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August 30th, 2006:

Poll in CD10

A few days ago, Paul Burka reported being on the receiving end of a robocall poll for CD10, which he presumed came from the Mike McCaul campaign. He was wrong about that – the poll was commissioned by Ted Ankrum. I am now in possession of the results. Here is the full script, with totals for each question:

Q1. Are you a registered voter who intends to vote in the election?

(Note: Only “yes” answers continued with the call, for a total of 500 respondents and a margin of error of 4.4%.)

Q2. Michael McCaul is your current Representative in Congress. What are your thoughts on his reelection?

34.7% Would you definitely vote to reelect him
39.1% Would you consider other candidates
26.1% Would you definitely vote to replace him

Q3. The three Candidates for Congress are Michael McCaul, the Republican, Ted Ankrum, the Democrat, and Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian.

50.8% Would you vote for Michael McCaul, the Republican
41.6% Would you vote for Ted Ankrum, the Democrat
7.6% Would you vote for Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian

(Note: The order in which the candidates’ names was read was rotated for each call.)

Q4 In times such as these, should a Representative follow the lead of the President or follow the opinion of voters in their District? In a situation where the two do not agree:

23.2% The Representative should follow the President
76.8% The Representative should follow the voters

Q5. What is your opinion of President Bush’ job performance on a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 means you strongly approve and 4 means you strongly disapprove?

25.7% Strongly approve
22.8% Somewhat approve
9.4% Some disapproval
42.0% Strong disapproval

There was one more question asking for the respondent’s age. As you can see, it was a pretty straightforward, non-push poll, generic enough to make Burka think it came from McCaul’s camp. Approximately 36% of the respondents were from Harris County (which broke down as McCaul 67%, Ankrum 25%, Badnarik 8%), 47% from Travis (Ankrum 57%, McCaul 36%, Badnarik 7%) and the rest in between. That’s slightly tilted towards Travis, but may simply reflect greater voter enthusiasm this year.

I would not claim that 42% of the respondents in this poll even know who Ted Ankrum is, much less that they know enough about him to vote for him. This is basically an anti-Bush, anti-incumbent statement. The breakdown of the approve/disapprove question says it all: Over 91% of the voters who strongly or somewhat approved of George W. Bush preferred McCaul, while 78% of those who strongly or somewhat disapproved went for Ankrum (it was 88% of the strong disapprovers). This is the first real piece of evidence I’ve seen that Bush’s sagging poll numbers, even in Texas (most recent SurveyUSA result 47 approve/51 disapprove), will have an effect on races here in Texas. Combine it with the earlier Henley poll, and I think one can feel a little optimism for Democratic prospects overall. Hopefully we’ll see even more results like this.

The good news for Ankrum is that I believe he has room to grow. The key for any Democratic candidate to have a shot in this district is to boost turnout and performance in Travis County. If this is an accurate picture of voter intensity, then he’s got #1 going for him. If he can get his performance there up to about 65%, he’s up close to 45% overall. The flip side of that, of course, is that better turnout in Harris pushes him down. If you tweak things so that it’s 47% Harris and 36% Travis, and assume the same ratios for each county, McCaul goes up by a 53-39 score. I believe there’s a fair piece of SD07 in this district, and enthusiasm for Dan Patrick may well help bump up participation in Harris to McCaul’s advantage. That may also have been accounted for by question 1, I can’t say. In any event, turning out Travis County, and doing a little better there and among the weak Bush disapprovers is the key for Ankrum. We’ll see how it goes from here, but this is an encouraging beginning.

UPDATE: More from BOR, McBlogger, and R.G. Ratcliffe.

I should note that Ankrum emailed me to say that he agrees that this is an anti-Bush result. It also occurs to me that the poll apparently did not allow for questions to be skipped, or for “Don’t Know” to be selected. That could skew things in any number of ways, including the high-for-a-Libertarian-in-a-three-way-race 7.6% total for Badnarik. Just something to think about.

How special is this election anyway?

