Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Elizabeth Ames Jones

Some Republican women unhappy about Sid Miller

Noted for the record.

Sid Miller

Sid Miller

For many female Texans working in Republican politics, last month’s release of a video showing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump boasting about groping women was bad enough. They have since watched in astonishment as male elected officials from their own state have engaged in coarse rhetoric of their own.

The simmer turned into a full rolling boil on Tuesday, when someone using state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Twitter account used a four-letter word that is frequently described as “the worst word in the English language.”

“When I heard about the tweet, I was stunned,” said Jennifer Waisath Harris, an Austin-based public relations consultant with a long history with the GOP. “I have not been surprised with some of the words that came of the commissioner’s mouth … but it’s one of those words you just don’t utter.”

The consequences of what Miller’s camp describes as an accidental tweet, juxtaposed with both Trump’s tone and recent comments from two Texas congressmen, has the potential to run off an entire generation of the party’s female talent pool, according to several women with strong ties to the party in Texas. They’ve spent their careers fighting for hallmark conservative values including school choice, opposition to abortion, limited government and a strong national defense.

“I can’t believe he even employs anybody who would post such a thing if he didn’t do it himself,” wrote Elizabeth Ames Coleman, a former Texas Railroad Commission chairwoman who also served in the Texas House, in an email. “Is everybody just so desensitized by the barrage of gutter-level talk that they don’t recognize it anymore? How embarrassing to have any Texas elected official perpetuate this kind of discourse.”

See here for some background. The story goes on in that vein for awhile, and I’ll get back to it in a minute, but first let’s jump over to this Statesman story, which provides more context for Miller’s tweeting habits.

At 1:43 a.m. Tuesday, more than 12 hours before a tweet from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Twitter account referred to Hillary Clinton using a sexually explicit, derogatory term for women, Miller, or whoever was tweeting on his behalf at that hour in the morning, tweeted a question — “Can we bring Milo back?!?”

Milo is Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart senior editor who Twitter in July banned for life for directing his vast army of 300,000 Twitter followers to bombard “Saturday Night Live’s” Leslie Jones with racist tweets for her starring role in the “Ghostbusters” movie remake.

Miller’s middle-of-the night Twitter query was directed at four other cult figures, like Yiannopoulos with large social media followings at the alt-right edge of the Donald Trump political orbit.

There is Ricky Vaughn, who commonly uses the vulgarism for Clinton, and it appears might have been the source for Miller’s offensive tweet, which was quickly taken down.

There is RooshV, a renowned “pick-up artist” who on Oct. 17 wrote that women should confine themselves to reproductive sex, child rearing and homemaking, and who has warned that if Clinton is elected, a heterosexual male will never again serve as president.

There is Mike Cernovich, the man The New Yorker in its Oct. 31 issue profiles as the “meme mastermind of the alt-right,” who, on his “Danger and Play” blog, developed a theory of white male identity that posits that “men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.”

And there is Jack Posobiec, special projects director of Citizens4Trump, who maintains that the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump talking about his predatory behavior with women was part of an attempted coup against Trump by House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP allies.

TM Daily Post riffs off of this and provides a few links to help illustrate who this particular basket of deplorables are. The point here is that the tweet that brought on this latest firestorm wasn’t just some accident of the kind that could happen to anyone. It’s that Miller and whoever else runs his social media accounts regularly swims in this cesspool of racist misogynistic douchebags. They’re buddies who laugh at the same jokes and share the same worldview. Put politics aside for a second and imagine that you’ve found yourself at a happy hour with these characters. Would you order a beer and hang out with them, or would you get the hell out of there and be glad to be rid of them?

Back to the Trib story, the theme of professional Republican women who have suddenly realized that they have been at this particular happy hour from hell all along but only began to notice it when the men they have worked for and supported have failed to say or do anything to derail these jerks is one that has started to appear. It’s not just Miller and Trump, either – the story notes recent comments by US Reps. Blake Farenthold and Brian Babin, among others, as part of the problem as well. Part of me feels sympathy for these women because how can one not feel sympathy, and part of me wonders what took them so long to figure out what was plainly obvious to the rest of us. Mostly I wonder what if anything they will do about it now that they have had this realization. The Trib story mentions some write-in votes for Evan McMullin, a lessened likelihood among Republican women to run for office (already a problem for the GOP), and some vague talk about reforming the party from within or splintering off into something else. The real question comes at the end:

[Randan Steinhauser, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee,] suggested that with Miller, at least, women would have the final word.

“We are political consultants by trade,” she said. “We’re conservatives, and as a strong conservative woman, I open the door to a strong conservative woman challenging Sid Miller.”

I’ll believe that when I see it. I might even take it seriously if it happens. As I’ve said many times about other matters of political controversy, nothing changes until someone loses an election over it. The filing deadline for 2018 is in a little more than a year. Put your money where your mouth is, and then we can talk. The Press has more.

GOP results, statewide

Full, though not necessarily the most up to date, results, are here. The Trib and the Observer have good roundups as well.

– Mitt. Yawn. He was at just under 70% statewide, with Ron Paul getting 11% and Rick Santorum 8%. You have to wonder what might have been if Santorum had held on through May.

– Dewhurst and Cruz in a runoff, with the Dew getting 45% to Cruz’s 33%. I will not be taking bets on the outcome of that one. Tom Leppert had 13% and Craig James – cue the sad trombone – was below 4%. Why did he get in this race again? And did he really think he had crossover appeal? Geez.

(UPDATE: Mike Baselice, Dewhurst’s pollster, says every Republican candidate with over 43 percent going into a statewide runoff during the last 20 years has gone on to win. So Cruz may as well go ahead and concede now, right?)

– Christi Craddick and Warren Chisum will go into overtime for Railroad Commissioner, as will Barry Smitherman against Greg Parker. Supreme Court Justice David Medina got less than 40% in a three-way race and will face the will-he-never-go-away? candidate John Devine.

