Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Governor's primary heating up

The campaigns of Chris Bell and Bob Gammage haven't yet drawn much attention from the Traditional Media, but that's OK. That's what we're here for, right?

Vince Leibowitz at Political State Report is first out of the blocks with extensive interviews conducted with both candidates. Philip Martin will have more of the same this week. Greg reports on the fundraising numbers and has his usual sharp-edged opinion regarding them.

But this is just hilarious (it comes from an e-mail on Carl Whitmarsh's listserv, so no link):

The Queen is Alive and Well and Living in Montrose

In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Alice remarks to the Queen of Hearts, "I can't believe that!" The Queen admonishes Alice to try again. Alice replies that there's no use trying because "one can't believe impossible things." The Queen replies that, with daily practice, she had sometimes managed to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Ideologues in Houston's gay community have been practicing lately.

The Queen would have been pleased if she had attended the tea party at the HGLPC's February 1, 2006, political endorsement meeting. In the upcoming Texas gubernatorial primary, the Caucus endorsed 70-something political has-been Bob Gammage over long-time GLBT Houston ally and Democratic front-runner Chris Bell. The capacity to believe the impossible shown by this inexplicable endorsement approaches a political death wish.

Never mind that Chris Bell was the only candidate for any office to come out publicly against Proposition 2 (the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage) last November. Never mind that Chris Bell's act of courage came at great political risk to himself, given the fact that he is seeking election as governor in a state where 77% of the voters support the constitutional ban and view gay marriage as a threat of apocalyptic significance. Never mind that Chris Bell was the first member of the Human Rights Campaign's major-donor Federal Club ever elected to Congress.

Never mind that Bell was almost single-handedly responsible for initiating the process that has now removed Tom DeLay, the scourge of equality in all its forms, as Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives and made him a criminal defendant in an Austin courtroom. Never mind that Chris Bell personally came to the Caucus meeting in Houston, hat in hand, to humbly ask for the Houston gay community's support, while Gammage quietly phoned in an interview to the Caucus screening committee well before the meeting.

And never mind that Chris Bell, who has been actively campaigning for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination for a year, is the easy front-runner over last-minute filer Bob Gammage, an attractive but geriatric also-ran who has been retired from Texas politics for over 10 years and has a name-recognition factor slightly higher than that of my dead grandmother.

Chris Bell was not good enough to win the endorsement of the HGLPC. Why? Because — despite his public opposition of the constitutional marriage ban — Bell has stated that he is not yet prepared to support gay marriage. Well, get out the torches and pitchforks! Let's all drive this monster out of the village before he can kill again!

Here's a novel political concept the Houston GLBT community might want to consider while marinating alone in its newly-discovered ideological purity: electability. A public office is not an ecclesiastical bishopric, where the successful candidate has to prove exact and mathematical alignment with all doctrinal positions of the sect before being ordained. Maybe the Second Baptist Church has the luxury of defrocking a pastor who does not believe in the "dunking" form of baptism. The gay community does not have this luxury — especially in a state where electable Democrats are few and far between. But at Our Lady of Perpetual Indulgence located at 3400 Montrose — where both Mad Hatters and Cheshire cats were in attendance on February 1, 2006 — we apparently don't even let pastoral candidates approach the pulpit until they prove they are willing to burn themselves alive on the altar of same-sex marriage.

Has anyone been keeping count? The same Republicans who coasted to easy victory on Proposition 2 in November 2005 by a margin of 50 points — yes, 50 points — now control the governorship, lieutenant governorship, both houses of the Legislature, every legislative committee chairmanship, and every seat on the Texas Supreme Court. When the Texas House went Republican in 2002, it was the first time in 138 years. No one can deny that Texas is a solidly Republican state in 2006. Not only has not a single Democrat been elected to statewide office in Texas since Ann Richards last won in 1994, but the last two Democrats who ran for governor spent millions of dollars to garner an anemic 40% (Tony Sanchez) or less (Gary Mauro).

We may not like it, but the gay community had better wake up and face two harsh facts: (1) No Democrat is likely to be elected governor of Texas (or any other statewide office) without being able to appeal to moderate, centrist voters; and (2) Moderate, centrist voters in Texas will stampede to the polls to vote AGAINST any candidate who calls for same-sex marriage equality. No governor has been elected in any state of the union by calling for same-sex marriage. As the world changes, this may some day happen. I even believe it will happen sooner than most people think. But it won't happen in 2006, and when it does happen, it won't be Texas where it happens first.

Now don't get me wrong. I like Bob Gammage. He was my Congressman when I arrived in Houston ready to set the world on fire in 1978. I voted for him for the Texas Supreme Court in his last election 15 or 16 years ago. His signature is on my law license. But the idyllic little world where people of good will elect as their governor a 6-foot-tall white rabbit with a pocket watch, and merrily follow him to the land of same-sex marriage equality does not exist. Bob Gammage will NOT come out publicly in favor of same-sex marriage. If he does so, he will greatly increase Chris Bell's margin of victory in the primary. Gammage will go to the primary in 5 weeks with a position on gay marriage identical to Chris Bell's, notwithstanding that the Caucus's stated belief that Gammage's position was "better" than Bell's — predicated, as it was, on a single telephone interview instead of an actual record or body of work— earned Gammage the Caucus endorsement.

In March, Chris Bell, long-time friend to the Houston gay community, will win the Democratic nomination for Texas governor over Bob Gammage by a landslide. Celebrations will abound all over the state, as Texas Democrats look forward to the greatest chance for gubernatorial victory in 12 years. But the Houston gay community will not be there. Thanks to the Caucus' ability to believe at least six impossible things before breakfast, Bell will have won despite the ostentatious opposition of the very community whose rights he has championed at every turn for over a decade.

I can think of only one thing appropriate to say about the Caucus for that: "Off with their heads!"

There's a few things to contend with in there: Bell wasn't the only candidate to publicly denounce Prop. 2, and I don't believe it will be a landslide in the primary. Forty percent of the general election vote tally, even by the bipartisan Beltway consultantocracy's measurement, isn't 'anemic'. And I believe that my candidate -- previously disclosed -- stands an excellent chance of being elected in November, garnering multiple thousands of votes from former Republican voters ('moderate' and 'centrist' labels having grown obsolete to the point of being misleading). But I wouldn't acidly state my strongly-held opinion as a fact.

Mostly though, the Gammage supporters' heads are going to explode from the truth about their candidate being so bluntly told.

Watch the comments here and elsewhere over the next few days and see if I'm right.

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