a bad idea from the get-go, I’d be pretty skeptical of anything these guys say or do.

America’s Least Popular Senator

Which US Senator has the lowest approval rates of them all? Give it up for local boy and box turtle enthusiast John Cornyn and his anemic 40/36 ratings!

He’s not a one-hit wonder, either. As you can see on this aggregate page, in the table at the bottom where the Senators are sorted by approval rating, he clocked in at 39% last month, where only Florida’s Mel Martinez trailed him. Martinez obviously had a better May than Cornyn did, as he leapfrogged our junior Senator and two other colleagues in the rankings.

Oh, well. Like his equally unpopular buddy in Austin, Cornyn has never cared about his image, and it shows. Keep up the good work, Senator, and maybe 2008 will be as much fun as 2006 is shaping up to be. Survey link via Kos.

The new Metro plan

I’ve now read about the new Metro plan, and I think it’s pretty good. At the very least, I think Mayor White deserves a lot of credit for getting Reps. Culberson and DeLay in harmony with the program. I hope we all remember later on what nice things Rep. Culberson had to say about Mayor White’s fiscal stewardship.

I wish there’d be something along I-10 from downtown, as that would be the most convenient location for me to get on board (though the proposed commuter rail coming in along US 290 will pass relatively nearby), and I’m really sorry to see the proposed route to Intercontinental Airport get pushed back, but if there are now fewer political obstacles to overcome I can accept that. What I care about is that it gets done.

More Chron coverage can be found here, here, and here. Tory Gattis and Steve Bates both give it a qualified thumbs-up, while Kevin…well, let’s just say he’s not a very happy camper.

Ins, outs, and elsewheres

Via Matt, I see that John Courage is officially running for the CD21 seat currently held by Lamar “Lapdog” Smith. I am aware of rumors of other candidates, but for now, at least we know the Democrats will have a good person on the ballot.

Meanwhile, Max Sandlin’s former campaign manager left the following comment on this BOR post about where he might run in 2006:

It is highly likely that Max Sandlin will be on the 2006 ballot. However, he will not be a candidate for State Senate.

Max believes there are numerous excellent Democratic possibilities for each district including Jim McReynolds, Chuck Hopson and Mike Head in the 3rd and Tom Ramsay as well as Paul Sadler in the 1st — just to name a few.

Personally, Max will continue to gauge the potential of a statewide race and he would certainly consider another run for Congress should the Supreme Court restore some sanity to the Texas redistricting process.

In any case he is certainly not through with public service or Texas politics and will continue to be a forceful advocate for Democratic candidates.

He asked me to thank all of you for your kind thoughts and inspired analysis.

If you’re thinking statewide, Max, we could use someone in the Lt. Gov. slot. Just something to consider.

Elsewhere, there are names and rumors flying about all over the place. Here’s the Democratic lineup so far as I know it. Feel free to make additions or corrections in the comments.

At the statewide level, we have two confirmed candidates (Radnofsky for Senate, Van Os for AG) and one all-but-confirmed (Chris Bell for Guv). Various others, including Max Sandlin as noted above, may or may not be looking at this race or that, though it’s pretty much all the top tier races that get the buzz. I’ve heard nothing about any Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals canidates, and other than a nascent grassroots effort to draft Charlie Stenholm for Ag Commish, nada on the Commissioner seats.

For Congress, we have a few entries.

– CD10: According to an email from Carl Whitmarsh, the Cy-Fair Area Democratic Club has a meeting on July 7 for which one of the speakers will be “Ted Ankrum, a local resident who is considering a possible candidacy for U.S. Congressional District 10”. That’s the first I’ve heard of anything here.

– CD14: I’d been hearing about a challenge here. The Quorum Report has a blurb that says “Independent Cattlemens Association Executive Director Shane Sklar is taking a serious look in the race.”

– CD21: John Courage for sure, possibly others.

– CD22: Nick Lampson for sure, with Gordon Quan still contemplating.

– CD31: Mary Beth Harrell, an attorney from Killeen, is supposedly in.

It’s unclear yet whether State Rep. Richard Raymond will take a crack at CD23, though I do feel confident that someone will run.

