Friday, June 29, 2007

Repeating Dallas in Houston

No, not the traffic or the sprawl -- we already own that -- and not the success on the professional gridiron nor the failure on the diamond, though we're trying hard. Back to the local political scene for a moment.

Kristen Mack -- who wrote a truly atrocious report of John Edwards' Houston stop -- provides a pretty good update on Harris County's strategy to go blue in the next cycle:

Democrats in Harris County have been eyeing Dallas County since last November, when their counterparts recaptured every countywide seat. The locals hope to mirror that success here.

"I've had extensive conversations with Dallas about what their strategy was," Harris County Democratic Party Chair Gerald Birnberg said. "I believe we can replicate that here in Harris County and intend to do so."

Birnberg will likely call on Matt Angle, of Lone Star Project renown, to run the county's campaign, filling the local party office with at least one staff member tapped by the Angle/Martin Frost/Fred Baron brain trust. More on that later. Birnberg has been busy recruiting prospective candidates as well:

Former Houston Police Chief C.O. Bradford will take on GOP District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia is eyeing a challenge to incumbent Sheriff Tommy Thomas. And former Houston City Councilman Vince Ryan will run against County Attorney Mike Stafford.

Former county Democratic Party Chair David Mincberg will run for county judge against whomever emerges from the GOP primary. The incumbent, Ed Emmett, is in. District Clerk Charles Bacarisse continues to test the water.

Pausing to address that last bit, former HCRP chair Gary Polland wrote in his "Conservative Stench" newsletter of the Bacarisse/Emmett spat:

Is It Time For The Bacarisse Campaign For
County Judge To Come Out Of The Closet?

Texas Conservative Review believes that everyone who wants to seek elective office should go for it. The present situation involving Charles Bacarisse and this shadow campaign for County Judge is not acceptable. He's not in and he's not out. Of course under the rules, a Harris County official must resign once they declare for another office.

Regardless of that fact, the Bacarisse exploratory campaign continues to snipe at Harris County government while he says nothing on the record. Those in the unofficial shadow campaign are only going to end up hurting the ultimate GOP nominee, be it Bacarisse or incumbent County Judge Ed Emmett, against a growing Democratic threat led by former Democrat County Chair David Mincberg.

If it's the goal of the Bacarisse exploratory committee to midwife a Democratic victory in November 2008, then they are off to a great start. If not, call off the sniping spokesman and get into the race now.


Mack has more on the Bradford/Rosenthal "grudge match" (her words), too:

Bradford, who served as police chief in Mayor Lee Brown's administration, still has some battle scars.

Among them, a last-minute pay raise Brown gave Bradford that increased his pension, the crime lab debacle that began during his tenure, and an indictment on a perjury charge that eventually was dismissed by a trial judge.

Bradford was considering running for sheriff — going from the top cop in the city to the top officer in the county seems a more natural jump — but his strategists advised him that Thomas would be able to capitalize on each of those mishaps.

A matchup against Rosenthal would play like a grudge match, potentially giving Bradford some inoculation.

It was Rosenthal who prosecuted Bradford on the perjury charge, which a judge dismissed in mid-trial saying the case was weak. Rosenthal also holds some responsibility for the state of the crime lab.

Rosenthal questioned the former chief's credentials for the DA's job. Bradford has a law degree, but he's never practiced law. He has served as a senior associate at Brown Group International, the former mayor's consulting group, since leaving the city.


In the 2004 election, the last time Rosenthal's term was up, he garnered 55 percent of the vote to a relative unknown. Facing a well-known challenger, even one with baggage, is a different game.

This last point is significant also for this reason: so many Democrats came so close to winning, particularly judicial candidates like Jim Sharp and Mary Kay Green, that the average percentage for a Democrat on the ballot in Harris County was 48% (according to Birnberg).

We're flipping this county Democratic in 2008, and no amount of coordinated voter suppression tactics on the part of Republicans is going to be able to stop it.

Not even Matt Angle's minimalist strategy and maximist credit-taking for the results will be able to screw it up. I hope.

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