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John Sharp

What the Harvey needs are from the state

It’s not just about recovery. The long term needs, including mitigation against future events like Harvey, is where the real money will need to be spent.

More than one month after Harvey’s deluge hit, local officials, including Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, testified at a state House of Representatives Appropriations Committee hearing that more than $370 million worth of debris removal and repair work on more than 50 government buildings has strained local coffers, necessitating quick aid and reimbursement from the federal or state government.

They also emphasized what likely will greatly exceed the costs of immediate recovery: how to prepare for the next storm. That could include billions of dollars for large-scale buyouts, a third reservoir on Houston’s west side, a reservoir on the Brazos River in Fort Bend County and hundreds of millions of dollars to jump start bayou improvement projects that have slowed in recent years without federal funding.

“There’s going to come a time where we have taken all the money from the feds, we have gotten all the money we’re going to get from the state, and we’re going to have to decide: What kind of community do we want to be?” Emmett said at the hearing.

Harvey’s record-smashing rainfall and floods damaged more than 136,000 homes and other buildings in Harris County and killed nearly 80 people across the state.

The Texas House Appropriations Committee and Urban Affairs Committee met at the University of Houston on Monday to understand public costs and where reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other U.S. Congressional appropriations were being directed in the storm’s wake.

Emmett, Turner and Fort Bend County officials testified, as did Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp, who is coordinating the state’s recovery efforts. The heads of several other state agencies also testified.

The hearing came just three days after Gov. Greg Abbott visited Houston and presented Turner with a check for $50 million. The check almost immediately was spoken for, Turner said, mostly for debris removal and insurance costs.

Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas, R-Houston, said Harvey, in theory, qualified as the “perfect reason” to use the state’s so-called “Rainy Day Fund,” a savings account comprised of billions in excess oil and gas taxes.

Abbott had indicated as much last week but said he would tap existing state emergency funds and reimburse them from the Rainy Day Fund when the Legislature next meets in 2019.

“Before the Legislature acts, we need to ensure what the expenses are that the state is responsible for,” Zerwas said.

Yes, that would be nice to know. There were other hearings this week as well.

The first order of business, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told the House Natural Resources Committee, needs to be a flood control plan for the entire state — and the Gulf Coast in particular.

The Texas Water Development Board is already in the process of crafting a statewide flood plan, with the help of $600,000 state lawmakers gave them earlier this year. Lawmakers haven’t yet promised to back any of the projects that end up in the plan.

Emmett, a Republican and former state lawmaker, said Harris County intends to put together its own flood control plan in the meantime, add up the costs of its recommended projects, then see how much the federal and state government want to contribute. He said he’ll be the first to push for a local bond package to make up the difference.

Property taxes are “the most miserable tax created,” Emmett said. “But it’s what we’ve been given to work with so we don’t have a choice.”

Emmett said Harris County’s plan likely will include another major dam to catch runoff during storms and relieve pressure on two existing reservoirs, Addicks and Barker. Those reservoirs, which filled to historic levels during Harvey, flooded thousands of homes that may not have been inundated with additional protections.

Emmett and the city of Houston’s “flood czar,” Stephen Costello, suggested the state tap its savings account, known as the Rainy Day Fund, to pay for such a project, estimated to cost at least $300 million. (Gov. Greg Abbott has said lawmakers can tap that fund in 2019 or sooner if they need it for Harvey relief; so far, he has written Houston a $50 million out of a state disaster relief fund.)

Costello said Texas should also consider creating a multi-billion dollar fund to support flood control projects similar to one the state’s voters approved in 2013 for water supply projects.

So far all of the talk is constructive, and even Dan Patrick is doing his part. The real test will be whether we follow up on any of this when the Lege reconvenes. Also, while this doesn’t directly answer my question about the SWIFT fund, but it does clearly suggest that it’s not intended for this kind of infrastructure. Which makes sense, given when it was created, but I had wondered if there was some flexibility built in. I would hope there would be plenty of support for a similar fund for flood mitigation.

What will we do with the hardest hit schools?

The Houston area was inundated by floods during Harvey. As bad as that was and is, we weren’t affected by the wind. The coastal region is dealing with that, and it’s a very tough road they have ahead of them.

Hundreds of students languish at home, still out of school weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in coastal Texas, sundering even sturdy school buildings. The storm sliced off rooftop air-conditioning units and ripped holes in roofs, allowing rainwater to gush inside. It felled trees, toppled stadium lights and turned hallways and science labs into lakes.

Five school districts north of Corpus Christi remain shuttered, and two of them are not expected to open until mid-October — or later, if contractors diagnose unanticipated damage or cannot find supplies.

The extended closures have raised concerns about how students will catch up as the state recovers from its worst natural disaster. Then there are money concerns: How will school districts fare when they confront the cost of rebuilding and the potential loss of state money if enrollment drops?

Children from some of the hardest-hit communities — Rockport, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas — streamed into schools in neighboring towns to register, anxious to get back into the classroom. But many of those schools are running out of room.

[…]

The Gregory-Portland district, which was spared the brunt of the storm, reopened within days. Since then, its enrollment has exploded from about 4,500 students to nearly 6,300 — a 40 percent increase. Most of those students came from Rockport, which was walloped by Harvey.

As the hurricane made landfall near Corpus Christi — where tourism and shrimping are mainstay industries — it packed winds of more than 100 mph. Streets once lined with lush oak trees are now filled with gnarled branches and debris. Mobile-home parks have been reduced to rubble. Many hotels and restaurants sit closed. The water tower in Aransas Pass came crashing to the ground.

Many of Aransas Pass’s school buildings lost rooftop air-conditioning units, peeled off by high winds. The air conditioners then stamped holes in the roof as they bounced to the ground. Drenching rain soaked carpets and ceiling tiles, ruined papers and spawned hazardous mold. At A.C. Blunt Junior High, the library collection that took generations to build was soaked and will have to be replaced.

“When this devastation came about — gosh, it hit us hard,” said Mark Kemp, superintendent of the Aransas Pass Independent School District, which will not open before Oct. 16. He has encouraged students to enroll elsewhere until he can reopen schools. “We are Panther nation,” he said. “We love our athletes. We love our academia. We love our community.”

Teachers have been displaced, too. Some returned to homes left uninhabitable and now live in campers in a nearby state park that offered a free place for the hurricane homeless to stay.

I don’t have any answers for this. I’d like to know what answers Greg Abbott and his recovery czar, John Sharp, have. An awful lot of students and their parents need to hear it.

White nationalist rally at A&M canceled

I’ve been on the road with limited Internet access, so I’m just now catching up on recent events. Unlike our garbage president, I wholeheartedly condemn the appalling racist violence committed in Charlottesville by a bunch of Nazi scum. As such, I was heartened to see this.

A white nationalist rally planned on Texas A&M University’s campus has been canceled, apparently out of concern for student safety, officials confirmed Monday.

The school made the decision after consulting law enforcement and “considerable study” because of “concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff and the public.”

“Texas A&M’s support of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech cannot be questioned,” the university said in a statement Monday afternoon.

“However, in this case circumstances and information relating to the event have changed and the risks of threat to life and safety compel us to cancel the event.”

You can learn the details of this now-canceled event here; I have no desire to give these jackwads any mentions. The asshole who organized this thing says in the story that he plans to sue. I think based on the deplorable events in Charlottesville that A&M has a pretty good public safety argument to make, but I guess we’ll see what the courts have to say. It’s certainly possible A&M could get overruled. Given that, you might want to make note of this Maroon Wall counterprotest, which had been prepped to go on at the same time, just in case it is still needed. It would be best for this to now be obsolete, but if that is not the case then it sure would be nice to completely overwhelm these fascists with huge numbers of actual decent people. Beyond that, kudos to the legislators who called on A&M Chancellor John Sharp to cancel the event, and to Sharp for heeding the call. In the meantime, if you need something to do now, there are things that can be done in Austin, in Missouri City, and in Houston. People need to speak up, but we also need to take action. The Rivard Report has more.

Reps. Otto and Marquez join the retirement list

Another committee chair bows out.

Rep. John Otto

After a decade in the Texas House and fresh off his first session as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, state Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, announced Tuesday that he is not planning to seek re-election.

“I want to thank the voters of House District 18 for their support and encouragement over the years,” Otto said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision, but I never intended for this experience to be a lifelong endeavor. After accomplishing much of what I set out to do when first elected, the time is right for me to step aside.”

[…]

Along with announcing his retirement, Otto also endorsed Liberty County Attorney Wesley Hinch to replace him in the district, which covers Liberty, Walker and San Jacinto counties in southeast Texas.

“Wes Hinch has the values, integrity, and experience needed to serve House District 18,” Otto said. “I am honored to endorse him to be our next state representative.”

Otto was first elected in 2004 and like several other retirees is considered a moderate, which mostly means he wants to get stuff done rather than burn it down. It’s a bit amazing to realize that he defeated an incumbent Democrat, Dan Ellis, in 2004 – Ellis won in 2002 in what was a red but not overwhelmingly so district – John Sharp got more than 45% of the vote for Lite Guv in that 2002 race. By 2012, this was a 71.6% Romney district, so it will not be changing hands. One hopes Otto’s endorsed would-be successor is from a similar mold as he is.

Over in El Paso, a Democratic seat opens up as Rep. Marissa Marquez steps down.

Rep. Marissa Marquez

State Rep. Marisa Márquez will not seek reelection after representing El Paso for four terms in the Texas House.

The Democrat announced her retirement from House District 77 in a statement on her official website, saying she would remain an active figure in state politics.

“I am truly grateful to the many people who have worked with me on the passage of important legislation for our area and to my constituency for their support over the last eight years,” she said.

[…]

First elected in 2008, Márquez was considered somewhat of an ascendant among the outnumbered Democrats in the lower chamber. She was named by House Speaker Joe Straus as vice-chair on the House Committee on County Affairs in her sophomore term in 2011, and currently sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Marquez defeated longtime legislator Rep. Paul Moreno in a typically nasty primary, which made her less than overwhelmingly popular among her peers when she first arrived. She was viewed as a potential Craddick Dem at the time, which didn’t help either. That of course all blew over, and in the last session she made a valiant attempt at marijuana reform. President Obama carried her district 64-34 in 2012, so this is another one that will be decided in the primaries. The El Paso Times has more on Rep. Marquez. Best wishes to her and to Rep. Otto in the next phases of their lives.

Saving SD10 and other benchmarks

The Observer looks at the race to succeed Wendy Davis in SD10.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

It’s a steamy, hot summer morning in the Metroplex, and at the Dixie House, a Southern-style diner in east Ft. Worth where gravy flows like water, Libby Willis can’t find a moment to dig into her eggs and hash. She’s too excited about her campaign. Willis, the Democratic nominee in Senate District 10, is running in one of the state’s most important races for Democrats this cycle. It’s fallen to her—a first-time candidate with solid credentials—to defend Wendy Davis’ soon-to-be-former seat against Konni Burton, a fiery tea-party organizer who’d likely be one of the chamber’s most conservative senators.

Willis acknowledges that her odds are long in this Republican-leaning district. But the path to victory, she says, is simple enough. “We just got to get our people out to vote. That’s all there is to it,” Willis says. “This is not a sleepy year.”

