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Debra Medina

Lawsuit filed against the office of Rep. Blake Farenthold

Um, wow.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

A woman who worked for U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold filed a federal lawsuit against his congressional office, alleging she experienced gender-based discrimination and that a hostile work environment prompted her termination in July.

Former Communications Director Lauren Greene alleges that Farenthold, the two-term Republican from Corpus Christi, made lewd and inappropriate comments, according to the lawsuit filed Friday, and “regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on ‘red head patrol’ to keep him out of trouble.’”

[…]

Greene worked for U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Oklahoma, from September 2009 to January 2013, according to her Linkedin profile, and worked her way up from an intern to deputy press secretary. She took a job with Farenthold’s office two months later.

In January, another staffer told Greene that Farenthold had privately admitted to having sexual fantasies about her, according to the lawsuit, which adds that Farenthold later told Greene that he was estranged from his wife.

“On one occasion, prior to February 2014, during a staff meeting at which plaintiff was in attendance, Farenthold disclosed that a female lobbyist had propositioned him for a ‘threesome,’” according to the lawsuit.

The comments made Greene uncomfortable, according to the lawsuit, and she seldom had one-on-one meetings with Farenthold.

“Farenthold regularly made comments designed to gauge whether plaintiff was interested in a sexual relationship,” according to the lawsuit, and made inappropriate comments about her clothing.

Greene also had problems with Chief of Staff Bob Haueter.

Haueter excluded her from staff meetings and publicly humiliated her when she did attend, according to the lawsuit.

During a June 2010 meeting, Haueter announced he was sending Greene home to change because her shirt was too revealing, according to the lawsuit, but Farenthold and another staffer disagreed.

In the lawsuit, Greene alleged that she was fired less than a month after complaining about the hostile work environment.

Ew. This is only one side of the story, and I’m sure that the defense will have plenty to say about what happened. But still: Ew. More worrisome for Farenthold is that the filing of this lawsuit has spawned other problems for him.

The unseemly nature of the accusations already has operatives on Capitol Hill mulling the immediate consequences of Farenthold’s place on the Republican food chain.

“I don’t know about locally, but it’s going to continue to push him on the outside of leadership and the folks that influence the Republican Conference,” a GOP Capitol Hill staffer said on condition of anonymity because of close ties to leadership.

Two GOP Capitol Hill staffers predicted the matter would probably go before the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics. Just last week, the House Ethics Committee cleared a Florida Democratic lawmaker of sexual harassment allegations. But in the process, the committee warned lawmakers “to scrupulously avoid even the impression of a workplace tainted by sexism.”

[…]

As Texas Republican operatives digest the reports, some are already speculating on a potential 2016 primary challenger. One potential rival would be Debra Medina, a former Wharton County Republican Party chair who lost a primary bid for comptroller this year.

Getting a little ahead of ourselves there, but still. The next two years are likely to be a bit tumultuous for Farenthold, poor baby. The Chron covered this here, and Politico, Jezebel, BOR, Trail Blazers, TPM, and Juanita have more.

Where are all the ladies?

Christy Hoppe of the DMN notices something missing on the Republican side of the 2014 ballot.

Rep. Kay Granger

The Texas Republican Party has a girl problem.

A glance down the list of GOP nominees set after Tuesday’s runoffs makes it look as if U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth has signed up for shop class.

She is the lone woman among the 50 congressional, statewide and top judicial Republican candidates.

In a year when the marquee races for governor and lieutenant governor will feature Democrats Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the Grand Old Party looks like it’s going stag.

Candidate Lisa Fritsch warned during the primaries of “the party of all these men and the same old recycled candidates.”

And Fritsch is a staunch conservative who was challenging Greg Abbott for the nomination for governor.

State party chairman Steve Munisteri said he’s noticed.

“I would tell you I’ve had discussions with elected officials and party leaders about this very issue,” he said Tuesday. “Frankly, it is a concern.”

He said he is placing women in high-profile jobs and hoping to recruit more women to run for office.

The story has gone national, but it should be noted that Rep. Granger isn’t quite as lonely as Hoppe says. There is one more Republican lady among the statewide and Congressional candidates – there is also Susan Narvaiz, who is running for CD35 against Rep. Lloyd Doggett. And it’s not like there were a bunch of viable female candidates that filed but couldn’t make it through the primaries. The only serious contender for a statewide office on the R side was Debra Medina, who finished third for Comptroller with 19% of the vote despite that crappy Trib poll that I’m still not tired of mocking that showed her leading, and the only serious contender for a Congressional seat was Katrina Pierson, who was defeated easily by Rep. Pete Sessions despite having Ted Cruz as her overlord. The lack of Republican ladies on the ballot was a problem that one could see coming from a good ways away.

To be fair, there’s not an overabundance of ladies on the Democratic side, but there are three women running statewide. Two of them you’ve probably heard of, plus Justice Gina Benavides of the 13th Court of Appeals, who is running for Supreme Court. There are also two Congressional incumbents – Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Berniece Johnson – plus two more Congressional candidates, Shirley McKellar and Tawana Cadien. That’s two Democratic incumbents to one Republican incumbent even though Republican incumbents overall outnumber Dems in this group by more than three to one, and seven Democratic candidates to two for the GOP. I’d have liked for there to be more female candidates on our ballot – I did vote for Maxey Scherr in the Senate primary, after all – but given the historic nature of the Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte candidacies – the first time ever that a party has nominated women for both of the top two slots – it’s still something we Ds can be proud of. Better luck next time, Republicans.

Precinct analysis: Republican primary election

I’ve done the Democrats, so now let’s take a look at the Republicans. In this case, I did have a few specific questions in mind, so my approach here will be a little different. First, we all know that Steve Stockman’s performance art piece campaign against Sen. John Cornyn didn’t amount to anything, but did he at least make some noise in his own Congressional district?

Candidate CD36 Else CD36% Else% ============================================ Cornyn 8,231 65,363 48.69% 55.57% Stockman 5,359 27,093 31.70% 23.03% Others 3,314 25,161 19.60% 21.39% Total 16,904 117,617

So sort of, yeah. Cornyn was held under 50% in the bit of CD36 that’s in Harris County, and it’s clear that Stockman picked up that he lost, but it didn’t make a difference overall. As it happens, the other counties in CD36 are all entirely within CD36, so we can look at the whole district as well now that we have the Harris data:

County Cornyn Cornyn% Stockman Stockman% ================================================ Chambers 1,609 41.02% 1,322 33.70% Hardin 2,937 40.52% 2,986 41.20% Harris 8,231 48.69% 5,359 31.70% Jasper 1,274 54.28% 780 33.23% Liberty 2,496 38.02% 2,007 30.57% Newton 226 46.40% 194 39.83% Orange 3,546 44.51% 2,925 36.72% Polk 2,626 46.46% 1,820 32.20% Tyler 1,121 46.01% 961 39.44%

So again, Stockman held Cornyn under 50% in CD36, but he still trailed in every county except Hardin. His performance in Harris was particularly weak. It’s possible that someone could have beaten Big John, or at least forced him into a runoff, but Steve Stockman was not that someone.

Along similar lines, I wondered how Dan Patrick did on his home turf of SD07 versus the rest of the county:

Candidate SD07 Else SD07% Else% ============================================ Patrick 30,398 48,373 64.84% 53.78% Not Patrick 16,481 41,578 35.16% 46.22% Total 46,879 89,951

Unlike Stockman, Patrick really killed it on his home turf, but he still won a majority elsewhere as well. That cannot be a comforting thought to David Dewhurst.

Given the inflammatory rhetoric about immigration and the pushback by Latino Republicans against Dan Patrick, I also checked to see if Patrick did any worse in the five State Rep districts held by Latinos (HDs 140, 143, 144, 145, and 148) than he did elsewhere:

Candidate Latino Else Latino% Else% ============================================ Patrick 5,515 73,256 56.58% 57.64% Not Patrick 4,233 53,826 43.42% 42.36% Total 9,748 127,082

Short answer: No. Of course, we don’t know how many of the Republican primary voters in these districts were Latino – the Anglo voting age population in these districts range from 12K (HD140) to 37K (HD148), so there are plenty of non-Latinos to go around. Regardless, at least in Harris County, Patrick’s rhetoric wasn’t a problem for these voters.

Finally, how did the Latino Republican candidates do in the Latino districts?

Candidate Latino Else Latino% Else% ============================================ Abbott 8,929 119,258 92.28% 94.52% Martinez 381 2,713 3.94% 2.15% Others 366 4,207 3.78% 3.33% Total 9,676 126,178 Candidate Latino Else Latino% Else% ============================================ Medina 1,558 15,993 16.91% 13.56% Torres 420 3,144 4.56% 2.67% Hegar 4,442 62,214 48.22% 52.74% Hilderbran 2,792 36,620 30.31% 31.04% Total 9,212 117,971

A little bit of a benefit, mostly for Debra Medina, but overall less than a drop in the bucket. Even if the differences had been dramatic, the paucity of voters in these districts would have minimized the effect. But the difference was trivial, so it didn’t matter anyway.

The UT/TT primary polls were completely useless

Wrong!!!

I expressed my contempt with the UT/Texas Trib’s Democratic primary poll result for the US Senate race last night, which they richly deserved. Sure, pollster Jim Henson admitted that “the first person to raise some money and run some ads could really move this”, and that’s largely what happened, but that got lost in all the national attention that was paid to Kesha Rogers being proclaimed the frontrunner in a poll where basically nobody had an initial preference. They had a “result” that was guaranteed to get them a ton of attention, and that’s what they got even though their track record in past Democratic primaries was shaky at best.

Well, now it’s time to pay them a bit of negative attention, because their Republican primary polls, which I originally noted had a decent track record based on previous results sucked eggs, too. Let’s take them one at a time and assess the damage. I’ll even be generous and start with the one poll they basically nailed, just to give them credit where it’s due. Here’s the poll story from which I’ll be quoting:

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, facing a field of seven other Republican primary candidates in his bid for re-election, won the support of 62 percent of the likely Republican primary voters, followed by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, who got 16 percent. Support for the rest was in single digits: Linda Vega, 7 percent; Dwayne Stovall and Ken Cope, 4 percent each; Reid Reasor and Chris Mapp, 3 percent each; and Curt Cleaver, 1 percent.

Actual result: Cornyn won with 59.44%, Stockman came in second with 19.13%. Dwayne Stovall was actually in third with 10.71%, but I won’t crime them for that. From here, it’s all downhill.

In the heated Republican primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent David Dewhurst leads the pack with 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters at his side, followed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at 31 percent; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples at 17 percent; and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson at 15 percent.

Actual result: Dan Patrick led the pack with 41.45%, followed by incumbent David Dewhurst with 28.31%. Staples had 17.76% and Patterson 12.47%, not that it mattered. That’s a pretty big miss, but it’s not their biggest.