– All incumbent Congressfolk easily won re-nomination, with Campaign for Primary Accountability targets Ralph Hall (59%) and Joe Barton (63%) not particularly bothered. Kenny Marchant in CD24 was on some people’s watch lists as well, but he got 68% in his race. The two open seats for which the GOP is heavily favored in November were interesting. Roger Williams will duke it out with somebody, most likely Wes Riddle as I write this. Michael Williams was a total dud, finishing with just over 10% and in fifth place. Over in CD36, what in the world happened to Mike Jackson? Steve Stockman (!) and somebody named Steve Takach were neck and neck for the runoff slot. The other open seat, CD14, saw Pearlanders Randy Weber and Felicia Harris make it to the second round.

– The first signs of carnage are in the SBOE races. David Bradley, Barbara Cargill, and thankfully Thomas Ratliff all won, but George Clayton was headed to a third place finish in his four way race – Geraldine Miller, whom Clayton knocked off in a 2010 shocker, was leading the pack – and in a race that sure wasn’t on my radar, SBOE Chair Gail Lowe lost to Sue Melton. Where did that come from? The open SBOE 15 seat to replace Bob Craig was the closest race, with Marty Rowley leading Parent PAC-backed Anette Carlisle by 2000 votes.

– State Sen. Jeff Wentworth will have to keep running in SD25, as he had about 36% of the vote with 75% of precincts in. His opponent in July, in a blow to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, will not be Elizabeth Ames Jones, however, as Donna Campbell took for second place. I hope Wentworth can do better in overtime, because Campbell would make the Senate even dumber than Ames Jones would have. Former State Reps. Kelly Hancock (SD09), Mark Shelton (SD10, opposing Wendy Davis), Larry Taylor (SD11), and Charles Schwertner (SD05) all won the right to get a promotion in November.

– It’s in the State House that the body count begins to pile up. The following incumbents lost their races:

Leo Berman (HD06)
Wayne Christian (HD09)
Rob Eissler (HD15)
Mike Hamilton (HD19)
Marva Beck (HD57)
Barbara Nash (HD93)
Vicki Truitt (HD98)

Hamilton was paired with James White. Eissler was the chair of the Public Education committee. With Scott Hochberg retiring, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on two new people next year. And no, Eissler wasn’t beaten by someone who wanted to make public education better. Eissler didn’t distinguish himself last session in my opinion, but this is not an upgrade.

Incumbents in runoffs:

Turncoat Chuck Hopson (HD11, 47.15% to Travis Clardy’s 46.30%)
Turncoat JM Lozano (HD43, 41.55% to Bill Wilson’s 44.38% but with only 42 of 69 precincts reporting)
Sid Miller (HD59, 42.48% to JD Sheffield’s 41.50%)
Jim Landtroop (HD88, 34.63% in a four way race to Ken King’s 30.08% with two precincts out)

Speaker Joe Straus easily survived his re-election bid and picked up an opponent for Speaker before the first vote was counted.

– The Parent PAC slate had mixed results:

Texas Senate

S.D. 9: Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless – Lost
S.D. 11: Dave Norman, R-Seabrook – Lost
S.D. 25: Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio – Runoff

Texas House of Representatives

H.D. 2: George Alexander, R-Greenville – Lost
H.D. 3: Cecil Bell, Jr., R-Magnolia – Won
H.D. 5: Mary Lookadoo, R-Mineola – Lost
H.D. 7: Tommy Merritt, R-Longview – Lost
H.D. 9: Chris Paddie, R-Marshall – Won
H.D. 24: Dr. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood – Leading, in runoff
H.D. 29: Ed Thompson, R-Pearland – Won
H.D. 57: Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin – Won
H.D. 59: Dr. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville – In runoff
H.D. 68: Trent McKnight, R-Throckmorton – Leading, in runoff
H.D. 74: Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass – Winning as of last report
H.D. 92: Roger Fisher, R-Bedford – Lost
H.D. 94: Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington – Won
H.D. 96: Mike Leyman, R-Mansfield – Lost
H.D. 97: Susan Todd, R-Fort Worth – Lost
H.D. 106: Amber Fulton, R-The Colony – Lost
H.D. 114: Jason Villalba, R-Dallas – In runoff
H.D. 115: Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell – In runoff
H.D. 125: Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio – Won
H.D. 138: Whet Smith, R-Houston – Lost
H.D. 150: James Wilson, R-Spring – Lost

State Board of Education

SBOE 7: Rita Ashley, R-Beaumont – Lost
SBOE 9: Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant – Won
SBOE 15: Anette Carlisle, R-Amarillo – Lost

Unclear to me at this time if this is a net gain, a net loss, or a wash.

– David Bradley won his race, but Williamson County DA John Bradley was trailing as votes slowly trickled in. If that holds, it’s one of the best results of the day.

– Turnout was likely to be around 1.5 million, which will be a bit better for them than 2008 was (1,362,322 votes in the Presidential primary). Clearly, the Senate race drove their turnout. In 2004, they had less than 700,000 votes total.

(UPDATE: Total votes cast in the Presidential race were 1,438,553.)

On to the Democrats…

Wentworth and Jones sue each other

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a contender for nastiest primary race of the cycle.

In this corner...

On Thursday, incumbent state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, sued challenger Elizabeth Ames Jones, a former railroad commissioner, alleging libel and slander. Emergency room doctor Donna Campbell is also running, but is not a part of this particular squabble.

At issue is a new radio ad aired by the Jones campaign that says, “Records indicate Wentworth has billed both the state of Texas and his campaign fund for the same travel expenses — including gasoline to fuel his Lexus, which he leases with campaign money.”

...And in this corner

Wentworth takes issue with the implication that he has engaged in criminal behavior and insists that no fraudulent activity or double-billing has taken place. “To be falsely accused of committing a crime is over the line of political discourse and has forced me into filing this defamation suit against Jones,” he said in a statement. “I filed this lawsuit to defend my honor and the integrity of our democracy.”

