Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A couple of downballot races worthy of extra attention

First an update from Alan Bernstein on a top of the ballot race, SD-17 and Chris Bell, the gaggle of squabbling Republicans trying to force him into a runoff, and the big-money player-haters behind them:

Last week, we told you that a single person, Austin-based poiltical consultant Anthony Holm, was on record as Texans for Honesty, a "group" sending voters mail attacking Democrat Chris Bell in his race for a Houston-area state Senate seat.

Now that political action committee has updated its records with the Texas Ethics Commission to show a neatly woven group of heavyweight contributors.

This month the committee got $60,000 from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, $40,000 from politically connected beer distributor John Nau, $35,000 from Texans for Lawsuit Reform and $17,500 from the Patriot Group, the firm where Holm works and Perry and TLR are clients.

Nau supports one of Bell's Nov. 4 opponents, Republican Joan Huffman. Texans for Lawsuit Reform has given money to a Democrat in the race, Stephanie Simmons. Holm, Perry, Nau and TLR mostly back Republican candidates and causes and obviously are working hard to prevent Bell from getting 50-plus percent of the vote, which would dash the need for a runoff among the top two candidates in a six-candidate field.

"Desperate people do desparate (sic) things," Bell said. He asserted that negative political adveritising (sic) is more toothless than ever this year.

C'mon, Alan. You spelled it right the first time, and I'm sure Chris pronounced it the same way.

Now then, meet Dexter Handy, in an uphill challenge to replace Steve Radack:

In an election where Democrats have a chance to claim several of Harris County's top elected posts, at least one Republican incumbent still seems to enjoy quite a bit of job security: Commissioner Steve Radack.

Radack, who announced his retirement in 2005 only to decide two years later to seek a sixth and, he says, final term, faces retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dexter Handy for the right to represent west Harris County.

County commissioners serve without term limits and enjoy such a tremendous fundraising advantage that they almost never face serious opposition.

Handy, a 28-year military veteran, had just $1,200 in the bank as of early October, after taking in $5,400 in contributions and spending $6,100 between July and late September. Radack, by comparison, had $922,000 in the bank after accepting $39,000 in contributions and spending about the same amount in that time period.

University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said it would be a "real shock" if an underfunded, relatively unknown Democrat knocked off an entrenched Republican commissioner in a traditionally conservative precinct. However, the results could be unusually close as a growing number of minority families, who often vote Democratic, settle in Houston's western suburbs, Murray said.

"The county is changing," Murray said. "Is there enough change to put a 20-year commissioner in some peril? Probably not, but that's why we have elections."

Most of the Houstonians who've lived in his precinct know what kind of man Radack is. Handy towers over him by comparison ...

Handy, 50, said he would use his expertise in logistics and crisis management to improve communication among law enforcement agencies, diversify transportation options and clean up perceptions that Harris County's contracting system is unfair.

A marathon runner and avid cyclist, Handy is the former commander of a squadron responsible for constructing and renovating buildings and installing telecommunications and computer systems at Air Force sites worldwide.

Handy promised not to accept campaign contributions from anyone doing business with the county, and pledged to push the Legislature to adopt tough new ethics laws. He also said he would thoroughly analyze all requests and proposals for new roads, parks, community centers and other services to ensure they are placed in the right areas, and promised to make those studies public.

He said he also would work to develop seamless communication among the Harris County Sheriff's Office, all eight constables' offices and the Houston Police Department. Houston is not connected to Harris County's large regional public safety radio system, although city leaders recently announced plans to get a new $107 million emergency radio system.

The choice is clear. Let's hope the voters in west Harris County are as well.

Sing the next link in your best imitation of that line from "Best Little Whorehouse": The Texas Board of Education has a right-wing freak upon it ...

Watch out, parents. Democratic State Board of Education candidate Laura Ewing wants to convert your children to Islam.

At least, that's the implication of a campaign ad from her opponent, Republican David Bradley of Beaumont.

"Do you know what the Democrat for State Board of Education supports?" reads the handout, which was disseminated at a recent gathering of the Golden Triangle Republican Women and trumpeted earlier this year at a Republican senatorial convention.

The handout features a 2004 newsletter article documenting the scandalous details: In 2003, Ewing was one of nearly 20 social studies educators who traveled to Africa and India to study (gasp!) Islamic history and culture, with plans to develop curriculum for Texas schoolchildren in sixth-grade world cultures classes and high school-level world geography and history.

Need more proof? Bradley's ad features a photo of Ewing, former teacher, social studies curriculum specialist and Friendswood city councilwoman, caught red-handed, posing in front of the Taj Mahal!

Ewing admits her guilt: Yes, the educator dared to educate herself about Islamic culture, including everything from architecture to poetry.

Why did she do it? She claims it has nothing to do with converting Texas students to Islam, and everything to do with another radical philosophy: "We've got to understand other people because we're a global economy," she says. "We've got to prepare our students for the 21st century."

Where does she get this stuff?

The richest irony has to be that an incumbent on the State Board of Education doesn't understand the difference between Islam and Hinduism, the religion practiced in India.

There is so much wrong with David Bradley -- and for that matter, the entire SBOE -- that there are barely enough pixels on the entire Internet to explain how.

Let's put David Bradley out to pasture in Jasper or Buna or wherever the hell it is he actually lives when he's not crawling out from under a rock.

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