Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Kinky Friedman

We may have reached peak independent candidate

Meet Jonathan Jenkins, who would apparently like to be on your ballot for the Senate this fall.

Jonathan Jenkins

It’s got a high-tech evangelist for a founder, $6 million in private equity investments, even its own crypto-currency.

No, it’s not a driverless car start-up or some new, life-changing app.

It’s the Indie Party — billed as a “movement” to end the “two-party duopoly” in the United States but built more like a political consulting and technology firm with profit in mind. Its first target — and at this point its only target — is the high-stakes U.S. Senate race featuring Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

Its candidate and founder is a self-described “successful tech entrepreneur” and fluent Mandarin speaker named Jonathan Jenkins. The Euless native has been busily gathering the 47,000 or so signatures he needs to qualify for a spot as an independent on the November ballot alongside Cruz and O’Rourke.

[…]

Jenkins is the co-founder of company known as Order With Me (or just WithMe), which helps companies develop pop-up retail outlets. A graduate of Trinity-Euless High School and Abilene Christian College, Jenkins announced the launch of the Indie Party in March and said it had raised some $6.5 million in start-up capital within 72 hours.

Slick videos on the Indie Party website promote independent candidates as the solution to politics as usual, and the party offers a high-tech innovation: a crypto-currency called Indie Tokens that volunteers can earn and sell to donors, and that can be used to buy campaign merchandise or political services from vendors, lawyers and pollsters.

It’s “a party that is owned by you, the people, not by the politicians,” declares one of several videos on the Indie Party website. “This is real transparency, instead of behind closed doors and in the shadows.”

But the Indie Party is not a political party at all. It’s a private, for-profit corporation whose finances are — despite the gauzy advertising — not entirely transparent. And it’s owned not by the voters but by private equity investors who provided the start-up funds.

Indie Party spokesman Mitch Allen identified one of the investors as Las Vegas-based Global Trust Group, and said William Attinger, a former Morgan Stanley derivatives specialist, “led the initial investment” on behalf of the group. Attinger is managing director of venture management for Global Trust Group and is on the board of Raise The Money Inc., an online platform for political fundraising, according to his online bio. Calls and emails left with the Global Trust Group were not returned.

Neither Jenkins nor the Indie Party would identify the three other investors who contributed. Nor did Jenkins or the party say how much Jenkins was paid during his stint as CEO of the Indie Party Co., although Jenkins said his compensation was considerably less than the $600,000 the Indie Party estimated in a U.S. Securities and Exchange filing it would pay officers or directors. At the time of the filing Jenkins was the only disclosed officer or director.

All that will be clarified, Allen said, when Jenkins files his required personal financial disclosure later this summer as a Senate candidate.

You know how some people complains that the Republican and Democratic parties have been taken over by big money corporate interests? With the Indie Party, you can skip the middleman and join a “party” that started out as a big money corporate interest. To once again quote the great philosopher Dogbert, sometimes no sarcastic remark seems adequate. They’ve got a week to turn in their petitions to the Secretary of State (Sec. 142.006. REGULAR FILING DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION. (a) An application for a place on the ballot must be filed not later than 5 p.m. of the 30th day after runoff primary election day, except as provided by Section 202.007.) For what it’s worth, Carole Keeton Strayhorn turned in 223,000 signatures and Kinky Friedman turned in 169,000, both in 2006 for their indy candidacies for Governor. We’ll see how Jenkins compares.

(Note: Strayhorn and Kinky had to turn their sigs in by May 11 that year because the 2006 primary runoffs were held on April 11. The date of the primary runoffs was moved from the second Tuesday in April to the fourth Tuesday via SB100 (see section 6) in 2011. They had less time to collect signatures, but only about 1.2 million people voted in a party primary that year while over 2.5 million did so this year; people who voted in a party primary or a party primary runoff are ineligible to sign a petition for an independent candidate.)

Mentioned in the story but not my excerpt: The Harris County Republican Party has filed a complaint against Jenkins and the Indie Party with the FEC, alleging that “Jenkins and the corporation have violated federal law by providing improper corporate contributions to the Jenkins campaign; illegally coordinating with the Jenkins campaign in getting signatures to put him on the ballot; and failing to file with the FEC as a political committee”. You can find a copy of the complaint here and the attached exhibits here, and you can read into that whatever you want.

Anyway. If you surmise that I am not impressed by Jonathan Jenkins or Indie Party, Incorporated, you would be correct. Whether I need to care about their existence beyond June 21 remains to be seen. Have you observed any of their petition-gatherers? Please leave a comment and let us know.

The life and times of Kinky Friedman

I have feelings about this.

Kinky Friedman

With Friedman, it’s showtime most of the time. On this occasion, he’s in town with Mary Lou Sullivan, his biographer, who attempted to condense his strange life into 300 pages. Hers was an unenviable task.

“A lot of people try to be themselves,” Friedman says. “That’s the hardest thing to be.”

So he’s been many selves, which Sullivan documented in the book, such as the garrulous raconteur who asks outright, “What all do you want to know?” A pause. “Can I smoke this mother (expletive) in here? I guess I could just do it and plead ignorance.”

Sullivan’s book, which was released last month, is called “Everything’s Bigger in Texas: The Life and Times of Kinky Friedman.”

