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June 21st, 2009:

Schieffer and centrism

Tom Schieffer continues his task of making the case for himself as the Democratic nominee for Governor.

Fort Worth lawyer Tom Schieffer helped make George W. Bush a wealthy man. And as President Bush’s ambassador to Australia, Schieffer sold the war in Iraq and the indefinite detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Now, Schieffer hopes to convince the liberals, progressives and populists who dominate the Texas Democratic primary that he is their best chance for their party to win a statewide election for the first time since 1994. Schieffer on Wednesday will formally announce as a Democratic candidate for governor in 2010.

Schieffer, 61, will become the first official candidate in a race where the public attention so far has been focused on U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s expected challenge to Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary. Other Democrats looking at the contest are state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio and 2006 independent candidate Kinky Friedman.

A former state legislator from Fort Worth, Schieffer was then-Gov. Mark White’s Tarrant County coordinator. His core campaign leadership was White loyalists.

Schieffer in an interview with the Houston Chronicle last week said Democrats have a rare opportunity next year to win statewide because the Texas Republican Party has moved too far right and a Perry-Hutchison primary fight will leave the winner bloodied and vulnerable. But he said Democratic victory is only possible if the party nominates a centrist, not someone from the left wing.

“There’s no question that some people in the Democratic Party don’t want to go there, but I believe that when the Democratic Party is successful, it is a big tent party that can appeal to a broad coalition of people in Texas,” Schieffer said.

You can listen to some of that interview here. He’s got his work cut out for him. I think a big part of the problem is that “centrist” is rather a dirty word among Democratic activists these days, as it is often used to describe recalcitrant Democratic members of Congress who are doing their best to obstruct, water down, or otherwise not implement key elements of President Obama’s agenda – you know, things like health care, financial reform, climate change mitigation. It’s often accompanied by a fetishization of bipartisanship as an end, rather than as a means to an end. So from my perspective, at least, the question I would have for Schieffer is what does being a “centrist” mean to him, philosophically and practically? What does he think he can gain by this approach that a more open and aggressive progressive approach cannot? I realize that part of his answer to that is “win the election”. That’s a debate we Democrats have been having for a long time now, and all I can say is that if it reminds people of the 2002 campaigns, it’s not likely to go too well for him.

The point I’m trying to make is that the message progressives will hear from this is that we need to give up on some of the stuff we want in order to try to get some of the other stuff we want. This is a message we feel we’ve heard a lot these past few months, with a lot more emphasis on the stuff we can’t have than on the stuff we can, and that’s in the context of a historical win in the Presidential election plus large majorities in both legislative chambers. What does that mean for Texas and a Governor Schieffer? My advice, for what it’s worth, is that it would probably be best for Schieffer to focus more on the things we can and will achieve with him than on the things we can’t.

Having said all that, Schieffer is clearly right about the direction the Republicans are going, and the opportunity it presents for Democrats.

At [his Volunteer Leadership Summit, Governor Rick] Perry was introduced by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who proclaimed his support for Perry and described the governor’s race as a life-or-death struggle for the conservative philosophy.

“This is an important event today – important for our party, important for our state, important for the world … Today is the beginning of showing the rest of the country and the rest of the world that conservatism is alive and well in Texas,” Patrick told volunteers.

Later, to reporters, Patrick said that “the way Texas goes America goes” and that he doesn’t want the state to veer from a strong course he sees as strongly fiscally conservative, pro-life and pro-family (some critics, among other complaints, say Texas doesn’t invest enough in programs for its citizens, including education and health care for children).

Patrick said that he and Perry line up on issues “probably closer than anyone else in the Legislature.”

“I don’t want to see us move to the middle, with all due respect to whoever else is running,” Patrick said. “I don’t want to move to the middle. That is political suicide for the Republican Party.”

My, how things have changed. I couldn’t come up with a better illustration of why this past legislative session was about nothing but Rick Perry’s primary campaign. I at least believe that Dan Patrick’s vision of Texas is not a mainstream one, and as far as that goes I do most certainly agree with Tom Schieffer about the opening this gives Texas Democrats. The more he, or any other candidate, can provide a contrast to this vision, the better I believe he, or some other candidate, will do. What can we accomplish if we get off this Dan Patrick/Rick Perry road to perdition? That’s what we need to hear. BOR has more.

Weekend link dump for June 21

Happy Father’s Day to all the dad out there, especially Eric Mongerson.

The Internet consumes one to two percent of the world’s electricity in a given day. I’m thinking there’s some opportunities to go green in there.

The best Facebook vanity URL evah.

sigh Congrats to the Lakers on yet another NBA championship.

I’m sorry, so sorry…I need to get me one of these.

CNN fail.

How not to do it in the Facebook with the Twittering.

Doesn’t mean Twitter isn’t a big deal when used appropriately, however. But boy howdy, when it’s in the wrong hands

Birds do it, bees do it, even homosexual fruit flies do it…

Bipartisanship is a means to an end. It is not an end unto itself.

Washington Post FAIL. Big time.

An interview with Jonathan Coulton.

Sometimes, public opinion just needs to be ignored.

America’s Mean Streak. Not what you think it means.

Why the next Supreme Court justice should come from the criminal defense bar.

The IR Guide to Parenting

In honor of Father’s Day, I bring you this post by Stephen M. Walt on how parenting and international relations are basically the same thing.

First off, modern realist theory focuses on the structure of the system and especially number of major powers in it. Right off the bat, this perspective can tell you a lot about the dynamics parents face as the size of their family increases. When parents have one child, the balance of power is in their favor. They can double-team the lucky kid, and give each other a break by taking turns. Life is good.