Not too shabby so far. We still need challengers in (at least) CD02, CD07, and CD32, but this is a good start.

Bupkis so far in the State Senate. SD17 is sure to draw someone, and SD03 is going to be open, but that’s all I know at this time. Quite the opposite in the State House, where there’s already a swarm of potential and committed challengers. I’ve already talked about many of them – you can browse the Election 2006 archive to see who I’ve mentioned up till now. Again, I think this is a great start, and I know there will be more.

So who am I missing?

UPDATE: Well, for one, there’s Kevin Anderson in CD04.

To clarify: My intent here was to focus on Dem challengers to GOP incumbents, so I skipped CD28, which may or may not have State Rep. Raymond, former US Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, or both in a contested primary against Rep. Henry Cuellar. Obviously, I will have an interest in that race if it happens.

Friends in high places

Here’s a story from the weekend that deserves some attention.

Gov. Rick Perry is lending his endorsement to an organization established by two indicted associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay that is promoting amending the Texas Constitution to ban gay marriage.

Perry, who this week was quoted as saying that gay war veterans returning to Texas should live elsewhere if they wish to marry, touts the gay-marriage ban in a video link on a Web site operated by the Texas Marriage Alliance.

The Web site was set up by a Vienna, Va., consulting firm operated by John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, the DeLay associates under indictment in Texas on charges of violating campaign-finance laws during the 2002 election. Both are charged with money laundering, and Colyandro also faces 13 counts of unlawful acceptance of a corporate political contribution.

Luis Saenz, who heads the Republican governor’s 2006 re-election campaign, said there is nothing improper about Perry’s involvement with the organization.

“The governor was asked to help, and he helped,” Saenz said.

It sure is nice of Rick Perry to help out a couple of guys like Colyandro and Ellis who are going through a rough patch, isn’t it? After the last two legislative sessions, I was beginning to think he completely lacked the ability to empathize. I’m relieved to know that there really is some form of downtroddenness that tugs at Rick Perry’s heartstrings.

Anyway. Marc Olivier has more on the cause that Rick Perry is helping to support. Check it out.

Commissioner’s Court one-ups the Lege

I can’t believe I missed this story last week, but fortunately Jonathan (who can use words like “metaethics” in a blog post without looking silly) caught it.

Spurred on by Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl, county officials have fine-tuned policies in the hope that similar incidents can be prevented in the future.

Commissioners Court was informed today that promoters will sign contracts that highlight phrases such as one requiring that performers not use facilities for any “immoral purpose.”

Promoters will be required to carry at least $1 million in insurance to cover lawsuits that may result from a performer’s actions, said Willie Loston, director of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp., which oversees Reliant Park.

The Sports & Convention Corp. developed some of the slight policy changes in March and April, more than a year after Jackson bared her breast during a Super Bowl halftime performance at Reliant Stadium on Feb. 1, 2004.

Shortly after Jackson’s performance, Commissioner Steve Radack called for adding a “morality clause” to the contracts of promoters who bring in acts to Reliant Park.

[…]

Loston said the Sports & Convention Corp.’s board and SMG-Reliant Park, a national company that manages Reliant Park and other sports and convention venues worldwide, chose not to impose a Draconian morality clause.

First, immorality, indecency and vulgarity are subjective concepts, and certain behaviors are protected under First Amendment freedom of speech provisions, Loston said.

Second, Reliant Park would lose business and some performers would choose to perform in another town or at another venue if the county imposed an extraordinarily strict morality clause, he said.

“We talked about how restrictive can we get and still be competitive,” he said. “We would put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage to Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center and Cynthia Woods (Pavilion).”

It’s nice to know that even the most perfervid fulminations for “decency” can still take a back seat to the almighty dollar. It’s also nice to know that the reason this took so long to get implemented is that it was backburnered in favor of more pressing business. Apparently, Commissioner’s Court can adjourn for the summer, since all of its real work must be done for now.

I can’t wait to see the first litigation over the question of just what constitues an “immoral purpose” for the use of Reliant Stadium. Personally, I’d include any reunion tours by the Oak Ridge Boys, but I admit that I may be in the minority with that interpretation.