The Republican primary for attorney general is a statistical dead heat between state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, at 42 percent, and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney, at 38 percent — a difference smaller than the poll’s margin of error. Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman got 20 percent. When they were initially asked about the race, 47 percent expressed no preference between the candidates.

Actual result: Paxton 44.44%, Branch 33.49%, Smitherman 22.06%. They did get Smitherman’s level of support correct, but they had the wrong frontrunner and the race wasn’t as close as they said. Oh, well.

In the race for comptroller, that group of initially undecided voters accounted for 54 percent, perhaps an indication of continuing flux in the race. Debra Medina, the only candidate who has been on a statewide ballot (she ran for governor in 2010), got 39 percent after voters were asked whom they would support in an election now, followed by state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, at 26 percent; state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, at 24 percent; and former state Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, at 11 percent.

Actual result: Hegar came thisclose to winning outright, with 49.99%. He was 151 votes short of a majority with four precincts still uncounted. Hilderbran was second with 26.01%, Medina third with 19.30%, and Torres last with 4.68%. I’m sorry, but that’s just embarrassingly inaccurate.

So in all three downballot Republican races as well as the Democratic Senate race, they incorrectly identified the frontrunner, with the extra indignity of having the almost clear winner of the Comptroller’s race not in the cut for a runoff. Well done, fellas. Well done.

Now you may say “c’mon, polling primaries is especially tricky”, and if you did I would agree. I’d also say that maybe their self-selected-sample-plus-secret-sauce methodology is especially poorly designed for polling in these specialized races, and I’d point to these very results as proof of that. You may also say that no one else was providing poll information on these races so at least they were telling us something, and I’d say we would have been better off with no information than we were with their badly wrong information. I’d also say they owe us an explanation for why they were so wrong, and a public examination and reconsideration of their methods given how badly wrong they were. If they can screw these races up so badly, why should anyone believe their general election polling? The ball’s in your court, guys.

I should note that I’m saying all this as someone who likes the Tribune and who thinks they generally do a good job. On this, however, they did a terrible job, and I’m not the only one who noticed. They should be embarrassed by this, and they should want to figure out where they went so far off track. I would advise them to be quick about it. Steve Singiser has more.

The UT/TT poll’s track record in past Democratic primaries

The one result in that UT/TT poll from Monday that has people freaking out is the one that shows nutball LaRouchie Kesha Rogers leading the Senate race with 35%, followed by David Alameel with 27%. I expressed my skepticism of that result at the time, because among other things I have my doubts that their sample is truly representative of the Democratic primary electorate, but I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at the Trib’s previous efforts at polling Democratic primaries and see how they’ve done in the past. There are two elections to study. First, let’s go back to 2010 when all of the statewide offices were up for grabs. Democrats had three contested primaries that the Trib polled: Governor, Lt. Governor, and Ag Commissioner. Here are the results.

In the Democratic primary race, former Houston Mayor Bill White has a huge lead over his next closest challenger, businessman Farouk Shami, pulling 50 percent to Shami’s 11 percent. Five other candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination; the survey found that only 9 percent of those polled prefer someone other than the two frontrunners.

Undecided voters are still significant in both gubernatorial primaries. On the Republican side, 16 percent said they hadn’t made up their minds. Pressed for a preference, 51 percent chose Perry, 34 percent chose Hutchison, and 15 percent chose Medina — an indication that Perry could win without a runoff if he can attract those voters into his camp. Among Democratic voters, 30 percent were undecided, and of those, 48 percent, when pressed, said they lean toward White. With White already at 50 percent, that means Shami would have to strip votes away from him in order to force a runoff or to claim a win.

[…]

Democratic primary voters have a couple of other statewide races to decide. In the contest for lieutenant governor — the winner will face Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in November — labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson took 18 percent of those polled, former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle got 16 percent, and restaurateur Marc Katz had 3 percent. Five percent of voters said they wanted “somebody else,” and a whopping 58 percent remain undecided on the eve of early voting, which begins on Tuesday. Kinky Friedman and Hank Gilbert — two refugees from the governor’s race now running for agriculture commissioner — are locked in a tight race, 32 percent to 27 percent. While Friedman’s ahead, the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. And, as with the Lite Guv race, “undecided” is actually leading, at 41 percent. The winner will face incumbent Republican Todd Staples in November.

And here’s the reality:

Governor Alma Aguado 2.83% Felix Alvarado 4.95% Bill Dear 0.96% Clement Glenn 1.44% Star Locke 0.92% Farouk Shami 12.84% Bill White 76.03% Lieutenant Governor Linda C-T 53.13% Ronnie Earle 34.67% Marc Katz 12.18% Commissioner of Agriculture Kinky Friedman 47.69% Hank Gilbert 52.30%

So White did have a big lead on Shami, but it was much bigger than they indicated. Linda Chavez-Thompson was indeed leading Ronnie Earle, but by a significant amount, more than enough to avoid a runoff. And Hank Gilbert defeated Kinky Friedman, despite the UT/TT poll showing Friedman in the lead.

How about the 2012 Senate primary, which is a reasonably decent facsimile of this one, as it’s a large field of mostly unknown candidates? Here’s the poll:

The Democrats, too, could be building to a July finish, probably between former state Rep. Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard, according to the poll.

Sadler led the Democrats with 29 percent, but was followed closely — and within the poll’s margin of error — by Hubbard. Two other candidates — Addie Dainell Allen and Grady Yarbrough — also registered double-digit support.

And the actual result:

U. S. Senator Addie Allen 22.90% Sean Hubbard 16.08% Paul Sadler 35.13% Grady Yarbrough 25.87%

Sadler did in fact lead the field, but Hubbard came in fourth, well behind eventual second-place finisher Grady Yarbrough, whom the Trib pegged for fourth.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Mostly that we don’t have enough data to be able to evaluate the Trib’s ability to poll Democratic primaries. To be fair to them, they were quite accurate in the corresponding GOP races. They had Rick Perry winning in 2010, though not quite over 50%, with Debra Medina’s level nailed exactly, and they had David Dewhurst with a lead over Ted Cruz with Tom Leppert in third, but with the Dew falling short of a majority. As such, I’d put some faith in their GOP polling, at least until we see how they actually did. But I would not put much faith in their Dem results. They clearly pushed people to pick someone – anyone! – in the Senate race, they polled before David Alameel dropped a bunch of mail, which they themselves said (but didn’t acknowledge in their writeup) is exactly the sort of thing that could enable someone to win that race, and as I said I just don’t believe they’ve got a representative sample of the Dem primary electorate. I’ll be more than a little shocked if it turns out they got this one right.

One more thing: What if they are right about Rogers leading? Well, as long as she doesn’t crack 50%, I’d suggest we all remain calm. For all its constraints and limitations, the state Democratic Party has managed to get the nominees it has wanted in the last three Senate primaries. Rick Noriega cleared 50% in round one in 2008, and Sadler in 2012 and Barbara Radnofsky in 2006 both won their runoffs – Radnofsky has said that her overtime race against the now apparently dormant Gene Kelly was the best thing that happened to her, as it boosted her fundraising and made people actually pay attention to that race. I feel reasonably confident that if Rogers is in a runoff with anyone, everyone else in the party will fall as loudly and visibly as they can behind her opponent, whoever that winds up being. It’s already happening to a large degree – the TDP, the HCDP, and the Fort Bend Democratic Party have put out messages condemning Rogers and urging Democrats not to vote for her. I’d have preferred to see that happen earlier than this, and I’d much rather it not come to banding together to beat her in a runoff, but I’m not going to fall into a spiral of self-loathing over this one poll result. Do your part to help people make a good decision in this race, and be prepared to support someone other than Kesha in a runoff if it comes to that.

Why some polls are less accurate than others

The local GOP had a rally Monday night that among other things featured a “straw poll” of the faithful to see who their preferences were in the upcoming primary election.

Harris County Republicans worked to energize their base on Monday night with a rally at the Galleria, where a parade of statewide candidates pitched voters for support in next year’s primary.

After nearly two hours of speeches, about 300 people participated in a straw poll that showed the party faithful support current Attorney General Greg Abbott for governor and picked state Sen. Dan Patrick almost 4-to-1 for lieutenant governor over the incumbent, David Dewhurst.

With Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson also running for lieutenant governor, that leaves those races open in the Republican primary next March.

Presidential grandson and nephew George P. Bush was the overwhelming favorite to replace Patterson. The crowd nearly split its preference for a new attorney general: Ken Paxton received 157 votes to Barry Smitherman’s 133 votes.

Among the candidates for agriculture commissioner who spoke, voters favored Sid Miller – who joined the race a week ago and has rocker Ted Nugent on his campaign leadership team – with 150 votes over rancher Eric Opiela with 106 votes and J. Allen Carnes with 42 votes.

The group favored Wayne Christian among a half-dozen candidates for railroad commissioner and state Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy, the author of the abortion restriction law that had certain provisions struck down Monday by a federal court, was the overwhelming choice for comptroller.

As it happens, one of the attendees at this event sent me screenshots of the straw poll from his smartphone. Here are a couple of those images. See if you can spot the problem with the poll’s methodology that my correspondent was unhappy about:

Where's Jerry?

Where’s Jerry?

Where's Debra? Glenn who?

Where’s Debra? Glenn who?

You can see the results of the “poll” here if you’re curious. My correspondent tells me that Jerry Patterson had a table at this event. I’d want a refund if I were him. I’ve noted before that the HCDP generally bends over backwards to avoid favoring one candidate over another in contested primaries, while the Harris County Republican Party often takes sides, so this is somewhat less shocking than it would be for a Democratic event, but still. To me, this is just disrespectful. Here’s another screenshot, with some of the candidates for Ag Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner. Malachi Boyuls, the top fundraiser in the race and who has a big ad in the Texas Conservative Review, was snubbed. It would be interesting to know who made the decisions about which candidates to include or not include in this straw poll, and whether the local GOP leadership knew about and approved of them.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m happy to lob spitballs from the sidelines. I just don’t understand the thinking. Why piss off the supporters of so many viable candidates, at a time when you’re trying to rally the faithful ahead of a tough election? Harris County Republicans face the same problems with demography that have helped defeat them in 2008 and 2012, and they face a fired up Democratic Party thanks to Wendy Davis’ candidacy. They do have the advantage of their huge turnout from 2010, and if a decent fraction of the new-to-off-years voters make a habit of their participation in non-Presidential contests, they could have the numbers to stay ahead of that demographic wave, at least for one more cycle. It surely wouldn’t have cost them anything to design a straw poll that included all of the relevant candidates. I have no idea why they chose not to do so.

Has Debra Medina been trolling us?

Peggy Fikac suggests that maybe she has.