At a press conference in San Antonio, Wentworth said that if he prevailed in his suit, he would donate any monetary damages awarded to a charity organization dedicated to educating Texans about the state’s political process.

Jones responded to the press conference with a statement doubling down on the allegations. “Sen. Wentworth’s double-billing for gas and airfare is the latest breach of public trust in his long and well-documented record of ethical problems,” she said, contending that there are more than 200 instances of Wentworth billing both the state and his campaign for fuel as well as similar issues with expenses on air travel.

Wentworth’s lawsuit counters with this explanation for his expenses: “The procedure followed is that the expenses are advanced in the form of a loan from [Wentworth’s] official campaign account. Upon receipt of the reimbursement from the state of Texas pursuant to the sworn expense report, the funds are then repaid to the campaign account.”

You can see why the Express News declined to endorse in this primary. All I can say is that I hope someone asks Ames Jones what the capital of Texas is during depositions. Seems like there’s been a fair number of lawsuits among candidates in recent years, but offhand the only successful one I can think of was Chris Bell against Rick Perry. I suspect this one will come to nothing, but it will provide us some entertainment in the meantime. Ames Jones has joined the fun with a counterclaim:

On Thursday afternoon, Jones said in a statement, “I will be filing a counterclaim in Bexar County District Court tomorrow because truth is an absolute defense, and my television ads are true.” She also called on Wentworth to produce copies of the reimbursement checks for the expenditures in question.

You can see a copy of Wentworth’s lawsuit here. He’s also this year’s example of why public officials should register their names as domains before someone else does. In case you’re curious, there is a Democratic candidate for this seat as well. The TM Daily Post has more.

Ames Jones resigns from the Railroad Commission

We have our answer about how confident she was in her defense of that lawsuit.

Elizabeth Ames Jones

Elizabeth Ames Jones resigned from the Texas Railroad Commission on Monday to devote herself full time to running for state Senate District 25, she said in a statement.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, whom she is trying to unseat in the Republican primary, insisted that Jones violated the state Constitution by remaining on the commission even after she moved back to San Antonio from Austin to run against him.

The Constitution says elected officers must live in the “capital of the state” during their time in office. As railroad commissioner, Jones had been living in Austin, which was the last place where she voted. She updated her voter registration to San Antonio in November.

Jones at first brushed off the attack, but last month she sought an opinion from the attorney general.

In her letter, she made several arguments as to why she should be able to keep the position, including a claim that, because the Constitution doesn’t define where “the capital of the state” is, the provision was unenforceable.

Yes, that was her “vagueness” claim: We don’t really know where “the capital of the state” is because the Constitution doesn’t actually specify it. Via Forrest Wilder, here’s an excerpt from Ames Jones’ letter to AG Abbott, which you have to see to understand the full ridiculousness of her argument:

Under the Texas Constitution, members of the Railroad Commission, along with other statewide elected officials, are required to live in the “capital of the State.”

“While this provision may seem straightforward at first glance, its meaning is unclear,” Jones said in her request this week for an attorney general’s opinion on the matter.

“The drafters of the Constitution were capable of prescribing the location of the ‘capital of the state’ but did not do so.

“If a statewide official lives in Rollingwood or Westlake, is he living ‘at the Capital of the State’? What about Pflugerville or Round Rock? Or, perhaps, Kyle, San Marcos, New Braunfels or San Antonio?”

She didn’t mention El Paso.

After I read about this, I asked Olivia, who is in second grade, if she knew what the capital of Texas was. She promptly answered “Austin”. Perhaps Ames Jones’ crack legal squad should have consulted her before putting that embarrassing legal theory in writing. This is the sort of thing that deserves to bring a lifetime of mockery down on its perpetrator.

Anyway. On her way out the door, Ames Jones released a whiny and petulant statement that blamed Wentworth for her inability to get away with flouting a clear Constitutional requirement for holding her now-former office. A class act all the way.

That’s hitting them where they live

Clever.

Elizabeth Ames Jones

Railroad Commission Chairman Elizabeth Ames Jones vacated her office when she moved from Austin to run for the state Senate, and she should not be continuing to collect her monthly salary, a lawsuit filed [last week] alleges.

In the suit, Austin attorney and former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire alleges that Jones’ move of her official residence to San Antonio on Nov. 1 to run in the Republican primary against state Sen. Jeff Wentworth violated a constitutional requirement that Railroad Commission members live in the capital city.

In order to run for the Texas Senate, Jones had to live in the district — which stretches from South Austin to San Antonio. Since she was appointed to the Railroad Commission in 2005, she has lived in a Tarrytown home that is not located in the Senate district.

Because she is no longer eligible to serve on the Railroad Commission, which regulates Texas’ oil and gas industry, she should no longer be getting a state paycheck, according to the suit.

“When an officer is prohibited by the constitution from discharging the duties of her office, her term in office has fully and finally ended, she cannot be a de facto officer and is nothing more than an interloper,” the filing by Austin attorney Doug Ray states, alleging that Jones is now being paid “for duties she is constitutionally prohibited from discharging.”

While the suit seeks to stop her paycheck, the suit does not name Jones as defendant — but instead was filed against Comptroller Susan Combs, who signs state paychecks. The law firm of Austin attorney Buck Wood, who has represented Wentworth in the past, filed the suit on behalf of Aleshire because the former judge is a taxpayer and has a legal interest in “seeing that his tax funds are not spent illegally.”

You can see a copy of the suit here. As the Trib notes, Jones has asked AG Abbott for an opinion on the matter. I’m no lawyer, but this is what the Constitution has to say:

Sec. 23. COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS; COMMISSIONER OF GENERAL LAND OFFICE; ELECTED STATUTORY STATE OFFICERS; TERM; SALARY; FEES, COSTS AND PERQUISITES. The Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, the Attorney General, and any statutory State officer who is elected by the electorate of Texas at large, unless a term of office is otherwise specifically provided in this Constitution, shall each hold office for the term of four years. Each shall receive an annual salary in an amount to be fixed by the Legislature; reside at the Capital of the State during his continuance in office, and perform such duties as are or may be required by law. They and the Secretary of State shall not receive to their own use any fees, costs or perquisites of office. All fees that may be payable by law for any service performed by any officer specified in this section or in his office, shall be paid, when received, into the State Treasury.

