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What exactly is the Strayhorn campaign up to?

PerryVsWorld is right: This story is getting stranger by the day.

The story sounded familiar to Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson.

A top aide to Republican gubernatorial hopeful Carole Keeton Strayhorn calls the wife of Democratic hopeful Chris Bell last week trying to get Bell to abandon his bid for governor and jump into the state comptroller’s race.

During the exchange, reported by the Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday, Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders tells Alison Bell that “there would be support” for Bell should he run for comptroller.

Larson, who heard about the story Wednesday morning from Republican strategist Frank Guerra, said the same thing happened to him about six weeks ago.

“This guy calls and says he’s Mark Sanders and that he works closely with Carole Strayhorn,” Larson recalled. “He tells me there’s a large group of people who would like to find someone else to run for comptroller against Susan Combs.”

As an enticement, Larson said, Sanders claimed the group could raise $3.5 million for his campaign and facilitate a meeting with a top staffer in the comptroller’s office to give Larson a crash course in the ins and outs of the statewide post.

“I thought it was preposterous that somebody could offer $3.5 million in contributions to a person they’ve never met,” Larson said.

Larson, who is publicly supporting Combs, a Republican, for comptroller, said he never bothered to call Sanders back because he’s “never been interested in comptroller.”

Sanders, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, told the American-Statesman he did not call the Bells on behalf of the Strayhorn campaign. Instead, he said, he wanted to advise his longtime friends that they could not win the governor’s race.

Robert Black, a spokesman to GOP Gov. Rick Perry, Strayhorn’s chief rival, said he doesn’t believe Sanders acted without Strayhorn’s blessing.

“As bizarre as it is to hear that the Strayhorn camp is offering people $3.5 million to run against Susan Combs, it’s very disturbing to hear they’re offering state resources to get it done,” Black said.

Eye on Williamson also caught this. I have some background here, while PvsW goes farther back for context. And I think he may be onto something here: I think maybe CKS figured she could keep the Comptroller gig in her back pocket if the filing deadline rolled around and things weren’t looking so good for her to take out Governor Perry. Unfortunately for her, Ag Commish Susan Combs jumped in to that race way back in January, supposedly with CKS’ blessing, and she’d be a strong favorite to knock CKS out there as well. What I don’t know is if this is just a little vindictiveness, or if Strayhorn still thinks running as a Dem for Governor might be viable if she can clear the field a bit. On that score, I’ll defer to Damon.

All I can say at this point is that if there’s a next chapter in this story, I can’t quite envision what it might be. Stay tuned and we’ll see.

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One Comment

  1. Mathwiz says:

    Two possibilities:

    One: Strayhorn is considering switching parties. After decades of D-to-R party switches by Texas pols (going back to Phil Gramm, I guess) an R-to-D switch would be a nice change.

    Two: Strayhorn wants to encourage Democrats to cross over and vote in the GOP primary, which is probably the only chance she has up upsetting Perry. One way to do that is to ensure there are no interesting candidates in the Democratic primary.