Bill White spent his first full day as a former Mayor in the Rio Grande Valley. It was a productive trip for him.
Power brokers in one of the state’s most Democratic regions Tuesday pledged to throw their weight behind Bill White’s bid for Texas governor.
“I can’t think of a better group than this one that has networks and influence throughout the region,” the former Houston mayor told a breakfast gathering that included U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, and a raft of state representatives and judges, city mayors and community activists.
The breakfast was the first of a day of events for White’s debut in the Rio Grande Valley. Gov. Rick Perry, running for a third term, also appeared in the Valley to announce grant awards.
White’s pitch and platform focused on Perry fatigue, blaming the incumbent for the state’s dismal high school and college graduation rates, college tuition hikes, months-long waits for food stamp applicants, and the Valley’s lack of an interstate highway and veterans hospital.
There was a lot more than that, some of which is in a press release that I’ve reproduced beneath the fold. The Rio Grande Guardian goes into more detail.
After a luncheon at the Tierra Santa Golf Club in Weslaco, White, a former mayor of Houston, told the Guardian he backed moves by the Valley legislative delegation to have Texas Enterprise Fund monies appropriated for a Valley veterans’ hospital.
“The first thing I would do as governor is see what can be done to get a VA appropriation,” White said. “But if we don’t get that I would look at sources of state and local funding to create a veterans’ facility, which is well needed. I agree with the Valley delegation that we ought to consider use of the Enterprise Fund.”
The idea of using enterprise fund monies for a Valley veterans’ hospital was first proposed last month by state Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco. It won immediate support from the two American GI Forum chapters in the Valley.
The push for a VA hospital for the Valley has been the number one issue for the region’s 100,000 veterans for decades. Every municipal government in the region has signed resolutions in support. However, the VA has pushed back, arguing that there are insufficient veterans to warrant a hospital. The nearest VA hospital is 250 miles away in San Antonio.
“Governor Perry gave $15 million of those enterprise funds to Countrywide Financial, which was the largest sub-prime lender, to create new jobs. Well, there are no new jobs because the company went under. I don’t think we should have been rewarding firms like Countrywide Financial. I think we ought to create more jobs by providing services to our veterans,” White said.
I’m thinking that’s an issue that will resonate. All in all, that was a pretty good day for White.
Reading these stories got me thinking about a couple of things. One is the concept of coattails, and whether Bill White may have them. I think it’s important to remember that there are two types of “swing” voters, as Chris Bowers wrote in a post I can no longer find. One is the stereotypical “independent”, who may vote for an R or a D in a given race depending on a variety of factors. White starts out at least as someone who can get people like that to vote for him, but in doing so there is no guarantee that they would then vote for any other Democrat. The potential exists for him to have some kind of halo effect on at least some of these voters, but I would expect that to be limited.
The other type of swing voter, however, is the person who will consistently vote for one party, even a straight-ticket vote, but who may or may not show up in a given election. Clearly, plenty of these people exist, which is why we get 8 million votes in a Presidential year and 4.5 million votes in a non-Presidential year. Where White has the potential to boost his ticketmates is with these voters, more than a few of whom, one presumes, live south of I-10.
The other thing is whether the enthusiasm White has unquestionably generated in the Valley will carry over to parts farther west along the border. Rick Perry has done very well getting endorsements from sheriffs and Mayors along the border in years past. If White can put a dent in some of that support, it would be a nice coup for him, at least as far as the narrative of the race goes, even though it’s not all that much in terms of raw votes. I happen to think that “Perry fatigue” is going to be a big factor this year, and something like this would be a bit of corroboration for that thesis. I could be wrong about this, and certainly the “friendly incumbent” tradition may make this a tough sell. But I think it’s worth watching anyway. Click on for White’s release.
South Texas welcomes Bill White in his first day as full-time candidate
Candidate pledges commitment to improving education, veteran services, infrastructure
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – Former Houston Mayor Bill White’s first day as a full-time candidate for Governor began with a breakfast at a local Mexican restaurant in McAllen and ended with a crowded meet and greet in Brownsville.
At stops in McAllen, Edinburg, Weslaco, Edcouch and Brownsville, White called for new leadership in the state, leadership to represent all the people of Texas.
“Now more than ever we’ve broken down glass ceilings in our state and the laws of segregation and discrimination that held back our potential,” White said at a lunch in Weslaco. “Imagine if we had leadership as good as the people of this state, leadership committed to educating the next generation of Texans.”
White emphasized his executive experience in the public and private sector. On Monday, White completed his six-year service as mayor of the largest city in Texas. As Houston’s mayor he was twice re-elected with an average of 88 percent of the vote. Before serving as mayor, White helped build successful businesses.
Congressman Ruben Hinojosa and State Senators Eddie Lucio Jr. and Juan Chuy Hinojosa hosted the breakfast in McAllen for state representatives, city mayors, judges and community members. However, White said Sergeant Sam Medrano was the guest of honor. After returning from two tours in Iraq, Sgt. Medrano immediately signed up to work on White’s campaign and made calls to get residents out to the breakfast.
“I am honored by those elected officials who are here today, who support me, who endorse me, but I am even more honored that Sergeant Medrano, who has just come back from fighting for our country, told me that he wanted to work on my campaign.”
Congressman Hinojosa introduced the mayor at the breakfast. “Bill White’s someone we have known since the early 1990s when he came down here in the company of his friend Bill Clinton,” he said. “We remember the work he did in this region, which now has over a quarter million people. We assure you this area will turn out because of those who are supporting him.”
In Edcouch, White spoke to geography and history classes at Edcouch-Elsa High School. White said Texas’ rank behind all other states in the percentage of our adults who have high school diplomas is unacceptable. He said students, teachers and the governor should all be held accountable.
“We cannot be prepared for the future of the global economy with drop out rates of 40 and 50 percent in some areas of this state,” he said to the students.
White vowed to focus on improving education achievement in K-12 grade levels, improving high school graduation rates and reducing the costs of college.
White also pledged to work with local leaders to address the needs of South Texans including building a full-service veterans hospital and allocating more funding to infrastructure.
White said, “Too often the Valley gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the allocation of state funds for infrastructure. This is the largest population center in the country that is not linked by the interstate highway to the commerce of the United States of America. I will tell you that I will listen to the priorities of your local leadership here. We want leadership in this state which is inclusive.”