If the idea of an independent run for governor by Debra Medina has made some GOP powers-that-be a little queasy, that’s fine with her.

All the more so, you may safely assume, if the idea prompts some of them to help fund the race she’d rather run for, the GOP nod for comptroller.

Medina caused a stir when she said she had been encouraged by unnamed people to run as an independent for governor. That would be a potential drain on conservative votes in the expected 2014 matchup between Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis.

Medina told me last week that a race for governor “is not on my radar … I can’t do both, and I’m really, really focused on running for comptroller. So, there’s no room in my future that I see for that.”

She added she was more encouraged by her prospects for raising the money she would need to compete in the GOP primary for comptroller than when we spoke just a week earlier.

“I’ve got some pretty solid commitments from some folks that are going to do some work, and we’ll see what happens,” she said. As for those trying to lure her into an independent race for governor, she said, “I haven’t heard any more about that since late September.”

That doesn’t quite jibe with what Rick Casey had reported a week or so earlier, but never mind. The “Medina for Governor as an independent” thing was both too good to be true and hard to understand from a rational perspective, since there was never a chance she’d come within shouting distance of being competitive. The fact that it fired up Democrats more than any other group should be a warning bell for all concerned. At this point, I think we should just assume that Medina is desperately seeking attention because her bid for Comptroller isn’t going anywhere. Mission accomplished and well played, madam. Beats me what she’ll do for her next trick, however.

Medina keeps mulling

And I keep marveling at the very idea.

Tea party Republican Debra Medina said Thursday that she is weighing a run for governor as an independent, potentially setting off a new dynamic with a three-way race.

Such a decision is weeks away. Medina said the switch would depend on what she hears from voters, whether donors are willing to invest, and if she can surmount the high hurdles to get on the ballot as an independent candidate.

But mostly, it depends on whether she can raise enough money to run competitively for the race she’s currently invested in, state comptroller.

She’s taken in about $100,000 so far for the GOP primary, but she is lagging far behind Rep. Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville and Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy.

“If I get to November and still don’t have that funding, then I will have a very serious conversation and we will evaluate” getting into the governor’s race, Medina said.

[…]

Recent rumors have suggested that Democrats may offer funding to pull her into the governor contest to help Davis. But Medina said the idea was presented in March by an elected official she declined to name. In a meeting, several officials told her they could raise the cash she would need to run as an independent.

“This was before anyone was thinking about, talking about Wendy Davis as a gubernatorial candidate,” Medina said.

At that time, Perry hadn’t announced whether he would seek another term, Abbott hadn’t joined the race, and it was unclear whether the Democrats would field anyone with gravitas.

She said she responded that she didn’t want to run as a long shot, but the offers continued.

Medina said she hasn’t asked who the financial backers might be because contributors don’t influence her decisions. But she dismissed the idea that it was trial lawyers or Democratic backers because they would have little interest in Medina’s politics, especially at the time the offer was raised.

She said she is weighing the option because the Republican 2014 slate of candidates will likely be long-serving Austin insiders.

“It seems the ticket we’re putting up in 2014 is by-and-large filled by those who fall into that ‘fake Republican’ category,” who don’t limit government reach, Medina said.

Running as an independent in Texas would necessitate collecting about 250,000 signatures of registered voters who had not cast ballots in either the Democratic or Republican primary.

“Look, that is a real steep mountain,” Medina said. “I’m pretty reluctant to pursue that.”

See here and here for the background. Some fascinating tidbits in that story – I for one would love to know who that “elected official” was that she talked with. The fact that Medina is aware of how daunting it can be to file as an indy just to get on the ballot is encouraging to me, in the sense that if she knows what obstacles she’d have to overcome and is still publicly thinking about it, that makes it more real. She’s still deluded if she thinks she can win, but she’s not so deluded as to think any part of this will be easy. I’m still not ready to take this seriously, but I won’t dismiss it, either.

Still pondering the Medina indy possibility

Ross Ramsey ponders the idea.

“I’m doing everything I can to assemble the resources necessary for a viable, credible campaign for comptroller,” she told The Texas Tribune. “If it comes to November and the money still hasn’t come in, I’ll have to pull my team in and say, ‘Okay, are these other offers real, and if they are, is this the path I should move down?’ ”

That could mess things up for the Republican in the governor’s race, whether that turns out to be Attorney General Greg Abbott, the fundraising front-runner, or Tom Pauken, the former state party chairman.

Medina collected 18.6 percent of the vote in that 2010 primary, which Gov. Rick Perry won without a runoff. Kay Bailey Hutchison, then a U.S. senator, got 30.3 percent of the votes. The point there is that at least some Republican voters have shown a willingness to listen to Medina. In fact, she is counting on those supporters now as she tries to attract donors for her 2014 efforts.

It looks like she’ll have to watch the motivations of those donors.

One way to win an election is to change the electorate. That’s not as nefarious as it might sound — banging on doors and getting likely supporters to the polls is a way of doing so. That’s changing the electorate.

Another way is to split the votes among more than two candidates. In primaries, that often forces runoffs. In general elections, third-party candidates can sometimes grab enough votes to change the outcome.

[…]

Maybe her mystery pledges like her politics and want her in charge; or they hope she will divert support from a Republican and improve Wendy Davis’ chances; or they really want Medina out of the way in the comptroller’s race. Whichever.

She could be the most interesting independent in Texas since Ross Perot.

As I said before, I just don’t know how seriously to take this. I don’t know who her mystery benefactors are, but it boggles the mind to think they might believe she could actually win as an indy. Maybe she and her money people are willing to take the chance on helping elect Wendy Davis, because that would be a live possibility, and surely they must realize it.

Look at it this way. Let’s assume there are five million votes cast in the election. That’s a high total, but about what we got in 2010; I am of course presuming the mix of voters would be different this time, but forget about that for a minute. Ten percent of the vote for Medina is 500,000 ballots for her. Add in another 100,000 for Libertarian candidate Kathie Glass – that’s two percent, right about what she got in 2010 – and what that all means is that Wendy Davis would need only 2.2 million votes to win. That is absolutely doable – Bill White got over 2.1 million in 2010 – even before you take into account demography, enthusiasm, Battleground Texas, the alienation of suburban white women from today’s GOP, and so on and so on.

Now, maybe Medina can’t get to ten percent, or maybe she takes more votes from Davis and fewer votes from Abbott than we might think. Maybe the overall vote total is higher. Point is, Medina’s presence would make the win total needed by Davis lower. Forget percentages and focus on vote total. More candidates means fewer votes are needed to win. Debra Medina could do more to help Wendy Davis win than just about anyone else in the state. I hope she and her backers never figure that out.

(Yes, I saw Robert Miller‘s post that implied the Mostyns were Medina’s backers. He has since walked that back. I don’t think there’s much more to be said about that.)

Medina for Governor?

Well, this would shake things up.

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina could end up running again for the state’s highest office, this time as an independent, she said Friday afternoon.

Medina, who has been exploring a race for comptroller for several months, told the Tribune earlier this month that she is having trouble raising the amount of money she thinks is necessary to mount a competitive campaign for that office. She cited a particular lack of interest from wealthy campaign donors who are typically pivotal in financing successful statewide races in Texas.

At the same time, in a development first reported by the Quorum Report, she said she has been hearing from potential donors interested in seeing her run as an independent for governor. Collectively, she has received pledges totaling millions of dollars, she said, and that has her wondering whether she ought to switch from one race to the other.

“I’m looking at the best opportunity to move these policy ideas that I have been working on: private property, state sovereignty, reform tax policy in Texas,” Medina said.

[…]

Medina said she would rather run for comptroller as a Republican than for governor as an independent. She feels the comptroller post is better suited to promoting the economic issues she is passionate about, such as abolishing the property tax. But she said she has had difficulty convincing wealthy conservatives that that race is worth investing in.

“I’m doing everything I can to assemble the resources necessary for a viable, credible campaign for comptroller,” Medina said. Noting that candidates must file for next year’s primaries by December, she added, “If it comes to November and the money still hasn’t come in, I’ll have to pull my team in and say ‘ok, are these other offers real and if they are, is this the path I should move down?’”

I don’t know how seriously to take this. Let’s be brutally honest here: However hard it has been to raise money in the GOP primary for Comptroller, her odds of winning that race are about a billion times better than her odds of being elected Governor as an indy. Surely anyone who might be whispering in her ear about the millions of dollars they would help her raise must realize that the vast majority of votes Medina would collect would come out of Greg Abbott’s hide, and the end result would be a much clearer path to victory for Wendy Davis. Don’t get me wrong, I would be thrilled beyond measure if this were to happen, it’s just that I don’t think I’ve led a good enough life for it to be so.

To throw some numbers out there, Medina got 275,159 votes in that 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary. That’s roughly six percent of the vote in a normal off-year general election. Add in the two percent or so that a Libertarian candidate is likely to get, and the win number for Davis and Abbott becomes 46%. I don’t think all of Medina’s vote comes out of Abbott’s total – as we have seen in other races, Ted Cruz’s being a prominent example, Medina will likely pick up some votes in heavily Latino areas. How much of that can and will be affected by the nature and quality of all the campaigns, especially that of Wendy Davis, but in the end Medina will cost her a few votes. Not nearly as many as she’d cost Abbott – if I had to guess now, I’d say between 80 and 90 percent of the hypothetical Medina votes would have voted for Abbott otherwise – so it’s hardly a Strayhorn/Kinky situation, which is good. Again, though, this seems more like attention-seeking than thoughtful strategizing. I would dearly love for this to happen, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Texpatriate and the equally skeptical PDiddie have more.

How about Wendy for Lite Guv?

Robert Miller makes a pretty good case.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Governor General Abbott appears unbeatable by Democrat or Republican. Sen. Davis, as a Harvard-trained lawyer, could run for the open office of Texas Attorney General. However, that does not appear to be a particularly exciting, nor necessarily winnable, down ballot matchup.

The marquee matchup would be to run for Lieutenant Governor, who serves as Presiding Officer of the Texas Senate. A fierce contest has commenced for the Republican nomination, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst being challenged by Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Polling shows that today Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is headed towards a Republican primary runoff.

Harris County is the largest bloc of Republican voters in the state, and Sen. Patrick is well-known and very popular with these voters. The margins Sen. Patrick will roll up in Harris County arguably could give him a spot in the runoff. The purest of the pure partisans show up for primary runoffs, and those are more likely to be Sen. Patrick radio listeners (in Harris County) and voters.

This would bring us a Davis vs. Patrick contest for Lt. Governor in November 2014, a stark contrast indeed. One of the most liberal senators vs. one of the most conservative; pro-choice vs. pro-life; woman vs. man; and, at this point, woman vs. a possibly all male Republican statewide slate. One mistake by Sen. Patrick and Sen. Davis has a shot.