“I Guess I Could Just Do It and Plead Ignorance” also would have worked as a title.

A successful writer himself, Friedman acknowledges he needed a biographer. “The first half of my life I don’t remember.”

So he relied on Sullivan to do the homework. She researched his childhood in Houston as a Jewish outcast in West University Place. His Peace Corps run in Borneo. A wild run as a misunderstood songwriter in the ’70s. Getting lost in a snowstorm of cocaine in the ’80s. A reinvention as novelist and humorist in the ’90s and a gubernatorial candidate in the 2000s.

[…]

Sullivan found a few cracks that let a different side of Richard Samet Friedman show. Particularly with regard to his parents: Tom, an Air Force pilot who flew dozens of missions over Germany, who studied psychology upon his return from the war; and Minnie, who taught Shakespeare and loved the stage.

They’re almost like the Greek chorus of Sullivan’s book, appearing and reappearing with words of encouragement and advice. For all of Friedman’s bluster, when he talks about his parents – in the book or conversation – the quips cease.

“I guess if your father runs off when you’re 2 like Obama’s did, you build a myth about him,” he says. “But my parents were my two best friends. If you grow up like that, it really devastates you when you lose them. They were my heroes.”

Then, finally, an oft-repeated quip.

“I always say a happy childhood is the worst possible preparation for life.”

The implication of the last statement is that Friedman is a failure whose recognition will likely come after he’s gone, though he’s been successful enough to fund habits ranging from cocaine to cigars to gambling.

By some measures, the failure argument could be made: Friedman’s albums were misunderstood in their day and didn’t really sell, even though they impressed some formidable songwriters. The cover of Sullivan’s book bears a quote from Dylan: “I don’t understand music. I understand Lightnin’ Hopkins. I understand Leadbelly, John Lee Hooker, Woody Guthrie, Kinky Friedman.”

Despite the high praise, Friedman stepped away from writing songs and reinvented himself as an author in the ’90s. His mystery novels found an audience, but he never achieved the success of a Carl Hiassen; Friedman’s former editor attributes it to laziness in the book. And Friedman’s runs for public office never resulted in holding public office.

“My shrink told me if you fail at something long enough, you become a legend,” he says. “That’s one way of doing it. Politics, I think I can safely say I failed. That’s really how I see myself commercially, professionally. But I think I’m in good company. John Lennon, Winston Churchill: They didn’t feel like life’s winners. But it really is about the rainbow. That’s the key. There was a guy who was the Justin Bieber of the art world in Van Gogh’s day. We don’t know his name today, but he sold a lot of his (expletive) art, and Van Gogh didn’t. So I’ll take a little success late in life.”

I was once a fan of Kinky Friedman’s. Bought several CDs, read his mystery books, saw him at the Laff Stop in the early 90’s – it was a great show. His candidacy for Governor in 2006 ended all that. I’d forgotten till I read this story and started thinking about what I was going to write, but I’ve never ripped any of my Kinky Friedman CDs to iTunes. I was too mad at him to enjoy the music any more. I’ve mellowed a bit since then, but it’s safe to say I’ll never be that kind of fan again.

The thing that struck me in this story is the bit in that penultimate paragraph about Friedman’s books not being as successful as they perhaps could have been. I feel like the same could be said about Friedman’s political career. One thing I noticed early on in his 2006 campaign is that in each feature story written about his candidacy he was cracking the same jokes. Politicians repeat themselves all the time, of course, but someone whose claim to fame is being an entertainer ought to do better than that, especially if he never really bothers to become proficient in policy. Indeed, if humor is a substitute for policy, the last thing it can do is get stale. Later on, Friedman did make an effort to become better at policy; in his 2014 run for Ag Commissioner, he reasonably and somewhat presciently latched onto the issue of legalizing hemp in Texas, as a potential boon for farmers. Not a bad idea, but he never developed it beyond basic talking points, and there was nothing more to his platform than that. On his third attempt to win statewide office, surely he could have done better than that.

So anyway, I’m sure the forthcoming biography will be an engaging read. Whatever else you can say about Kinky Friedman, he’s never been boring, and I’ve no doubt he has some great stories to tell. But there could have been more. We’ll never know how much more.

O’Rourke and Dowd say they want to challenge Cruz in 2018

Rep. Beto O’Rourke upgraded his chances of running for the Senate in 2018 to “very likely”.

Rep. Beto O'Rourke

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Thursday he is all but certain to make a run for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat in 2018.

“I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of people around the state of Texas over the last six weeks, and I will tell you, I’m very encouraged,” he told The Texas Tribune on Thursday in an interview. “And I am continuing to listen to and talk to folks, and I’m just becoming more and more encouraged.”

“It’s very likely that I will run for Senate in 2018,” the El Paso Democrat added.

In a previous interview with the Tribune, O’Rourke kept the door open to a run in 2018 or 2020. O’Rourke just began his third term in the U.S. House and has promised to term-limit himself in that chamber.

The comments came just hours after former George W. Bush operative Matthew Dowd told the Tribune that he, too, was considering a bid against Cruz as an independent.

O’Rourke reacted to the Dowd news positively.