Emphasis mine. Seems pretty clear-cut to me: To hold statewide elected office, one must live in Austin. Austin is not in SD25, however, so we have a contradiction. And what does Commissioner Jones say in her defense?

While Jones has acknowledged that the Constitution says statewide officials should reside in the “capital of the state,” she argues that because the language is vague, it cannot be enforced.

Vague? Seriously? Again, I’m no lawyer, but “any statutory State officer who is elected by the electorate of Texas at large” and “shall…reside at the Capital of the State during his continuance in office” sure look clear to me. I’ll grant that it doesn’t specifically mention the Railroad Commission, but I daresay the folks who drafted this thing included that “any statutory State officer” bit because they realized that the composition of the state’s government may change over time. Just ask our State Treasurer about that. Let me say this: If there’s any evidence that any prior Railroad Commissioner – or Ag Commissioner, or any other “statutory State officer who is elected by the electorate of Texas at large” – did not reside in Travis County during his or her time in office without anyone kicking up a fuss about it, then I’ll concede the point. If not, I don’t see what leg she has to stand on. Judging by her lawyer’s pound-the-table response in the original story, I’d say she knows it, too. We’ll see what the court and the AG have to say.

Berlanga and Craig to retire from SBOE, Ames Jones changes Senate races

This could be bad news.

Longtime State Board of Education members Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, and Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, said they will not run for re-election in 2012.

First elected in 1982, Berlanga said 30 years on the board was enough, particularly given the recent ideological battles over history and science.

“It’s time for fresh, new blood to get involved,” she said.

Craig, a lawyer and former Lubbock school board member, was first elected to the state board in 2002.

Both consistently voted with a bipartisan bloc of the board during recent contentious adoptions over textbook and curriculum standards.

Craig leaving is potentially bad news because he was definitely in the moderate Republican bloc on the SBOE. He’s endorsed a successor, which may help hold his seat for the forces of sanity, but you hate to have to hope for the best in a Republican primary in what’s already proven to be a fever swamp year. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a bad feeling about this.

Berlanga’s departure is potentially bad news because hers is a swing district that could very well be lost if the Dems nominate a bad candidate or the Rs pick a good one. If the Dems manage to fumble what should be a strong pickup opportunity in SBOE1, which was taken over by an R in what is actually a bluer district than Berlanga’s SBOE2, we could be staring at a 12-3 split on the board. That’s not something I’d like to contemplate. Burka has more.

Meanwhile, Robert Miller was first to report that a third “contender” for the open US Senate seat in 2012 has woken up and smelled the coffee.

Railroad Commission Chairman Elizabeth Ames Jones has decided to run for Texas Senate District 25, which is currently held by Sen. Jeff Wentworth. Jones began making calls to San Antonio supporters late last week gauging support for the race, and on Friday called Sen. Wentworth to advise him that she was running.

Jones previously was seeking election to the U. S. Senate, and as of September 30, 2011, reported $304,067 in cash on hand. She will be able to transfer all of those funds to her state race.

Jones represented San Antonio in the Texas House from 2001 until Gov. Perry appointed her to the Railroad Commission in 2005. Speaker Joe Straus subsequently won the special election in February 2005 succeeding Jones in HD 121. Jones’ San Antonio ties are wide and deep, and she will be a formidable competitor to Sen. Wentworth. Dr. Donna Campbell has recently moved into SD 25 and is also in the race.

I’m hard pressed to think of anything Ames Jones has done other than be in the right place at the right time. Her Senate campaign had all the traction of tube socks on a freshly waxed floor, but she thinks she can win by being the bigger wingnut, and I can’t say she’s wrong about that, though I hope she is. The Senate and the SBOE both have the potential to be a lot less functional after this election.

Ames Jones jumps in, Williams to follow

I don’t really think Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones has much of a chance in the race to replace KBH in the Senate. She was a fairly nondescript State Rep who got appointed to the RRC by Rick Perry then won a full term in the low-turnout 2006 election, and off the top of my head I have no idea what besides that she can claim as accomplishments. But I will give her props for this.

She said she would not resign her seat on the Railroad Commission to pursue the Senate seat, although she does not plan to seek re-election. Her term is up in 2012. Michael Williams, her fellow commissioner and a likely candidate for the Senate himself, has said he will resign from the commission April 2.

“I would never leave my post,” Jones said.

At least it’s a way to differentiate herself from the other Railroad Commish that’s seeking a promotion. And it’s one less appointment Perry gets to make, assuming the RRC doesn’t get reconstituted between now and then. There’s also the fact that she’s campaigning on a promise to do absolutely nothing constructive if elected, which is almost refreshing in a nihilistic sort of way. It might help explain why I can’t think of anything she’s done while in office, anyway. Big Jolly has more.

As for Williams, now that he’s fixing to have a lot of free time on his hands, he’s ready to jump in as well. Boy, two Railroad Commissioners in the same race – can you feel the excitement?

RRC Commish Williams to leave his post

Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, a ten-year incumbent who has nonetheless managed to claim the mantel of “outsider/insurgent” in the race for the 2012 GOP Senate nomination, will reportedly resign his post so as to actually be an outsider of some kind.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams likely will announced Wednesday that he will resign his seat to concentrate on a 2012 run for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Williams has been a candidate for the seat for more than a year, along with fellow Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Secretary of State Roger Williams.

The main bits of interest for me in this is that it means Governor Perry gets to appoint Williams’ replacement on the RRC; that person would then have to be on the ballot in 2012 to finish out Williams’ term, which expires in 2014. If fellow Commissioner and Senate candidate Elizabeth Ames Jones, whose term on the RRC is up in 2012, stays in the Senate race, there would be two seats on the Commission up for election, with neither one having a candidate who had been previously voted in to that position. Assuming, of course, that the RRC is not disbanded as a result of its Sunset review.

