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June 15th, 2005:

DemocracyFest

Regretfully, I will not be able to make it to DemocracyFest this weekend in Austin due to other commitments. Looks like there will be a lot of interesting stuff going on, and I personally always enjoy a little networking opportunity, but it’s not to be. I’m hoping this isn’t a one-off, so those of you who are attending, please make sure it’s a success.

There should be some running commentary at the Kos at Demfest blog, so I’ll be checking in there periodically. Friday afternoon is a candidates caucus, which ought to be fun. They’re still hoping to reach a couple of other candidates, so if you’re involved with a campaign and will be in Austin this weekend, check that out and get in touch with them. You can use me as an intermediary if need be, just drop me a note and let me know.

Phil Jackson 2.0

So I guess we’ll find out if Phil Jackson can coach a team that isn’t already playoff caliber. To be honest, I kind of think he will make a difference, though how much of that will be due to Kobe Bryant accepting the wisdom that a team consists of five players on the floor is unclear to me. I missed loathing the Lakers this year more than I thought I would. It’s just too bad that the Celtics aren’t what they used to be – now there was a team that was fun to hate. Anyway, either Zenmaster Phil gives us all a reason to hate the Lakers again (yes, pitying them was nice, but it gets old quickly), or the Jackson/Bryant remix implodes like a matter/antimatter collision. That’s a win-win in my book.

More on the new Metro plan

There’s more coverage today of the new Metro plan. I’m kind of amused by the calls, in the article and elsewhere for a do-over vote on the issue, if only because it would put John “Bill White is da man!” Culberson in an awkward position. You just can’t vote on some things too often, I guess.

I’m sympathetic to the folks in Afton Oaks, who are worried about losing their trees and median on Richmond Ave. I feel reasonably confident that there’s a way to avoid too much aesthetic damage. Westpark really is the best road to run this down, except for the inconvenient fact of it terminating at Kirby. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m sure there will be plenty of suggestions.

If I had one wish for this plan, or any plan, it would be to include a real option for north-south travel inside Loop 610. Look at any map of Houston, and you’ll see that primarily due to the location of Memorial Park, there’s only one road that goes all the way from the South Loop to the North Loop, and that’s Shepherd/Greenbriar. Speaking as someone who lives in the Heights and works near the Astrodome, I have to do a lot of driving on Shepherd/Greenbriar and Kirby, and it’s just hell, even without any godawful construction projects gumming things up. These roads are crowded, there’s lots of stoplights to contend with, and there’s no relief in sight because there’s absolutely no room to do any widening. The only way to ease the congestion is going to be giving people non-car options. The Downtown/Galleria route is great for those going east-west – and make no mistake, the non-highway arteries there are clogged up, too, though at least there’s more of them along with 59 – but we need more than that. I just hope we get it sometime soon.

It’s semi-official: Strayhorn to run for Governor

Thus sayeth the Quorum Report:

Reliable sources tell QR that Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn will announce her candidacy for the Republican nomination as Governor this Saturday.

We have not yet received direct confirmation from her campaign office but have enough confidence in our sources to run with this story.

Plans may change, but what we have confirmed are that calls are being made giving supporters a heads up about the pending announcement.

Who’d have thought Strayhorn would beat KBH to the punch? I suppose that’s the downside to doing the world’s longest political snakedance.

Lots of commentary already – Houtopia, Burnt Orange, In the Pink, PerryVsWorld. The consensus, and it’s one I generally agree with, is that having both CKS and KBH in the race benefits Rick Perry, as the two women are going to be competing for similar voters. Still, though, as with the Kinky situation, both of them will be attacking Perry, and both of them will give any wavering Perry supporter an alternative that he or she wouldn’t have had otherwise. And who knows, we might actually see a little substance in the debate now, since CKS has actual policy preference differences.