“Anyone who’s willing to take something like this on deserves our respect, and so I think that would be great,” he said. “I think the more voices, perspectives, experience that can be fielded, the better for Texas.”

See here for the background. I have to assume that O’Rourke’s greater interest in a 2018 run also indicates a lesser likelihood of Rep. Joaquin Castro challenging Cruz, but this story does not mention Castro. I think O’Rourke could be an interesting opponent for Cruz, if he has the resources to make himself heard, and it’s always possible that this midterm could be a lot less friendly to Republicans than the last two have been, but he would be a longshot no matter how you slice it. Given the fundraising he’d have to do to make a Senate run viable, I’m guessing we’d need to have a final decision to run by June at the latest, but we’ll see.

And as noted in that story, Rep. O’Rourke wasn’t the only person talking about a Cruz challenge.

Matthew Dowd, an Austin-based television news commentator and former George W. Bush strategist, is mulling an independent challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

“I don’t know what I will do,” he told The Texas Tribune. “But I am giving it some thought, and I appreciate the interest of folks.”

Dowd said this has been a draft effort, as prominent members of both parties have approached him to run against Cruz.

[…]

The political strategist’s career tells the story of the past three decades of Texas politics. Dowd started in Democratic politics, including as a staffer to then-U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and then-Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

But Dowd eventually gravitated to then-Gov. Bush in the late 1990s, working on both of his presidential campaigns and for the Republican National Committee.

In 2007, Dowd publicly criticized Bush over the Iraq war.

More recently, Dowd used his social media and ABC News platforms to question the viability of the two-party system.

Now, he is considering a run of his own — against a man he once worked with on the 2000 Bush campaign.

“I don’t think Ted served the state well at all,” Dowd said. “He hasn’t been interested in being a U.S. senator from Texas. He’s been interested in national office since the day he got in.”

[…]

An independent run would be a heavy lift, but it would probably scramble the race far more than anyone could have anticipated a year ago. Dowd argued that an independent candidate could have a better shot than a challenge from either party.

“I think Ted is vulnerable, but I don’t think Ted’s vulnerable in the Republican primary, and I don’t think Ted is vulnerable to a Democrat in the general,” he said. “I think a Democrat can’t win in the state.”

Fundraising in an expensive state without the party apparatus would likely be a major obstacle as well.

“I actually believe money is less important now today than it’s ever been,” he said. “It’s going to take money and a lot of grassroots money, and it’s going to take people frustrated at Washington and frustrated about Ted.”

This is extremely hypothetical, so let’s not go too deep here. The first challenge is getting on the ballot as an independent, which requires collecting a sizable number of petition signatures from non-primary voters in a fairly short period of time. It can be done, as Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman demonstrated in 2006, but it takes a lot of resources. That can be money or volunteer energy, but at least one is needed. And say what you want about how important money is in today’s campaign world, the challenge remains getting your name and message out to people. If voters have no idea who you are on the ballot, they’re probably not going to vote for you. I guarantee you, if a poll were taken right now, maybe two percent of Texas voters will have any familiarity with the name “Matthew Dowd”. That’s what the money would be for, to get the voters to know who he is.

If – and it’s a big if, but we love to speculate about this sort of thing – Dowd can get the petition signatures to get on the ballot, then the actual election becomes pretty interesting. Dowd may have started life as a Democrat, but he’s much more closely identified with the Republicans, and he’s now a fairly prominent Trump critic. We could assume that his base is primarily the Republicans who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, which if you add up the Clinton crossovers and the increase in Gary Johnson’s vote total over 2012 works out to maybe a half million people. That’s not nothing, but it’s a long way from a win, and the voters who remain are the more committed partisans. On the assumption that Dowd would draw more heavily from Republicans, that would help boost Beto O’Rourke’s chances, but Ted Cruz starts out with a pretty big cushion. He can afford to lose a lot of votes before he faces any real peril. Even in the down year of 2006, Republicans were winning statewide races by 500K to a million votes. Having someone like Dowd in the race improves O’Rourke’s chances of winning, but a lot would have to happen for those chances to improve to something significant.

We’re getting way ahead of ourselves. If O’Rourke says he’s running, I believe him. If Dowd says he’s thinking about running, well, I believe he’s thinking about it. Wake me up when he does something more concrete than that.

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.

Is this really the end for Kinky Friedman?

I’ll believe it when I see it on my 2018 ballot.

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

It’s been more than a month since he lost his bid to be the Democratic nominee for Texas agriculture commissioner, and the cigar-smoking author-musician can’t shake the loss — or how he was treated by fellow Democrats.

Friedman, in D.C. for a recent performance at the Washington Jewish Music Festival, wanted to talk about being sabotaged by party officials in the May 27 runoff.

“Democrats came after me personally with robocalls,” he told the Star-Telegram. “I thought a primary was sacred for people to choose.”

Friedman, who ran on a pro-hemp, pro-marijuana platform, lost the runoff by nearly 10 points to Jim Hogan, a rancher who did not campaign.

Asked whether it was the end of his political career, Friedman likened himself to Winston Churchill, who was booted out of office after leading Britain through World War II.

“I’m to be cremated and the ashes are to be thrown into Rick Perry’s hair,” he said. “Yeah, I’m done. I’m not whining. I’m liberated.”

