With the bragging dispensed, let me work in a little history:
-- if you are a Texas Monthly subscriber there's an excellent article there, but it's hiding behind their most invasive registration. (You not only have to sign with the usual personal data but you have to enter an access code that only appears inside the magazine. And there's a different one each month.) So I'm going to sample a bit from it for you:
The chance of a Democratic upset in the 2006 governor's race is about as likely as, well, Bill Clements winning in '78. Or Mark White winning in '82. Or Ann Richards winning in '90. Or ...
... Although political pros believe that Republicans start out with a built-in ten-point advantage over Democrats in any statewide race, a battle for governor is so high-profile that it can transcend party loyalties. It happened in Texas when Republicans were on the way up, and it could happen now that the shoe is on the Democrats' foot. Deeply red states like Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, and Oklahoma have recently elected Democratic governors. "It's a high-visibility race," notes pollster Richard Murray, of the University of Houston. "There's more independent voting for governor. Independents can swing one way or another, and voters don't like living in a one-party state. The minority can win."
You might also have heard about this little redistricting thing that happened down here in Texas, which resulted in among other things Bell losing his seat in Congress, and then he filed a little ethics complaint against a certain House Majority Leader, and then things got a little vitriolic from there.
Don't mean to put much emphasis on the diminutive ...
You may, in addition, be aware of the pleasantries already being exchanged between our state's top two former cheerleaders -- Rick "Goodhair" Perry and Kay "Bighair" Bailey Hutchison -- despite the Senator's so-far-missing announcement that she is running for the Governor's seat. Standing just outside the ropes in case Bighair gets cold feet is state treasurer Carole Keeton McClelland Rylander Strayhorn (Cougar Mellencamp), whose nickname is "One Tough Grandma". (Can't you just visualize the lime green tights, the raccoon makeup, the black cape with big orange letters -- "OTG"?)
Sooooo, the GOP primary is well under way, whether they want to admit it or not, and dammit, I don't think we've popped enough corn.
Into this environment then steps the former Houston city councilman and former Congressman, whose wife Alison just happens to be undergoing chemotherapy at the moment. Suffice to say that meeting the two of them last night was a privilege, and not just because I'm a bit of a local party activist. (Last disclosure: Bell represented me in Congress prior to redistriciting.)
Bell brought to light a statistic I hadn't heard before; that 40 to 55% of Republican primary voters in Texas consist of the party base. The GOP base, for those who've been missing out, are the most rabid, fanatical Republicans you can find anywhere in the nation. In the Texas legislature, for example, their representatives can currently be found pushing legislation that outlaws gay foster parent adoption, that quashes campaign finance reform, and a host of similarly bad laws.
These folks love Rick Perry, because Rick Perry is far and away the most reactionary conservative governor this state has ever had. Which makes it entirely possible that KBH might beat on him badly (the governor's popularity statewide plummeted during the redistricting fiasco); she could certainly force him to spend millions and millions of dollars, and she could still lose. Which would leave Perry bloodied and staggering just in time for the general election.
Hypothetical chess matches aside, Bell intends to wage a campaign where his top priority is public school education (and not just the appropriate funding of it). One of my favorite phrases of his is: "Budgets are moral documents." Which highlights the fact that the decisions our lawmakers make significantly affect peoples' lives. That people actually do live, or die, according to the dictates of the state. Indeed, Bell cited a case (at a Democratic club meeting last month) of a San Antonio child who had starved to death because the state's funding cuts to CPS had left that department too short-handed to intervene in time. "What would Jesus do? I don't think he would balance the budget on the backs of poor children," Bell said.
Bell also declared that those of us who shared his concerns about the state of our state -- and our nation -- were the "new mainstream".
I like the sound of that, too.
Update: Eddie at The Red State has a take factoring in the Kinky effect.