The irony is she would then preside over a Senate probably comprised of 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats – the Republicans would have an excellent opportunity to pick up Davis’ senate seat. All of the Lt. Governor’s powers are derived from the rules of the Senate, which are adopted by a simple majority vote (16 out of 31). Wouldn’t the Republicans simply strip her of these powers?

My crystal ball gets cloudy that far out. But it wouldn’t matter from Davis’ perspective. If they stripped her of the traditional powers of the office, it would simply magnify her prominence and amplify her voice.

My thinking has evolved. I now believe it makes political sense for Sen. Davis to run statewide for Lt. Governor in 2014. As she hits the newsstands in August, look for #Wendymania to continue trending.

It should be noted that there’s probably as great a chance that the Senate would strip the Lite Guv of its traditional powers if Dan Patrick wins as there is if Davis wins. As we know, Patrick has made his share of enemies among his Republican colleagues. It wouldn’t take too many more to dislike or distrust him to make that a real possibility.

Another thing to consider is that Davis would be much closer to parity with the Republican Lite Guv hopefuls on the fundraising end. She has over $1 million in the bank after her latest haul, all of which came in the last two weeks of June. Patrick has $2.1 million on hand, Jerry Patterson has $1.3 million, Todd Staples claims $3 million, and Dewhurst has $1.7 million, though of course he can write his own check. All of them will have to spend a chunk of their money in a sure-to-be-nasty-and-substance-free primary.

It’s an interesting possibility to consider. This would still leave the question of who runs for Governor unsettled. Robert’s observation about the potentially all-male Republican slate – Debra Medina is one of the candidates for Comptroller, and Stefani Carter is a candidate for Railroad Commissioner, but beyond that it’s a big sausage-fest – is further evidence to me that Cecile Richards ought to jump in. I hope Davis and Richards have at least had a conversation or two about who might want to do what. EoW makes an eloquent case for Davis as gubernatorial candidate that you should read as well, but as things stand right now I’m leaning in Miller’s direction. (William McKinzie also thinks Sen. Davis should run for Governor, though he comes at it from a different angle.)

One last thing: If Sen. Davis does run statewide, whether for Governor or Lt. Governor, the person I want to see run to succeed her in the Senate is the same person that succeeded her on Fort Worth City Council, and that’s Joel Burns. Holding her seat would indeed be very difficult, but Burns would be the kind of candidate that would inspire enthusiasm and generate fundraising. Who’s with me on this?

Combs not running for re-election

And a domino falls.

Susan Combs

Susan Combs

Comptroller Susan Combs opened up the logjam that has been statewide office in Texas by announcing Wednesday that she will not seek election in 2014.

Announcements were immediately flying with state Rep. Harvey Hildebran, R-Kerrville, throwing his green eye-shades into the race.

Combs, 68, was first won the comptroller’s post in 2007, after having become the first female Agriculture Commissioner. She also served in the state House as a Republican from Austin.

In her announcement, Combs said she wanted to return to ranching and continue her work on private property rights.

“In the summer of 1994, I marched up Congress Avenue with hundreds of Texans in support of private property rights—and I’m not done marching,” Combs said.

Combs has almost $8 million in the bank and was looking at a run for lieutenant governor, which was dampened when David Dewhurst said he would run for re-election.

This will be the first open seat in the big six statewide offices in more than a decade and the scramble is already on to fill the post.

Besides Hildebran, other potential candidates include tea party activist Debra Medina and Sen. Glenn Hegar, R- Katy.

You can see her full statement here. The Trib also lists one-term former State Rep. Raul Torres as a potential candidate, and Sen. Tommy Williams is also considering it. Williams, Hegar, and Hilderbran would probably be OK, Medina is a nut, and Torres is unlikely to be able to compete with any of them. I’m sure others will jump in as well. Combs was at one time reported to be running for Lite Guv, but that never went anywhere. She wasn’t nearly as feisty as Carole Keeton Strayhorn when it came to pushing back on Rick Perry – speaking of the Comptroller Of Many Names, has anyone asked what she’s up to these days? – and her tenure was marred by her role in promising public funds for F1 racing in Austin as well as her gross mis-estimation of the state’s revenue in 2011, the result of which was far more drastic cuts to spending than was needed. I give her credit for (mostly) not being overly ideological, but some more competence and independence would have been nice. Texas Politics, PDiddie, Texpatriate, and Juanita have more.

Will there be a Libertarian effect in the Governor’s race?

Hard to say, but the odds that there would be at least one article about the possibility of a Libertarian effect in the Governor’s race were pretty close to 100%.

[Kathie] Glass, 56, is a Houston civil lawyer and Libertarian candidate for governor who is trying to pick up the frustrated right’s mantel where Debra Medina dropped it off.

While winning would be a long shot for Glass, her appeal to frustrated conservatives could draw enough votes to put a real kink into Perry’s lead over Democrat Bill White.

While Green Party candidate Deb Shafto has put her campaign into a website and a few public appearances, Glass and her husband, Tom, are criss-crossing the state in a motor home to espouse her views via a variety of talk radio programs. She also is buying radio ads to promote her appearances at Tea Party and activist group gatherings.

“I have an uphill battle, but in a three-way race, 34 percent can take this thing,” Glass told a San Antonio-based Texans United for Reform and Freedom meeting recently.

The odds against winning are huge, but Medina jumped from almost nonexistent in the polls to about 20 percent in the March GOP primary after she won a spot in a statewide debate. Medina’s campaign ultimately stumbled with a gaffe.

The real potential for Glass is that her message of stark government downsizing will steal votes from Perry.

In the 1990 governor’s race, where many voters were disgusted with the Republican candidates, Libertarian Jeff Daiell won almost 4 percent of the ballots. Daiell received enough votes to have given Republican Clayton Williams a victory over Democrat Ann Richards.

Let’s be clear about one thing: The difference between Debra Medina’s performance in the primary and Kathie Glass’ potential performance in November comes down to one thing, and that’s straight party voting. I surveyed straight ticket voting patterns back in 2006 when some polls showed Chris Bell barely breaking 10%. At that time, I concluded that a bit less than half of all votes cast in non-Presidential year races were straight party votes, meaning that the worst any Democratic candidate could possibly do was about 20%. I’ve checked some numbers for the 2006 election, and they clearly show just how hard it would be for anyone outside of the two-party system to make headway. Here are the straight ticket voting totals for some of Texas’ more populous counties:

County Straight Governor Pct ==================================== Harris 283,528 589,348 48.1 Dallas 232,136 406,325 57.1 Tarrant 160,352 326,337 49.1 Bexar 110,606 273,780 40.4 Travis 83,788 226,346 37.0 Collin 65,329 138,159 47.3 Denton 51,377 108,513 47.3 Fort Bend 48,816 98,667 49.5 El Paso 37,762 90,764 41.6 Williamson 31,681 84,085 37.7 Hidalgo 25,079 47,827 52.4 Nueces 23,892 67,623 35.3 Lubbock 22,113 53,564 41.3 Jefferson 21,858 46,775 46.7 Brazoria 20,584 58,441 35.2 Montgomery 16,051 31,510 50.9 Midland 11,538 24,769 46.6 Webb 8,002 18,391 43.5 Rockwall 7,070 15,625 45.2 Total 1,261,562 2,706,849 46.6

“Straight” is the sum of the Republican and Democratic straight ticket votes for each county. “Governor” is the total number of votes cast for all candidates, including write-ins, for the Governor’s race. As was the case in 2002, nearly half of all votes cast were straight party R or D votes. To get to 34% of the total in these counties, a Libertarian candidate would have needed to get more than 900,000 of the 1.44 million remaining votes, or about 64% of the non-straight vote total. What do you suppose are the chances of that happening? Even to match Medina’s 20%, she’d need 38% of the remainders. And remember, that would have been in a year with that bizarre four-way Governor’s race, which must have had a negative effect on normal straight-voting patterns. I fully expect straight ticket trends to be up this year compared to 2006. If you want to suggest that Kathie Glass could somehow repeat Debra Medina’s performance, you need to tell me how the math works for her.

This Politico story produces a different misleading statistic to bolster its claims about Glass’ potential effect on the race:

Perry received only 39 percent of the vote in his reelection in 2006, and Libertarians consistently draw between 3 and 5 percent of the vote. In an anti-establishment year, a compelling candidate like Glass “could easily get up to 7 [percent],” [Phil] Martin [who works for the Texas Democratic Trust] said.

I hate to disagree with my good friend Phil, but it’s not in the Governor’s race where Libertarian candidates have drawn that 3 to 5 percent, it’s in the other statewide races, usually the ones that are the most lightly contested. While the 1990 Governor’s race is interesting, and does demonstrate what can happen when you’ve got a candidate that is disliked by a non-trivial number of members of that candidate’s party, since then no Libertarian gubernatorial candidate has done anywhere near that well:

Year Lib % ============ 1994 0.64 1998 0.55 2002 1.46 2006 0.60

You’d have to have a mighty tight race for those numbers to make a difference. The last time a statewide candidate won with less than 50% was in 1998, when Carole Keeton Rylander captured the Comptroller’s office with 49.54% to Paul Hobby’s 48.99%; Libertarian Alex Monchak collected 1.45%. My observation is that Libertarian candidates fare especially poorly in the highest-profile races, when the Republican and Democratic candidates have sufficient resources to run real campaigns and are well known to the voters. If I had a lot more time and the statistical chops, I’d build a mathematical model to try to predict Libertarian performance in a given race. My guess for this race is that the over/under for Glass is 2%, and I feel that’s being generous. But we’ll see.

Now, even 2% could be a game changer, especially if Glass succeeds at taking more votes from Rick Perry than from Bill White. And hey, I could be wrong, and Glass could get the four percent that Daiell got in 1990. But as I’ve said before in the context of articles about how Libertarian candidates might have an effect on this race or that, let’s try to maintain some perspective. The hype is almost always bigger than the actual numbers turn out to be.

Where KBH and Medina did best, where White did worst

I’ve been poking around the county by county results in the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries to see what might be of interest. Here’s what I’ve found.

– Debra Medina carried three counties: Zavala, Crane, and Carson. There only 16 GOP primary votes cast in Zavala, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in that; Crane, with 457 votes total, isn’t much different. What was curious about Carson was that Rick Perry came in third, with a puny 10.31% of the 1,098 votes cast. Anyone have any idea what the deal was in Carson County? Oh, and while Medina pulled a respectable 36.31% in her home county of Wharton, that was only good for second place, behind KBH and her 40.51%. Her best showing in a big county was Tarrant, with 23.28%; Rick Perry won it but did not get a majority there, with 47.57%.

