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March 8th, 2006:

2005 Koufax Award voting has begun

Continuing with the Stuff That Happened While I Was In California theme, the voting for the 2005 Koufax Awards has begun. A full list of nomination threads, now with comments enabled for your ballots, is here. I along with a number of my Texas colleagues am up for the Best State and Local Blog award. Currently, we’re getting our butts kicked by blogs from such places as Kansas, Kentucky, and Oregon. Clearly, we cannot let that stand, so if you’ve got a moment please click here and add a little balance to the proceedings. And if you’ve got some spare change to go with that spare time, please consider helping the fine folks at Wampum defray their costs for this enterprise.

Andy Fastow is in the house

My stars, are we already at the Andy Fastow testimony part of the Lay/Skilling trial? I knew this was progressing faster than I’d thought, and I admit I’ve not been paying much attention to it lately (thankfully, Houstonist, Loren Steffy, and Tom Kirkendall have been), but boy did that sneak up on me. Serves me right for going out of town for a week.

I need to do a little catchup reading here, so give me a chance to get back up to snuff and I’ll see if there’s anything I have to add to all this. You should be sure to read Tom’s post about the Lea Fastow plea bargain and how it may muck up the works for the feds, and Loren’s post about the overlooked Enron Board of Directors and its role in letting Andy Fastow steal from the company.

By the way, the Andrea Yates retrial may be starting up as the Lay/Skilling trial winds down. If there’s any visiting media left in town, they may want to consider extending their hotel reservations.

Coming to a theater (possibly) near you: “The Big Buy”

You may recall the movie “The Big Buy”, which I reviewed a few months ago. Here now is your chance to see it for yourself.

As former House Majority Leader DeLay readied himself Tuesday to accept his party’s nomination for another congressional term in Washington, D.C., two Texas filmmakers announced plans to release a scathing documentary in DeLay’s Sugar Land district, criticizing the popular politician. Tentative plans also call for a screening in Houston, they said.

Numerous liberal groups stepped up to sponsor the film’s expected release in early May, including Houston’s Pacifica radio station, KPFT-FM (90.1). The film will rely heavily upon releases in small venues and at a few select theaters.

Filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck spent three years following the path of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s criminal investigation, which resulted in indictments against DeLay and two political associates.

DeLay is charged with conspiring to funnel $190,000 in corporate cash illegally to seven Texas House candidates in the 2002 elections. The film highlights how the Republican-controlled state Legislature redrew the congressional districts at DeLay’s request. Birnbaum and Schermbeck said they chose to profile the political heavyweight even before he was indicted. They said they had considered the film complete until DeLay was charged.

Ten minutes were added to the film. Attorneys for DeLay and the two others charged — John Colyandro, director of Texans for a Republican Majority, and Jim Ellis, director of DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority — appear in the film. DeLay declined to appear.

As Birnbaum and Schermbeck wrote in October, they originally pitched the idea of this documentary to DeLay:

The idea of making a documentary about DeLay and his political action committee — Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC — originated in early 2003. It seemed like a story that could put the 2002 Texas state elections and the Congressional redistricting battles in context. Since it had an organization created by DeLay at its center, the story also had the potential to affect the second-most powerful Texan in Washington.

We first approached DeLay’s office about doing a film from his perspective as an elected official under the microscope. His office declined our offer. We then went to the next logical choice: [Travis County DA Ronnie] Earle.

Our goal was to be on the scene if the case ever got past the grand jury, which was anything but certain when we started.

It’s kind of a shame that DeLay declined the opportunity to tell his story this way, though totally understandable that he would, given the “anything you say can and will be used against you” nature of criminal justice. I suspect it would have made for some fascinating filmmaking. What we did get is pretty good on its own merits, and I’m very interested in seeing what has been added since I first saw the film. Schedule permitting, I hope to be at the premier in May.

Your moment of Zen for the day, from the original article:

Dick DeGuerin, DeLay’s attorney, said the film offers little in the way of balance.

“I think it’s about as fair and balanced as Michael Moore’s stuff or Fox News,” he said.

Does Roger Ailes know that Tom DeLay’s mouthpiece considers Fox News to be, um, not a trustworthy source of information? I’m just asking.

Anyway. As The Daily DeLay notes, you can sign up to host your own screening of the film. Let the theater-versus-DVD debate rage beyond the Oscars, I say! And read more about how this film got to be distributed in this fashion here.

Primary results: Republican non-statewide

We know where to start with this one: CD22.

Still facing legal battles, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay won a pivotal political fight Tuesday by defeating three challengers in the Republican primary for his Houston-area seat.

Opponent Tom Campbell, former general counsel for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, fell short of forcing the former House majority leader into a runoff.

