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At least they’re covering some primaries

Today’s Chron has a couple of stories on primary elections that (unlike their pathetic effort from last week) are actually worth reading. First is this piece on the Ciro Rodriguez – Henry Cuellar rematch. Most of it is familiar to those who have followed this closely, but it’s a decent overview (if more than a little slanted in Cuellar’s favor, if you ask me) and it does have a good quote from Larry Sabato:

The contest also may signal Bush’s strength in a part of his home state where he got 53 percent of the vote against Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Bush is an element because on Jan. 31, before he gave his State of the Union speech, he was seen embracing Cuellar.

Cuellar, who says he would never switch parties, was standing with Republicans in the House chamber.

Democratic activists used the Internet, with a photo of the two men, to raise money for cash-starved Rodriguez and started calling Cuellar Bush’s chulo, Spanish for cutie.

The Rodriguez campaign said it got a much-needed boost from the photograph.

“It’s anger towards Bush,” said Larry J. Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “It’s a Texas district, and you would think the anger would be less there, but it’s still substantial.”

We’ll know soon enough how substantial it is. Meanwhile, in an echo from 2004, Rodriguez is complaining about voting irregularities in Webb County. Let’s just hope this one isn’t close enough to be affected by a recount.

Story Two from the Chron is on the Leininger Five and the big issue of the cycle, education.

“If Republicans are vulnerable, it is on education. Collectively, they have not been able to give us anything more than gridlock on this issue,” said Greg Thielemann, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Political consultants and observers say this is an unusual primary election cycle because of the large amounts of money being raised, as well as the attention focused by the Legislature’s failure to lower property taxes and boost school funding during last year’s regular session and two failed special sessions.

[…]

Voter dissatisfaction about school finance has allowed a new political action committee to become a player in several campaigns. The Texas Parent PAC was formed last year by supporters of public schools to raise money, recruit candidates and influence legislative races.

As of Jan. 26, the PAC had raised $62,000 to support 10 candidates. Though the money comes nowhere near matching what most incumbents are raising, the group also is helping organize local volunteers and is providing campaign advice.

Brian Mayes, a Dallas campaign consultant working with Texas Parent PAC, said his polling shows the group’s message is resonating with voters. “They are taking an issue that is at the top of voters’ minds and making sure they remember who failed,” Mayes said.

Incumbents facing Parent PAC candidates are counting on the fact GOP primary voters usually are more conservative than the public at large. They also hope voters will be patient about their inability to agree on how to pay for the state’s $30 billion a year school system, historically the toughest problem for lawmakers to solve.

[…]

At a news conference in Austin last week, Perry said he didn’t put much stock in groups that bill certain candidates as being pro-schools.

“I would bet that there’s not a member of the Republican Party or the Democrat Party that is running on the platform of, ‘Elect me and I won’t support our children in public education,’ ” Perry said.

I just love that quote from Governor Perry. Of course no candidate opposes public education – well, other than Debbie “Pit of Hell” Riddle. No candidate favors crime or opposes job creation, either. What matters is “What have you done?” and “What will you do?”, two questions that people like Rep. Kent Gruesendorf and Perry himself can’t answer easily. People can see what’s right before their eyes.

The media-shy Leininger defended his campaign activity in a guest column Friday in the Austin American-Statesman.

Leininger said he has helped thousands of poor students in San Antonio’s Edgewood school district attend private schools, and would like to see others around the state have the same opportunities.

“My resolve is firm and my political activities unambiguous: those who support helping the neediest children escape failing schools will receive my support, and I will vigorously oppose those who don’t,” he wrote.

Here’s that editorial Leininger wrote. I want to call your attention to one thing:

Almost 15 years ago, I read about a private scholarship program helping kids out of bad schools in bad neighborhoods in Indianapolis. I thought, “That’s the answer!” That summer we offered 1,000 scholarships to low-income children in San Antonio. The first week we saw more than 6,000 applications from desperate parents.

Which means that 5000 desperate parents were sent away empty-handed. That’s the difference between public and private schools. Public schools take all comers, while privates can pick and choose who they want to educate. As long as private schools can turn away any kid for any reason, vouchers are and will be a sham solution.

Just so we’re all clear what Texans think the top priority is:

Asked to cite the state’s most important priority, 47 percent of respondents said it was public education.

Sixteen percent said cutting property taxes should be the top concern of the Legislature and the state.

[…]

Mr. Perry dismissed the numbers, saying, “I don’t pay a lot of attention to special-interest polls. We make our decisions based on what is in the best interest of the schoolchildren of Texas.”

We know, Governor, we know. There’s lots of things you don’t pay attention to. Here’s another:

A statewide poll conducted by The Dallas Morning News shows that 52 percent of Texans said they would pay more in state taxes if the money went to schools, while 39 percent opposed an increase.

“It’s interesting that Texas, which has always said no more taxes, no more taxes, no more taxes, is willing to say OK to this,” pollster Mickey Blum said. “But you find this all over the country, that the one issue that will open up the pocketbooks — and we all hate taxes — it is education.”

Blum & Weprin Associates Inc. of New York conducted the poll, which surveyed 1,482 registered voters by telephone Feb. 9-15. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The newspaper released the poll Tuesday.

Of Republicans, 46 percent said they would not be willing to pay more taxes for schools and 44 percent said they would. They were the only voter group unwilling to pay more.

I’m just saying.

Getting back to Leininger and his fembots for a minute, this is the sort of candidate that Leininger is trying to install in Austin:

Macias said the issue most important to him is limiting state spending and cutting taxes.

“As I walk door to door and talk to people, the tax burden seems to weigh most on people,” he said. “As a conservative Republican we are for limited government, less regulation, less burden on the citizenry.”

While he stressed the need to cut “wasteful spending,” Macias could not identify any areas he would advocate cutting.

“I need to get in there and really take a look at it,” he said. “Do an across-the-board, up-and-down review and look for ways to relieve some of the burden.”

That’s Nathan Macias, running against Rep. Carter Casteel in New Braunfels. Way to be informed on the issues, Nathan! BOR has more, as well as a different response to Leininger by Rep. Tommy Merritt.

This is getting a bit long, but I do want to note some other decent primary-related coverage, from the DMN: This nice piece on Barbara Radnofsky, and this piece on veterans/Congressional candidates David Harris and Van Taylor. Though Harris and Taylor are the only two who saw service in Iraq, it should be noted that a total of nine Democratic Congressional candidates from Texas can claim military experience. That to me is a story that deserves a little more digging.

Finally, the Chron has finally seen fit to start making endorsements in Democratic primaries, with recommendations for Chris Bell, Ben Grant, and Barbara Radnofsky. The bad news is that they apparently will be skipping at least one local State Rep race. Why they would do this, I have no idea.

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