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October 4th, 2010:

The Perryless debate

The debate went on as planned.

In the fall campaign season’s first debate open to all candidates for governor, Democrat Bill White waited until his closing statement to attack the candidate who wasn’t there, incumbent Rick Perry, regarding allegations that he has used taxpayer funds to reward high-dollar campaign donors.


“I appreciate the other candidates being here,” White said in his opening remarks. “I think each of us views appearances in public forums as an obligation of a candidate to be accountable to you. Now there may be career politicians who think it can be done in 30-second sound bites that do not want to answer the tough questions about the state’s budget or why we’re number 49 out of 50 states of the percentage of adults with a high-school diploma.”

Alluding to the Emerging Technology Fund in his closing remarks, White told the audience of about 300 that it was important “to make sure that this state government is well-run as a public service for all the people and not as a political machine.”

Who watched the debate? What was your impression? Leave a comment and let me know.

UPDATE: Here’s a good report from Texas Liberal.

Interview with Jeff Weems

Jeff Weems

As we head into the last two weeks before the start of early voting, it’s time to turn attention to the statewide candidates. First up is Jeff Weems, the Democratic candidate for Railroad Commissioner. Weems is a Houston-based attorney whose practice is entirely focused on the energy industry. It’s hard to overstate how much better qualified Weems is for this job than his no-name, no-experience opponent, who isn’t just ducking debates, he’s skipping TV appearances (though he did participate in this Trib face-off video) and avoiding editorial boards as well. Basically, he’s hoping that the R next to his name carries him across the finish line. If you want to know what a Railroad Commissioner does, why we should be calling the Railroad Commission something else, and why Jeff Weems should be doing in, give a listen to the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Endorsement watch: Chron for Prop 1

No surprise here.

The city’s capital improvement program, which issues debt-incurring bonds to fund construction, is far behind the curve in dealing with the situation. According to at-large City Council member and engineer Stephen Costello, 65 percent of the city’s drainage and street infrastructure — valued at over $10 billion – is beyond its useful life.

That’s why the Chronicle strongly endorses Proposition 1 on the ballot this November, also known as the Renew Houston initiative. It would amend the City Charter to create a dedicated fund for drainage and street repair paralleling a similar arrangement for water and sewer services.

The average homeowner would pay about $60 a year and businesses a little over a thousand dollars annually. The program would be authorized for two decades and would raise $8 billion.

I would have liked for them to respond more forcefully to the bogus arguments of the do nothing brigade, but I’ll take what I can get. I don’t really have anything else to add at this point. You know where I stand. We’ll see how the vote goes.

It’s cronies all the way down

Is there anything Rick Perry does that isn’t for the benefit of himself and his cronies?

When Gov. Rick Perry announces that a company will get money from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, he often describes it as an important investment in the state’s future.

Behind the scenes, some of the governor’s biggest political supporters have been making investments of their own – in Perry and in companies getting money from the tech fund.

An investigation by The Dallas Morning News found that more than $16 million from the Emerging Technology Fund has been awarded to companies with investors or officers who are large campaign donors to Perry.


The governor’s office administers the tech fund, and the governor must approve each award – a system that most other states with tech funds avoid to guard against political influence.

That’s the key bit right there. This process is done out of sight of the public, and in a way that just about guarantees at least the appearance of conflicts of interest. Other states keep the Governor out of it precisely to avoid these problems. But of course our Emerging Technology Fund, which was created through Perry’s influence in 2005, doesn’t work that way. And so his buddies get the benefit of your tax dollars, with no oversight and no review to see if we’re getting any value for our investment. As long as Rick Perry is in office, that’s the way things will be.

Chron overview of the County Clerk race

Here’s the Chron overview story of the County Clerk race between Democrat Ann Harris Bennett and Republican Stan Stanart to replace the retiring Beverly Kaufman. This is the bit that interested me:

Where Bennett and Stanart diverge is their approach to the job. Bennett, as a former legal assistant, researcher and court coordinator, said she has a better feel for the customer-service aspects of the job. Stanart makes his pitch as the man with the technology background to make more of the county courts’ work paperless, and as a tax fighter who will bring his conservative background to controlling costs. His website warns, “Stop socialism.”

Kaufman breaks it down this way: “She has a stronger courts background. He has a stronger technical background.”

The Republican incumbent is not endorsing a candidate. She endorsed Stanart’s opponent in the Republican primary election, Kevin Mauzy, her chief deputy.

Yes, that’s what we really need in the County Clerk’s office, someone dedicated to stopping the forces of socialism from…well, it’s not clear what, exactly. I don’t suppose such details really matter to Stanart.

I note that Kaufman has not endorsed Stanart. This is the second time he’s run for a countywide office, and the second time he’s defeated a more mainstream, establishment Republican in the primary; in 2008, he and Mike “Mister Debbie” Riddle, with the backing of Michael Wolfe, knocked off incumbent Harris County Department of Education trustees in March. Thankfully, they lost in November. More to the point, they ran behind most other Republicans on the ballot:

Candidate Office Votes Pct ============================================== Ed Emmett County Judge 600,311 53.15 Paul Bennetcourt Tax Assessor 586,727 51.50 Pat Lykos District Atty 563,431 50.21 Theresa Chang District Clerk 540,992 48.94 Mike Stafford County Atty 538,486 48.61 Mike Riddle HCDE Trustee 523,138 47.49 Stan Stanart HCDE Trustee 520,778 47.42 Tommy Thomas Sheriff 495,246 43.72

The low score by any GOP judicial candidate was 523,551 votes, for 47.52%, by Georgia Akers running for an unexpired term on Probate Court #1. I think it’s safe to say that neither Stanart nor Riddle had much crossover support, and in fact probably lost more Republican support to their Democratic opponents than anyone not named Tommy Thomas. We’ll see how that goes this year. What I know is that Stanart ran for HCDE Trustee in 2008 not because he had any ideas about being an HCDE Trustee but because he wanted to get elected to something so he could fight his fight against socialism. He may have some ideas about being County Clerk, but really, he’s running for the same reason as in 2008. Ann Harris Bennett, whose interview you can listen to here, is running because she wants to be County Clerk and to do the job of County Clerk. That’s pretty much what this race comes down to.