I admit that I feel a small amount of sympathy for Kinky, who sincerely tried to be a decent candidate this time around, even if he was a one-trick pony. But look, he’s never tried to make amends for the 2006 campaign or the things that he said during (and after) that campaign. Instead, he’s basically parachuted into two races acting as if he’d been a good Democrat all along and not quite understanding why a substantial number of Ds weren’t buying it. If I have to explain why that was a less than optimal strategy for winning a Democratic primary, even if he was saying the right things this time around and could plausibly claim to be a downballot candidate with upside, then you’re unlikely to comprehend the explanation. We’ve been through this swan-song routine with Kinky before, so until the 2018 filing deadline passes I’ll remain at least a little skeptical. But if he does mean it, then let me suggest that he find other ways to pursue issues like hemp legalization that Friedman obviously does care about, ways that don’t involve him running for office. I’m sure he can find another worthwhile path to take if he really does intend to get off the candidacy bus.

Probably the last thing I’ll write about Jim Hogan

At least, I hope it’s the last thing, because there ain’t much to say.

Jim Hogan

Texas Democrats are not holding their breaths for a win for the office held by Republicans since Perry ousted Jim Hightower in 1992.

Democratic consultant Jason Stanford went so far Wednesday as to say [Jim] Hogan’s candidacy [for Ag Commissioner] is “as good as a forfeit.”

“Sid Miller could probably move to Oklahoma and win this race,” Stanford said. “No one would notice.”

The best thing the Democrats can hope for in the race is for Hogan to continue his strategy without publicly embarrassing the party, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.

Jones said Hogan’s nomination reflects poorly on party leadership.

“It’s really a sad state of affairs for the Texas Democratic Party when someone is able to be a statewide candidate without actively campaigning at all,” he said.

Yes, it’s embarrassing, but let’s keep some perspective here. Republicans didn’t exactly nominate their best candidates for Ag Commissioner or Attorney General or Railroad Commissioner, either. Let’s also not forget that all the way back in 2010, some dude named David Porter, who campaigned about as much as Jim Hogan did, knocked off two-term incumbent Railroad Commissioner Victor Carillo despite Carillo having huge advantages in campaign finances and name recognition. Hogan’s win is a forehead-slapper, but it’s hardly unprecedented.

The good news is that there’s a fairly simple fix for this. The problem in a nutshell is that when voters are faced with unfamiliar choices, you get random results. We’ve seen this in elections at every level. Your best bet to avoid a random result is for the viable candidates to have the resources to properly introduce themselves to the voters, and by “resources” I of course mean money. Roll the clock back six months or so, have a few big Democratic donors seed the Hugh Fitzsimons campaign with $500K or so for some targeted mail, and I’m willing to bet he makes it to the runoff. For all the crap I’ve given that Trib poll, the one useful thing about it was that it highlighted at the time how unknown all of the Democratic candidates for Senate were. I’m sure that changed dramatically over the next few weeks as David Alameel was plastering his image over the entire Internet. You wouldn’t have needed Fitzsimons to win outright, you just need to ensure he makes it to the runoff. He needed 70,000 votes to pass Kinky, 75,000 to pass Hogan. Surely that was within reach for that kind of money. I’ve said before that if we want to be able to recruit quality candidates for these downballot races in 2018 and however many elections after that until the bench is deep enough to take care of this by itself, we need to be able to reassure them that they’ll have the resources they’ll need to fend off whatever quacks and wannabes file for the same race. Someone in a better position than me to make this happen needs to start thinking about this ASAP.

Primary runoff results

So long, Dave.

So very sad

Riding a wave of conservative sentiment that Texas Republicans were not being led with a hard enough edge, state Sen. Dan Patrick crushed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff election for lieutenant governor, ending the career of a dominant figure in state politics for the last dozen years.

The Associated Press called the race shortly after 8 p.m., just an hour after polls closed in most of the state. As votes were still being counted, Patrick was winning by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent.

Patrick’s victory marked the end of a rough campaign for Dewhurst, who trailed Patrick, a second term senator, by 13 percentage points in the four-way March primary. The incumbent sought to define Patrick, who is far less well-known statewide, as an untrustworthy figure more given to self-serving publicity stunts than the meticulous business of governing.

[…]

Dewhurst, who built a fortune in the energy industry and entered politics as a big-dollar Republican donor, won his first election as land commissioner in 1998 which laid the groundwork for a successful run for lieutenant governor in 2002, twice winning re-election in 2006 and 2010.

But Dewhurst’s luck turned when he lost the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2012 to Ted Cruz, a former solicitor general, who captured the spirit of the rising tea party movement in Texas. Cruz took advantage of an election calendar delayed by redistricting fights, holding Dewhurst to less than 50 percent in the primary and surging past him in the mid-summer runoff.

Dewhurst’s defeat at the hands of Cruz exposed Dewhurst’s vulnerability and when it turned out that he was going to try for a fourth term as lieutenant governor as the capstone of his career, Patrick, Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples proceeded with their candidacies to try to take him out.