Speaking of which, the Trib fills in the picture a bit more:

[The Sunset Advisory Commission] has recommended several changes at the agency, including one that would replace the three elected commissioners with just one. Williams praised that idea when it was proposed; now he’s leaving before the legislative debate on that and other changes can begin.

The resignation will let him focus on the Senate race. State officeholders are barred from raising money for state races while the Legislature is in session. They can raise money for federal races, but it creates an awkward situation where they are asking people who have a stake in what the Legislature is doing to give money to the politicians who might have some influence over that process.

This move gets Williams out of that trap, frees him to campaign, and lets him avoid any turmoil that might come out of the Sunset bill.

Gotta admit, it’s a slick move. One wonders if Ames Jones will follow suit. If not, one wonders if she’s rethinking her entry into the Senate race. There’s only so much room, and it’s crowded already. Greg and Burka have more.

It’s always tease, tease, tease

I refer of course to the ongoing Waiting for KBH saga.

Hutchison hasn’t said whether she’ll retire or seek re-election in 2012, but several prominent Texans — including Republicans such as former Secretary of State Roger Williams and Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones, along with Democratic former Comptroller John Sharp — have long said they plan to run.

And now there’s talk of perhaps a half-dozen or more Tea Party-affiliated candidates joining the race if Hutchison seeks re-election.
“If [she] runs for Senate again, I feel she will be met with the same results that she received when she ran for governor,” said Angela Cox, who heads the Johnson County Tea Party. “Hard feelings are there, not necessarily because she challenged Perry, but [because] she didn’t remain put as a senior Republican senator from Texas in Washington when we needed her to.”

[…]

Now the question is whether Hutchison, in office since 1993, will seek a full fourth term. A statement from her office said Hutchison “is not thinking about this right now” but instead is focused on congressional work.

“A number of ambitious politicians have been waiting a long time for a way to move up, and if she chooses to run there will likely be a large field in the race,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist and former aide to Hutchison. “But her decision will determine the shape of the race because everyone else is secondary. She’s done a lot for the state over her term in office and it won’t be easily forgotten.”

Roger Williams, a Weatherford car dealer, has said he’s in the Senate race no matter what, and in recent weeks he has sent out campaign cards reminding voters of his 2012 candidacy. “We feel that our campaign has a lot of the Tea Party support and would not be at all surprised to be backed by them,” said Colby Hale, his campaign manager. Jones is also in the Senate race. “Mrs. Jones has been crystal clear that when her term ends on the Railroad Commission in 2012 she will not file for another term, but will instead file to run in the Republican primary for the United States Senate,” said Steve Dutton, her campaign manager.

Michael Williams maintains a “Williams for United States Senate” website and has attended several Tea Party events. “I have said from the beginning, I will be a candidate for this seat whenever it comes up,” Williams said in a posting on his site. He could not be reached for comment.

Sharp, who did not return a call from the Star-Telegram, has indicated that he would like to run for the Senate in 2012, but his campaign website has been disabled and his campaign telephone number has been disconnected.

So as always, no one knows what KBH will do, teabaggers hate her, and the line of Republicans wanting to run to replace her is already out the door. Tell me something I don’t know, right? The one bit of interest here is John Sharp not being easily reachable for comment, given that he’s not particularly shy and has been out there telling people he’s in it for 2012. Probably doesn’t mean anything, but we’ll see if there are any further signs of waffling the next time this article gets written.

And if anyone is wondering what the title of this post to, you should surely know the lyrics to KBH’s theme song by now:

There may come a day when that video gets old, but that day is still a long way off. Thanks to BOR for the link.

Vasquez and Carrillo

Newly-unelected Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez makes the same complaint about why he is headed for the unemployment line as Victor Carrillo did.

Carrillo started the ethnic angst with an e-mail to supporters indicating racial bias had cost him re-election. That was followed up by Vasquez’s campaign manager and girlfriend, SuZanne Feather, sending out an e-mail saying there were “many similarities” between Carrillo and Vasquez’s loss on Tuesday to tea party activist Don Sumners. Vasquez joined in during an interview with the Houston Chronicle.

“It is perplexing that someone could basically spend no money whatsoever and mount no campaign and win as handily as he did,” Vasquez said. “The same thing happened in the Victor Carrillo race as well.”

But Vasquez’s predecessor in office, Paul Bettencourt said Vasquez lost because he had issues in his personal life that cost him the support of social conservative organizations.

Consultant Allen Blakemore, speaking for social conservative leader Steve Hotze, said Republicans were upset with Vasquez for settling a voter-registration lawsuit with Democrats and for not being as vocal on property tax increases as Bettencourt. Blakemore said the “final blow” came when social conservative leaders learned Vasquez lives with a woman married to another man.

Vasquez admitted social conservative leaders Hotze and Terry Lowry “probably got him (Sumners) another 10,000 votes and maybe even made the full difference between us.”

“The Republican Party, especially in Harris County, has been, unfortunately, overly controlled and influenced by a small, but vocal group on the religious right, and we need to get back to the core principles of fiscal conservative issues rather than these social issues that are being perpetuated by that small, but vocal, minority,” Vasquez said.

You’re just figuring that out now, Leo? What color is the sky on your planet?

As for the justifications Bettencourt and Blakemore give, I’ll say this much. I had heard about Vasquez’ relationship to Feather, and can say with confidence that it would have come up in the general election had Vasquez been the nominee. I have no idea how well known it was among the people who actually voted in that race – Big Jolly mentions it, while also acknowledging Vasquez’ complaint and noting that “there is still a lot of resentment around the county in the wake of Paul Bettencourt’s sudden resignation and Vasquez’ appointment” – but my suspicion is that it wasn’t particularly well known. Had Don Sumners made it a campaign issue, I expect it would have been news, and there was no such news reported. A Google search of “leo vasquez suzanne feather” yields nothing relevant. Similarly, I can’t really evaluate the claim about Vasquez’s settlement of the HCDP lawsuit. Big Jolly didn’t mention it, and a Google search turns up mostly Democratic links. Maybe more people knew about it than I might think, but if it was a campaign issue and not just something that a handful of connected folks were grumbling about, it was a mighty quiet one.