DeLay won 62 percent of the vote in the 22nd Congressional District, which covers parts of Harris, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Galveston counties, according to the totals from 97 percent of precincts.

“I have always placed my faith in the voters, and today’s vote shows they have placed their full faith in me,” DeLay said in a written victory statement. “This race was about who can effectively represent the values and the priorities of the people in this district, and I’m proud to have earned, and overwhelmingly kept, that trust among Republican voters.”

“Not only did they reject the politics of personal destruction, but they strongly rejected the candidates who used those Democrat tactics as their platform,” he added.

DeLayVsWorld has the full text of DeLay’s statement. I have Nick Lampson‘s which is beneath the fold.

DeLay’s totals show that “nearly 40 percent of an ideologically committed (Republican) vote has decided to bail on him,” said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson. “He still has a hell of a fight in the general election.”

Lampson is already courting that 40%, as you can see from his statement below. Chuck Todd thinks DeLay has Carole Strayhorn to thank for the low turnout in that race.

Elsewhere, the next biggest stories are in the State House, where key Tom Craddick lieutenant Kent Grusendorf was ousted by ParentPAC-backed Diane Patrick.

Patrick captured about 57 percent of the vote Tuesday to Grusendorf’s 43 percent in complete unofficial returns.

“We’re off to a great start and so are the people of Arlington,” Patrick said, surrounded by supporters at J. Gilligan’s on Abram Street in central Arlington. Voters were “ready for a change,” she said. Grusendorf, 66, has held the District 94 seat since 1987. Patrick, 60, is a former Arlington school board president and a former member of the state Board of Education. She was the first significant challenger Grusendorf had in many years.

Patrick will face Democrat David Pillow in November.

Grusendorf spoke to supporters about 10:30 p.m. at the Hilton hotel on Lamar Boulevard, noting that the tally was incomplete and promising to make a final statement today.

He said strong turnout by voters who don’t typically vote in the Republican primary may have helped Patrick and that more competition at the top of the ticket might have helped him.

“We need to get more of the hard-core Republicans out,” he said.

Oh, poor baby. If that’s true, whose fault is it?

Three other Republican incumbents are out, at least pending any recounts. Both were victims of the Leininger Five – Roy Blake, who lost to former Rep. Wayne Christian, and somewhat shockingly, Carter Casteel, who was ahead by 600 votes with only precincts in her home county of Comal to be counted. There are still mail-in ballots to be counted, and with the margin there at 45 votes, I’m expecting a recount. Regardless, Charlie at PinkDome is pissed about this one.

Also getting the boot is Elvira Reyna, the sole Hispanic Republican in the State House. Her opponent, Thomas Latham, was also ParentPAC-backed. The other three targets of Leininger – Tommy Merritt, Delwin Jones, and Charlie Geren, all survived, as did ParentPAC target David Swinford. One incumbent, Scott Campbell, is in a runoff and I think will likely lose.

Open seat races in HD47, HD118, and HD133 in Harris County are headed to runoffs, as is HD50 for the right to challenge Democrat Mark Strama. Also in Harris County, Patricia Harless held off the wingnut John Devine in HD126, while incumbent Joe Crabb won his challenge. Finally, in a race that had fewer votes than my cousin-in-law Jennifer had attendees at her wedding, former Democrat Dorothy Olmos “won” the right to challenge first-termer Ana Hernandez in HD143.

In the State Senate, the good news is that you won’t be hearing Dan Patrick on the air anytime soon. The bad news that’s because he crushed his three opponents in the SD7 primary. I doubt it, but perhaps he’ll heed the advice of his predecessor when he gets to Austin. State Rep. Glenn Hegar appears headed for a promotion as he won the SD18 primary to replace outgoing Democrat Ken Armbrister.

Finally, in the race for the Least Important Office in Harris County, Treasurer Jack Cato defeated former Mayoral candidate Orlando Sanchez, which makes Stace do the Happy Dance. At this point, I say Sanchez gets tagged with the “perennial candidate” label if he ever bothers to run another race. And to think he was once a rising star.

UPDATE: I’m a little punchy this morning, so please forgive an oversight or two. Former TxDOT Commissioner Robert Nichols appears to be headed to the State Senate after garnering a majority in the SD03 primary to replace Todd Staples. There are still a few precincts out, but it looks good for him. Ron Paul easily won his primary challenge in CD14. And Kent Grusendorf’s loss yesterday means he won’t have to resign if school finance is still broken after the upcoming special election.

(more…)

Primary results: Democratic non-statewide

Where to start? Let’s go with SD19, where Carlos Uresti has ousted Frank Madla.

