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The Harris County money race

I’ve referred to the 2008 elections here as being very different from what we’re used to seeing. One simple reason for that is that there will be ample funding available for local Democratic campaign efforts.

Disclosures on a complicated web of Republican and Democratic fundraising by federal and state committees indicate that Democrats have an edge, so far, in the total amount of money they can spend in Harris County. How much either party has decided to spend in Harris County remains secret.

The biggest donors to the Texas Democratic Trust are Dallas personal injury lawyer Fred Baron ($1.54 million), Houston personal injury lawyer John Eddie Williams ($450,000) and Dallas-area Container Store retail chain founder Garrett Boone and family ($400,000).

The trust put staffer Mike Malaise to work in Houston after he managed U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson’s 2006 campaign. The group also has paid for consulting, polling and related campaign tools.

The Lone Star Fund, which relies heavily on $5,000 and $10,000 gifts from national labor unions, paid for such things as a Web site featuring “dossiers” on the scandals that have enveloped county Republican officials.

Both groups specialize in tuning and coordinating Democrats’ campaign themes and giving candidates resources, such as voter lists.

The main message is that GOP incumbents are ethically corrupt while letting quality-of-life issues slip.

Republicans say they have cleaned their own house of scandals, such as the ones that led to District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal’s resignation, and have provided efficient government services.

Working to harmonize Democratic candidates “is a coordinated (local) effort we haven’t seen in quite some time,” said Amber Moon, who was dispatched this year by Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin to the Houston area to coordinate news media contacts for Democratic contenders for county judge, district attorney, sheriff and other jobs.

County campaigns here have been a total hand-to-mouth experience in recent years. This year, there’s paid staff, there’s a coordinated media effort, and there will be TV and radio advertising. When was the last time you saw that for countywide races? I can’t remember.

At least, it hasn’t been that way on the Democratic side in recent years. The Republicans have a more extensive history of being flush for campaigns. I’m sure they’ll have money this year as well, it’s just that they’ll also have company. From where I sit, it’s about time for that.

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One Comment

  1. Great write-up and the Chron article was fab. Love this.

    I am sending links to both over to the Obama lady.