Democrats faced a tough task holding onto the district even before Davis decided to try her hand at the governor’s race. Davis squeaked by in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket and Democratic turnout was comparatively high. (Though Obama lost Tarrant County both times, Davis held on anyway.) But the last round of redistricting forced an early election in SD 10—the district now elects its senator in midterm years, when Democrats tend to falter in Texas. To hold the seat for Democrats, Willis will need luck, skillful positioning, a troubled opponent and an impressive field operation. That last part, Democrats hope, is where Battleground Texas comes in.

Battleground, the group started by former Obama campaign staffers with the aim of making Texas politically competitive, is spending most of its time and resources in the rocky terrain of the governor’s race these days. But down the ballot, the organization is trying to put muscle behind a dozen legislative candidates, running in marginal districts that should be fertile ground for Democrats. Dubbed the Blue Star Project, the effort aims to focus the group’s technical expertise and organizing ability on legislative races, with the help of a “coordinated field program and a full arsenal of data, digital, and communications expertise.”

What that means, in short, is that the group hopes to take the special sauce decanted from the Obama campaign’s field operation and drizzle it on legislative races here, where it might make more of a difference than it will against Greg Abbott, who has a 3-to-1 cash advantage over Davis. The most important of the races is SD 10. In the process, Battleground hopes to stake a claim to a continued future in the state.

Democrats everywhere hope this cycle will be more like a presidential year than, say, 2010, and if it is, Battleground could be part of the reason why. Willis says the organization is part of a longer push. “This is a multi-year effort. This is not one and done,” she says. “This is not, ‘Hey, we’re finished at midnight on November 4th.’ They are committed to continuing the work, which is fantastic. And really important.”

I basically agree with this, though as I’ve said before, SD10 in a Presidential year is no cakewalk, either. I feel pretty confident saying that Wendy Davis considered the odds of her holding onto SD10 versus her odds of being elected Governor when she was making her decision. At this point it seems clear to me that the Dems’ odds of holding SD10 are better with Wendy Davis at the top of the ticket than they would be with Wendy Davis running for re-election and essentially nobody at the top of the ticket. I mean seriously, who would our nominee for Governor be right now if Wendy Davis hadn’t taken the plunge? Ray Madrigal? Kinky Friedman? Gene Kelly? It’s pretty brutal when you think about it, especially when you add in the fact that Leticia Van de Putte would also not be running for Lite Gov if Wendy hadn’t led the way. I’ve heard some people complain that by raising people’s hopes in what is likely to be a losing cause, Davis and her candidacy could cause some major blowback and infighting after the election. I don’t doubt the possibility, but it’s hard for me to see how giving up and rolling over as Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick waltz to power was the better alternative.

The big picture also gets discussed.

Battleground Texas debuted in February 2013 to enormous fanfare. Democrats had just come off a spectacularly successful presidential election year: The blue portion of the electoral map had swelled in a way that made some gains seem semi-permanent. Formerly red states like Virginia, Colorado and Nevada had flipped, for reasons that included both shifting ideological coalitions and demographic changes. Other states, like Georgia, seemed to be in reach. Then there was Texas, the beating, blood-red heart of GOP electoral viability.

If the national Republican Party is a vampire, Battleground is intended to be the wooden stake. Founded by Jeremy Bird, the national field director for Obama’s 2012 campaign, and armed with the newest technology, techniques and tactics, the organization says it would do what the Texas Democratic Party couldn’t—or wouldn’t. Even if the group’s fresh-faced organizers don’t make a clean kill, softening Texas would mean national Republicans would have to spend time and money here. They’d win for losing. In a column for The New York Times, political reporter Thomas Edsall wrote a few months after Battleground’s launch that the group had “put the fear of God into the Texas Republican Party.”

If that fear was ever real, you can be sure that it’s dissipated a bit. Battleground has had a challenging first year and a half and its future is uncertain. Wendy Davis’ filibuster gave the Democrats what seemed like a viable shot at the governor’s mansion, so Battleground, which started as a long-term organizing project, wedded the group’s efforts to hers. Battleground handles the work in the field, and Davis’ campaign handles strategy and messaging. The two groups even share a bank account, called, promisingly, the Texas Victory Committee.

If Davis does well, Battleground has a chance to move up the clock on the state’s purple-fication. But if she doesn’t, Battleground stands to suffer along with her. The story of the 2014 election isn’t done yet, but Davis’ odds of victory seem slim. Even if she doesn’t win, Abbott’s margin over Davis matters quite a bit: If she outperforms expectations, Battleground—and the Democratic coalition more generally—will have something to show to donors and supporters come 2015. It’ll serve as a proof of concept.

If she does badly—if she ends up in Bill White territory, as seems possible—the whole thing will be a wash and Dems, having spent a hell of a lot of time and money for little in return, will be left asking themselves very tough questions about how best to organize themselves next cycle. A good deal of the enthusiasm that’s built up in the last year will fall apart. Battleground insists it’s here for the long term—but to make that a reality, the group needs to keep its raison d’être, and its appeal to big-money donors, intact. It’s an expensive operation to run. And some close to the state Democratic Party—which, mind you, doesn’t have a great track record of success itself—would like to see the party take on Battleground’s local organizing functions itself.

[…]

That’s one reason the Blue Star Project is important to the group—if Battleground can pick off a number of legislative races this year, it gives them a plausible claim to a future in Texas. None of the twelve races Battleground is assisting in are really “reach” districts, but Texas Democrats have had trouble pinning them down. If a couple of them flip blue in November, Jeremy Bird’s young group will argue it’s brought home enough trophies to justify another hunting trip.

The 2016 election cycle will likely see Clinton at the top of the ticket driving high turnout among the Democratic base, which means it could be a good year for Dems in legislative races here. In 2008, Democrats in Texas rode the coattails of Barack Obama’s popularity to win 74 of the state’s 150 House seats. It’s not realistic to hope for that again—not least because the state had another round of gerrymandering in between then and now—but it could be a more comfortable climate, and Battleground’s experience this cycle in down-ballot races could prove useful.

I’ve discussed the question of what a consolation prize might look like in the event the losing streak by Dems in statewide races continues. With the caveat that “expectations” and whether or not one has beaten them tend to be set by the chattering classes after the election and not before it when we might have argued about them, let me suggest a couple of bars for BGTX and Wendy Davis to clear.

The Bill White Line: This one is explicitly mentioned in the Observer story. White got 42.29% with 2,106,395 total votes, and I think it’s fair to say that these are minimum totals for any reasonable “success” story to be spun. More to the point, recall that White ran a campaign that was largely geared towards peeling votes away from Rick Perry. He was actually quite successful at that, as I have noted before, but in a world where the base Democratic vote remained at between 1.7 and 1.8 million for a third consecutive off-year election, it didn’t matter. For Battleground Texas to claim success in its goal of boosting turnout, we need to see all statewide Democrats collect at least 2 million votes. I thought that was a worthwhile and achievable goal even before Davis’ famous filibuster put her on the map. It’s surely on the low end of what we should aim for now.

The John Sharp Line: John Sharp scored 46.03% of the vote when he ran for Lite Gov in 2002. No Democrat has topped 46% statewide since. Sharp did this with slightly fewer votes than White – 2,082,281 to be exact – thanks in part to lower Republican turnout that year and a higher third-party vote total. I’d estimate the Davis campaign would need to reach the 2.3 million vote mark to get to 46%, which if she does achieve would also mean that the margin was less than ten percent. I don’t think there’s any question that crossing these lines would be the mark of clear and substantial progress, and by all rights should change the narrative from “Dems haven’t won since the 90s” to “Dems came closer than they have in any election since the 90s”.

Hold the line in the Lege: The story is about SD10, and it also mentions HD23. Both of those seats, as well as CD23, have the distinction of being held by Democrats but having been carried by Mitt Romney in 2012. (There are no Republican-held seats in the Lege or in Congress that were carried by President Obama in 2012.) Holding those seats, especially with SD10 and HD23 being open, would be a very nice thing to do regardless of what happens anywhere else.

Gain ground in the Lege: The next level up involves picking up a seat or two (or more) in the Lege, where as the story notes there are a few that could be attained with a focused turnout effort. The story covers most of the basics and I’ve blogged about the Blue Star Project before, so I’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say that any pickups, all of which would also be in districts that had been carried by Mitt Romney, would be a feather in the cap and another sign of real progress.

Win Harris County. Bill White carried Harris County in 2010, but that came with an asterisk next to it. No other Dem came close as the Republicans swept the county races again, as they had every year since 1998, a year that I trust sounds familiar. Dems increased turnout significantly in Harris County in 2010, but lost ground overall compared to 2006 due to the GOP tidal wave that year. We can’t do anything about that, but there’s plenty of room to grow the Democratic vote more, and in the absence of another GOP tsunami, winning Harris County and the substantial prizes that would come with it – the first Democratic DA in who knows how long, ousting the likes of Stan Stanart and Orlando Sanchez, maintaining the Democratic majority on the HCDE – would be sweet.

Win Fort Bend, advance elsewhere. Fort Bend County has trended the same was as Harris has, but a few points behind. Winning Harris County in a non-Presidential year would be a shot across the bow, while winning Fort Bend would be a brick with a note tied to it crashing through the window. Beyond that, pick your favorite red county and a reasonable goal. Thirty-five percent in Collin and Denton? Forty percent in Williamson? Forty-five percent in Tarrant? Go to the SOS webpage, use the Railroad Commission race as the benchmark, and go from there.

You get the idea. I don’t think you need a fancy Poli Sci degree to realize that these events are not independent of each other. It’s hard to imagine falling short of the Bill White Line while achieving the other goals, and it’s hard to imagine clearing the John Sharp Line without achieving at least some of them. Still, there will be some variation based on local conditions and candidate quality, and one hopes that the promised exit polls will give us some more dimensions to measure. I definitely agree with author Christopher Hooks that one way or another there will be a long discussion about the level of success of the tactics used in this campaign. I hope this has provided a starting point for discussing what those levels might look like.

On polls and turnout

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

So as you know, the latest YouGov poll came out on Friday, and it was ugly for Wendy Davis, showing an 18-point lead for Greg Abbott. PDiddie was despondent, EoW was trying to keep the faith, and Texpatriate was somewhere in between. I didn’t have a chance to say much about this poll in my discussion of the Davis internal poll, so let me put my thoughts here. I intend this more as a thought exercise than a deep analysis, so let’s see where this takes us.

1. If this is an accurate result, and assuming that the third party candidates collect about two percent of the vote, it suggests that Abbott is headed for a 58-40 win over Davis. That’s about the margin that Rick Perry defeated Tony Sanchez by in 2002. Do you think Wendy Davis will do no better than Tony Sanchez did? I have a hard time believing that.

2. With the same assumptions as above, if total turnout is about five million votes – basically the same as it was in 2010 – it suggests that Abbott will get 2.9 million votes while Davis gets 2 million, with the rest getting 100,000. Not many Texas Democrats have gotten two million votes in off year elections – John Sharp in 2002, and Bill White in 2010. White got just over 2.1 million in 2010. Do you think Wendy Davis will fail to get as many votes as Bill White? I have a hard time believing that, too.