– KBH did her one better and carried four counties: Sterling, Concho, Wilbarger, and Menard. That’ll make for a great trivia question some day. By my count, she did better than Rick Perry in 28 counties, the largest of which was Tom Green – 61,983 voters, but only 9,939 votes cast; she got 45.88%. Her best showing in a large county was in Lubbock, with 39.05%, but Perry still got a majority there, as Medina barely broke 10%. In Harris County, Rick Perry won a majority in every one of the 25 State Rep districts. It’s really hard to overstate how much her performance sucked in this race.

– Bill White failed to win a majority in only 17 counties, of which Maverick had the most votes cast, with 5,470. He won at least a plurality in all of them, the curious case of Montague County having been resolved. His worst showing in a big county was in Lubbock, with 53.26%, though “big” is a relative term here, as more Democratic votes were cast in Maverick and Jim Wells, both of which are about one-fifth the size of Lubbock. (Trivia alert: Star Locke had his best showing in Lubbock County, where he finished third. You’re welcome.) White’s worst showing in a county with five-digit turnout was Webb, where he won 56.82% of the 27,689 votes cast. It was a similar story in some of the other heavily Hispanic counties, such as Cameron (57.64%), Hidalgo (60.01%) and El Paso (58.66%), where Farouk Shami had made some inroads and won almost 29% of the vote. He’s got some room for growth there. In Harris County, White got at least 90% of the vote in every State Rep district except for four – HDs 139, 140, 143, and 145. In HD134, he got an eye-popping 96.13%, which may be the most amazing result I’ve ever seen. Finally, he balanced out those 17 non-majority counties with 19 where he topped that 90% mark, including Harris and neighboring counties Brazoria, Montgomery, and Fort Bend.

I’ll have more precinct and county results in the coming days. Let me know what you think.

Election results: Perry avoids a runoff

So it’s official, the so-called “Battle of the Titans” was a titanic dud, with Rick Perry scraping past the 50% mark to win the GOP nomination for Governor again. Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose campaign will someday be used in political science classes as an example of what not to do, barely broke 30% and has conceded the race, though Debra Medina has not, and is still fantasizing about a runoff. KBH endorsed Rick Perry in her concession speech, gritting her teeth the whole time, I’m sure. We’ll have to see what her supporters and Medina’s do now. I for one can’t wait to see the next round of polls.

The post-primary reconciliation

The Republican primary for Governor has been long and nasty. It will likely go to a runoff, where we’ll get five more weeks of concentrated nastiness and attack ads. Any time this kind of high-level primary occurs, people wonder if supporters of the losing candidate or candidates will come home and rally around the nominee in November. As such, you should expect to see more stories like this in the near future.

Regardless of the outcome, the contest has already distinguished itself as the most divisive GOP primary since the party became the dominant force in Texas politics, generating hard feelings that may not be repaired in time for the general election.

“I can assure you that I will not be a financial supporter of Rick Perry, and I can assure you that most of the people I talk to are not going to support him either,” said Fort Worth oilman Dick Moncrief, Hutchison’s financial chairman in North Texas, predicting that Republicans who are “fed up with Perry” may wind up supporting White if Hutchison fails to get the nomination.

“There is absolutely no assurance that Perry can beat White in November,” Moncrief said.

[…]

“There will be some people who feel that their candidate has been abused by the other side and may not come back in the general election,” said Steve Hollern, former Tarrant County Republican chairman.

“When you have this harsh a race that goes on between two people, there probably is going to be some hangover or hard feelings,” said Dick Armey, a former U.S. House majority leader from Denton County who is one of Hutchison’s leading Texas supporters.

“My guess is once the primary is settled, most people will get behind the candidate.”

[…]

Fort Worth Tea Party activist Deborah TeSelle says she is unsure where she will ultimately place her loyalty if Medina, who was hurt by a gaffe in a radio interview with conservative commentator Glenn Beck, doesn’t survive Tuesday.

“There are reasons why we’re not supporting Gov. Perry,” said TeSelle, who founded the Fort Worth 912 Project, a grassroots conservative organization.

“We’re just going to look to see who’s on the ballot in the fall and consider [which candidate is] most likely to stand up for our constitutional liberties.”

She said she will take a closer look at White but added, “It’s hard to imagine that any Democrat would qualify.” Supporting the yet-to-be-chosen Libertarian nominee might be another possibility, she said.

We Dems lived through this in 2008, and as I repeatedly said then, I do expect most Republicans to return to their fold, as Armey speculates. Affinity matters, and most committed partisans don’t suddenly vote against their own beliefs and values because their feelings were hurt. There’s a lot of time between the primary and November for folks to put such things behind them and remember why they play for one team and not the other.

Having said that, some people do hold on to it. It’s no secret that Bill White and KBH have campaign donors in common, and it’s not unreasonable to think that some of them, like Dick Moncrief, will prefer White as their candidate in the likely event of a Perry victory. I don’t expect many Medina-ites to support a Democrat, but skipping the race and voting for the Libertarian are plausible possibilities. It’s way too early to say right now, and what ultimately happens is dependent on a lot of things, not the least of which are the campaigns that Perry and White run from here on out.

Last minute poll numbers

Public Policy Polling takes a last look at the gubernatorial primaries.

Debra Medina is fading in the Texas Republican race for Governor, and it continues to look like the contest is headed for a runoff where Rick Perry will be a strong favorite over Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Perry leads with 40% to 31% for Hutchison and 20% for Medina. Compared to PPP’s look at the race two weeks ago Perry has gained a point, Hutchison has gone up three, and Medina’s standing has declined by four.

Unless Perry wins the remaining undecideds by an overwhelming margin and/or peels off more of Medina’s support it looks like he won’t get to the 50% needed for an outright victory next week. But he leads Hutchison 52-35 in a potential runoff thanks in large part to Medina’s supporters, who say Perry is their second choice by a 52-24 margin.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Medina’s standing. Her favorability spread in the previous poll was 40/9 for a +31 net positive. Now she’s at 36/30 for a net positive of just +6. A 25 point drop on your numbers in the span of just two weeks is pretty unusual.

Full crosstabs are here. Phillip thinks Medina has weathered the Glenn Beck/”9/11 truther” flap pretty well, and she is clearly still a factor. I confess, I underestimated her in the race. Bob Moser has a pretty good take on why she’s doing as well as she is.

PPP did not poll the general election. Rasmussen has a new set of numbers on that.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state shows incumbent GOP Governor Rick Perry leading White 47% to 41%. Five percent (5%) of voters prefer some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided. At the beginning of this month, Perry led White 48% to 39%.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is challenging Perry for the Republican nomination, now posts a 47% to 38% lead over White. Three weeks ago, she had a 49% to 36% lead. Given this match-up, eight percent (8%) like another candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided.

These findings mark little change from January just after White announced his candidacy for the race.

Another GOP hopeful, Tea Party activist Debra Medina, has stumbled following a gaffe on the Glenn Beck show. In the previous survey, she had a three-point advantage over White. Now Medina trails the Democrat by 10 points, 47% to 37%.

It’s still the case that neither Perry nor KBH can break 50% in the polls, even in Rasmussen, which has consistently shown their highest level of support in their results. One normally says that incumbents who don’t poll over 50% – and KBH counts as one for this race – are potentially in electoral danger. Perry still hasn’t received as much as 50% in any poll of the primary, either, but another Rasmussen poll has him pretty close to it.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Republican Primary voters finds Perry leading Senate Kay Bailey Hutchison 48% to 27%, with Tea Party activist Debra Medina earning 16% of the vote. Nine percent (9%) of Texas GOP voters remain undecided.

At the beginning of the month, Perry lead 44% to Hutchison’s 29% and Medina’s 16%. In September, just after Hutchison traveled statewide to announce her candidacy for governor, she posted a 40% to 38% lead over Perry, but that was the high point of her support which has been declining ever since.

Early voting has already begun in the primary which wraps up on Tuesday. Turnout is often difficult to project for primaries, but among those who say they have already voted, Perry has earned 49% support, while Hutchison and Medina have picked up 24% and 20% respectively.

If the winning candidate fails to get 50% of the vote a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held on April 13.

Burka thinks KBH may concede rather than keep fighting in a runoff if Perry is that close to 50%. For what it’s worth, I’ll note that Al Edwards (48.16% in the 2006 Democratic primary for HD146) and Henry Bonilla (48.60% in the November, 2006 CD23 special election) both lost runoffs after coming that close to winning outright. An incumbent who can’t get 50% is beatable, it’s as simple as that. Perry may well prevail anyway, but there’s no guarantee of it. And let’s not go overboard here – Rasmussen is one poll, making its own set of assumptions. As Come and Take It (an admitted KBH partisan) notes, Ras’ sample was done on one day, while PPP’s was done over the more traditional three days. Let’s see what the voters have to say, then we’ll see what KBH does. Remember, nobody ever knows what KBH will do.

Two more polls

We are suddenly awash in hot polling goodness. First up, a new result from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll:

Gov. Rick Perry is well ahead of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and former Wharton County GOP chair Debra Medina, who are locked in a statistical tie for second place in a GOP gubernatorial primary that could go to a runoff, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Perry had the support of 45 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters — short of the majority required for an outright win. Hutchison had 21 percent and Medina had 19 percent, a two-percentage-point divide that’s smaller than the poll’s margin of error.

In the Democratic primary race, former Houston Mayor Bill White has a huge lead over his next closest challenger, businessman Farouk Shami, pulling 50 percent to Shami’s 11 percent. Five other candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination; the survey found that only 9 percent of those polled prefer someone other than the two frontrunners.

Not much to see here, as this result is well in line with the others, including the fact that the remaining Democratic candidates are non-factors. One wonders if Medina’s recent 9/11 trutherism gaffe will cost her. Perry rounds up some evidence to say that it will. One never knows with the Republican base, that’s all I can say.

In general election matchups, the Republicans trump the Democrats. Perry would beat White, according to the new poll, 44-35. Hutchison would, too, and by the same margin: 43-34 (in our earlier poll, she outperformed Perry in hypothetical general election matchups). Medina and White would tie, 36-36. Shami would lose a hypothetical race to Perry, 48-25; to Hutchison, 49-23; and to Medina, 40-24.

That’s the first general election matchup featuring Farouk Shami I’ve seen. After the latest Rasmussen poll came out, Team Shami circulated a press release claiming that those results meant Bill White couldn’t win in November. I’m thinking they may need to try a different tack now.

Democratic primary voters have a couple of other statewide races to decide. In the contest for lieutenant governor — the winner will face Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in November — labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson took 18 percent of those polled, former Travis County District Attorney Earle got 16 percent, and restaurateur Marc Katz had 3 percent. Five percent of voters said they wanted “somebody else,” and a whopping 58 percent remain undecided on the eve of early voting, which begins on Tuesday.

