Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Democrats gird for November

Texas has seen some pretty big waves in midterm election years, and the results from last night portend a continuation of the historical trend.  But Texas Democrats, no strangers to wilderness wandering over the past twenty years, may yet find a pony at the bottom of the pile.  At least if you can buy in to Ken Herman.

In a surprise, the Democrats did well in Tuesday’s Texas GOP runoffs. And, perhaps even more surprising, the Dems also managed not to screw up their own runoffs.

None of this, of course, means Democrats have much chance of winning much in November, but the runoffs showed that Republicans, swerving even further right (next up: fetal voting rights?) may give Dems a fighting chance in future years.

The Dems scored Repub runoff wins when GOP voters picked a lite guv candidate who some Republicans think may be mentally unstable and an attorney general candidate who recently confessed to breaking the law. And the Dems won their own U.S. Senate runoff by not nominating Kesha Rogers, a LaRouchie (look it up) who wants President Barack Obama impeached. Rogers lost to David Alameel, who’ll face GOP Sen. John Cornyn.

The Dems also did themselves a favor by nominating Jim Hogan, an unknown, for agriculture commissioner over Kinky Friedman, a known who, in a new twist on his tired political act, ran on a legalize-pot platform, perhaps not an issue Dems want lit up this year.

The only real surprise to me was Kinky falling down.  I can't stand the guy myself, but I thought I was in the minority on that.  Turns out I'm not.

There is this urban legend that swirls around Friedman like a cloud of stale cigar smoke: that he expands the electorate, brings conservative voters over with him to vote for other Democrats, and so on and so forth.  In the aftermath of Kinky's loss, John Coby was more than his usual cynical about the entertainer's participation, but when Friedman made a late campaign appearance at a Harris County Dems assembly a couple of weeks ago, he had them eating corn from his hand.  This account from a month ago in the Houston Press explains what he was working -- yes, legitimately campaigning -- to overcome.

(Kinky's campaign manager Cleve) Hattersley ascribes Friedman's poor showing in Harris County in March to a negative phone bank program guided by Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Leticia Van De Putte (which we noted in our previous reports).
"We know most of the negative votes in Houston were inspired by the anti-Kinky phone calls," says Hattersley. "So we expect a pretty big turnaround next time simply based on this."

Sorry, no cigar.  Might this be a tipoff to the strength of LVdP's grassroots organizing?  Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Dems’ big win Tuesday was Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick’s defeat of three-term GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Patrick is perfect for Dems who want to portray Republicans as way right of where many Texans live. He now faces Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio... Dems were helped by GOP efforts to tarnish Patrick, including Dewhurst TV ads. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a loser in the March GOP lite guv primary, pitched in by releasing 1980s medical records detailing Patrick’s mental health issues back then.

So either Van de Putte has the best shot at winning in November, or else it's Heartbreak Hotel again.  (It could be both, of course.)  We get to endure a little more bragging and lot more cockiness from the GOTP for another week, maybe two.

The next good show comes next week when the Texas GOP — fresh from putting the “fun” in “dysfunctional” — makes believe it’s one big, happy family at its state convention. That effort could be challenged by a potentially contentious presidential straw poll pitting Gov. Rick Perry vs. Sen. Ted Cruz, as well as Texas-raised Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas-born Jeb Bush. (You never can have too many Texans running for president.)

But before Dems get too good a laugh out of Tuesday’s outcomes, let’s remember this: the screaming Senate gallery mob that shouted down the GOP-controlled Senate’s first attempt to pass an abortion restriction bill in June 2013 helped boost Patrick, who used that night as an example of Dewhurst’s poor leadership.

Now the mobsters must deal with a reality they helped create: They’re going to get a lieutenant governor (Van de Putte) they’ll like a lot more or one (Patrick) they’ll like a lot less.

This is a pretty good view into the backstretch of the statewide political horse race.  Patrick versus Van de Putte is going to start sucking oxygen away from the rest of the field, most notably Davis versus Abbott.  For her part, the senator from Fort Worth has already thrown down the gauntlet in front of her Republican opposition (who will have to ask someone else to pick it up for him).

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis’ camp wasted no time in trying to turn the nomination of Sen. Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor to her advantage.

Her campaign asked how soon Patrick will campaign with Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, her opponent for governor.