I don’t doubt that the issues Bettencourt and Blakemore cite affected how some people voted. The question is how many of the 120,000+ people who cast a vote in that race were affected by those particular factors. Unlike David Porter, Don Sumners was at least someone who had been an elected official before, and presumably started out with some kind of base. That in and of itself may have been enough for him to win.

One thing I am sure of is that Vasquez is now officially dead to the Republican establishment. Look at what they’re doing to poor Victor Carrillo:

Republican consultant Ted Delisi said Carrillo spent far less than Railroad Commissioners Elizabeth Ames Jones or Michael Williams did on their re-election campaigns and said Carrillo did little personal campaigning.

“In the end, a bad campaign is just a bad campaign,” Delisi said.

That’s a pretty remarkable piece of disinformation. First, it appears to be comparing Williams’ and Ames Jones’ general election efforts to Carrillo’s primary campaign. I say that in part because Michael Williams had no primary opponent in 2008, so however much money he spent in that race, his renomination was never in doubt. As for Ames Jones, she did have a primary opponent in 2006. Her eight days out report for that race shows that she spent $580,116. Carrillo’s eight days out report, by comparison, had expenditures of $525,666. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t meet my definition of “far less”. Finally, since Porter ran no campaign at all, Delisi is implying that Carrillo’s campaign was not merely inadequate but that it must have actively persuaded people to vote against him. Even by the standards of Republican consultants, that’s a pretty damn brazen thing to say. But it’s the sort of thing they’re going to be saying about you now, Leo. I hope you’re prepared for that.

Senate fundraising numbers are in

We know that Bill White raised $1.5 million this quarter for his Senate campaign. Now the other candidates’ totals have come in.

White’s take of $1.5 million over the 90-day period ending Oct. 1 — including his personal donation of $414,398 — helped push the two-term mayor’s accumulated Senate campaign fundraising to more than $6 million. White garnered donations from nearly 2,000 new, first-time contributors, said campaign spokeswoman Katy Bacon.

[John] Sharp raised $615,110 during the same period, pushing his total to $3.8 million.

The third quarter numbers are not on the FEC page yet, so we’ll have to see how much of Sharp’s $600K raised is really just another check to himself. Given that 80% of the $3.1 million he’s reported so far is his own money, I wouldn’t be too optimistic, but maybe he’ll prove me wrong this time.

As for the others, here’s a chart:

Candidate Q3 raised Total raised Loans ============================================================ Bill White 1,500,000 6,000,000 500,000 John Sharp 600,000 3,800,000 2,600,000 * Florence Shapiro 354,000 1,000,000 110,000 Roger Williams 336,000 1,300,000 150,000 * Elizabeth Ames Jones 208,000 770,000 0 * Michael Williams 142,000 473,000 150,000

I’ve rounded the numbers off for simplicity. The asterisks indicate that we don’t know for sure how much, if any, loans the candidates made to themselves this quarter. White’s $1.5 million is a bit less than all the other candidates’ totals combined. If you take out everybody’s loans, he’s easily outraised them all overall. I don’t think there’s anything to add to that.

Senate fundraising scorecard

We’ve seen campaign fundraising for city of Houston races and for state of Texas races, now let’s take a look at the Senate race, whenever that will be. Here’s what I’ve got for the major candidates via the FEC webpage:

Elizabeth Ames Jones

Total Receipts: $405,661
Transfers From Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Contributions: $404,411
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees: $1,250
Contributions from Party Committees $0
Candidate Contribution: $0
Candidate Loans: $0
Other Loans: $0
Total Disbursements: $107,682
Transfers to Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Refunds: $2,000
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Refunds: $0
Candidate Loan Repayments: $0
Other Loan Repayments: $0
Beginning Cash: $145,232
Latest Cash On Hand: $443,211
Debts Owed By: $0

Florence Shapiro

Total Receipts: $134,880
Transfers From Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Contributions: $124,880
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees: $0
Contributions from Party Committees $0
Candidate Contribution: $0
Candidate Loans: $10,000
Other Loans: $0
Total Disbursements: $214,076
Transfers to Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Refunds: $0
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Refunds: $0
Candidate Loan Repayments: $0
Other Loan Repayments: $0
Beginning Cash: $375,556
Latest Cash On Hand: $296,361
Debts Owed By: $10,000

John Sharp

Total Receipts: $3,173,249
Transfers From Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Contributions: $532,880
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees: $5,000
Contributions from Party Committees $0
Candidate Contribution: $23,000
Candidate Loans: $2,612,369
Other Loans: $0
Total Disbursements: $264,968
Transfers to Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Refunds: $90,400
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Refunds: $0
Candidate Loan Repayments: $1,678
Other Loan Repayments: $0
Beginning Cash: $0
Latest Cash On Hand: $2,908,280
Debts Owed By: $2,610,691

Bill White

Total Receipts: $3,735,773
Transfers From Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Contributions: $2,816,284
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees: $38,550
Contributions from Party Committees $0
Candidate Contribution: $879,031
Candidate Loans: $0
Other Loans: $0
Total Disbursements: $1,125,311
Transfers to Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Refunds: $79,460
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Refunds: $5,000
Candidate Loan Repayments: $0
Other Loan Repayments: $392
Beginning Cash: $727,595
Latest Cash On Hand: $3,340,105
Debts Owed By: $36,678