Let’s be clear that while Dan Patrick is a terrible human being who should never be entrusted with political power, David Dewhurst deserves no sympathy for his plight. He brought it on himself, and no one should be surprised by what happened. I doubt Dewhurst could ever have been sufficiently “conservative” to satisfy the seething masses that Dan Patrick represents, and I doubt he could have been powerful enough to have scared Patrick and his ego from challenging him, but there was nothing stopping him from being a better and more engaged Lt. Governor. I’m sure his many millions of dollars will be an adequate salve for his wounds, so again, no need for sympathy.

Democrats were obviously ready for this result. I’ve lost count of the number of statements and press releases that have hit my inbox so far. This statement from Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, was the first to arrive:

“Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are two peas in a pod when it comes to women’s health, having led the fight to block Texas women from their rights and access to health care. Both oppose access to safe and legal abortion, even in cases of incest or rape. And both have worked to cut women off from preventative health services, and to close health centers, including Planned Parenthood clinics, that offer affordable birth control and cancer screenings.

Abbott and Patrick have made clear that they do not trust Texas women to make their own health care decisions. But the decision Texas women make at the ballot box this November will decide the election. You can’t win in Texas by working against Texas women. We’ve had enough of politicians like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, who want to impose their personal agenda on all Texas women – and between now and Election Day, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes will be working around the clock to make sure that Texas women know what the Abbott-Patrick ticket will mean for their access to health care.”

Others came in from Sen. Van de Putte, the Wendy Davis campaign, who wondered when we’d see Patrick and Abbott together, the Texas Organizing Project, and Annie’s List. The van de Putte campaign also released a statement announcing the support of “two prominent business leaders”: William Austin Ligon, the co-founder and retired CEO of CarMax, and Republican Louis Barrios, with whom we are already familiar. It’s a nice move to deflect a bit of attention, but I sure hope that list grows and grows and grows.

In other Republican news, the deeply unethical Ken Paxton won the AG nomination, the deeply unqualified Sid Miller won the Ag Commissioner nomination, and Ryan Sitton won the Railroad Commissioner nomination. As I’ve said before, this is easily the weakest Republican statewide slate in my memory. Doesn’t mean they won’t win, just that there’s no reason to be scared of them – as candidates, anyway. They should scare the hell out of you as officeholders, but they’re no electoral juggernaut.

On the Democratic side, the good news is that David Alameel won easily in his runoff for the US Senate nomination, with over 70% of the vote. All I can say is that I sincerely hope this is the last we hear of Kesha Rogers, and if it’s not I hope enough people know who and what she is so that she won’t be a factor in whatever race she turns up in. In other news – whether good or bad depends on your perspective – Jim Hogan defeated Kinky Friedman for the Ag Commissioner nomination. Hogan’s a zero, but I guess too many people weren’t ready to forgive Friedman for his prior offenses. I voted for Kinky in the runoff, but I understand the feeling. The main lesson here is that a first-time candidate in a statewide primary needs more than just endorsements to be successful. Either they get the funds they need to get their name out to a few hundred thousand voters, or you get a random result. Ask Hugh Fitzsimons, and ask David Alameel.

Dem statewide results are here and Republican statewide results are here. Bob Deuell lost in the SD02 runoff, making the Senate that much more stupid next year than it needed to be, while 91-year-old Congressman Ralph Hall appears to be finally headed for retirement. Some reasons for guarded optimism downballot: Ben Streusand lost in CD36, SBOE member Pat Hardy defeated the truly bizarre Eric Mahroum, and most of the Parent PAC candidates appear to have won. You take your victories where you can. Also, as noted below, Denise Pratt was soundly defeated in her runoff. So there’s that.

There will be plenty of time to talk about these races in more depth as we go. I may do some number-twiddling with them if I think there’s anything of interest in the county and precinct results. For now, it’s on to November, with a brief pause along the way in June for the SD04 runoff. For various reactions and liveblogs, see the Observer, the Trib, BOR, PDiddie, Juanita, and the always full of wit John Coby. And in closing, this may be the saddest thing I’ve ever read:

As the early voting totals rolled in, showing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst behind by nearly 20 percent, supporters trickled in to a small election watch party north of the Galleria.

Members of the press outnumbered the early crowd, but campaign staff said they expected nearly 200 people to arrive. Many were still working the polls, they said, hoping to eke more votes out of a rainy day.

Almost enough to make me feel sorry for him. Almost.

Early voting begins today for primary runoffs

From the inbox:

EarlyVoting

Harris County voters can prepare to vote in the May 27 Democratic and Republican Primary Runoff Elections by visiting www.HarrisVotes.com to view the contests which will appear on their ballot. Early Voting for the Primary Runoff Elections begins on Monday, May 19 and continues until Friday, May 23. During this period, 39 early voting locations will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to serve the over 2 million registered voters in Harris County. Keep in mind, Election Day, May 27th, is the day after Memorial Day.

All voters are encouraged to vote early at one of the 39 early voting locations because the number of Election Day polling locations has been significantly reduced by the Democratic and Republican Parties to 12% of the usual number of polls on Election Day. Many voters will have to travel further than normal to vote on Election Day. To find all early voting locations and specific Election Day polling locations, visit www.HarrisVotes.com.

“Voters can use the “Find Your Poll and Ballot” link at www.HarrisVotes.com to print out their own personal ballot to review before going to the poll,” said Harris County Clerk Stanart, who is also the county’s Chief Elections Officer. All Democratic Party voters will have the same ballot in Harris County. For the Republican Party, there are 11 contests; 4 of which are not county-wide.