3. White ran a different campaign than Davis did, aiming more at peeling votes away from Rick Perry. He was quite successful at that as we have discussed, but it ultimately didn’t matter since base turnout was too low. As we have also discussed before, Democratic base turnout in off year elections hasn’t changed since 2002. Davis, in conjunction with Battleground Texas, is working hard on raising base turnout. How successful will that effort be? I really have no idea. With the likely exception of that Davis internal poll, none of the polls we have seen published so far have given any suggestion that they have tried to measure this effect. YouGov, which uses a static sample and applies whatever model it assumes for the election to it, certainly doesn’t. This effort could be hugely successful yet fall well short of victory. The Chron story that Texpatriate cites quotes one expert that suggests this is about a ten-point race. Again giving two percent to third parties, that’s a 54-44 win for Abbott, or 2.7 million votes to 2.2 million in a five million voter turnout scenario. Assuming Davis doesn’t have a significant number of crossover votes – assuming, therefore, that the rest of the Democratic ticket has about that same number of votes as well – that would mean that BGTX’s efforts were worth a boost of about 400,000 or 500,000 over past elections. That’s a lot and ought to be seen as a big step forward and a solid foundation going into 2016 and 2018, but as noted it would not be nearly enough to pull out a win. Is that a reasonable expectation? Again, I don’t know. I really wish we’d get a little bit of reporting on this and less on what the same assortment of political scientists think about the same poll results on the same samples from the same pollsters.

I’m not going to say that Davis is winning, certainly not if her own poll numbers don’t say so. I don’t think the polls that we have seen are an accurate reflection of the race, but I have no evidence to back that up. I really have no idea what to expect, but I do know this much: The more we work on turning out our voters, especially voters the pollsters do not consider “likely” voters, the more wrong we’ll be able to say the polls were. That only happens if we do that work.

On defining success

It depends on what your goals are.

Suppose you were a Texas Democrat and a realist.

You want your candidates to win in November and to break the spirit-killing string of losses that started after the statewide elections in 1994.

But you have been scratching for reasons that this year will be different, from the two women at the top of the Democratic ticket to the Battleground Texas organizing efforts to the current Republican tilt to the right that — to Democrats, anyway — seems out of step with mainstream voters.

But the realist within is thinking about Nov. 5, and how to keep the embers going on the day after an election that — unless there is an upset — will mark another set of Republican victories.

Short of winning a statewide election, what would constitute good news for Texas Democrats in November?

Jeremy Bird, a founder of the Battleground Texas effort to build a Democratic grassroots organization in the state, has his eyes on volunteers, energized activists and the sorts of activity that could expand through 2016 and 2018. His group started a little over a year ago with talk of a six-year plan to make Democrats competitive in Texas. The somewhat unexpected rise of state Sens. Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte as political candidates could accelerate that effort, even if neither takes office. His measure of a win, short of a victory: “Better than Bill White.”

White, a former Houston mayor, was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2010. He received 42.3 percent of the vote — better than any Democratic candidate for governor since Ann Richards’ loss in 1994, when she received 45.9 percent.

“Closing the margin is important; getting back to the Ann Richards numbers in 1994,” said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “There’s not much opportunity for pickups in the Legislature, but closing the margin would help set the table for 2016.”

Glenn Smith, who managed part of Richards’ first campaign for governor in 1990, is not a fan of this kind of thinking.

“It’s my extremely strong opinion that you play every contest to win,” said Smith, who now runs the Progress Texas PAC, which supports Democratic candidates and causes. “You set everything on winning. There is nothing else. If you start even mentally thinking that we’re okay at 46, then you might end up at 42. You can’t get in that mind-set. It’s true in sports, in every competitive walk of life — you have to set a course to win. You can’t begin cutting the goal to something short of winning, or your plans will suck.”

I’ll settle this: They’re all right.

Look, there’s no question that winning is always the goal and that losing is failure. There are no consolation prizes, no moral victories, and no partial credit. Greg Abbott will govern the same way whether he wins by one vote or one million votes, just as Rick Perry did when we were all calling him “Governor 39%”. So will Dan Patrick, and so will the rest of them. Another shutout means another four years of the same old shit we’ve had since George Bush was first elected.

That doesn’t mean all losses are created equal, however. Democrats haven’t just lost every statewide election since 1996, we’ve lost them badly. Here are the top five statewide Democrats by percentage of the vote in the Rick Perry era:

Year Candidate Office Pct ===================================== 2002 Sharp Lt Gov 46.03 2002 Mirabal Sup Ct 45.90 2008 Houston Sup Ct 45.88 2008 Strawn CCA 45.53 2006 Moody Sup Ct 44.88

It’s about changing the perception almost as much as it is about winning. Winning obviously does that splendidly, and it comes with a heaping helping of other benefits, but after all this losing, coming close will mean something, too. Going from “Democrats last won a statewide election in 1994” to “Democrats came closer to winning statewide than they had in any election since 1998” matters. It will make recruiting and fundraising a lot easier, and not just for the star candidate or two at the top but for candidates up and down the ballot. It virtually guarantees that Hillary Clinton contests the state in 2016. It puts Ted Cruz squarely in the crosshairs for 2018.

As such, I respectfully disagree with Jeremy Bird. Doing better than Bill White isn’t progress. We need to do better than John Sharp. I’ve been reluctant to say stuff like this out loud – it’s not my place to set expectations – but the question was going to come up sooner or later. It’s not just about vote percentage, either, but also about turnout, since that’s what Battleground Texas’ mission is. I’ve talked at length about turnout and how Democratic levels of turnout have been flat in the last three off-year elections. I can’t say offhand what a minimally-acceptable level of improvement in that looks like to me, but I feel confident saying that if we’re achieving Sharp levels of vote percent, we’re doing fine on turnout.

Let’s also acknowledge that the original mission of Battleground Texas was to make Texas competitive in future Presidential elections, and that when they first showed up Wendy Davis was just another State Senator and we were all (okay, I was all) doing fantasy candidate recruitment for Governor. Davis’ arrival on the scene and BGTx’s integration with her campaign changed their focus, but they were never supposed to be about 2014. The whole point was that unlike traditional campaign machines, BGTx would stick around and keep working for the next election and the one after that. Obviously, having serious candidates that have generated real excitement at the top of the ticket has jumpstarted BGTx’s efforts, but it’s reasonable to expect that BGTx has their own metrics and their own timeline.

So yeah, they’re all right. And just because I’ve drawn a line somewhere doesn’t obligate anyone to recognize or respect it. We all agree that winning >>> losing, but beyond that it’s all open to interpretation.

More on LVdP for Lite Guv

Mostly from Monday’s Lone Star Project news roundup email.

AP: Texas Democrats offering stark contrast.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Texas voters won’t have a hard time telling the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates next year.

With the addition of San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, attorney Sam Houston and party activist Steve Brown last week, the Democratic slate offers a vivid contrast to the Republican ticket, both in demographics and politics. And there are more announcements to come.

So far, Democrats are offering a diverse roster with most running unopposed on a strong progressive record, not unlike the so-called Dream Team in 2002. Republicans are more conservative than ever, with a ticket that is predominantly white and male.

The Democrats lost dramatically in 2002 and haven’t won a statewide elected office since 1994. But this year they are banking on delivering more supporters to the polls, while Republicans are relying on a dependable conservative base that has kept them in power for 20 years.

[…]

Democrats have a long way to go to win in 2014, but no one can say they’re not offering Texas voters a distinct choice.

Not sure what “more announcements to come” is referring to. The story also mentions AG candidate Same Houston.

NBCLatino Opinion: A Texas Latina throws her hat in the ring

We usually think of down ballot races benefiting from the top of the ticket, not the other way around. But in the case of Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial run, the only shot she has of winning is in getting Latino support, and if anyone can get that support it’s LVP as her lieutenant governor.

Senator Van de Putte is a Latina political leader with deep state ties and a national presence. Here in South Texas she has a finely tuned political infrastructure that will be crucial for the Davis ticket. As a co-chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention and past president of both the National Conference of State Legislators and the National Hispanic Council of State Legislators LVP has a healthy rolodex to aid her fundraising efforts.

“LVdP will help boost Latino turnout in 2014” is one of two themes you see running through these stories, and it’s likely one you’ll see over and over again for the foreseeable future. I believe LVdP will have a positive effect on Latino turnout for the Dem ticket, and I agree that that is a necessary condition for victory, but no one with a realistic view of the situation believes it is sufficient. Wendy Davis et al will also need to do at least a little better among Anglo voters, which is why there is also a focus on suburban Anglo women.

Making that first theme more explicit, The Monitor: Van de Putte likely to boost Hispanic turnout for Dem. ticket

“I think she’s going to be a plus to the party, to the ticket,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. Cuellar’s district includes Starr and western Hidalgo counties as well as parts of Van de Putte’s state Senate district, which she has held since 1999.

Javier Villalobos, the Hidalgo County Republican party chair who’s said he would not seek another term, offered a verbal shrug when asked prior to the announcement what Van de Putte’s candidacy would mean for voters in the Valley.

“Actually what I think is going to drive the people to the polls is going to be the election for district attorney,” referencing the Democratic primary in March between incumbent Rene Guerra and former judge Ricardo Rodriguez. “Right here in the Valley, I really don’t think she’ll make it stronger or weaker.”

But another partisan opponent believed Van de Putte could change the race.

“Texas Sen. Leticia Van De Putte is a formidable candidate that presents long term challenges to the Texas GOP,” tweeted Aaron Peña, shortly after Saturday’s announcement. “Take note.” Peña is a former state representative from Edinburg who now chairs the Texas Hispanic Engagement Team for the Republican National Committee.

As a Latina — albeit without the benefit of a common Hispanic surname — Van de Putte could appeal more to Latino voters than whichever of the four leading Anglo males emerges from the Republican primary.

“She will be able to draw out the Hispanic vote,” state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said.

But again, Republicans said that claim might be exaggerated.

“Friends of mine who are Democrats don’t even know that Van de Putte is a Hispanic last name,” said Roman Perez, the vice president of the Republican Club of Brownsville. He added that even in the last election cycle, when Democrats nominated Linda Chavez-Thompson for the same spot, it didn’t significantly impact the race.

“Actually, I don’t think the name will make much of a difference,” Villalobos said. “She might have to spend more money down here, when otherwise she might not have to.”

Regardless of her name, Van de Putte represents the type of an experienced, centrist candidate Peña would like to see more of in his own party.

“Sen. Van de Putte is going to present challenges to a Republican Party that, in my opinion, is not moving fast enough to confront a changing Texas,” he said.

It’s adorable seeing Aaron Pena discover that his new Republican buddies aren’t exactly with him on the things he claims to value, isn’t it? I assure you, Aaron, no one could have predicted that. As far as the turnout predictions go, excitement and engaging voters are a big part of it, but so are getting the message out and good old GOTV efforts, both of which require a certain level of funding. The bit in the previous story about LVdP’s national connections and her potential to be able to raise the kind of funds she’ll need to operate a full-scale campaign is encouraging. I don’t know how much she might be able to raise between now and the January finance report, but I sure hope she’s burning up the phone lines.