Friedman and Gilbert — two refugees from the governor’s race now running for agriculture commissioner — are locked in a tight race, 32 percent to 27 percent. While Friedman’s ahead, the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. And, as with the Lite Guv race, “undecided” is actually leading, at 41 percent. The winner will face incumbent Republican Todd Staples in November.

Now we have two Lite Guv results, and one for Ag Commish. I think Team Hank needs to be a little concerned about these numbers.

More from the Trib is here, with full crosstabs available at either link. And before I could finish posting about this poll, we get a Research 2000 result, which BOR summarized:

Question: If the election for Governor were held today, for whom would you vote for if the choices were between Bill White, the Democrat, and Rick Perry, the Republican?

All voters: White 42, Perry 46
Independents: White 45, Perry 42

The poll was taken from Feb 8 – Feb 10, and has a 4% MOE. A total of 600 likely voters who vote regularly in state elections were interviewed statewide by telephone.

Needless to say, that’s a fine result, and given that Perry is well known and White isn’t yet, it suggests a lot more room for growth for the Democrat. Even in the results where White has trailed by more, he’s generally been around “generic Dem” numbers, while Perry and now KBH have consistently been below 50%. Usually, the conventional wisdom in those cases is that means trouble for the incumbent. Make no mistake, Perry’s strategy will be to try to bury White under all kinds of negative attacks, since after nine years in office he’s got nothing else to say to convince people to stick with him. All these results have shown that he will have his work cut out for him, too.

White holds big lead in Dem primary poll

The headline and content of this Trib story is about another strong showing by GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina in a poll, this one by Public Policy Polling, but that’s not what interests me. I’ll get to that in a minute, but this is what caught my eye from the memo:

There is less drama on the Democratic side- Bill White leads Farouk Shami 49-19.

PPP surveyed 400 likely Democratic primary voters and 423 likely Republican primary voters from February 4th to 7th. The margin of error for the Democratic survey is +/-4.9% and for the Republicans it’s +/-4.8%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.

Far as I know, this is the first publicly released poll that includes Farouk Shami, and as you can see, it suggests he is not competitive with White. All of the poll data is included – text of questions, demographics, and so forth – and nothing in particular stands out as odd to me. The sample is 32% Hispanic, 19% African-American, 46% white, 3% other, which strikes me as reasonable. Shami does best among Hispanics, losing by a 23-39 margin. If there’s one more piece of data I wish this poll had, it would be a geographic breakdown. Does Shami do better in, say, South Texas than elsewhere? We don’t know.

The other data point of interest is that the no-name candidates, especially the ones with Hispanic surnames, barely register. Felix Alvarado got 5%, Alma Aguado 2%, Clement Glenn 1%, and that’s it. Alvarado and Aguado have the potential to force a runoff if they pick up enough stray votes from folks who have no familiarity with the topline candidates, but there’s no indication in this data of that – Alvarado and Aguado combined for 13% of the Hispanic vote, which isn’t enough to cause trouble. If this poll is accurate – and all the standard disclaimers apply – then Dr. Murray’s prediction of White winning comfortably in March looks good. Again, it’s just one data point, so apply salt as needed.

As for the Republican side, Medina’s 24%, which is well within striking distance of KBH’s 28%, certainly looks impressive and would make my repeated predictions of her not beating Ron Paul’s showing in 2008 look foolish. I’ll just note that 51% of respondents were not sure what impression they had of her, which suggests to me that her support is still pretty soft and may fade over time. Or I’m just deluding myself and she’s the story of the year in Texas. Who the hell knows with Republican primary voters? More from Burka, who seems to be mesmerized by Medina for reasons I can’t quite fathom.

UPDATE: BOR has more.

Another Rasmussen poll in TX-GOV

Following their GOP primary poll, Rasmussen has released another general election matchup; the previous one, from only two weeks ago, is here. For the most part, it’s not any different:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Texas voters finds incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry leading former Houston Mayor Bill White 48% to 39%. Five percent (5%) like some other candidate, and eight percent are undecided.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison still runs best against the Democrat, leading White by 13 points, 49% to 36%. Seven percent (7%) prefer another candidate, while another seven percent (7%) are not sure.
The findings for both these match-ups are little changed from mid-January.

The surprise, as in the new Rasmussen Reports survey of the GOP gubernatorial primary, is the growing strength of Debra Medina, a businesswoman active in the state’s Tea Party movement. Medina now edges White 41% to 38%. Last month, White had a 44% to 38% lead on her. In this contest, six percent (6%) favor some other candidate, but a more sizable 16% are undecided.

I wouldn’t read too much into the Medina/White result. She’s had a couple of good weeks, thanks mostly to the two debates, which gave her the chance to do her thing without taking on much fire. It’s basically a honeymoon bounce, and should any of the other candidates start attacking her, as KBH may need to in order to draw closer to Perry, she’ll probably drop a bit. And let’s be honest, she ain’t gonna be the nominee, so these numbers are for academic interest only. White, meanwhile, is more or less still at “generic Democrat” levels, having just now started to advertise. I’d expect him to get a bit of a post-primary bounce, assuming nothing horrible happens, then he’ll have to deal with whatever comes as the attention turns to the general election race.

As always, it would be nice to get more data points, if only to see if there’s any agreement on the state of this race or not. For all we know, Rasmussen is making assumptions no one else is about the electorate. It would also be nice to see a poll that pits the Republicans against Farouk Shami, for comparison if nothing else. Finally, one wonders if the GOP electorate will take a closer look at KBH’s so far consistently better showings against White than Perry, especially in the event of a runoff. Given how inept the KBH campaign has been, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this, but it could still sway some folks if they think about it in those terms. Mary Benton has more.

Rasmussen’s latest on the GOP primary

I have three things to say about this Rasmussen poll of the GOP Governor’s primary, which shows Rick Perry with 44%, KBH with 29%, and Debra Medina with 16%.

1. People are starting to talk seriously about the possibility of a runoff in this race. Many Democrats I talk to like the idea of Perry and KBH spending a ton more money for another month to beat each other up. There is much to be said for that, to be sure, but a part of me thinks that the longer the story is about Rick versus Kay, the less attention there will be paid to issues that the rest of us care about, and I’m not convinced that’s a net positive for the Democrats. But maybe I’m just overthinking it.

2. I’ve said all along that I do not expect Medina to do any better than Ron Paul’s 4.88% showing in the 2008 Texas Presidential primary. I still think the polls, which have lately shown her consistently above 10%, overstate her strength. I have to admit, though, she’s gotten a lot of good press from her relatively strong showings in the debates, which really isn’t saying all that much when you consider how lousy KBH was and how uneven Perry was in each, and it’s entirely possible that she’s become a viable “not Perry” choice for folks who wouldn’t have considered her before. I’d still bet the under on her, but I’d be a little reluctant to bet my own money at this point.

3. Is anyone going to poll the Democratic primary? We’ve got Dr. Murray’s back of the envelope guess, but other than that, nada. Surely someone has surveyed a few likely voters somewhere. Right?

And with that, I’m off to fire up the TiVo for tonight’s season opener of “Lost”. Burka has more, and my thanks to the Trib for the Rasmussen link.

Is the GOP gubernatorial primary headed for a runoff?

The Trib and Texas Politics both report on that Rasmussen poll, which in addition to giving us our first relevant general election result also shows Debra Medina climbing into double digits, with both Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison under 50% in the GOP primary for Governor. Separately, Burka writes about a different poll that showed similar numbers; he also commented on the Rasmussen result. I’ve said before that I doubt Medina will top 5%, and I still stand by that. She has no money to maintain the positive response she apparently got from the debate. It’s still the case that the Ron Paul crowd, for all the noise they generate and attention they get, aren’t that numerous, as seen by his showing in the 2008 Presidential primary in Texas. I certainly could be wrong and I’ll gladly admit it if it turns out that I am, but my tendency is always to bet the under on candidates like her. If I’m right, the odds of a runoff are slim. We’ll see how the next debate goes, as Medina will be allowed to participate, but I remain skeptical. BOR has more.

First poll of TX-GOV

And we have our first general election gubernatorial poll of Texas that has Bill White in it, courtesy of Rasmussen.

Incumbent GOP Governor Rick Perry leads White 50% to 40% among likely Texas voters. Four percent (4%) prefer some other candidate, given that match-up, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who runs second to Perry among GOP Primary voters, runs better against White than the incumbent. Hutchison leads the Democrat by 15 points, 52% to 37%. Four percent (4%) like another candidate, and eight percent (8%) aren’t sure whom they’ll vote for.

White leads Debra Medina 44-38, not that it really matters. No crosstabs for non-premium customers, so I can’t give you a critique of their sample. What I can tell you is that the first poll I could find from my 2002 archives had Perry leading Tony Sanchez by a 42-32 margin. That was in July, after Sanchez had spent millions on TV ads. The story referenced a poll from June that had Perry up by 20. All things considered, this early on and with White not having been on TV at all, it’s not too bad. I’d prefer to see Perry under 50, but as this is the first poll out there – I believe R2K will be surveying Texas soon as well – it’s what we’ve got. I have a feeling we’ll see plenty more of these before all is said and done.

Note also that White does better against Perry than he does against Hutchison. I wonder if we’ll start to hear more from the Rick Hardcastle contingent.

That was the debate that was

I’m generally not the debate-watching type, so I managed to find some other way to spend my Thursday evening that did not involve the Perry/Hutchison/Median tete-a-tete-a-tete. Plenty of other people did, however, some because they were paid to do so and some because they derive (sheer perverse) enjoyment from it. Some of those folks include:

Burka, who thought Rick Perry sounded better than he looked.

Bob Moser, who thought Perry sounded awful.

Eileen Smith, who wanted to know “Is this the best we can do?” (Hint: No).

BOR, who liveblogged and provided a statement from Bill White.

PDiddie, who rounded up other coverage, including a statement from Farouk Shami.

George Nasser, who scored it for KBH and said “if this is what we have to look forward to in the Republican primary, political fact-checkers are on the gravy train.” He also did a liveblog.

Team coverage from the Trib: Liveblogging, video, more video, analysis – the headline is “Not exactly a game-changer”, and links to other reports.

You will no doubt be shocked to learn that McBlogger was not impressed by any of the debate participants.

On the Move corrects a claim that Medina and KBH made about TxDOT.

Perry Vs World thought KBH needed to make the most of her limited opportunities to strike back at the frontrunning Perry, but didn’t quite do it.

RickVsKay agrees that “Kay never landed a big upper cut.”

Come and Take It has an open thread on the debate, and wonders if Perry really was as “aloof” as some have said.

My apologies to anyone I missed.

A gubernatorial threefer

Debra Medina made her filing for Governor today as well, and she hopes to be allowed in the clubhouse when the big kids get together to play.

“Texans deserve a Governor who is more interested in the needs of Texans,” campaign manager Penny Langford Freeman said in a statement. “We are proud to have a candidate who is listening to the people and offering real solutions for the future of our state.”