I’m just thinking out loud a little here about the Very Special Election for CD22 that will be held on the same day as the regular election. I’m still not sure what the point of it all is, besides Rick Perry’s constitutional obligations, which I doubt he really cares much about since he waited so long to bother with this. Paul Burka thinks the point is increasing Republican base turnout. Maybe, but then why bother with SD19 and HD33, where Democrats are the majority? Who’s to say that Carlos Uresti and Solomon Ortiz, Jr won’t take the opportunity to work their base support extra hard, too?

Chris Elam suggests the special election is a chance for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to get a leg up on 2008. To which I say, did anyone ask David Wallace about that? We all know he has his sights set on ’08, right? Well, it’s one thing for him to put on the Good Team Player hat and give Shelley some money and whatever moral support he has for her write-in bid, since Wallace quite reasonably expects that to fail. It’s another thing entirely to expect him – or for that matter, any of Talton, Howard, Jackson, Meyers, Bettencourt, and even Eckels – to give aid and comfort to a potential future primary opponent. If the motivation is to give an early boost to the Shelley 2008 campaign, what possible reason could there be for any ambitious local Republican and his or her supporters to help that effort? That makes no sense to me.

Even if you put that aside and assume that the cast of characters who also hope to run in two years’ time will still work for Shelley in a special election, are we 100% sure Shelley wants the help? That is, are we certain she plans to run in that special election? Because if she does, and if she wins the special election while failing as expected in the general, then she has to do something that she currently isn’t required to do, and that’s resign her City Council seat. Is getting to play Congresswoman during her Christmas vacation enough compensation for her last year on Council? Maybe it is, if it really does make her the frontrunner for the GOP primary in 2008. But then we’re back to my previous point. Who among her potential future rivals is going to help make that happen?

All I’m saying is that there’s a lot of questions to answer, and the filing deadline for the special election is Friday. I don’t think at this time that we can make a whole lot of assumptions about how this will shake out until we know who is and isn’t in.

And to bring things back to the regular election, via Muse we learn that Shelley won’t be the only official write-in candidate after all.

On Tuesday – the deadline for withdrawing or registering as a write-in – Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs traveled to Austin to file her papers, as expected.

But unexpectedly, by the end of the day former Republican congressional candidate and Houston businessman Don Richardson did not ask the Texas Secretary of State’s office to remove his name as a write-in candidate.

The move threatens to further confuse voters in what has already been an extremely complicated congressional campaign. And having two GOP write-in candidates in the race may jeopardize funding from national Republican Party sources.

Contacted at his home Tuesday night, Richardson said he is still in the race despite telling GOP officials and precinct chairs at an Aug. 17 gathering in Pearland that he would drop out.


At the Pearland gathering, Texas GOP Chairman Tina Benkiser “got up and said the Republican National Committee would put up $4 million if and only if” there were a single write-in candidate in the race, Richardson said.

In that case, he said, he would withdraw and allow Sekula-Gibbs’ campaign to benefit from the funding.

But the next morning, he called an official at the RNC in Washington, D.C. “I said put it in writing” that $4 million would be available to the single GOP candidate running as a write-in against Lampson, Richardson said.

He didn’t hear back. On Friday, Richardson said, he sent a fax to RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, to the RNC official to whom he’d originally spoken, and to Benkiser.

“I said look, if you’ll put it in writing about the $4 million and refund my campaign expenses…I will withdraw,” Richardson said. “I haven’t heard from anybody. So my name is still on the ballot.”

Benkiser could not be reached Tuesday night to confirm Richardson’s recollection about $4 million coming from the RNC. Sekula-Gibbs also could not be reached.

But Sekula-Gibbs said a few days ago it was “suggested to me that” significant funding from national Republican sources would be made available if the GOP could get behind a single write-in candidate. “That’s a very important part – that there would be adequate funding” to run a major campaign, she said.

Nobody ever expected those mythical millions, whether three or four of them, to materialize anyway, so I don’t see this as anything but a convenient excuse for the national party to weasel out of any commitments that people may think they’ve made. I also don’t believe the presence of a second official write-in measurably affects Sekula-Gibbs’ already miniscule odds of victory, unless there are people out there who would have spun in her name but will now change their minds. It’s not like Don Richardson is on the ballot, after all.