For the other theme, we have Rangel: Van de Putte, Davis give Democrats best hope in years

[T]here is no question the Davis-Van de Putte ticket is the best hope Texas Democrats have had in 12 years. My Dallas Morning News colleague Wayne Slater hit the nail on the head with his assessment that Democrats seem to be assembling “Dream Ticket II.”

However, as Slater and other Austin watchers well know, Dream Ticket I was crushed in the 2002 election.

The three top Democrats running that year — Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez for governor, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. senator and former state Comptroller John Sharp for lieutenant governor, a Hispanic, an African-American and an Anglo — and all Democrats running for statewide office, lost.

Gov. Rick Perry, running for his first four-year term, buried Sanchez with 58 percent of the vote while Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, running for the first time for their current posts, beat Kirk and Sharp with 55 and 52 percent respectively.

What gives today’s Democrats hope Dream Ticket II will fare much better — and possibly win in 2014 — is Davis and Van de Putte have the charisma and passion their three 2002 predecessors, particularly Sanchez and Sharp, lacked.

Yep, the Dream Team, an irresistible analogy and comparison for this year that we likely won’t escape any time soon. Thankfully, Enrique Rangel provides the short answer why this year’s lineup is not like 2002’s.

We close with Burka: Leticia Van de Putte Enters the Race

I have a high regard for Van de Putte as a politician, who earned a spot on this year’s Ten Best legislators list. She is no ideologue. She’ll work with the other side — and did so during the regular session, when she joined forces with Rick Perry to push for more rigor in House Bill 5. She’ll be an asset to Wendy Davis on the Democratic ticket, and she’ll be a worthy opponent for whoever wins the Republican primary.

One of the problems for Democrats is that in counties with large Hispanic populations, particularly in South Texas, the primary is where the action is, not the general election. In the Rio Grande Valley, the races that motivate are those for local positions — city councils, school boards, and courthouse jobs. The elections frequently come down to a battle of one prominent family against another.

The turnout issue again, in a slightly different form. The ingredients are there, or at least can and should be there, to make it happen. We’ll likely have a pretty good idea of how it’s all coming together well before anyone casts a vote.

Abbott is gearing up for Governor

I have two things to say about this.

Still not Greg Abbott

Gov. Rick Perry hasn’t yet said whether he’s running for re-election — but Attorney General Greg Abbott doesn’t appear to be waiting for him to make up his mind.

Abbott is collecting résumés and assembling a gubernatorial campaign team. He’s shaking hands, giving speeches and edging his way onto the covers of small-town newspapers across the state. He also just opened a new campaign headquarters — an entire floor of the Texas Association of Broadcasters building in downtown Austin, according to a Republican consultant familiar with Abbott’s campaign.

And he’s building up his grassroots infrastructure online, collecting supporters via email blasts, web petitions and increasingly partisan and vociferous social media messaging.

[…]

While Abbott is waiting for Perry’s decision, expected to come in June after the gubernatorial veto period ends, he isn’t biding his time.

He’s sitting on an $18 million war chest — trumping Perry’s at last count.

He has used Twitter to brandish campaign mailers depicting handguns in holsters — aimed at staunch Second Amendment advocates — and to document his gubernatorial-style visits to the scenes of the West fertilizer depot explosion (he was the first statewide elected official there, surprising even his own staff) and the Granbury tornado.

On his Facebook page, Abbott implores supporters to sign a petition to “save religious liberty from the IRS’ wrath” and another to demand answers from the Obama administration on the “truth surrounding Benghazi.” Those were just two of many he has posted in recent weeks to collect email addresses and build a viral grassroots network.

He’s pressing the flesh in person, too, hopping from Tea Party meetings to ladies’ luncheons, from Fort Bend County to Beeville.

Of late, every pronouncement and ruling from the attorney general seems to be a campaign battle cry.

Last month, Abbott issued an opinion arguing that the Texas Constitution prohibits government entities from recognizing domestic partner insurance benefits. He told a crowd in Waco that he would sue the Obama administration to protect Texans’ gun rights if the U.S. joins a global United Nations arms treaty.

This month, he called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status. He also threw the weight of his office behind grassroots activists concerned with an alleged “anti-American” slant in the lesson plans of CSCOPE, the state-developed curriculum management system used by many Texas public schools.

1. I’m still not convinced that Rick Perry will go quietly. If he’s still deluded enough to think he can run for President in 2016, I don’t see how making himself a lame duck in 2013 and a private citizen in January of 2015 helps him with that. Of course, losing in next March’s primary wouldn’t help either, but if he thinks he can win in 2016 then surely he thinks he can win in 2014, or he thinks Abbott will abide by their “agreement” to not run against each other. Basically, I just don’t see it in Perry’s character to stand down. I freely admit I could be wrong about this, but Perry strikes me as being like an aging formerly-elite athlete who maybe doesn’t have the most objective view of his own skill level but still shouldn’t be underestimated. I just wonder what kind of campaign he’d run against Abbott, who is nothing like KBH was in 2010. What case could Perry make to Republican primary voters to turn them away from Abbott? He must have some dirt somewhere, but would that be enough?

2. Unless you’re one of the 1.5 million people who voted in the 2012 or 2010 GOP primaries, Greg Abbott isn’t interested in talking to you. He doesn’t need your vote and doesn’t particularly care about your vote. He’s not making any pretense about being Governor of all of Texas. Rick Perry isn’t exactly a model of consensus and bipartisan outreach, but even he has had a few feints in that direction during the thousand or so years he’s been in the Governor’s mansion, most notably when he called on his fellow Aggie John Sharp to design and sell the margins tax back in 2006. As bad as Perry is, and Lord knows he’s terrible, I believe Abbott would be even more alienating and divisive as Governor. If that thought doesn’t scare you, it should.

Battlegound Texas officially launches

You have probably heard by now that Battleground Texas has officially launched.

Spearheaded by organizers of Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 — when Republican nominee Mitt Romney handily carried the Lone Star State — a new push, called “Battleground Texas,” officially launched Tuesday with the goal of seizing shifting demographics to make the state eventually winnable for a Democratic presidential candidate.

Organizers are not, however, projecting when that might happen. Nor are they saying how much money they will need to raise and spend to give Democrats a fighting chance in Texas, where the party hasn’t won a statewide office since 1994.

“With its size and diversity, Texas ought to be a place where local races are hotly contested and anyone who wants to be president has to compete,” said Jeremy Bird, a senior adviser to Battleground Texas who served as field director of Obama’s re-election bid.

Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for 270 Strategies, the firm behind Battleground Texas, said the group is registered with the Federal Election Commission and the Texas Ethics Commission.

About 70 percent of Hispanics nationwide voted for Obama over Romney in November. The booming Texas population is being driven by Hispanic growth — minorities accounted for nearly 9 of every 10 new residents in the past decade— and Democratic organizers believe the changing face of the state will boost their chances.

I’m just going to point you to some other coverage of this – the Chron, the Trib, Trail Blazers, Politico, BOR, EoW, Jason Stanford, and via PDiddie, some skepticism. There really isn’t that much for me to say here. If these folks do what they way they want to do, they’ll be doing what should have been done starting 20 years ago and has been done successfully of late in several other states. We just won’t know if it’s real or if it’s just more talk until we’ve had a few more elections.

There’s no question that this will be a long-term project, and everyone involved seems to see it that way. As long as the funding is there for that, it’s all good. But recognizing that we’re in for a long, hard slog doesn’t mean that we can’t have some short term goals, too.

But Perry, for one, isn’t buying that Texas will cease to be a Republican stronghold.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last weekend during the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, Perry said the University of Texas would adopt the rival maroon-and-white colors of Texas A&M before the state ever goes blue.

“Democrats are about government getting bigger and bigger and government providing more and more,” Perry told the newspaper. “Texans have never been for that, and Texans never will.”

Never, to paraphrase Prince, is a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you, there’s something else: The 2014 elections. The stated goal of Battleground Texas is to make Texas a swing state in Presidential elections. I’m totally down with that, but we shouldn’t have to wait till 2016 to see a meaningful progress report. While Democrats made a huge stride in turnout from 2004 to 2008 – they backslid a bit in 2012 but were still a good half million votes ahead of 2004 last year – turnout in non-Presidential years has essentially been flat this past decade. Since 2002, only two Democrats have gotten as many as two million votes in an off-year election: John Sharp in 2002 (2,082,081) and Bill White in 2010 (2,106,395). Everyone else has generally been stuck in the 1.6 million to 1.8 million range. Republicans, outside of Rick Perry in the four-way 2006 gubernatorial race, have never been below 2.1 million since 2002. If Battleground Texas wants to show it’s got some game going into 2016, I’d like for them to have a goal of helping every statewide Democrat get at least two million votes next year, with a stretch goal of 2.5 million at the top of the ticket. That’s still unlikely to be enough to win, though it could happen in a 2006 turnout year for Republicans, but it would be close and it would be a loud announcement that they’re very much headed in the right direction. Hand in hand with that would be goals of generally winning races in counties like Harris, Fort Bend, and Hays, winning legislative seats in Dallas and Williamson, and winning seats on the First and Fourteenth Courts of Appeals. Making some headway in the suburbs and boosting turnout along the Rio Grande would be nice, too.

Am I asking too much? Maybe, but I don’t really think so. I presume that whatever steps Battleground Texas will take will begin well before the 2014 elections, and I’m sure they’d like to at least have some proof of concept before the 2016 season begins. The good thing about an off-year election is that you already know about a lot of the voters you’d like to target. You just have to persuade them to show up. I don’t know if Battleground Texas plans to make public any goals for 2014, and if they do I won’t blame them if they have a more modest set of targets in mind. But if it were up to me, this is where I’d like the starting point to be.

Yeah, it is too early to be polling for 2012

But that won’t stop anyone from doing them.

2012 could be the year Democrats are finally competitive for President in Texas…but only if the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin.

There are vast differences in how the various different potential GOP contenders fare against Barack Obama in Texas. Mike Huckabee is very popular in the state and would defeat Obama by 16 points, a more lopsided victory than John McCain had there in 2008. Mitt Romney is also pretty well liked and has a 7 point advantage over the President in an early hypothetical contest, a closer margin than the state had last time around but still a pretty healthy lead. A plurality of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Newt Gingrich but he would lead Obama by a 5 point margin nonetheless. It’s a whole different story with Palin though. A majority of Texas voters have an unfavorable opinion of her and she leads the President by just a single point in a hypothetical contest.

Part of the reason Obama looks like he could be competitive against the right Republican opponent is that his position in the state has improved. 42% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 55% who disapprove. His average approval rating in 4 surveys conducted in PPP over the course of 2010 was 38% so he’s seeing the same sort of uptick in his numbers there that he’s seeing nationally right now.

The other reason for Obama’s closeness is the weakness of the Republican candidate field. He’d have no shot against a GOP nominee that voters in the state like. Huckabee’s favorability rating is a 51/30 spread and he blows Obama out of the water. But none of the other GOP hopefuls come close to matching that appeal. Romney’s favorability is narrowly in positive territory at 40/37, but Gingrich’s is negative at 38/44, and Palin’s is even worse at 42/53. Texas voters certainly don’t like Obama but for the most part they don’t see the current Republican front runners as particularly great alternatives.