Medina, the chair of the Republican Party of Wharton County, wears the “Tea Party” label proudly. According to her website, the central issues of her campaign include eliminating property tax, protecting gun ownership, securing our border, and restoring state sovereignty.

Medina does not have the funds or name recognition of her primary opponents, Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, but she’s believes there’s more to a campaign than money. She recently told the Tribune, “If we could put a value on the shoe leather and elbow grease that has been applied to this campaign by the same activists that have been leading and attending the tea party and 9/12 events all over the state, we would look very competitive.”

[…]

As Medina heads into the fight, she says others — specifically Rick Pery — is running away. The Medina camp released a statement today saying that, when it comes to official debates, “each time we confirm, the governor cancels.”

“That’s just not true,” says Perry spokesman Mark Miner.

Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder says, “We would welcome Medina’s involvement in the January debate.”

Of course KBH would like Medina to be in any debate. That’s two candidates bashing on Rick Perry instead of one. While I’m skeptical that Medina will have any real effect on this race, I’m sure KBH believes, not unreasonably, that most votes Medina gets will come out of Perry’s hide. There’s little downside for KBH in giving Medina some visibility.

She’ll need all the help she can get. Dubious polls about teabagger ID aside, most people don’t know who Medina is. And all due respect, but speaking from the perspective of the perpetually underfunded statewide party, the value of shoe leather and elbow grease ain’t what you hope it will be when up against money and name recognition.

Meanwhile, Farouk Shami, who shook up his campaign not too long after starting it, is one of those candidates with a spotty record of actually voting.

Shami voted in the 1996, 2002 and 2004 general elections, according to Montgomery County Elections Administrator Carol Gaultney, but skipped the 2006 and 2008 general elections, missing chances to vote for Independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (to whom he donated $24,400) and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who Shami has called his inspiration. “That’s the man, that’s my man, that’s the man who did not let his strange name or an unconventional upbringing stand in his way,” Shami said of Obama at his November campaign announcement.

Shami’s primary election voting record is thinner. While the haircare billionaire is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next March, there’s no record of him voting as a Democrat in his home county at least as far back as 1996. He did, however, vote in the Republican primary in 2000.

The campaign is challenging some of the county’s data, saying Shami did indeed cast a ballot in the 2008 election. “He did go vote for Obama, but they can’t find any record of it, so we’ve talked with them about fixing it,” said Jamila Shami, the candidate’s niece and campaign aide.

As for the other skipped elections, Shami spokesperson Jessica Gutierrez says he was otherwise engaged.

“He was focusing on his company, and he had a billion dollar company at the time, and his business came first,” Gutierrez said. “He’s apologizing that he didn’t go vote, so that’s why he’s educating people that they should go vote.”

Okay, look. I’ve said before that a candidate’s previous voting history is not a make-or-break issue for me. It can be a deciding factor if all else is even, but it’s almost never a disqualifier. That said, please spare me the “I was too busy to vote” baloney. Most of the time, it takes just a few minutes to actually go to a polling place, wait your turn, and make your selections. Nowadays you have as many as ten days over which to do this. Nobody is too busy to do this, at least not year in and year out. If you’re one of those hardly-ever-voted-before candidates, don’t insult my intelligence like this. Just admit you should have done better before and then prove to me you mean it when you say you’ve learned your lesson.

Finally, Come and Take It notices that despite having endorsed Rick Perry in the primary, Sarah Palin never actually appeared with him while in the state promoting her book. Make of that what you will.

KBH: Not resigning till after the primary

That sound you hear is me saying I told you so.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is planning to hold onto her Senate seat until after Texas’ March gubernatorial primaries are over.

[…]

Campaign officials provided The Associated Press a copy of a speech Hutchison plans to give to Republican women in Galveston, Texas, on Saturday. In it, Hutchison plans to say she is stepping down in 2010 regardless of who wins the Republican primary for governor. But she says there are too many important issues facing Congress for her to quit this fall as she had planned.

Remember when “some time in October or November” became “I may stay till the end of the year“? Good times. Now will someone please tell me why I should believe her “I’ll step down after the primary no matter what” statement even for a minute? Seriously, she’s changed her story about when or if she’ll resign more often than most people change clothes. I say her story will change again, and there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.

I had originally drafted this post to talk about that new Rasmussen poll for the GOP gubernatorial primary that has Rick Perry up on KBH by a 46-35 margin, with Debra Medina getting four points (via the Trib). You will note this bit, which maybe could possibly be related to this announcement:

Most voters — 60 percent — think Hutchison should keep her job as U.S. Senator while she’s running for governor. Hutchison has said she plans to resign to run, but that’s now on hold as she waits to vote on pending health care reform plans. Only 26 percent said she should resign. As for healthcare reform, 76 percent strongly oppose “the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats.”

Need I say more? There’s no pressure on her to resign from the electorate, which is happy to have her in there fighting to ensure that millions of Americans remain uninsured. And when that fight is over, whether before the year’s end or not, there will be something else that will have the GOP’s hair on fire. Sure, whoever Rick Perry named to replace her would do all the same things she’d be doing, just with less seniority, but that’s not how it will play. Team Perry may be bashing her now for being in Washington, but the minute she leaves they’ll attack her for abandoning us when we need her the most. I’m the least surprised person in the world by these developments.

Anyway. The other thing I wanted to note about this poll was Medina’s four percent. It’s my belief that generally speaking third-party and lower-tier candidates like her tend to poll better than they actually run, especially when they have little money. Remember when Chris Daggett, the indie candidate in the New Jersey Governor’s race was polling in double digits? Well, he wound up with less than 6 percent of the vote in the end, thanks in part to having no money, and in my opinion in part to people realizing that a vote for him was wasted. I’ve said before that I doubt Medina will do any better than the 4.87% her BFF Ron Paul got in the GOP Presidential primary last year, and I see no reason to change my mind about that.

UPDATE: More from the Trib on KBH.

UPDATE: The Bill White blog says:

Every day that Bill White campaigns, he earns support. We’ve always expected that the election for Texas’ next Senator would be a special election after the March gubernatorial primaries, and that hasn’t changed. Bill’s running to work for Texans in the U.S. Senate.

So there you have that.

UPDATE: More from BOR, who notes that KBH says she’ll be in it till after cap and trade comes up, and Hank Gilbert.

UPDATE: John Sharp says on Twitter “I said before this started last december, I will be a candidate for U.S. Senate when this seat becomes available, whether in 2012 or sooner.” Hope he can afford to keep loaning himself the dough to do that.

Medina officially gets into the GOP primary for Governor

And then there were three on the Republican side.

Saying her two high-profile rivals have dropped the ball for Texas, Wharton County GOP chairwoman Debra Medina on Saturday announced her campaign for the Republican nomination for governor.

“We’ve done little to move in the right direction. Some may even say we’ve lost yardage,” Medina said during a rally at the Westin Galleria Dallas. “I’m ready to take the field as quarterback, for a time, for Texas.”

Medina, a top volunteer in U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, joins powerhouse Republicans Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison as candidates in the March primary.

[…]

As with Paul, Medina has enthusiastic supporters, which was evident by the decent crowd that braved the wet weather to hear her speech.

“She’s an important voice for liberty,” said Randy Hilton, a precinct chairman in Tarrant County. “She understands that our elected officials should answer to the people.”

Randall Woodman, a 45-year-old software engineer from Allen, said Medina would run a strong campaign, despite the odds.

“People are taking notice,” he said. “She will be a factor in the race.”

But some political analysts doubt she’ll be able to break through — even with the growing tea party movement that helped spawn her candidacy.

“It’s a career builder for her,” said University of Texas Political Scientist Bruce Buchanan. “She’s aware that the odds are against her, but because of her tea party connections, she feels like she has a chance to make a larger statement than usual.”

Enrique Rangel thinks Medina’s candidacy hurts Perry more than Hutchison. Maybe, but it’s not clear to me that her likely voters would have voted for Perry under any conditions; I suspect they’d have either found another protest candidate, or sat it out. And I don’t know how she’s going to appeal to anyone outside her existing circle unless she raises a few million bucks. Anything can happen, especially if her BFF Ron Paul makes a few appeals on her behalf, but I wouldn’t count on it.

And however passionate Ron Paul Nation may be, let’s not lose perspective. In 2008, after raising millions of dollars and getting tons of free publicity, in a Republican primary where the ultimate winner was already known and not a whole lot of campaigning was done as a result, Ron Paul got 4.87% of the vote in Texas. Even if you could imagine all 66,000 Paul supporters coming out next March for Medina, that’s likely to be at most about ten percent of the vote. Which might be enough to force a runoff, and if that happens it would certainly be exciting, but I wouldn’t count on anything more than that.

Berman not running for Governor

That’s too bad, because it means the Republican primary won’t be as mean, nasty, and bats-in-the-belfry crazy as it could have been. But while Leo Berman won’t be in the race, Bermanism will be.

Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, strolled into the University of Texas at Tyler’s Ornelas Activity Center and were welcomed by a standing ovation from more than 120 attendees at an impromptu endorsement swap.

Berman, who had been positioning himself for a run at the governor position, officially dropped his name from possible contention for the Republican primary in March and followed it by endorsing Perry’s candidacy. He did, however, announce his intent to run for a seventh term as District 6 state representative.

Perry publicly agreed to pursue to continue Berman’s four platform items on which he would run for governor, including: assertion of state’s rights under the 10th amendment, challenging the federal government’s regulation of intrastate commerce, ordering all state agencies to remove illegal residents from state benefit programs and allowing the training of state law enforcement officers to legally enforce immigration laws.

In other words, Perry bowed to Berman. The State Rep dictated the terms to the Governor. Way to show him who’s in charge here, Rick!

Perry agreed that continued diligence on the border is needed but pointed out the need for the problem, which has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, to be addressed federally as well. The governor did express, much to the crowd’s approval, his opinion that continued assertion of state’s rights will be needed to maintain Texas’ position as one of just six states in the nation not in dire financial crisis.

That and about $15 billion in federal stimulus funds, which saved us from the same kinds of deep cuts that so many other states are making. Not that any of these guys would ever admit that.

Berman was elected in 1998, unseating four-term incumbent Ted Kamel, whom he blasted for not adhering to a promise to serve only four terms. During the campaign, Berman promised voters he would serve only four terms.

Prior to announcing his run in 2006 for his fourth term, Berman asked voters to allow him out of his term limits promise. He said he had learned that effectiveness in the Legislature is largely based on seniority. And following his re-election, he was appointed to his first committee chairmanship, heading the House Elections Committee.

At which he was a dismal failure, and as a charter member of the We’re Going Down With The USS Craddick club, he was relegated to the irrelevancy that he deserves and to which in a just world he will become accustomed. But hey, who’s counting?