“The County Clerk’s Office has provided an enormous amount of information for the voters on our website to increase the voter’s knowledge and accessibility to the polls,” added Stanart. “Timely information about elections can be received by following our office on twitter @HarrisVotes.”

Stanart reminds voters “If you voted in the March Primary, you are only able to vote in the same party’s election for the Primary Runoff. If you did not participate in either Parties March 4th Election and are eligible to vote, you may participate in the Runoff Primary of your party choice.”

To view the early voting schedule, a list of acceptable forms of Photo ID that can be presented to vote at the poll, Election Day polling locations and other voting information, voters may visit www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965.

See here for early voting locations and hours – it’s 7 AM to 7 PM each day. Two things to emphasize: There are only five days of early voting. It starts today and ends Friday. Runoff Day is Tuesday, May 27, which as noted is the day after Memorial Day, and you can expect that only a handful of precinct voting locations will be open. It’s very much in your interest to vote early if you plan to vote. I plan to do sol, and I’ll be voting for David Alameel and Kinky Friedman. I don’t expect a lot of company. From the Chron story, which is mostly about how the air will be a little safer to breathe once the toxic GOP Lite Guv runoff has finally concluded, comes this prediction about turnout:

Despite all of those races, and dozens of local ones – including for two Harris County state representatives and four Harris County judges – officials are expecting a very low turnout.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart is predicting that, at most, 75,000 Republicans and 20,000 Democrats will cast ballot, less than 5 percent of the county’s 2 million registered voters.

Stanart speculated that more than half of voters will vote early or by mail, a route that is becoming increasingly common.

“Historically, primary runoffs tend to not have a large number of people,” Stanart said. “But you never know what’s going to drive people to the polls.”

The only local runoffs in Harris County are Republican runoffs. We Dems only have the two statewide races. There are Dem runoffs for State Rep in Dallas and El Paso, but anything beyond that will be for local races. Be that as it may, I think Stanart’s prediction for Dem turnout may be a tad optimistic. The Harris County turnout for the “>2006 Democratic primary runoff, which also featured two low profile statewide races plus two local races, one of which was the fairly high-interest HD146 battle between Al Edwards and Borris Miles, was a pitiful 13,726. (GOP runoff turnout was even lower, but then their races that year were even lower profile.) I’d bet the under on a Dem turnout projection of 20,000, but I’ll buy that half or more of the voters will show up before May 27. Feel free to do your part to make my predictions look foolish.

Chron overview of Dem Ag Commissioner runoff

It’s the same story we’ve known all along.

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

Texas Democrats’ dreams of taking over statewide offices surely never envisioned the kind of race they have in the primary runoff for agriculture commissioner where musician and writer Kinky Friedman faces off against a Cleburne farmer who has chosen not to campaign or even raise money.

While Friedman travels the state touting a message of marijuana legalization, cattle farmer and insurance agent Jim Hogan is sticking close to home, relying on news outlets and the Internet to boost his name recognition.

As a result, the race is more likely to leave the Democratic Party with a headache than a realistic opportunity to break a 20-year Republican stranglehold on statewide office.

“One of them’s a dangerous commodity, the other’s a guaranteed dud,” Democratic strategist Jason Stanford said.

The race puts Democrats in the position of having to choose between a quasi-celebrity who some believe sapped votes from the party in the 2006 gubernatorial race and a candidate with minimal name recognition who refuses to campaign or help the party, despite winning the most votes in the March 4 primary.

[…]

Despite two decades of Republican dominance, a February letter from Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa urged voters not to overlook the race.

It included an attached letter from state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, who touted Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III, of San Antonio, who, at the time, was the best-funded party favorite for the post.

Van de Putte also made robocalls asking voters to support Fitzsimons over Friedman.

Fitzsimons, however, was eliminated in the primary.

Since then, Democratic Party spokesman Emmanuel Garcia pointed out, Friedman, unlike Hogan, at least has been touring the state and engaging voters.

“It’s encouraging to see somebody taking the campaign seriously and wanting to talk to folks,” Garcia said.

We’ve been over this before. Fitzsimons was my first choice, and he was clearly the best-qualified candidate. Unfortunately, the only thing he’ll do for Texas Democrats this year is serve as yet another lesson that unknown candidates plus few resources equals random results. Be that as it may, at least Friedman is making an effort, and at least he’s articulating some positions that make sense. I don’t blame anyone that might still be carrying a grudge from 2006 and 2010 – it should be noted that Chris Bell has endorsed Kinky, and if there’s anyone with a legitimate grudge to carry, it’s Chris Bell, so if he can bury the hatchet, anyone can – but I’ll be voting for him in the runoff, and hopefully again in November. It’s not the choice I was hoping for at the beginning of the race, but it’s an acceptable choice to me and the best one available. I don’t see any reason to make a big deal out of it.

Friedman for feral hogs

As the man once said, Why the hell not?

As meat prices rise, a candidate for agriculture commissioner is proposing beefing up the state’s program to harvest and market wild hog meat in a way he says will create jobs and revenue for Texas.

Kinky Friedman, a Democrat running for the statewide office, said feral hogs are a largely untapped industry that could be a lucrative endeavor for the state rather than a waste of life.