What’s maybe most striking about Obama’s competitiveness in these numbers is that they’re from the same sample that showed Democrats had virtually no chance of picking up Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat earlier this week, trailing all 12 match ups we tested by double digit margins.

The previous poll results are here. I’m going to disagree with the analysis in that I think it really is all about name recognition. In the end, Obama may or may not perform better than whoever the Democratic candidate for Senate is – I’ll take the over if it’s Gene Kelly, the under if it’s John Sharp, and would consider it a tossup otherwise – but he isn’t about to perform 10 to 15 points better than any of them. The level of support Obama gets is roughly going to be the base Democratic performance level.

Yeah, sure, candidates and campaigns and fundraising matter, but only so much in a Presidential year. John Cornyn had Senate incumbency, several terms as a statewide officeholder, and something like a 3-1 financial advantage over Rick Noriega, yet he finished behind John McCain in both total votes and vote percentage, and did only one to three points better than downballot Republicans. Barring a Gene Kelly situation, I expect all the Democratic statewide candidates in 2012 to be within a few points of each other.

The question is what is the ceiling for Democrats in 2012. About a million more people voted in Texas in 2004 than in 2000, and at both the Presidential level and downballot, the Republicans got about 70% of those votes. About 900,000 more people voted in 2008 than in 2004, and again at all levels the Democrats got about 90% of those votes. There are a number of reasons for this, but one factor I’d point to is Latino support. Obama did more than ten points better among Latino voters than John Kerry did, and that was a big part of it. Call me crazy, but I don’t think any Republican Presidential candidate is going to appeal to Latinos like George W. Bush did in 2004. Given that our state, and our electorate, isn’t getting any whiter, I like those odds.

I’ll say this much, if Team Obama actually spends some money in Texas, it would make a difference. If they consider the 2010 results in a vacuum, they’ll run screaming in the other direction, but this was a tough year all over, and one presumes they’re smart enough to realize that the 2012 electorate will be very different, here and elsewhere. Even if they (quite reasonably) think our electoral votes are out of reach, there’s still an excellent reason to play here, and that’s for the Congressional races. Two Republicans won in 2010 with less than 50% – Blake Farenthold and Quico Canseco – and of course there will be four new seats to fight over. Winning back CDs 23 and 27, and taking two of the four new seats, would mean a net +2 for Dems in Texas. If Obama hopes to start his second term with a Democratic (or at least a more Democratic) Congress, that sure would help.

All right, I don’t really plan to talk about this much between now and the end of the year, so file this away for later. We’ve seen how quickly and significantly the winds can change over a few months, so we’ll see where things stand once the Republicans begin to coalesce around a single contender.

KBH will not run in 2012

She finally says something definitive.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced Thursday she won’t seek reelection, ending the uncertainty that had largely frozen a slate of Republicans contenders itching to replace her.

In a statement, the three-term Republican who first won a special election in 1993, said her decision “would give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be.”

“I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state. The last two years have been particularly difficult, especially for my family, but I felt it would be wrong to leave the Senate during such a critical period,” Hutchison said.

“Instead of putting my seat into a special election, I felt it was my duty to use my experience to fight the massive spending that has increased our national debt; the government takeover of the our health care system; and the growth of the federal bureaucracy, which threatens our economy. I will continue that fight until the end of my term in 2012,” she continued.

I’ve had more than my fair share of fun at her expense over this excessively drawn-out drama. What can I say? The jokes wrote themselves. In the end, she proved me wrong. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

Anyway. The Trib has a copy of her letter, which brings the state’s longest-running soap opera to a close. Look for the floodgates to open soon, though a couple of potential big players – Dewhurst and Abbott, in particular – will likely play it cool until the legislative session is over, unless they plan to rule themselves out. This announcement ought to also clear the way for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who’s been playing his own “will I or won’t I?” game lately, to make his intentions officially known. I imagine we’ll be hearing from John Sharp in the near future, too. Sure hope you’ve recovered from the 2010 election, because 2012 just got underway.

UPDATE: As if on cue, it’s now Dewhurst’s turn to waffle. It’s going to be a long two years.

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.

What’s next for Bill White?

Not a campaign.

In the nearly two weeks since his decisive loss to Gov. Rick Perry, he’s had time to begin planning a family Christmas trip to a yet-to-be-decided Spanish-speaking country, to indulge his penchant for exploring new and interesting businesses and to begin thinking about what he wants to do next. He also has time to think about what might have been.

For now, he said, about the only thing he knows about his future is what he doesn’t plan to do. He is not running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Kay Bailey Hutchison.

“I’m not running in 2012,” he said, relaxing on the couch in a sunlit den in the White home overlooking woods bordering Buffalo Bayou. He also said he has no plans to try again for the Governor’s Office or for a Senate seat in 2014, when Republican Sen. John Cornyn faces re-election. He looks forward to getting back into business, he said.

Good news for John Sharp. I do hope that White stays involved – Lord knows, we could use his fundraising ability all across the ticket – but I’ll certainly understand if this was his last election. BOR has more.

Get ready for some Sharp-mentum

Towards the end of her column, Peggy Fikac reminds us that everything old will be new again in 2012.

Here’s the text I got from former state Comptroller John Sharp on election night, as Democrats were going down in flames: “Number one Democrat is Jim Sharp.”

Jim Sharp, a Texas Supreme Court candidate, got 37.25 percent of the votes cast in his race, the highest by a smidge among Democratic candidates statewide other than White, who got 42.28 percent.

“Not bad for zero money,” noted John Sharp, who’s got his sights set on running for U.S. Senate in 2012.

Putting the narcissism aside for the moment – was that really the most pressing thing you had to say at that moment in time, John? – this is a reminder that when last we heard of Sharp, he was tweeting his intention to run for Senate at whatever time there was going to be a Senate race. At least this will spare us all that tedious speculation about whether or not he will be a candidate.

Roundup and reaction to White’s announcement

Bill White isn’t officially a candidate for Governor yet, but he’s already picked up endorsements from State Sens. Kirk Watson and Eliot Shapleigh. I feel confident that many more such endorsements will follow, perhaps even before he commits to the race.

For now, at least, the other Democratic contenders for Governor are still in the race. I figure Kinky is in till the end – he has books to sell, after all. Shami has already sunk a bunch of money into TV ads, so it doesn’t make sense for him to decide anything until that runs its course. Alvarado is an afterthought. It makes sense for Hank to switch, either to Land Commish or back to Ag Commish, but I expect he’ll dig in his heels a bit. He got into this race for a reason, and he won’t get out of it without one. He could wind up staying in, but I think a lot of folks will want him to switch. He’s the one to watch.

(Speaking of ads, I saw that KBH for Governor ad last night during the local news. My God, it was as awful as I’d heard. Hard to believe she was once seen as an unstoppable juggernaut in this race.)

Speaking of the other races, there’s already been talk about who else might run for the other offices now that White would be at the top of the ticket. I don’t want to get too far out there in the speculation game, but let me suggest a name anyway: State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte for Lite Guv. She isn’t on the ballot in 2010, so it’s a free shot for her, she would provide a nice bit of regional and ethnic diversity, and she would generate as much excitement for that office as she did as a potential candidate for Governor. There would be some issues to work out first – she would have to want to do it, and there’s the matter of her endorsing John Sharp in the Senate race – but it’s nothing insurmountable. I have no idea what anyone else is thinking here, but this is what I think.

Ross Ramsay lists winners and losers as a result of White’s likely move. I would suggest that it’s too early to call Sharp a winner – we still don’t know for sure that there will be a Senate race before 2012, after all, and for all we know someone else could get into it by then. I’ll say this much – Sharp no longer has an excuse for his lousy fundraising in that race. I’d also suggest that a potential loser is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. If White’s entry into the Governor’s race is the boost for Democrats in Harris County that a lot of people I’ve talked to think it will be, that may attract a stronger candidate to the County Judge’s race, and could put Emmett in jeopardy. Which would be a bit ironic, given the link White and Emmett have for their work during Hurricane Ike, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

I’m sure there will be a lot more to talk and think about between now and December 4, when White will announce his decision. In the meantime, here’s more from Burka and Swartz, BOR, PDiddie, Hal, Juanita, John Coby, Erik Vidor, Andrea White (not actually related to these events, but amusing to read), and Evan Smith.

UPDATE: Forgot to add in Rick Casey, too.

UPDATE: Here’s Purple Texas.

Sharp loans himself another bundle

Previously, we saw that Senate fundraising numbers for the third quarter were in. I noted that John Sharp reported raising $600,000, and I wondered if that was for real, or if once again he loaned himself a sizable chunk of that total. Though the FEC.gov page isn’t updated yet, I have my answer in the form of this PDF scan of Sharp’s toplines report, sent to me by the Bill White campaign. In it, you will see that as he did last quarter, Sharp loaned himself another $500,000, bringing the total amount of the money he’s loaned to his own campaign to $3.1 million. If we adjust the quarterly report to remove money loaned or self-donated to that candidate, the cumulative totals look like this:

Candidate Q3 raised Total raised ================================================ Bill White 1,100,000 5,500,000 Roger Williams 336,000 1,150,000 * Florence Shapiro 354,000 890,000 * Elizabeth Ames Jones 208,000 770,000 * John Sharp 100,000 670,000 Michael Williams 92,000 323,000

We don’t know yet how much, if any, money the candidates with asterisks have loaned themselves; Shapiro and Williams have done so before, Ames Jones has not. Looked at this way, White has still raised as much as everyone else put together. He’s in a different league than they are, and it’s no wonder the NRSC is freaking out over him. As for Sharp, he’s gotten some nice endorsements lately, but that hasn’t helped him raise any money. He said in the beginning, after he wrote that first $2.1 million check to himself, that he couldn’t self-finance this race. Something’s gotta give here.

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.

White reports another strong fundraising quarter

Fresh from the inbox:

To date, more than 5,000 supporters have contributed more than $6 million to Houston Mayor Bill White’s campaign since he announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in December.

The contributions for the filing period ending Sept. 30 totaled more than $1.5 million. In the last week of the quarter alone, supporters contributed $400,000, about half through the internet. The candidate pledged to match contributions during that week.

As of the second quarter filing period, the Bill White for Texas team had raised more dollars from more people than all other Senate candidates combined. With nearly 2000 first-time contributors, the third quarter filing period attracted significantly more new contributors to the campaign than any other quarter.

That $400K is nearly as much as John Sharp raised in the entire first quarter. The new reports aren’t up on the FEC site yet, but I’ll go out on a limb and predict that White did pretty well in comparison to the others. That said, some amount of that total will be self-contributions, given the matching offer he made. Still, $400K in a week is mighty impressive, especially given current conditions.