But if you have a second child the dynamics shift. If one parent is alone at home and both kids are awake, the balance of power isn’t in the parent’s favor anymore. Instead of double-teaming them, they get to double-team you. And once the kids are mobile, you learn about another key IR concept: the window of opportunity. You’re feeding or changing Kid #1, and Kid #2 makes a bolt out the front door, just like North Korea tested a nuclear weapon while we were busy with Iraq. Or you’re in the middle of a crowded department store and they each decide to head down different aisles. The potential complications of a multipolar order were never clearer the first time this happened to me.

Read the whole thing – it’s hilarious in the way that makes you laugh and wince at the same time. Thanks to Hilzoy for the link.

And since I got a request for a current picture of the girls, here’s one from Olivia’s fifth birthday party:

Olivia and Audrey

Olivia and Audrey

Happy Father’s Day!

TDP responds to Vasquez

From Saturday’s op-ed pages, here’s the Texas Democratic Party’s response, written by the TDP’s legal counsel Chad Dunn, to Leo Vasquez in the matter of Ed Johnson.

Johnson’s conflict of interest doesn’t pass the smell test, and during the course of our lawsuit, we’ve found evidence that improper partisanship may have affected the conduct of elections in Harris County.

For example:

1. Problems with Johnson’s provisional ballot operation were pointed out last November by a Republican, Jim Harding, who chaired the Harris County Ballot Board. Provisional ballot affidavits were not processed by the tax office until five days after the deadline required by state law, forcing the ballot board to review most of the more than 7,000 provisional ballots in just 24 hours.

2. Harding complained that tax office employees altered official election records with white-out and corrective tape in violation of federal law. Sworn depositions later revealed that Ed Johnson had personally reviewed, and possibly changed, the recommendations of career staff regarding the counting of provisional ballots that included the names of Johnson’s Republican clients.

3. As reported by KHOU-TV and the Houston Chronicle last October, 11,350 timely voter registration applications were not processed in time to be put on the voter rolls by the first day of early voting in 2008, as required by state law, a problem not experienced in any other Texas county.

4. During the 2008 election cycle, Harris County rejected almost 70,000 voter registration applications. In Dallas County, where applications are processed by nonpartisan election officials, only 1,183 applications were rejected. Harris County has refused to make the database that tracks these rejected applications available for inspection.

5. During the same time period, Harris County removed 200,000 names — or 10 percent of the county’s voters — from the voter registration list for unknown reasons.

6. Additional evidence reveals that voter registration applicants who applied months before the election did not receive letters notifying them of their rejection status or asking for more information until Election Day or days after, another violation of state law that may have denied many the right to vote.

These problems are not “frivolous” matters.

Just thought I’d mention that the Democrats have had pretty good luck in recent years with election-related lawsuits. It was a lawsuit filed by several losing candidates after the 2002 election that led to the revelations about campaign finance violations by TAB and TRMPAC, which in turn led to a bunch of indictments, some convictions, and the eventual downfall of Tom DeLay. It was another Democratic lawsuit after DeLay’s resignation and withdrawal from the ballot in 2006 that forced the Republicans to run a write-in candidate in that election. That lawsuit was, naturally, declared “frivolous” by Republican Party of Texas Chair Tina Benkiser. That doesn’t mean this one’s a winner as well, but all things considered I like our odds.

Cillizza on White

The WaPo’s Chris Cilizza surveys the Senate campaign scene, and makes an interesting comment about Texas:

Democrats’ best opportunities to broaden the current playing field are in Louisiana and Texas.


Texas is a bit more of a longshot although a special election race, which would be triggered by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) resignation to focus full time for governor, would create an unpredictable dynamic where Democrats might have a chance. The party’s preferred candidate is Houston Mayor Bill White although former state Comptroller John Sharp is running too. In truth, for Democrats to have a pickup opportunity, Sharp would probably need to step aside.

Cillizza’s suggestion that a Sharp departure makes the seat a more likely Democratic pickup stands in contrast to the Rick Casey scenario, in which White and Sharp finish ahead of a larger field of Republican wannabees and face each other in the runoff. In favor of this possibility is the fact that no big-name Republicans have entered as yet, and the ones who are in lag far behind the two Democrats in fundraising. On the other hand, there’s nothing really stopping a Dewhurst or an Abbott, both of whom are rumored to want in, from getting in, and this was always a thread-the-needle shot to begin with. I’d just about put money on one of the Williamses – Roger the multi-millionaire potential self-funder, or Michael the grassroots and Twitter hero – to make it into the top two if the field we have today is the field we get in the end. Besides, Sharp claims he isn’t going anywhere, though of course as with any race it ain’t over till the filing deadline passes. So who knows?

Where that new transit corridors ordinance came from

Christof takes another look at the proposed urban transit corridors ordinance, and asks a simple question.

Days after the City of Houston’s draft corridor urban corridors ordinance was released, Houstonians For Responsible Growth – a developer group that generally opposes any new building regulations – endorsed the new ordinance.

Why would developers be so enthusiastic about a new piece of regulation? Because they wrote it.

Interestingly, just a few months ago, HFRG was warning against this ordinance, claiming it could “force Houstonians out of their cars and onto hot sidewalks”. Guess they were able to change it to be more to their liking – go read Christof’s post for the details of how that happened. Clearly, this is another case of it’s only a negative when it’s for something I don’t like. NeoHouston has more.