“If you are going to kill a bunch of feral hogs, let’s at least do it for a profit and business for the state,” he said. “To kill all these hogs and let them rot doesn’t make sense.”

Wild pigs are one of the biggest problems for many ranch and landowners in Texas, said Billy Higginbotham, professor and extension wildlife fishery specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The population in Texas has increased by about 20 percent each year because hogs have the “highest reproductive rate of any large mammal in the world,” he said. Some food banks and small grocers in the state and country sell the meat, which is described by the state’s Parks and Wildlife service as “tasty” and lean.

Land owners and hunters can trap and sell the live animals to about 100 buying stations in the state, which are licensed and regulated by the Texas Animal Health Commission, where they are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before the hogs are slaughtered and sold.

The stations sell the meat to processing plants, which sell the pork for human consumption across the country and in Europe and Asia, Higginbotham said.

“Texas is literally able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” he said, adding that 460,000 hogs in Texas were federally inspected, slaughtered and sold between 2004-2009.

The state, however, does not pull any taxes or revenue from the transactions of the buyback program, which is the only of its kind in the country.

Friedman, a songwriter and entertainer, said the program is a good start, but the state should become more involved and broaden the program and rake some of the profits.

I confess that I don’t know much about this program, so I can’t really evaluate Friedman’s idea. That said, the feral hog problem is statewide and well-known, and the steps we have undertaken so far to deal with it, even the more extreme ones, have had little effect. I don’t see how it could hurt to try to encourage more participation in hog control by making it financially more attractive for the state and for interested parties. Even if the effect on the hog population is minimal, as it will likely be, the need for food is real and the potential to do good is there. A little outside the box thinking here is welcome. Kudos to the Kinkster for bringing it up.

Would pot be a cash crop?

The Trib takes a serious look at Kinky Friedman’s campaign platform.

Zonker

Currently, it is illegal to grow and possess marijuana in Texas and most other states, and while hemp is legal for consumption, Texas and most other states do not allow farmers to grow it.

Experts with experience in the legal pot industry in other states, though, say a host of regulatory and environmental factors could complicate any potential benefits growing marijuana might have in Texas.

States that have recently legalized marijuana growing, including Colorado and Washington, have just gotten started, so they are difficult test cases to assess. But in California, where medicinal marijuana cultivation has been legal since 1996 and is plentiful, many farmers say the crop hasn’t been as good for agriculture as Friedman has suggested.

Much of the problems farmers and scientists in California report stem from the fact that under federal law, the plant remains illegal, so states cannot legally regulate its growth as they do other crops.

“Without prohibition, you wouldn’t have this problem,” said Tony Silvaggio, an environmental sociologist at Humboldt State University in California, who has researched the effects of marijuana farming in California.

[…]

“We don’t know anything empirical about what happens when serious professional farmers are allowed to do this,” said Jonathan Caulkins, who has studied the economics of marijuana growth at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College in Pittsburgh. But he suspects the price of marijuana would fall if it was mass produced, which could reduce its demand in the black market and reduce crime.

That doesn’t mean Texas farmers would benefit, though. Marijuana plants are difficult to harvest because the buds must be individually snipped from each plant. That work is labor intensive, and most farm workers today don’t have those skills.

The market for marijuana producers is also unlikely to get very big, Caulkins said, because it’s a high-yield crop. Only about 10,000 acres nationwide would be needed to satisfy the country’s demand, he said. If farmers grow more marijuana, they could oversaturate the market and drive down prices.

Hemp, on the other hand — which comes from the same plant as marijuana but has less THC, the chemical that produces a high — is easier to harvest, and demand in the U.S. is rising. Friedman has suggested that the first step to marijuana legalization is to allow Texans to grow hemp, which is used in a variety of products, from clothing and twine to edible seeds, protein powder and cosmetics such as moisturizers and essential oils.

Hemp has long been legal in Canada, but only a few hundred growers have licenses to produce there, Caulkins said. That doesn’t bode well for predictions of a hemp revolution in Texas that Friedman argues would occur if the state legalized growing it. A Congressional Research Service report on hemp last year came to a similar conclusion, noting that hemp crops can also cross-pollinate with marijuana crops. That means farmers growing hemp could suddenly find that their product has enough THC content to make people high, putting them in the crosshairs with the law — or that marijuana growers’ products would lose their potency.

Even if hemp and marijuana growth become possibilities for Texas farmers, it’s not clear that it would be a moneymaking enterprise. Those who profit most from agricultural production are typically at the end of the supply chain, like grocery stores or bakers, Caulkins said — not farmers.

“The people who are going to make money are going to be the bakeries that buy [it] … and put it into brownies,” he said.

I don’t know, given the local food movement these days, I wouldn’t underestimate the appeal of artisanal, locally-sourced reefers. It’s all in the marketing. Most of the problems cited in the story stem from the federal prohibitions against marijuana. That’s not something Texas can address directly, but just as action by cities tends to lead to a legislative response from the state, I expect that having more states legalize pot in some fashion will lead to changes in federal law. Attitudes about marijuana are shifting, thanks in large part to growing concerns about the cost of the War On Drugs. I won’t be surprised to see some kind of federal action, even if it’s strictly on the incarceration end, by the end of President Obama’s term in office. Texas could almost certainly accelerate that process if it reformed its marijuana laws, even if that just means accommodating medical marijuana. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and if the main obstacle to Kinky Friedman’s fondest dreams is the feds, there are things we can do to affect that.