Are we having fun yet? I too am aware of some highly interesting rumors about this Very Special Election. All I can say now is stay tuned and we’ll see what materializes.

Interview with State Rep. Scott Hochberg

Continuing with my interview tour of the State House, today I bring you my first interview with an incumbent Rep who’s running for re-election, Rep. Scott Hochberg. I’m proud of all the interviews I’ve done so far, but if you were to tell me that you only had the time to listen to one of them, I’d say this is the one. Not because I asked brilliant questions, but because Hochberg knows so damn much about education and school finance, and he makes it all very accessible and easy to understand. If you’re not at least five percent smarter after listening to this, I’ll give you double your money back.

Here it is. Seriously, give it a listen:

Link for the MP3 file is here. I’ve got more of these coming, so let me know what you think about them.

Here are all my previous interviews:

Gary BinderimInterview
Glenn MelanconInterview
Jim HenleyInterview
David HarrisInterview
Ted AnkrumInterview
Shane SklarInterview 1, Interview 2
John CourageInterview
Nick LampsonInterview, Interview about space
Mary Beth HarrellInterview
Hank GilbertInterview
Joe FariasInterview
Harriet MillerInterview
Ellen CohenInterview
Diane TrautmanInterview
Rep. Scott HochbergInterview

“Bless your heart”

As a naturalized Texan, I loved this story about the expression “Bless your heart”.

Like a sweet candy with a sour center, “bless your heart” can cloak a tart surprise, however. That’s likeliest in the South, where good manners and irony flourish together like clematis among roses and wielding the phrase creatively can be an art form.

Celia Rivenbark of Wilmington, N.C., the author of a book of Southernisms titled Bless Your Heart, Tramp, offered some pungent examples. For instance, “You know, it’s amazing that even though she had that baby seven months after they got married, bless her heart, it weighed 10 pounds!”

Or: “If brains were dynamite, he wouldn’t have enough to ruffle his hair, bless his heart.”

Jill Connor Browne of Madison, Miss., another writer on Southern manners and usage, explained the phrase’s power: “We can say absolutely the vilest things that come into our mind about another person and yet still leave the listener with the impression of our unfailing sweetness.”

Allison Burkette, a sociolinguist at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, offered this statement as an example: “Well, John, bless his little heart, tries as hard as he can, but just can’t seem to pass math.”

Her translation: “John’s too dumb to do much in the way of mathematics.”

I discussed this with Tiffany last night, and we agree that there’s a difference between “Bless your heart” and “Bless his/her heart”. The former is generally said with affection, whereas the latter, as it is said about someone who isn’t there to hear it, often is not, as indicated above. It’s certainly not always meant unkindly; context is everything. If you really want to stick the knife in, as Ginger once noted to me, is to say something like “She does the best she can with what she has, bless her heart.” Nothing good comes out of that one, believe me.

Friday’s the day for red light cameras

We knew that the red light cameras would be operational and fine-inducing as of September 1. Well, that’s this Friday.

“This is a great opportunity for us to use technology so we won’t have to use officers as much for traffic enforcement, (and) we can put them in communities to prevent crime,” Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said Monday as he showcased a newly installed camera system at Milam and Elgin.


Revenue generated by the camera program – expected to be more than $6 million a year once 50 intersections are monitored – will help to pay police officers who work overtime because of the department’s manpower shortage, Hurtt said.

That’s about as positive a spin as you can put on these things, at least until and unless we get some evidence that they actually reduce crashes and injuries. I want to see that data as soon as it’s feasible, and I still want to get some strong assurances that the images captured by these cameras are used for the stated purpose of traffic enforcement only, then destroyed once that purpose has been fulfilled. As far as I’m concerned, this discussion is still in the startup phase.

Ben Barnes interview

The PerryVsWorld blog has part one of an interview with former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes up, and it’s some interesting reading. So far, they’ve mostly covered redistricting and redistricting reform. I hope the question of Carole Keeton Strayhorn comes up in a subsequent segment. Check it out.

Urban corridor planning report

For those of you who didn’t get to attend last weekend’s urban corridor planning meeting, fear not. Tory was there, and he’s got a report of what happened. Check it out.