Michael Williams

Total Receipts: $431,848
Transfers From Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Contributions: $330,748
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees: $1,100
Contributions from Party Committees $0
Candidate Contribution: $0
Candidate Loans: $100,000
Other Loans: $0
Total Disbursements: $263,703
Transfers to Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Refunds: $2,600
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Refunds: $0
Candidate Loan Repayments: $0
Other Loan Repayments: $0
Beginning Cash: $0
Latest Cash On Hand: $168,144
Debts Owed By: $107,659

Roger Williams

Total Receipts: $870,502
Transfers From Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Contributions: $716,585
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees: $3,300
Contributions from Party Committees $0
Candidate Contribution: $0
Candidate Loans: $150,000
Other Loans: $0
Total Disbursements: $273,931
Transfers to Authorized Committees: $0
Individual Refunds: $0
Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Refunds: $0
Candidate Loan Repayments: $0
Other Loan Repayments: $0
Beginning Cash: $131,027
Latest Cash On Hand: $727,597
Debts Owed By: $251,830

Basically, Bill White is in a league of his own, though Roger Williams did have a decent quarter. Depending on how things go with the FEC, things may get even better for White on the fundraising trail. I don’t know what to say about John Sharp – raising $45K for the entire quarter? That’s incredible, and not in the good way. Note that counting refunds, he was actually in negative territory before you factor in the loans. That money’s as good as any to spend, but he can’t maintain that kind of pace and hope to remain competitive. If he can’t do better this quarter, he really ought to consider his options.

The Senate fundraising scorecard so far

Here’s what you see for candidates for the US Senate in Texas for the 2009-10 election cycle. I’ve removed the two incumbents plus candidates from previous cycles who are sitll filing finance reports.

Republicans Name Raised Spent Net Cash Debts ======================================================= Ames Jones 49,800 30,369 164,662 0 Shapiro 34,077 99,226 310,407 16,500 Williams, M 206,335 92,377 113,957 51,426 Williams, R 348,081 90,479 388,628 200,501 Total 628,293 412,451 977,654 268,427 Democrats Name Raised Spent Net Cash Debts ======================================================= White 1,867,163 472,119 2,131,638 32,890 Sharp ??? ??? ??? ???

Putting it another way, Bill White raised three times as much as the four Republican candidates combined. Take out the loans, and it’s more like five times as much. He also has more than twice the cash on hand.

So, yeah, I think you can say the Democratic candidates have the early financial lead. Admittedly, Florence Shapiro is hamstrung by the current legislative session; her second quarter numbers will likely be weak as well, especially if there’s a special session. I don’t think it would have made that much difference, however.

And of course all this is before we take into account what John Sharp did. The FEC still doesn’t have Sharp’s details, but BOR’s David Mauro has the scoop:

$515,155.00 – Total contributions other than loans
$514,955.00 – Net contributions other than loans
$2,001,678.10 – Loans made or guaranteed by the candidate

I was sent PDFs with this info shortly thereafter, so I’m sure the FEC page will be updated to reflect this information. The good news for Sharp is that if you subtract the loan money he still outraised the four Republicans. Needless to say, though, that’s nowhere near as impressive as the huge haul he said he had at the deadline. No wonder he clammed up completely after that.

Now this is just the first quarter of a cycle that I believe will go on for at least two full years; more if KBH loses in either race in 2010 and decides to stick it out in DC. Maybe White can’t maintain this pace, maybe Sharp can pick it up; for sure the Republicans, especially Shapiro, can do better than this. As Joe Sheehan likes to say at the Baseball Prospectus, you can’t judge a team’s season by the first few weeks. We’ll know soon enough who will have the funds they need to compete.

White rakes it in for his Senate bid

Among other things, today is the deadline for federal candidates to report their campaign finance status. Of the many contenders for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat, whenever that becomes available, I think it’s safe to say that Bill White had the best start to the year. From his press release:

Mayor Bill White reported contributions totaling more than $2.6 million in just over 100 days since launching his U.S. Senate campaign, according to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission today.

More than 1,400 Texans contributed through March 31st, the end of the filing period. The contributions for the filing period totaled more than $1.8 million.

Campaign Finance Chair Scott Atlas said, “The outpouring of support from donors and volunteers has been simply amazing. The energy around Mayor White’s campaign shows Texans believe in his ability to bring people together and get things done. People want their next senator to be a voice for our state’s future.”

So far, none of the Senate incumbents or hopefuls have their reports up on the FEC disclosure page, so I can’t give you the details yet. However, Gardner Selby has some information.

Democrat John Sharp topped five other candidates or prospective candidates for the U.S. Senate in cash on hand as of March 31, though his camp didn’t say this afternoon how much of the $2.4 million he piled up since Jan. 1 came from loans. His loan chunk—perhaps tapping Sharp’s personal wealth—may be left to show up when his report, filed with the Federal Election Commission, surfaces online.

Another Democrat, Houston Mayor Bill White, had $2.1 million cash on hand at the end of this year’s first quarter; he’d taken no loans.

Among Republicans, former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams had $388,628 cash on hand; a haul fueled by $200,000 in loans he gave his exploratory committee. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, had $310,407. She was trailed in her bank balance by two members of the Texas Railroad Commission, Elizabeth Ames Jones with $164,663 and Michael Williams with $113,957.

As Selby notes, we can’t fully judge Sharp’s total till we know how much of it was loaned by himself to the campaign. It’s possible he did better than any of the Republicans and yet still fell well short of White, and it’s possible he outraised White, though to be honest if he’d really taken in $2 million or so, I’d have expected him to be shouting that from the rooftops. We’ll know soon enough. In any case, as BOR notes, the two Dems are way out in from of the Rs – heck, all of them put together can’t match either Dem. That may change if a David Dewhurst or a Greg Abbott jumps in, but for now, it’s a nice position for the Dems to be in.

Other reports of interest, all Congressional:

Pete Sessions, who has been in the crosshairs of the DCCC lately and whose district is trending strongly Democratic, had a good quarter with over $200K raised and almost $900K on hand. Sessions has always been an able fundraiser, no doubt why he’s chairing the NRCC this go-round.