Endorsement watch: A late roundup

Some recent endorsements in City elections over the past few days. Going back to last week, here are the endorsements from the Houston Black American Democrats (HBAD):

Mayor – Gene Locke
Controller – Ronald Green
At Large #1 – Karen Derr
At Large #2 – Andrew Burks
At Large #3 – Melissa Noriega
At Large #4 – C.O. Bradford
At Large #5 – Jolanda Jones
District A – Lane Lewis
District B – Roger Bowden
District D – Wanda Adams
District F – Mike Laster
District G – Dexter Handy
District H – Ed Gonzalez
HISD District IX – Adrian Collins
Proposition 4 – Yes

HBAD also endorsed John Sharp in the whenever-it-will-be Senate race. More on that in a bit. Next up is the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce PAC, which thankfully put its endorsements online where I could easily find them:

Gene Locke, Mayor

Ronald Green, Controller

Sue Lovell, At Large Pos. 2

Melissa Noriega, At Large Pos. 3

Noel Freeman, At Large Pos. 4

Jarvis Johnson, Dist. B

Anne Clutterbuck, Dist. C

Wanda Adams, Dist. D

Mills Worsham, Dist. G

Ed Gonzalez, Dist. H

James Rodriguez, Dist. I

Alma Lara, HISD Dist. 1

Mary Ann Perez, HCCS Dist. III

And finally, and also nicely online, the Noah’s Ark PAC:

Noah’s Ark PAC endorses Gene Locke for Mayor of Houston. Following a personal visit to Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC), Gene Locke met with a group of Houston’s most vocal advocates for BARC to ask for their input and suggestions for making lasting changes at BARC. Locke incorporated their input into his policy for BARC which can be found on his web site at:
http://www.genelocke.com/release_details.asp?id=68#

Gene Locke was selected due to his obvious commitment to working with advocates and for providing tangible, realistic solutions to addressing the problems at BARC.

Noah’s Ark PAC also endorses the following candidates for controller and city council:

City Controller- Pam Holm

City Council
At-Large 1- Karen Derr
At-Large 2- Sue Lovell
At-Large 3- Melissa Noriega
At-Large 4- C.O. “Brad” Bradford
At-Large 5- Jolanda Jones
District A- Lane Lewis
District B- Jarvis Johnson
District C- Anne Clutterbuck
District D- Wanda Adams
District E- no endorsement
District F- Peter Acquaro
District G- Oliver Pennington
District H- Ed Gonzalez
District I- James Rodriguez

Noah’s Ark PAC congratulates these candidates and thanks the many candidates that completed the PAC’s candidate survey. Noah’s Ark PAC would like to specifically recognize Karen Derr for being the first major candidate for Houston city council to make the issues at BARC a campaign platform issue. The PAC also recognizes candidate for mayor, Annise Parker, for routinely discussing the problems at BARC in her newsletter and campaign literature, helping to elevate the public discussion. Noah’s Ark PAC also recognizes Councilwoman Jolanda Jones for her commitment to thoroughly researching the problems at BARC and for asking tough questions when they needed to be asked.

That’s a pretty good week for Gene Locke. (It may be a little less so if this story about the Sports Authority needing to refinance a bunch of debt gets any legs.) You can read the responses they got to their questionnaires here and here. And here’s the Chron profile of Locke, the second in their series.

Not endorsement-related, but Annie’s List sent out another mailer in support of Annise Parker, this one attacking Peter Brown for being a “serial exaggerator”. I’ve put a copy of it beneath the fold for your perusal. So far, I have not seen or heard of any pushback on the mailer, which distinguishes it from the hit piece they did on Gene Locke last month.

Elsewhere, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer announced the support of several South Texas legislators.

Announcing their support for Schieffer were Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen and Representatives Veronica Gonzales of McAllen, Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville, Armando “Mando” Martinez of Weslaco, Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, Aaron Pena of Edinburg and Tara Rios Ybarra of South Padre Island.

The full release is beneath the fold. Schieffer’s release prompted a response from Hank Gilbert that said the announcement of all this support so early in the game is an acknowledgement that Gilbert is a serious threat to him. Maybe so, but one could also ask at what point Gilbert will start to get official support like that. In particular, I’m wondering which candidate for Governor guys like Reps. Jim McReynolds, Chuck Hopson, Stephen Frost, and Mark Homer – all Dems from Gilbert’s neck of the woods – will endorse.

Finally, circling back to the Senate race, John Sharp announced the endorsement of State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, while Bill White received the nod from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Endorsing members include Rep Alma Allen (Houston), Rep Garnet Coleman (Houston), Rep Dawnna Dukes (Austin), Rep Harold Dutton (Houston), Rep Helen Giddings (Dallas), Rep Barbara Mallory Caraway (Dallas), Rep Ruth McClendon (San Antonio), Rep Sylvester Turner (Houston) and Rep Marc Veasey (Fort Worth).

Coleman, Allen, Dukes, Caraway, and McClendon were on the first list of endorsees that White released. He’s now received the nod of 37 of the 74 Dems in the House (full list here), including 11 of 14 from Harris County; in addition to Dutton and Turner, Hubert Vo and Armando Walle have signed on since that initial list came out. The three holdouts are Senfronia Thompson, Al Edwards, and Kristi Thibaut. This release is beneath the fold as well.

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DSCC looks to Texas

Moe specifically, they’re looking at the Bill White campaign for a competitive race here.

Democrats see political opportunity in Texas thanks to a departing Republican senator, a special election to replace her and Houston’s mayor bidding for her seat.

Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Tuesday Democrats could be on the road to a competitive Senate race in Texas.

“I’m not going to overstate it. Texas is a hard place, except that what we’re talking about here is a special election with a much different universe of voters coming out and someone like (Houston Mayor) Bill White” running, Menendez said.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is expected to resign from the Senate as early as this year to focus on her challenge of incumbent Gov. Rick Perry to be the GOP nominee for governor.

Menendez said White is well positioned because he is from Houston — which is the state’s largest city — and is a Texas Democrat who “represents the values and positions that would appeal to a broad cross-section” of voters.

A special election to replace Hutchison would draw a “special universe of voters,” also giving Democrats a chance, Menendez said. Special elections do not include party primaries.

“In a special election … the turnout can create the opportunity for someone like Bill White to succeed,” he said.

The usual caveats apply. I’ll believe KBH is resigning when I actually see her do it. There may be a “special universe of voters” in this election, whenever it is, but that doesn’t mean it would be any less Republican. More to the point, the runoff is unlikely to be any less Republican than a regular statewide election, and that’s where the challenge really lies. Be that as it may, it is easy to see why the national folks are excited about Bill White’s candidacy. Wednesday was the campaign finance reporting deadline for the third quarter, so we’ll soon have another idea of how strong his campaign has been

As for John Sharp, who was also mentioned in this article? I’ll let KT handle that one.

Another Democratic gubernatorial hopeful

Well, you can’t say that the Democratic cast of characters for Governor lacks characters.

Rick Perry might not be the only candidate in the 2010 race for Texas governor who is known for great hair.

As the Republican governor with famously spiffy locks seeks re-election, the head of a Houston hair products company that Perry recently touted says he might be running for governor — as a Democrat.

Farouk Shami, 66 , founder and board chairman of Faorouk Systems Inc., hosted Perry at his company’s headquarters in July for a news conference announcing the company’s decision to move manufacturing facilities from South Korea and China to Texas, bringing 1,200 jobs to Houston. Perry called Shami, who was born in what was then Palestine, someone “who pretty much embodies the American dream.”

“Inspired by the freedoms we enjoy, he was drawn to this state,” Perry said at the news conference, a video of which is posted on the governor’s Web site. “He’s built a life of significance and an organization that is respected around the world. His is the story of Texas.”

Now, Shami, who has never run for office, is pondering a run to replace Perry, though their philosophies sound similar. Shami says he wants to bring jobs to Texas and avoid raising taxes. He said Perry “is a wonderful person” but lacks business experience.

“I have the capability to run the state as a business,” said Shami, whose shampoos, hair dryers and flat irons are sold around the world under the BioSilk and CHI brands. “People are tired of politicians.”

Yeah, the name “Tony Sanchez” is popping into my head, too. Given what Perry said about Sanchez during that campaign, one can only wonder what he might say about Farouk Shami in this one.

Shami donated more than $24,000 to [Kinky] Friedman’s independent campaign for governor in 2006, when Friedman referred to Shami as his Palestinian barber. Now, Shami said Friedman doesn’t seem serious.

Well, I can’t argue with that last part. At least he’s able to learn from his mistakes.

On a much less colorful note, Burka touts former Speaker Pete Laney as the Democrats’ best hope in the Governor’s race. I have a lot of respect for Pete Laney, and if he got into the race I’d certainly consider him. It’s not clear to me why Burka thinks Laney’s support for George W. Bush in the 2000 election would be any less a problem for him than Tom Schieffer’s Bush connection, but I suppose Burka was addressing the general election and not the primary. I’m far from sold on the need or the wisdom of having a rural candidate as the nominee – I think the marginal gains in rural counties may not be enough to overcome a lack of enthusiasm for a rural white guy in the urban, heavily non-Anglo Democratic base, and I tend to agree with Greg that the place to be looking for persuadable voters is the suburbs. I also take issue with Burka’s assertion that Laney isn’t just the Dems’ best hope, he’s the only hope. Among other things, I’m hearing from more and more people who think KBH may back out of the Governor’s race, in which case you’d have Bill White and John Sharp in a non-existent Senate campaign; surely White would represent a stronger hope than Laney, or anyone else for that matter, and I’d rank Sharp above Laney as well. Be that as it may, if this is more than wishcasting, I’m certainly open to hearing more. But get back to me after I’ve heard it.

Meeting Tom Schieffer

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Democatic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer on Wednesday, along with several of my blogging colleagues (*). This was at his initiative, and I appreciated the opportunity to get to hear him speak. I’ll link to others’ reports as I see them, but the following is my own impressions.

What I wanted to get out of Schieffer was a better understanding of how he approaches the issues. I can say that I came away with a good feeling about it. Schieffer has good instincts, is very passionate about education, the need to fund research and development as economic vehicles, and bridging the digital divide. I did not cringe at any of his answers, nor did I find myself thinking that he was wrong on a specific issue. As someone who interviews a lot of candidates, mostly ones I support, that’s not something I can say about all of them. He was short on details, but that’s okay for now. I need for a candidate’s principles and priorities to be in order first, and I feel like I got that. Policy wonkery can come later, when people are paying more attention.

Schieffer has two basic hurdles to overcome, and to some extent they’re within his control, and to some extent they’re not. First is fundraising. It’s very expensive to run statewide in Texas, and the last truly well-funded candidate we had here was in 2002. Schieffer raised a few bucks last quarter, nothing to get excited about but a decent enough start, all things considered. One certainly hopes that a guy like him has a Rolodex of friends and acquaintances that is sufficiently well-heeled to make dialing for dollars a rewarding experience, but that remains to be seen. The thing is, the question that needs to be answered here is whether or not the big money players on the Democratic side have come to the realization that unless they get off their asses and Do Something, there’s an excellent chance we’re in for four more years of Rick Perry. They don’t have a Strayhorn option with which to delude themselves this time around – either we have a well-funded, credible Democratic candidate, or we hope like hell that KBH’s campaign isn’t as inept as we fear. Six months ago, you could rationalize punting on the Governor’s race on the grounds that at least Kay > Rick. That luxury is gone now, and it’s time for the folks who write the big checks to get in the game.

