Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Would-be Goobers and Senators will come together by July...or thereabouts

I've blogged about this before: what happens relative to all the high-profile Texas political tilts in 2006 depends on the proclivities of the Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison, as Texas Monthly details in an article from the May issue titled "Kay Sera Sera" (behind registration and a password found only in the print edition).

Here's a sample:

... All those ambitious pols down in Texas are twiddling their thumbs while you make up your mind. Not that you owe them anything; most of the statewide officials—except Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who may run for governor herself—have already endorsed Rick Perry. It’s a toss-up who’s more craven: Perry for asking them this early or them for doing it. Now you’re holding up their game of musical chairs, especially in the case of David Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor. He wants to succeed Perry in 2010, but if you beat Perry, he’s stuck in his current job for eight more years. So he might opt to run for your Senate seat, leaving his job open and touching off another mad scramble. Congressman Henry Bonilla, of San Antonio, has already said he’ll run for the Senate if you don’t. Strayhorn and Attorney General Greg Abbott would look at the lite gov’s office Dewhurst would be vacating, and railroad commissioner Michael Williams and Texas Supreme Court justice Harriet O’Neill are said to be interested in the AG’s job. Yes, all eyes are on you right now.

And apparently she's going to make a decision shortly, though there's some risk in continuing to shilly-shally:

Your waiting until summer to announce your plans runs the risk that Strayhorn might throw her hat in the ring first. In a three-way race, the likelihood is that you and Perry would end up in a runoff, but then the danger would be that those November Republicans and crossover Democrats might not return for the runoff, while the party faithful will. Advantage Perry.

So there's some interesting bits in there, but there's also some bullshit:

Let’s talk numbers. The Republican primary is the only race that matters. No Democrat can win, and Kinky Friedman isn’t Jesse Ventura.

Even though Paul Burka is by his own admission writing this article in the voice of a Hutchison political consultant, that's wrong on both counts. The only scenario in which the Democrats have no chance is if John Sharp decides to run for anything (this is assuming that Tony Sanchez isn't so stupid as to waste more of his personal fortune; an admittedly tenuous assumption). Kinky Friedman is going to be able to gather something like 15% of the votes in a general election -- give or take 5% -- with most of that peeling away from the Republican candidate (the 'pubs have more votes to lose, after all). While that won't be an impact like Jesse "The Body", it will be Ross Perot-like electoral influence. And Chris Bell is the man who stands to capitalize on GOP fatigue statewide, as evidenced by the following, which Burka wrote right before he wrote that above:

... there are pockets of the state where Perry has angered Republican voters: places like Abilene, which lost its congressman in redistricting; the Dallas suburbs and Austin, where toll roads are unpopular; South Texas, which has not benefited from the largesse Perry has showered on companies to entice them to Texas; and the medical community generally, which didn’t like his health care cuts. You can make inroads into these constituencies, although you’ll have to “me too” the ideological stuff.

His critics see him as a do-nothing governor, but he’s really more of a do-the-wrong-things governor. The first priority of Texas governors has always been education; Perry imposed budget cuts on both public and higher education in 2003, notwithstanding that education was one of his original areas of emphasis (along with the border, which he has likewise given short shrift). Instead, he has thrown his efforts into the aforementioned economic development and toll roads. And yet the long-standing view in Texas, under Republican and Democratic governors alike, is that improving education is the best economic development program there is.

The Abilene congressman mentioned is Charlie Stenholm, who in my humble O would be the Democrats' best candidate for US Senator, considering that Ron Kirk will apparently not be running. But Stenholm evidences no particular interest in returning to Washington; his websites are currently blank and he allegedly turned down President Bush's offer of Agriculture Secretary following his defeat in November. Martin Frost, Max Sandlin, and Jim Turner, all of whom were likewise displaced by the GOP gerrymander, strike me as weaker candidates for statewide office (Frost managed to also look bad losing the contest for DNC chair). Those men would be better served running for down-ballot slots like attorney general or treasurer or railroad commissioner -- strengthening the bench and laying the groundwork for a top-ticket run in the future. The Democrats are in a lot more trouble trying to win back a Senate seat than they are in removing Tom DeLay's bitch from the statehouse, especially if they wind up with a candidate with scant name recognition and no previous experience having been elected to something.

Texas will continue to be a one-party state for only as long as Texas Democrats continue to concede it as such.

Whatever happens, put the popcorn in the microwave and stay tuned, because it's going to be entertaining.


Traveller said...

The old Dem party structure in the state is looking worse and worse from this angle. Is that true generally? From my uneducated viewpoint, the Party will get nowhere until the old pols are sent out to pasture or maybe a raft on the Amistad.

PDiddie said...

Dems hit rock bottom with the "Dream Team" of Sanchez, Kirk, and Sharp last cycle.

That was a really poor idea.

But I sense a rejuvenation, p, and not just across the state but the nation as well. I'll probably get a greater sense of that when we're in Austin in a couple of weeks for DemocracyFest.

These changes occur at a glacier's pace, and only seem to be hurried along by scandal. God knows there's been enough of that exposed to turn people off of the GOP.;-)

Fred said...

Pdiddie, I hope you are right and I sense it as well.

Traveller said...

I hope you are right, too. Our county chair is feeling gloomy.

But Texas Monthly (which I endeavor to avoid at all costs) drew me to it thanks to those delicious pictures of the rivers...

luvz-desire said...
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