Does Strayhorn’s entry into the race make KBH less likely to get in? I kind of doubt it – I suspect KBH thinks she can win against anybody – but as PerryVsWorld points out, she would be potentially leaving a fairly high leadership post behind if she comes back to Austin. I suppose there are worse problems to have.

In a way, I’m almost surprised that Strayhorn decided to run for Governor, even though she’s been sort of running for it since 2003. All the KBH speculation has shunted her out of the spotlight, and even though she generated some buzz by being first to market, much of the chatter has been about how this benefits Perry and KBH. It’s very much as if the spectators expect her to be nothing more than a spoiler. Either she knows something the rest of us don’t, or she’s in for a rude surprise.

UPDATE: Here’s an early wire report.

Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has reserved a prime piece of downtown property for a Saturday event, fueling speculation she’s preparing to announce her 2006 campaign plans for governor or lieutenant governor.

An invitation to Saturday’s outdoor event just north of the Capitol promises a “major announcement,” complete with free hot dogs, drinks and music. Strayhorn, a 65-year-old maverick within the GOP, has long been considered a potential candidate for one of the state’s top two posts.

Calls to Strayhorn’s office by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

I can’t say whether that “governor or lieutenant governor” bit is mere speculation or more solidly grounded, but I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

A laundry list from Cap Inside

Capitol Inside has a big overview of many potential state house races, some of which we’re now familiar with and some of which are new to me. Here’s the meat of it, with some comments at the end:

Dallas Democrat Harriet Miller, who’s planning a rematch against [Tony] Goolsby, gave the veteran lawmaker an unexpected scare last year in a general election race that her party had not targeted. Lubbock City Councilwoman and former school board member Linda Deleon has been encouraged by Democrats to seek [Carl] Isett’s seat and is reportedly taking a serious look at running. Democrats also think they have a potential winner in Ellen Cohen, who’s prepared to take a leave of absence from her job as president of the Houston Area Women’s Center in order to campaign full-time for [Martha] Wong’s seat in west Houston.

Former College Republicans of Texas president Andy Smith is weighing a possible campaign as a Democrat against Republican State Rep. Bill Keffer of Dallas. Refugio City Councilman Rene Mascorro may seek the Democratic nomination for the right to challenge State Rep. Geanie Morrison of Victoria in the fall of 2006. Democrat Morris Meyer, an Arlington high tech engineer, might seek his party’s nomination in hopes of taking on State Rep. Bill Zedler of Arlington in an attempted comeback from a 2004 defeat at the hands of powerful Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton. Nacona Mayor Paul Gibbs might shift his sights to the House in a possible campaign for the seat held by Republican State Rep. Rick Hardcastle of Vernon after losing last year in a race against State Senator Craig Estes.

Karen Felthauser, a Round Rock educator who ran against State Rep. Mike Krusee as a write-in candidate last fall, plans to try again in 2006 as a candidate for the Democratic Party. In another potential Williamson County race, Democrat Jim Stauber of Liberty Hill is considering a possible rematch against Republican State Rep. Dan Gattis of Georgetown.

Democratic strategists consider Goolsby and Wong to be among the top five Republican incumbents on their list of targets in 2006. The Democrats also list State Reps. Joe Nixon of Houston and Todd Baxter of Austin among Republican House members they believe to be most vulnerable in next year’s general election. An Austin House seat represented by Republican State Rep. Terry Keel has also been declared a major priority for Democrats in the wake of the incumbent’s announcement last week that he plans to run for a seat on an appellate court instead. The names of a half-dozen Democrats – including the sons of well-known fathers, Jason Earle and J. Pete Laney – have been tossed in the ring of possible candidates for Keel’s seat. Jimmy Evans, the son of a former legislator and high-profile lobbyist, and real estate developer Bill Welch are among the Republicans with eyes on the open House seat in Austin.