Anyway. The Republican gubernatorial primary is now a three-way, with Perry, KBH, and Ron Paul disciple Debra Medina. With Berman in the mix, the potential for a screwy result, even the need for a runoff, was nontrivial. It’s still possible now, but distinctly less likely to my mind. All I can say is that I hope Perry dispatches Berman to speak on his behalf all over the state. He’s the true face of the GOP today.

Berman says he’s in for Governor

Finally, the Republican primary for Governor becomes interesting.

With plans to join the GOP primary with Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, said today he wil announce as a candidate for governor the week of July 4.

“I want to run for governor because there’s one major problem in this state that no one seems to be addressing, and in of fact they are completely avoiding it, and that was quite evident in this legislative session as well, and that’s the question of illegal aliens in Texas.”

There’s video at the link, if you possess a strong constitution. All you need to know is that Leo Berman is stone cold nuts. Which makes him ideal for today’s Republican Party.

Berman was likely bolstered in his desire to run for Governor by an opinion from AG Greg Abbott back in March that said a sitting State Rep did not have to resign his seat once he announced his intent to run for Governor. Obviously, he’ll have to file for one or the other on January 2, so this may wind up being a bluff. But Leo’s just crazy enough to do it, so don’t count him out. With him and Ron Paul disciple Debra Medina in the race, I really hope that the next batch of polls takes into account the fact that there are more than two candidates in the race. I can make a case for them skimming votes from either Perry or KBH, but however you see it, they could have an effect, maybe even force a runoff. And wouldn’t that be fun? Stace has more.

Roger that

So about two weeks ago I got an email from a gentleman named David Smith, who is the proprietor of a website called Texans for Staubach, as well as the treasurer of a PAC by the same name, whose purpose is:

-To oppose the re-election of Governor Rick Perry
-To oppose the election of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to the office of Governor
-To promote the candidacy of Roger Staubach for the Office of the Governor of the State of Texas

I had a brief email correspondence with Smith about this, and told him that while I’m on board with the first two planks in that platform, I’ll be supporting a Democratic candidate next November. I have a lot of respect for Roger Staubach, even as a Giants fan, but unless he’s about to do a Arlen Specter, I don’t foresee voting for him in the event he heeds this call. Nonetheless, I said I’d give this a mention, and so here we are. I don’t expect anything to come of this – besides Rick and Kay, the GOP primary has at least two other potential candidates; I don’t see how there’s the room, or the finances, for a Staubach bid – but there you have it.

UPDATE: Turns out The Rog is a KBH supporter.

Perry’s poll

For your reading pleasure, a poll of Republican primary voters (PDF) by Rick Perry’s pollster Mike Baselice that shows a 45-39 lead by Kay Bailey Hutchison. You can read a poll memo to supporters that spins the results, but the points I’ll make are as follows.

1. The basic result feels about right to me. I think KBH is a favorite, but never underestimate Rick Perry in a nasty political campaign. As I’ve observed before, Perry has had all the initiative in this fight so far. I keep waiting for KBH to show up and try to set the terms of the debate on turf more favorable to her. I’m sure she has a strategy that goes beyond simply being herself, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. Perry’s strategy may not be one that will appeal to all that many people, but at least he has an identifiable plan.

2. Having said that, isn’t it a bit odd for a two-term incumbent to tout a poll that shows him trailing? The basic message here is “We’re not losing by as much as y’all think we are.” Seems like a strange thing to brag about.

3. I’m fascinated by the lopsided amount of blame being put on “Washington Republicans” as opposed to “Texas Republicans” for the GOP being on the wrong track. One wonders who they mean by that – John Boehner? Mitch McConnell? Michael Steele? George W. Bush? I’d argue that almost all of their problems can be laid at the feet of the latter, but given the amount of fealty he still commands from the rump of the party, it’s hard to imagine that’s who they mean. And will they feel that way about Big John “Chair of the NRSC” Cornyn in the event the Senate GOP caucus gets reduced again in 2010?

4. I continue to wonder what a poll that also included Debra Medina and Leo Berman might look like. I doubt they’d grab more than a few points, but in a close race that could matter, and I don’t really know who’d give up more of their share to them. I’ll be very interested to see the June finance reports to see if either of them has raised any real money.

5. What do you suppose KBH’s pollster’s numbers look like? Perhaps they’ll feel compelled to leak their own results so we can compare. Here’s a non-poll response from him, for what it’s worth.

UPDATE: Via Texas Politics, a new Rasmussen poll shows Perry with a 42-38 lead. Still not great numbers for an incumbent, but it beats being behind. This bit is my favorite:

Perry leads by 15 percentage points among conservative voters but Hutchison leads by 35 points among the moderates.

Which should give you some idea of the ratio of “conservatives” to “moderates” in the sample. Good luck courting the base, Kay.

Voter ID still pending

No hurry, fellas. Seriously, take all the time you want.

Rep. Todd Smith, the Euless Republican who helms the House Committee on Elections, said today he’s still trying to gather the five committee votes he needs to send a voter ID measure to the full House. Smith, you’ll remember, initially said he hoped to win the committee’s sign-off on his approach sometime last week.

Noting that House rules permit members to act on Senate bills for three weeks’ more, Smith said: “We don’t have a gun to our heads. I’m going to give the members of the committee time to get comfortable with a proposal.”

Smith did not confirm that he’s backed off his rewrite of the Senate-approved proposal that circulated last week, though there’s been talk that he’s willing to implement the ID mandate in 2011 rather than 2013 as he suggested last week.

There’s also chatter that Smith is amenable to requiring photo IDs of every voter, one of several principles listed in a letter signed by 71 House Republicans. Under the must-have-a-photo-ID approach, a voter without an ID could still cast a provisional ballot (subject to being counted after regular ballots) by presenting documents indicating her or his identity.

“We all have our preferred route” to a proposal, Smith said. “Everybody is going to have to give a little bit.”

Much as I want this to die, I wonder if the best result is for the GOP-preferred punitive bill to come to the floor, then lose because Reps. Tommy Merritt and Delwyn Jones vote against it. That may be the result the gives the most discouragement to it coming up again in a special session. Dying in committee may suggest to Governor Perry that all he needed was more time, not more votes. Just a thought.

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters and five other non-partisan advocacy groups released a document (PDF) that outlined their preferred approach to election reform.

Problems that need addressing:

1. Texas was 46th in voter turnout by voter eligible population in the 2008 general election. Only Hawaii, West Virginia, Utah and Arkansas had a lower voter turnout than Texas.
2. Texas has the highest number of recent violations under the Voting Rights Act.
3. Rejection rates for provisional ballots for Texas are among the highest in the country.
4. Advocacy groups report a significant number of instances of poll workers not following existing election law on provisional ballots and ID requirements but Texas doesn’t have an adequate method of reporting and dealing with these issues.
5. Hispanic registration rates are significantly lower than white-non-Hispanic registration rates in Texas.
6. Despite the mistaken belief that many voters are not eligible to vote, there is virtually no evidence of voting by non-citizens or voter impersonation.

Principles for addressing these issues:

1. Register all eligible Texas voters and make sure their votes get counted accurately.
2. Protect the rights of all Texas voters from deceptive practices that intimidate voters or provide false information about voting.
3. Encourage all eligible Texans to participate in all Texas elections.
4. Provide avenues to identify, report, investigate and resolve election issues.
5. Prosecute cases of voter and election fraud.
6. Substantive changes in voting policies, including any change in identification requirements, must be accompanied by a robust and multifaceted public and poll worker education campaign.

Good luck with that. Link via Vaqueros and Wonkeros.

UPDATE: A new draft bill made the rounds, with some concessions such as a 2011 implementation date but also some hardlining, as all non-photo forms of ID were removed as acceptable for casting a non-provisional ballot. Dems were not happy and circulated a letter demanding more hearings, which Rep. Smith was not inclined to do. Republicans aren’t that happy with this, either, and so no committee vote was held today. Postcards has the most comprehensive take on it, but see also Texas Politics, Elise Hu, and Rep. Pena.

UPDATE: Floor Pass has a more thorough analysis of what’s wrong with the “compromise” bill.

KBH leads Perry in early poll

Last week, the polling firm Public Policy Polling asked the readers of its blog which state they should do next. The readers, with a little help from us bloggers, picked Texas. PPP has the results of its first poll up now, which is a look at the GOP gubernatorial primary.

[Governor Rick] Perry trails Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison 56-31 among likely GOP primary voters.

Hutchison is viewed favorably by 75% of voters likely to vote in the Republican primary, while 60% have a positive opinion of Perry.

The 27% of primary voters who have an unfavorable opinion of Perry are obviously a problem for him. Hutchison leads 85-8 with those voters. But perhaps the even bigger problem for him is the Senator’s sheer popularity. 47% of those surveyed have a positive opinion of both Perry and Hutchison, and among those voters she has the 49-33 lead. So while Perry still is viewed positively by a majority of likely primary voters, the simply reality is that they like Hutchison more. He’s going to have to change that for any chance at political survival, and that’s why this race is already and will continue to be quite a nasty one.

Another problem for Perry is that Hutchison leads with every subgroup of the population PPP tracks by gender, race, and age. There is a slight gender gap with Hutchison leading by 28 among women and 22 with men but it’s still a substantial lead either way.

Perry is going to have an uphill climb to keep his seat.

Full results are here (PDF). I agree that this poll doesn’t look good for Perry. Having said that, however, it seems to me that there’s plenty of room for him to catch up, and not just because we’re a year out from the actual election. We all know Rick Perry is going to run a relentlessly negative campaign against KBH. It’s his nature and he’s got nothing else to run on, but more to the point that’s how you run against someone with better positives than you. I don’t know how likely he is to succeed – there’s always some blowback when you run this way, and sometimes the gap is just too great – but whatever else you may say about Rick Perry, the man knows how to campaign. If nothing else, I fully expect KBH’s positives will come down and her negatives will go up, perhaps significantly. And if the Democrats can get behind a good candidate for Governor who can look serious and thoughtful while these two fling poo at each other, so much the better.

One more thing to note: It’s possible this won’t be a straight-up Perry/KBH race. State Rep. Leo Berman is thinking about making a run, which would amp up the crazy factor a few notches. Debra Medina, a former SREC member and RPT vice chairman candidate, has filed her paperwork to run as well. She apparently has the support of Ron Paul, which should add even more zest to the proceedings. Neither of them has any realistic chance of winning, but I could imagine them affecting the outcome. At the very least, people who don’t like Rick Perry but think KBH isn’t conservative enough would have someplace else to go. Just something to keep in mind going forward.

We should expect more results from PPP soon, including some Senate matchups and a look at favorability numbers for President Obama. In the meantime, you can follow more GOP primary stuff at the Kay Versus Rick blog, which also has a Twitter feed, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.