That doesn’t mean they have to support Schieffer. While I feel better about his potential candidacy now than I did before, I’d still like to see a race of our own on the Governor’s side, among candidates that might have a chance at winning next year. Maybe that includes Ronnie Earle, maybe that includes someone else. Todd Hill thinks maybe it should be John Sharp, though at this point I’d be strongly inclined to vote for Schieffer over Sharp. (If you want to know why, compare and contrast for one example of my disenchantment with Sharp and his substance-free Senate campaign. I’d be happy to see Sharp go for Lite Guv, but beyond that I’m just about done with the man.) What I know is that Schieffer is in the game now, and everyone else is vaporware until proven otherwise.

Anyway. I do believe that by March, we’ll be seeing some real money on the Democratic side. And while we all know not to fear competitive primaries any more, I don’t see the multi-million dollar tussle between Perry and KBH being one that expands their base or generates interest outside of the core audience. And as Schieffer himself pointed out at lunch, they’ll both likely wind up with little cash on hand after the primary, without having spent any of it attacking him or any other Dem. The money advantage they have won’t be quite as great as it appears now. Doesn’t mean the nominee won’t need to raise a boatload of dough, but it does mean we don’t need to freak out too much about it.

The other issue is the Bush issue. I’m not as bothered by it as some other folks. Schieffer says that when people who ask him about this hear him speak, the issue gets forgotten. I believe that – he’s a genuinely likable guy, and as I said before, his instincts are good – but you’re not going to be able to meet enough voters to make that an effective strategy. He needs a good, short answer to that, one that allows him to go into the rest of his spiel without it being a distraction. (Honestly, he needs shorter answers to most of the questions we asked. The stories he told were interesting and responsive to our queries, but went on way too long.) If nothing else, he needs to get past this as quickly as possible to keep the big-check guys from finding someone else to lavish their funds on.

So there it is. I’m satisfied that if Schieffer is our candidate, he’ll do a good job. I’d still like to see another quality contender get in, to raise the profile of the race, provide a contrast to the Republicans, and make whoever the nominee is earn it. I may wind up supporting someone else, but I will support happily support Schieffer if he is the nominee.

Other views: From Greg, David, , and though he wasn’t actually there, EoW.

(*) For the steak-obsessed, we all paid for our own food. And most of us had burgers. If you have no idea what this is about, don’t worry about it – it’s a silly bit of inside baseball.

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.

From the “Reasons why KBH won’t resign” files

Gardner Selby notes that whenever Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decides to resign from the Senate, Governor Perry controls the timing of the special election to replace her and can use it to help his preferred candidate.

Under the law, if the governor determines that an emergency warrants holding a special election before the uniform election date, then it can be on a nonuniform date as long as the governor identifies the nature of the emergency.

Translation: The election can happen any day the governor pleases.

And should Hutchison step down, Perry would consider setting an election shortly. Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle told me, “If a vacancy were to occur, the governor would be inclined to call an election soon to ensure Texans are fully represented” in Washington.

This possible twist carries huge political implications.

A speeded election would give a leg up to the interim senator that Perry appoints on Hutchison’s departure if only because the fledgling senator will get a burst of attention simply by getting sworn in and settled. And a quick election would probably hurt other aspirants, including Democrats John Sharp of Austin and Bill White, the Houston mayor, leaving them scrambling for attention in an abbreviated campaign period.

Meanwhile, voters — not primed for a customary November vote or given notice of a less-traditional May election — may be asked to act on an unusual date such as (I’ll float) Tuesday, Oct. 13.

An odd date stands to inflate the influence of die-hard voters such as Republican regulars who tend to turn out in heavier numbers in special elections.

The political reverb: Democrats would cry foul, though Perry would draw warm credit in GOP circles for efficiently protecting the seat for his party.

Three things:

1. Of course Rick Perry will take whatever advantage he can get from this situation. It’s what he does, and he does it well – he’s as good at politics as he is bad at governing. I’m not saying some other governor wouldn’t take political considerations into account. I’m just saying that for Perry, those are the only considerations.

2. Bear in mind, whatever “emergency” Perry might cook up to set an election date of his choosing, he did not call an emergency election to fill HD143 after the tragic death of Rep. Joe Moreno in May, even though he went on to call two special sessions on school finance reform after the regular session. HD143 remained empty during this time until now-Rep. Ana Hernandez won a runoff in December. Bear in mind, Texas’ Senate seat will be filled as soon as Perry names a replacement. It will not be left vacant for any stretch of time as HD143 was. This is as clear an illustration as you can want of Perry putting politics first and everything else second.

3. Of course, as I and some others have repeatedly noted, KBH has a simple counter to all this: Stay in office until she’s been sworn in as Governor, assuming she gets that far and then wins in November. Leave the replacement selection and special election date-setting to someone she trusts, namely herself. It’s either that or let Rick Perry send Dan Patrick to Washington. You’d think that wouldn’t be a hard choice from KBH’s perspective.

We’ll know who’s running for what soon enough

Matt Glazer notes a Capitol Inside piece that suggests that State Sen. Kirk Watson is staying put, and that Houston Mayor Bill White will shift gears and run for Governor instead of Senate. As one who expected him to run for Governor, I can’t say I’d be disappointed by that turn of events. But the man himself is adamant he’s staying put, as he said in his response to Paul Burka.

I respect Paul B, but my decision-making wasn’t based on politics. Texas would best be served by a new Senator with the strength to do what is right for Texas, the federal experience to hit the ground running, the business skills to help balance the budget, and the broad support to have real influence with the new leadership in DC. The race shouldn’t be about my personal preferences–which would not include the travel required by a Senator. My decision, and the decisions of voters, should be about what is best for Texas.

I see no reason not to take him at his word. As Matt notes, White has been the most successful fundraiser for Senate by far; logic would suggest if any Dem were going to change races it would be John Sharp, who himself has given no indication he intends to do that. I like to speculate as much as anyone, but I don’t see anything more than that here.

Endorsement watch: Harris County Commissioners for Sharp

Senate candidate John Sharp has a press release out touting the endorsements of Harris County Commissioners Sylvia Garcia and El Franco Lee. It’s printed beneath the fold. As far as endorsements like these go, they’re pretty good gets – if nothing else, they give Sharp some key supporters in Bill White’s back yard, and should be assets for him in fundraising. Note the timing as well – with the fundraising deadline upon us, this provides a nice diversion in the event Sharps’ numbers aren’t terribly impressive. I don’t mean to sound suspicious, but Sharp made a similar maneuver last quarter, so an announcement like this just before the reports start coming online, so forgive me if my Spidey sense is tingling.

I must say, I find it amusing that the press release has Commissioner Lee “citing a recent University of Texas poll showing Sharp leading the field of candidates”. Yes, with ten percent of the total; Bill White had seven percent in that sample. Like the recent Lyceum poll, which had White at ten percent and Sharp at two, this is a poll about a race whose date is uncertain, whose field is not set, and whose announced candidates are largely unknown and have not begun to spend any money to correct that. Drawing any conclusions based on either or both of them is dicey, to say the least.

Anyway. The release is here. I look forward to seeing the fundraising totals in a few days.
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Hutchison announces her intent to announce

Actually, what Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison wanted to tell us was that she had a lot of money available to her for her yet-to-be-announced gubernatorial bid (which, for what it’s worth, some people outside of Texas think she may yet wimp out on), even more than Rick Perry does. What she didn’t display was a show of support, or much of an eye for presentation, but I guess if your campaign coffers are big enough, those things don’t matter much.

The big question – Will KBH actually resign from the Senate, and if so when? – remains a mystery.

Though she’s spoken previously to possibly resigning her seat—a move that could set off a spring 2010 special election to elect someone to serve out her term—she added no details on resignation thoughts today.

Whatever. My marker is still on her not resigning. Maybe in August we’ll find out. Given that this is still KBH we’re talking about, maybe not.

On a related note, Paul Burka wonders why Bill White doesn’t try for the Governor’s office instead.

The Republican nominee will be the survivor of a brutal primary. If the nominee is Rick Perry, he is vulnerable in a general election context. And if it is Hutchison, well, she looked invincible when the first polls came out, but she doesn’t look so strong today. Democrats will be excited about the chance to win a statewide election for the first time since 1994. If White wants to win, he should run for governor.

It’s amazing how the conventional wisdom on the KBH Express has changed, isn’t it? Six months ago she was a juggernaut, headed towards a coronation. One successful legislative session for Rick Perry – “successful” in the sense that the economic stimulus package, which he has crapped on regularly while eagerly sticking his hand out for every non-unemployment penny at the same time, saved us all from having to fight over nasty budget cuts – and six months of incompetent, tin-eared campaigning later, and all of a sudden she has a glass chin. We all remember that KBH hasn’t had to win an election against a well-funded opponent since 1994, right? For this reason, I believe that the Democrats will have a strong contender for Governor, whether it’s Kirk Watson, Ronnie Earle, John Sharp, Bill White, Tom Schieffer, or someone we haven’t thought of yet. Someone is going to look at this and say “Heads I get to run against Rick Perry, tails I get to run against whatever’s left of KBH after Perry tears her a new one”. The playing field isn’t what it used to be.

UPDATE: Harvey Kronberg gives what may be the best reason I’ve heard why KBH ain’t resigning any time soon.

One of the great Texas parlor games this year is trying to decide who Rick Perry would appoint to the United States Senate if and when Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns.

Chief contenders on the list have been Lite Guv David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones as well as former Secretary of State Roger Williams.

Each brings unique strengths to the ticket and all would most likely be happy to take shots at the departing senator in exchange for the appointment.

But in the last few days, a new name has been in the mix – state Senator Dan Patrick.

Danno came out strongly for Perry last month, and as HK notes would make an excellent anti-KBH attack dog, especially with a higher profile. I’ve said all along that I think KBH wants to appoint her replacement herself, and if there’s anything to this, I think it will solidify that conviction on her part. I could, of course, be wrong. We may see next month.

Governor’s race reaction roundup

Rachel rounds up a bunch of bloggers’ reactions to the various happenings among Democratic candidates, potential candidates, and former candidates for Governor. Couple of things to note: One, as KT points out, Ronnie Earle is still in the mix. And two, I think Burka’s take on Kirk Watson is very sharp. I realize there’s a certain amount of pessimism in the air right now concerning the state of the Governor’s race. But what strikes me is how many people experience and capability are currently considering running for something statewide. That’s a real change from 2006, and reflects a shift in the perception of winnability by Democrats. I see plenty of reasons to be optimistic about that.

On a side note, Stace announces his support for Bill White for Senate. I realize that John Sharp has repeatedly denied any interest in the Governor’s race despite national speculation that he’d shift. I’m thinking the window for him to make that shift in any event is narrowing. Just a thought.

The latest Lyceum poll

The Texas Lyceum just released a poll on various campaigns and politicians, and well, I’m not sure that it says much of anything. I’ve got the PDF here, and the problems begin right away:

We interviewed Texas adults during the June 5-12 period, talking to 860 adults, 51% female, and 49% male. Three out of four said they are registered voters.

