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Lineup set for SD17

There had been talk for a long time that the Republicans had been looking for another candidate to run as a Democrat in the SD17 special election, in hopes of peeling off just enough support from Chris Bell to force a runoff. It looks like they succeeded.

Republican candidates are Houston businessman Austen Furse, Houston lawyer Grant Harpold, former Harris County felony court Judge Joan Huffman and Lake Jackson engineer Ken Sherman.

The Democrats are former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston and Stephanie E. Simmons, who could not be reached for information about her candidacy.

I am, of course, jumping to a conclusion here. I know nothing about Ms. Simmons, so I can’t say for sure that she’s a stalking horse. But I do know, from multiple sources, that the Republicans were looking for someone they could recruit to run as a Democrat. I do know that the Democrats as a whole are excited about and united behind the Bell candidacy, unlike the Republicans and their deep split over Austen Furse and Joan Huffman. And I do know that anyone who enters a race like this at the last minute with no buzz, no obvious means of support, and no contact with the media, is not someone who’s in it to win it. So while I may be jumping to a conclusion, it’s not exactly a flying leap.

And speaking of that Furse/Huffman split, here’s the latest example, an email exchange between former Harris County Sports Authority chair Jack Rains and candidate Huffman. It’s quite similar in tone and style to the previous exchange between Steven Hotze and State Rep. Dennis Bonnen. I’ll just note that I’m puzzled by Rains’ accusation that State Sen. John Whitmire is soliciting support for Huffman. Whitmire, along with Sens. Mario Gallegos, Rodney Ellis, and Kirk Watson, is hosting a big fundraiser for Bell this Thursday, September 4 – you can buy a ticket for it via ActBlue. But then Rains always was a blowhard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just making stuff up. I’m happy for him to keep this up, though. The more division now, the less likely the Republicans would win that runoff they’re so desperately trying to engineer.

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  1. Chris Elam says:

    Unless there is somebody named Stephanie E. Simmons in Jefferson County, the only other person I see in my voter database is a woman who voted in the 08 Dem Primary from League City in Galveston Co., born 1971. That residence would put her in Mike Jackson’s District 11, and make her ineligible to run.

    The SOS website hasn’t been updated since 1pm on Friday, but there is no Simmons listed on it. –

  2. PepperA says:

    Force a Run-off? There is no way Chris Bell was ever going to get 50% plus one in this district in a presidential general election. It is statistically impossible – the man only took 30 some percent in the district when he ran for Governor.

    Too often people confuse name ID with voter behavior. There will be run-off regardless; but for anyone to think that Chris Bell could even pull int he high 40’s in this district in round 1 – much less half the vote – is foolhardy.

    If the special were being held on any day other than November 4th, I might buy that argument under the right circumstances.

    But Huffman and Furse will have contacted every Republican and independent Conservative 10 times between now and then.

    The real issue is whether THEIR combined vote is above 50%. If they pull 50% between them and the one going into a run-off with Bell is with 10-12 points of Bell, then Chris is probably toast in December.

  3. MJ says:

    Simmons – a/k/a Stephanie Elaine Fridia – bought the house listed as the address on the SOS ballot in October 2007.