Democrats have high hopes for Deleon in Lubbock if she decides to challenge Isett. Deleon, a concrete company owner who spent 30 years working for Southwestern Bell in Lubbock, is serving her first term on the city council after 18 years as a school district trustee. To have a shot at the five-term incumbent, Deleon would have to fare exceptionally well among minority voters in a district where about 44 percent of the voters are either Hispanic or African-American. But she would also have to attract a significant number of Anglo voters to have a chance against Isett, a CPA who has done reasonably well with minority voters and hasn’t been held below 66 percent by Democratic challengers since his initial race for the seat in 1996. While the Hispanic population has been growing in Isett’s district, Republican statewide candidates have still won two out of every three votes in the past two elections.

Goolsby and Wong, however, might have more cause for concern. Miller held Goolsby, a 16-year House veteran, to about 53 percent of the general election vote in 2004 without substantial help from the party machinery. An infusion of resources might help her narrow the gap even more in a district that’s voted about 60 percent Republican in the past two statewide elections. In Houston, Cohen might have an even better chance against Wong in a district with the state’s highest concentration of gay and lesbian voters. Wong, a former city council member, had a mixed record during the regular session on votes affecting that segment of the population.

Democrats also have fielded a potential candidate against one of their own – Houston State Rep. Al Edwards – who angered other Democratic legislators as the only member of the minority party to vote with Republicans on the school finance and tax bills this year. Edwards, who’s been a member of the Legislature for 26 years, could face primary opposition from Houston businessman Boris Miles.

While potential Democratic challengers appear to have a head-start in House races, Republicans say they will have viable candidates in races against several Democratic House incumbents including three freshmen – State Reps. Hubert Vo of Houston, Mark Strama of Austin and David Leibowitz of San Antonio – who knocked off GOP incumbents last year. Republicans also expect to have well-armed candidates for several seats held by Democrats in East Texas as well.

My thoughts:

– Any Democrat who can win in Lubbock County (75% for GWB in 2004) is a star in my book. Isett won with 68% last time, so this is a steep hill to climb, but one that’s worth trying to climb, especially if it’s an increasingly non-Anglo district.

– If Goolsby’s district really went 60% GOP in November, then I need to put it on my list for precinct data analysis. Whatever Harriet Miller did last time, I hope she can do it again.

– Speaking of analyses, I did one at Morris Meyer’s request for Bill Zedler’s district. You can see the spreadsheet here. Short version: This will be another tough challenge, as the district is at best 60/40, much as it was in 2002, with a lot less variance in performance levels for different candidates. On the other hand, Meyer now has campaign experience, good name recognition, and a much lower fundraising target. With a little luck and some shoe leather, this one can be competitive.

– Not mentioned here as they were before are some of the reps who are on Tom Craddick’s leadership team. This may be because (other than Geanie Morrison) they don’t have prospective opponents yet, or it may be because the Dems’ focus has altered, I’m not sure. Morrison’s district is pretty strongly Republican (70% for GWB in Victoria County, 61% GOP statewides in District 30 in 2002) and she hasn’t had a Democratic challenger in the last two cycles, but hometown boy John Sharp won 56% there in 2002, so it’s at least possible that someone could make a race of this.

– I feel pretty good about the three Democratic freshmen’s chances in 2006. The East Texas reps, some of whom had close calls last year, are more of a concern to me. If things continue as they have been, I fear some of them may be the last Dem to hold those seats for awhile.

– No mention of Robert Pham, the purported challenger to Joe Nixon. I’m not sure what’s up with that.

– According to the business card he gave me last Friday, there are two Rs in Borris Miles’ first name.

Meet Janette Sexton

I mentioned before that I recently had the pleasure of meeting Janette Sexton, who is running to unseat Robert Talton in HD144. I asked her to write a short introductory piece about herself for my audience, and I present it to you here now, reproduced beneath the fold. You can also consult this fact sheet (Word doc) that she’s put together about herself, and if you like what you see, you can send her a donation to help her get up and running. She will be having her first fundraiser in July – I’ll pass that info along when I have it.

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