Patrick has often had incendiary rhetoric on immigration, seen as a drawback to  his party’s efforts to attract the growing Hispanic population – particularly since he faces a Latina nominated by the Democrats for lieutenant governor, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

Abbott has talked about wanting to reach out to Hispanics and to compete in areas including the Rio Grande Valley.

“When will Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick appear on stage together to highlight their shared values opposing equal pay for women when they do the same work as men, referring to our immigrant communities as the ‘third world’ and defending deep cuts to public schools that led to teacher layoffs and overcrowded classrooms?” Wendy Davis communications director Zac Petkanas asked Tuesday.

There are going to be some interesting storylines going forward even without Kinky and Kesha to kick around any more.  One will be Van de Putte's appeals to the moderates within the TXGOP.

“I know that David Dewhurst has had a tough campaign, but I never doubted his love of this state and his willingness to work across the aisle to put Texas first,” she said. “Dan Patrick, that’s another story. He’s a great entertainer, a great radio personality, but I never know if it’s the ‘theater Dan’ or the ‘real Dan’.”
Van de Putte made the comments at a San Antonio media availability after the Republican runoff was called for Patrick.

“With David Dewhurst and most of our leaders and most of the people who work in the Legislature, they don’t have hidden agendas. They care more about the report cards of our kids, instead of Dan Patrick, who cares more about the report cards that fringe groups give him. Where’s the real Dan? I don’t know. I don’t know who’s going to show up, but I’m going to be ready,” she said.

Beyond praising the now-defeated Dewhurst, Van de Putte’s remarks were tailored, it seemed, to try to appeal to Republicans disaffected by Patrick’s win in other ways, including explicit appeals to the business community, which has long been a bedrock for the GOP.

“Business leaders have told me time and time again that Dan Patrick infects us with a Washington-style politics of ‘my way or the highway,’ and that’s not what Senate does, that’s not what Texas government does, that’s not what our communities do,” she said, later adding: “It’s all about pragmatic governance and problem solving, not Washington-style bickering. You prioritize good public policy over politics.”

See recent statements by Bill Hammond and other pro-business, pro-growth Republicans -- here's one -- for more on this angle.  He is quite obviously no fan of Dan.

In a DKos thread yesterday previewing the Texas primary runoff races, I found several Kossacks proudly declaring their long voting history in the GOP primary.  The best example of battered spouse syndrome among Texas Democrats came from these two comments there.

I voted for Dewhurst. A Larouchie on the general election ballot would suck, but not nearly as much as having Dan Patrick holding the most powerful position in state government. That snake will make Rick Perry seem like a rational statesman.

I will not be be voting for the Dew in November however.

No you sure won't, buddy.  Neither will anybody else, of course.  And everybody in Texas knew that well in advance except for you.

I voted in the R primary too. Because, well, Democrats can't win in Texas. Everything is Gerrymandered to hell and back.

Yes.  Especially in statewide races. *facepalm*

It gets worse: one of the last comments there was someone asking which of Pete Gallego's opponents they should vote for.  With Democrats like these, no one should ever have to wonder again what is wrong with Texas.

Republicans -- like those two I quoted above -- outnumbered Dems 4-1 in voting in the runoff elections across the state.  Battleground Texas' job seemingly got a lot tougher.  Democrats need to find lots of fresh, hopefully enthusiastic voters in order to turn back the coming red tide, but they also need some of their so-called supporters to wise up and stop shooting each other in their respective feet.

I don't even know where to begin to address that problem.


Gadfly said...

Kinky lost me before the 2006 guv election was done, with his nonsensical support of both gay rights and school prayer. I figured if he really was serious about both, his true constituency was about zero. And, if he wasn't serious about both, that was the problem.

And, I think I'm far from alone in that he never got serious in 2006. I think I realized, by Labor Day, 2006, that that was never going to happen. So did the political advisors who had, of course, previously worked for Jesse Ventura. I'm with Coby on this — I hope he just goes away, but doubt he will.

Oh, and your "eating corn" Facebook link's been deleted!

PDiddie said...

It's still there; I think the reason you can't see it is because you're not FB friends with the person who posted it. Part of it contained a reference to Chris Bell's endorsement of Kinky.

Gadfly said...

Duh ... I didn't think about posting to less than "public," even though that's what I do. I remember reading the Chris Bell piece when it came out; I thought it said more about Chris Bell, in various ways, than it did about any "evolution" of Kinky.

Anyway, since Greens are fielding their best candidate in this position, there's potential for third-party hay-making, let's hope.