– Mike McCaul doesn’t have a report yet. He already has a well-heeled challenger and a DCCC bulls-eye on his back, but he’s also filthy rich and will not be outgunned financially.

John Culberson had a decent quarter, with $100K raised, though only a modest $70K on hand. He didn’t leave anything in reserve after his expensive re-election fight last year, and though I think he’s likely to skate this time around, I’ll bet he invests some time in restocking his coffers.

Sheila Jackson Lee didn’t raise much, and spent more than she raised, but she starts the year with over $400K on hand, which may give pause to anyone looking to primary her.

– The benefits of running for President, having a national following, and being stalked by Borat not having an opponent in the last cycle: Ron Paul has over two million dollars on hand, despite raising almost nothing and spending nearly $250K.

– Randy Neugebauer in CD19 doesn’t have a report up yet, either, but according to the CREW crew, he wants to use his campaign funds to pay for the use of his yacht to fundraise for his campaign. Just click over and see for yourself. The yacht is anchored in DC, in case you were wondering (as I was) what the heck one would do with a yacht in Lubbock.

– Former Congressman Jim Turner, who was drawn out of his seat in the 2004 Tom DeLay re-redistricting, still has over a million bucks on hand. Which in theory he eventually needs to dispose of in some fashion, either on another campaign of his own or by giving it to other candidates.

That’s all for now. I’ll add to this as I see more reports.

Kay and Rick on the money

Well, there was never any doubt that they’d be swimming in cash.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison moved nearly $8 million into her state campaign finance account last year — a high-stakes signal that she is committed to running for Texas governor in 2010.

In December she transferred most of that money from her U.S. Senate campaign account, according to campaign finance reports released Thursday. She started the year with $7.9 million in the bank.

Gov. Rick Perry, who intends to seek re-election, will prove a formidable foe with $6.6 million in the bank so far, according to the reports. A political battle between the two could cost each of them more than $20 million.

Remember how many ads there were on the TV this past fall, even though the Presidential campaigns didn’t do much? We got off way easy compared to what this might be. Be prepared to be very sick of this in another year or so.

So does this mean that KBH is for sure running for Governor? She thinks she is, and I think she is, too. But I still think you never really know with her, and you won’t know for sure till she files for the primary. And even if she does run, it still doesn’t mean she’ll resign from the Senate first. Go read that Politico article again and see just how much KBH and her decision are in the spotlight. If it were just a matter of her winning next November, that would be one thing. But she has to win a Republican primary first, and I don’t see how she can afford to give Rick Perry that kind of ammunition to use against her. I just cannot imagine her resigning any time before March of 2010, if at all.

Which brings us to the eventual election, special or otherwise, to fill her seat. This bit from that Politico story is worth considering:

If Hutchison gives up her seat, national Republicans would likely move quickly to recruit their candidate and help raise money to ensure the seat stays in the party’s hands. But doing that would divert precious resources that would otherwise be used to help the party recover from two disastrous elections and defend four open seats in 2010.

“It’s more than a casual interest that we at least maintain 41 senators,” said Texas’ junior senator, John Cornyn, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He told reporters Wednesday that Hutchison might not resign if she pursues her governor’s bid.

Hutchison’s resignation likely would set off a primary battle between state and congressional lawmakers and state officials, according to local political operatives. A couple of prominent GOP names have also recently bubbled up as potential Hutchison successors, including state Attorney General Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

And even though Democrats would have a tough climb to win the Senate seat, some already have their eyes on it, including Houston Mayor Bill White. The national party would undoubtedly put a huge amount of resources into the race if winning it would get Senate Democrats to the magic number of 60.

The prospect of national money changes things in a couple of ways. For one, I think it renders the Rick Casey scenario essentially moot. If the election were this May, with the current field of Bill White, John Sharp, Roger Williams, Michael Williams, Florence Shapiro, and Elizabeth Ames Jones, I could imagine the two Dems splitting 45% and the four GOPers splitting the rest, with none of them breaking 20% and thus yielding an all-Dem runoff. That’s because none of the GOPers has a particularly high profile, so none of them would be likely to break away from the pack. A few million dollars, plus some big endorsements and whatever help the NRSC – conveniently chaired by Texas’ junior Senator – can offer goes a long way towards distinguishing one of these contenders. Under those conditions, I can’t imagine whichever one of them drew the golden ticket would not do far better than 20%; he or she would probably lead the field, and then win the runoff comfortably.

It gets a bit more complicated if a Dewhurst or an Abbott, both of whom have statewide profiles as well as a boatload of their own money, jumps in. Most likely, either one of them gets in because he’s the chosen one, or they both stay out because it’s made clear to them that they’re not. Dewhurst could still run anyway if he got piqued about it, but I wouldn’t expect that. Bottom line is that someone on the Republican side is going to have a ton of resources available. That person will be a huge favorite to win. We can spin theories and possibilities and what-ifs all we want, but that strikes me as the most probably outcome.

So given that one Republican contender will almost surely have the near-full force of the national and state parties behind him or her, doesn’t this change the math for the two Democrats? For one thing, we come back to the same question we started off with, which is how do you win the inevitable runoff? I seriously doubt either of them has an answer to that question right now. Sure, the national Dems will be there to help as well, but in a war of statewide turnout with a motivated Republican electorate, how do you win? I don’t have an answer for that, either.

Which brings me back to the question I keep asking: Why not try for Governor instead? KBH hasn’t won that primary against Rick Perry yet. She may stay in her seat through November of 2010 – or at least through September of 2010, which would be good enough for special election purposes – which would give you a second bite at the statewide apple if she beats both Perry and you. The national GOP isn’t going to care about that race. The issues won’t get tied up nearly as much in the state of the nation and the Obama administration, so you’ll have hopes for crossovers. Just based on the non-trivial chance that Perry takes the primary, I don’t see how this race doesn’t offer better odds of a Democrat winning. And yet here we are. It’s still a little too early to be officially worried about 2010, but it’s certainly not irrational to be.