One third are “extremely interested” in politics and public affairs and another 46% are “somewhat interested.” Almost half — 49% — said they vote in “every” or “almost every” election. Another 24 percent said they haven’t voted in any election “over the last two or three years.”

OK, so this is a survey of adults, not likely voters (that’s a subsample of about 430) or even registered voters (approximately 650). Nothing wrong with that, but as it will include opinions from a lot of people who may not bother to cast a ballot next year, I’d be careful about what conclusions I drew from this if I were on a campaign.

About the same number of those polled said they are “certain” or “likely” to vote in each party’s primary (Republicans, 31%; Democrats, 30%), and another 17 percent said they intend to vote in a primary but haven’t yet decided which one.

So 49% of the sample actually exhibits habitual voting behavior, yet 78% claim they’ll be voting in one primary or the other in March. The most generous percentage of “likely” voters one can claim for this survey is 76%, if one simply assumes anyone outside that group that hasn’t voted at all in the past two or three years is likely to vote next year. That math doesn’t add up.

Which means you can pretty much take this with a grain of salt:

Texans who plan to vote in next year’s Republican primary for governor favor incumbent Rick Perry over his main challenger, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, by a 33-21 margin, but the most common answer to that question was undecided, with 41 percent saying they haven’t made up their minds. A small group — 1 percent — expressed support for state Rep. Leo Berman. Perry leads Hutchison among self-identified Republicans 40% to 18%, but that’s also the group with the largest number of undecided voters, at 48%. Hutchison carries 49% of self-identified Democrats and Independents who say they plan to vote in the GOP primary, compared to 23% for Perry and 29% undecided.

One wonders how small the “non-Republicans who plan to vote in the GOP primary” subsample is. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Polling for primaries is tricky business under any circumstance, and in a poll that isn’t specifically screening for likely primary participants, it’s even less useful. The same can be said of the Democratic primary poll result, in which Kinky Friedman “led” the field with ten percent. So much for any claim of name recognition by the Kinkster. Speaking of which:

They’re largely undecided on their favorite candidates for U.S. Senate, should Hutchison resign late this year and prompt a special election in May 2010. Given the choice of six Republicans and two Democrats who’ve expressed interest in that race, 71 percent said they either haven’t decided or didn’t want to say. Houston Mayor Bill White led the pack with 9%, followed by Attorney General Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, with 4%; Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, 3%; and state Sen. Florence Shapiro, former Comptroller John Sharp, and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, at 2%. Sharp and White are Democrats; the others are Republicans.

Two percent for John Sharp? Are you kidding me? I realize this is a sample that’s full of less-than-engaged people, but that’s where being on the scene and on the ballot forever as Sharp has been is supposed to be an asset; the junkies already know who everybody is. Not exactly a confidence-builder, you know?

The survey also has approval ratings for Perry, Hutchison, and President Obama, who clocks in with 68% of the respondents saying he’s done a “very” or “somewhat” good job as President, and for the Legislature, of whom 58% of respondents approve. That number for Obama is higher than his national ratings, and as for the Lege, I agree with Phillip: “I’m not even sure if 58% of the Texas legislature would approve of the Texas legislature.” Happy bunch of people they surveyed, that’s all I can say.

And after all that, they don’t give us a general election matchup for Governor next year, which is the one result that could have been truly interesting. It could have been done as Perry and KBH each versus a generic Democrat, or either versus Kinky, Schieffer, and the now-not-running Van de Putte. Alas, they didn’t do that.

Anyway. All polls are snapshots in time. This one is perhaps a bit fuzzier than others. Make of it what you will.

Cillizza on White

The WaPo’s Chris Cilizza surveys the Senate campaign scene, and makes an interesting comment about Texas:

Democrats’ best opportunities to broaden the current playing field are in Louisiana and Texas.

[…]

Texas is a bit more of a longshot although a special election race, which would be triggered by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) resignation to focus full time for governor, would create an unpredictable dynamic where Democrats might have a chance. The party’s preferred candidate is Houston Mayor Bill White although former state Comptroller John Sharp is running too. In truth, for Democrats to have a pickup opportunity, Sharp would probably need to step aside.

Cillizza’s suggestion that a Sharp departure makes the seat a more likely Democratic pickup stands in contrast to the Rick Casey scenario, in which White and Sharp finish ahead of a larger field of Republican wannabees and face each other in the runoff. In favor of this possibility is the fact that no big-name Republicans have entered as yet, and the ones who are in lag far behind the two Democrats in fundraising. On the other hand, there’s nothing really stopping a Dewhurst or an Abbott, both of whom are rumored to want in, from getting in, and this was always a thread-the-needle shot to begin with. I’d just about put money on one of the Williamses – Roger the multi-millionaire potential self-funder, or Michael the grassroots and Twitter hero – to make it into the top two if the field we have today is the field we get in the end. Besides, Sharp claims he isn’t going anywhere, though of course as with any race it ain’t over till the filing deadline passes. So who knows?

“Texas Democrats’ First Truly Statewide Campaign of the 21st Century”

Go read Phillip’s analysis of the Bill White campaign and its effective and extensive use of social media. Good stuff, with lots to think about.

Houston’s budget

The Chron asks if the city of Houston’s budget is balanced, then answers that question with a “Well, maybe”.

Does the city of Houston have a balanced budget?

Like so many things in politics, it depends on whom you ask.

For wealthy businessman Bill King or City Councilwoman Pam Holm, the answer is no, since Mayor Bill White’s administration is planning to spend about $50 million more from its general fund in fiscal 2010 than it will take in from taxes and other revenue streams.

To Bob Lemer, conservative tax accountant and longtime critic of City Hall, the answer is an emphatic no. Lemer said a 2008 audit of Houston’s finances over the past five years shows the city in the red to the tune of $1.5 billion if it were to do its books like a private company.

And if you see things like the mayor, Finance Director Michelle Mitchell and most City Council members do, the answer is a strong yes in the sense that the city is not spending money it does not have.

Who is right? All of them, each in their own particular way, said City Controller Annise Parker.

“We have used borrowed money to meet some of our current obligations, which is, I think, fiscally unwise,” Parker said. “But while Mr. King and Mr. Lemer are out waving the red flag, I just have the yellow flag of caution up.”

I think a lot of the criticism in this article is more about semantics than anything else. Suppose I earn $50,000 in a year. Over the course of a year, all of the money I earn is dedicated to three things: Taxes, retirement savings, and living expenses. At the end of the year, my budget is “balanced” because every penny I took in is accounted for in one of these three ways. Now I decide I want to buy a house, so over the course of the next four years I scrimp on living expenses and put a little less into retirement savings, and create a fourth category of expenditure called Down Payment, to which I dedicate $5000 a year. Then, in year five, I go back to my previous allocations, and I plunk down the $20K I’ve got in the Down Payment fund on that house I want. I’ve now spent $70,000 in Year Five, but I still took in $50,000. Am I in a deficit situation? If so, is that a bad thing?

I give that example because of the way the “problem” is described for Houston’s budget.

In the course of his administration, White said he consistently has made sure the city built up its “fund balance” — governmentspeak for reserve or savings — to pay for large expenses and to improve the city’s bond rating. The latter is a key factor in holding down the cost of borrowing.

At the end of this fiscal year on June 30, the city’s reserves are projected at $220 million. Under White’s proposed budget, fiscal 2010 will end with $171 million in unspent funds, meaning the city will have drawn down its reserves by $49 million.

White said the city built up the balance with the expectation of spending it on certain big expenditures, such as raising the pay of firefighters. That means the budget is balanced, he said, despite the fact that expenses will outpace revenues by the $49 million.

I say the situation here is analogous to the one I sketched out. Perhaps not exactly, if the extra expenses being incurred are not one-time (it’s not clear if that’s the case), but I think the question is a fair one. If you’ve saved in previous years in anticipation of a big expense in a future year, does that mean you’re in a deficit situation when you make that expenditure, and if so is that a bad thing?

That’s the crux of Council Member Holm’s complaint, and I have a hard time seeing it as anything but a bullet point in her City Controller campaign. Lemer’s issue is with bigger than that.

For Lemer, the author of a 2004 ballot proposal to limit city spending, the $49 million question is moot. He argues that the city racked up a cumulative deficit of $1.5 billion from 2004 until 2008.

“That is absolutely frightening,” he said. According to his research, the main driver of that has been borrowing to keep up with costs for the city’s pension debt.

But White said that when the city has borrowed to pay pension expenses, it has reduced other borrowing accordingly, so its overall debt levels have remained low relative to its assets.

“The ratio of debt is down from where it was in the early ’90s, and it is very competitive with other cities,” the mayor said.

Parker said the city’s spending has exceeded revenues by $1.5 billion from 2004 to 2008 because Houston has been on a building boom since the administration of Mayor Bob Lanier, borrowing to pay for new infrastructure that helps fuel growth.

“We have invested back in the city of Houston,” she said. “Our long-term debt has gone up sharply, but our infrastructure assets have gone up in valuation as well. We’re a growing city, and we’re trying to meet the needs of that growth.”

Well, I’d think that infrastructure investment would be a good thing to do, especially these days, but I’m not a longtime critic of City Hall, so what do I know? I suppose too much at once is bad, but that isn’t the argument Lemer is making, and as I can’t say I consider him to be a reliable source, we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. As for Bill King, I’m not exactly sure why his name is in this story, since there’s no quote from him that I can see. Maybe he’s required to be mentioned in stories about Houston’s governance, the way John Sharp was required to be mentioned in any story about potential statewide Democratic candidates. I can’t say I’d be surprised by that.

Cornyn clueless about KBH

Like everybody else, Sen. John Cornyn has no idea what his senior colleague in the Senate is going to do. And also like the rest of us, or at least us bloggers, he’s willing to speculate wildly about it in public.

Cornyn, who also chairs the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, has pleaded with her not to resign early. After all, if there’s a special election to replace Hutchison, Democrats would have a golden opportunity to pick up the seat, with a strong field including Houston Mayor Bill White and ex-Comptroller John Sharp. Cornyn would rather be safe than have to spend millions playing defense.

With only 40 Republicans in the Senate and the soap opera in Minnesota almost surely a lost cause, Cornyn doesn’t want to risk any more GOP-held spots any sooner than necessary.

“We certainly can’t afford to lose that [Hutchison] seat,” he said.

But the National Republican Senatorial Committee boss says he’s wary of White, who is “running a very serious race” and has raised gobs of campaign cash.

“He’s definitely on my radar,” Cornyn said.

With all the jockeying already going on in the Senate race to replace Hutchison, when does he think she will resign her seat?

“My guess,” he told Texas reporters at his Senate office today, is that Hutchison will resign “this fall sometime.”

That would allow Perry to appoint an interim senator and allow a special election to take place in May 2010 instead of this November (which would happen if she resigned this spring or summer).

But Cornyn readily admits that he has no inside info.

“There’s only one person who knows,” the San Antonio Republican said, “and it’s not me.”

Familiar sentiment, no? I’ll say again, I think she stays because she doesn’t want Rick Perry to appoint a replacement, but who knows? Join the club, John.