Uresti led Madla by 5,733 votes late Tuesday night with 92 percent of precincts reporting in Senate District 19, which stretches from South Bexar County to El Paso County. It appeared unlikely that Madla, a lawmaker with 30 years of experience, could close the gap.

Just after 11 p.m., Uresti’s wife, Yolanda, introduced him as the district’s new senator to a boisterous crowd gathered at the VFW post near the Mission San Jose.

After thanking Madla for his years of service in the Texas Legislature, Uresti said: “There were a lot of issues, but it comes down to a few issues — and that’s taking care of our children and taking care of our families, our seniors citizens and, of course, our vets.”

That’s a big win, and it ought to help solidify the Democratic Senate contingent. I wonder if Pete Gallego is kicking himself for not jumping in this race when he could have. Congratulations to Carlos Uresti!

Over in CD28, it looks like Henry Cuellar will win that free-for-all when all is said and done. Though voting problems in Webb County kept things mysterious though the night, the returns are now almost all in, and Cuellar will win by a decent margin. As was the case in 2004, Bexar County was strong for Ciro Rodriguez, but more people came out in the smaller Webb portion of the district, and that was more than enough to offset it.

The other big race was HD146, where we’ll have a runoff between incumbent Al Edwards and challenger Borris Miles. Edwards had a majority in the early vote, but both Miles and Al Bennett gained ground on Election Day, and that was enough to put Edwards under the 50% mark. Would someone please bring Greg Wythe a stiff drink and a cold compress? Thanks.

In the other Harris County State Rep races, both Garnet Coleman and Kevin Bailey won easily, as did Dora Olivo in Fort Bend. One Democratic incumbent, Jesse Jones, was ousted, while Richard Raymond will face Mercurio Martinez in a runoff. And because I know you’re dying to know, former male prostitute Tom Malin did not win his primary, thus guaranteeing a less colorful November for us all.

No other challenged State Rep failed to win a majority, though Chente Quintanilla came close. There will be a runoff in HD47 for that open seat, while Eddie Lucio III in HD38 and Joe Farias in HD118 avoided them. In the other State Senate primary, Henry Boehm won a squeaker in SD18.

Finally, in other Congressional action, Jim Henley won handily over David Murff despite accusations by the Murff campaign of sign stealing. Ted Ankrum and Paul Foreman will run it off in CD10. Sadly, anti-gay CD01 candidate Roger Owen won that nomination.

On to the Republican races. I’ll have some more to say about a few of these contests later.

UPDATE: With two precincts still not reporting, Richard Raymond is up to 49.89% in HD42. He may yet escape a runoff.

Primary results: Statewide

Though there’s still a lot of uncertainty in a number of races, let’s start looking at the ones that have been decided. Chris Bell was an easy winner in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination:

With most of the state’s precincts reporting, Bell had about 64 percent of the vote, while [Bob] Gammage had about 28 percent. Rashad Jafer, a Houston retail manager, trailed with about 8 percent.

“We now have a bigger mountain to climb,” said Bell, who struggled with the other Democratic contenders to get attention against a Republican-dominated landscape.

“But the field is set in such a way we can easily win this,” he added.

Gammage, who entered the race in December, months after Bell had started campaigning, said, “We didn’t have enough time to put it all together.”

That ought to quiet the factions who had been claiming that after a year of campaigning, Bell had not consolidated support in the party. Congratulations to Chris Bell on his hard-earned victory. That’s good news. One other Dem statewide won a clear majority, Ag Commish candidate Hank Gilbert, who may have benefitted from having a simpler name than his opponent, Koecadee Melton.

At least, the simpler-name theory is what I’m hanging my hat on. The bad news is that Barbara Radnofsky failed to win a majority of the votes in the Senate primary, and thus will have to face perennial candidate Gene Kelly in a runoff. I’m rather at a loss to understand this. Kelly ran strongly in South Texas and (oddly, since Radnofsky dominated the big urban counties otherwise) Harris. All I can say is that if he’s the nominee again, Democrats should have gone ahead and left that race alone. Nothing good can come from that.

Finally, in the Lite Guv race, Maria Alvarado and Ben Grant will face off after running neck and neck through yesterday.

On the GOP side, pretty much all of the big names were unopposed or close to it. Rick Perry got about 85% against three loonies, while David Dewhurst cruised with 78%. Railroad Commish and Anita Perry favorite won with 65%. Other contested races were more exciting, as Perry appointee and unoriginal thinker Don Willet held off Steve Smith for his State Supreme Court seat, and Court of Criminal Appeals justice Sharon Keller survived in her race. Finally, we see why former State Rep. Terry Keel wanted to knock his opponents off the ballot – he wound up with just 30% of the vote and will go into a runoff against CCA Justice Charles Holcomb.

On to the next post for the non-statewide races and a lot more action.