Precinct analysis: Democratic primary elections

I finally got around to asking for the canvass reports for the primaries in Harris County. I didn’t have any specific agenda in looking at the data from each, I just wanted to see what I could learn. Let’s start on the Democratic side with a look at the vote totals in each State Rep district for the Senate race.

Dist Kim Kesha Alameel Fjet Scherr ============================================= 126 119 276 513 40 165 127 128 346 531 25 234 128 128 163 603 43 145 129 175 318 991 133 275 130 121 201 431 35 146 131 412 1,200 1,827 72 361 132 131 319 384 41 139 133 131 169 1,040 82 297 134 277 246 2,773 176 613 135 134 280 483 29 135 137 97 193 447 27 107 138 117 224 635 45 203 139 353 1,140 1,735 97 366 140 152 227 455 37 95 141 283 721 1,307 54 273 142 310 864 1,243 72 264 143 232 436 814 50 193 144 123 117 514 24 113 145 232 285 995 80 265 146 391 1,068 2,391 106 374 147 422 1,018 2,738 134 411 148 260 300 1,521 76 376 149 224 326 539 45 145 150 121 273 500 50 129

The main conclusion I’d draw from this is that people seem to have gotten the message about Kesha Rogers. None of the districts had any surprises. Even in the African-American districts, where one might be concerned that Roger’s name could earn her some votes in a low-information race, she scored only 27%, not much higher than her 20% overall. Straight up against David Alameel, she got about 35% in the African-American districts. I was already feeling pretty good about the runoff, and the data here reinforce that.

Here’s what the Governor’s race looked like:

Dist Davis Madrigal ======================= 126 1,093 71 127 1,228 91 128 1,010 107 129 1,849 111 130 911 61 131 3,788 288 132 968 74 133 1,783 68 134 4,310 104 135 1,031 85 137 833 73 138 1,204 83 139 3,678 273 140 803 208 141 2,612 162 142 2,778 216 143 1,465 359 144 794 145 145 1,560 447 146 4,302 240 147 4,719 282 148 2,464 275 149 1,184 132 150 1,045 77

For all the tsuris around Davis’ performance in South Texas, she did just fine in the Latino districts here, scoring over 83% of the vote. More is always better, but hey, she didn’t campaign. There’s nothing to see here.

The headscratcher race was of course the Ag Commissioner race.

Dist Hogan Kinky Hugh ============================ 126 445 342 301 127 468 403 363 128 466 350 251 129 617 582 640 130 361 322 248 131 1,822 1,049 796 132 429 335 237 133 439 591 687 134 981 1,445 1,571 135 437 344 273 137 308 282 234 138 413 437 358 139 1,691 1,041 781 140 508 290 155 141 1,415 642 436 142 1,397 787 539 143 856 560 273 144 422 331 143 145 730 707 404 146 1,905 1,263 936 147 1,904 1,487 1,083 148 843 1,063 610 149 540 424 271 150 419 342 285

The voters in HD134 got the message about Hugh Fitzsimons, but that’s about it. Maybe if he’d had Alameel money, it would have been different. As for Hogan, I’m going with the theory that he did well by being the first name on the ballot. Doesn’t explain how he did in other counties, but it’s the best I can do.

And finally, the Railroad Commissioner race, which in its own was is also a mystery.

Dist Henry Brown ==================== 126 352 687 127 413 775 128 408 622 129 644 1,063 130 319 566 131 1,034 2,654 132 361 599 133 450 1,078 134 942 2,508 135 402 598 137 275 510 138 362 779 139 1,079 2,396 140 362 574 141 717 1,784 142 913 1,787 143 622 1,042 144 334 498 145 602 1,125 146 1,206 2,821 147 1,268 3,012 148 824 1,424 149 414 796 150 378 627

Like Jim Hogan, Dale Henry was first on the ballot, but unlike Hogan it did him no good. It’s reasonable to think that Steve Brown would do well in his backyard, and he is an active campaigner and social media presence. But let’s be honest, anything can happen in a downballot no-money race. I’m just glad the better outcome is what happened here.

Endorsement watch: DMN goes Kinky

Since pretty much every newspaper endorsed Hugh Fiztsimons for the Democratic nomination for Ag Commissioner in the primary, they now have the choice of picking a new candidate for the runoff or ignoring it and hoping it goes away. The Dallas Morning News chose the former by endorsing Kinky Friedman.

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

Richard “Kinky” Friedman’s run for agriculture commissioner revolves around one issue, or more precisely, one crop. The comedian and author was carrying the flag for marijuana long before Colorado legalized it and Gov. Rick Perry softened his stance on the wacky weed. In politics, he’s mostly a one-song act.

But at least we know what Friedman, 69, stands for. And, when pressed, he is able to discuss the importance of water conservation and the need for immigration reform.

Jim Hogan, his opponent in the May 27 runoff, is basically a mystery. The Johnson County insurance salesman surprised everyone by finishing first in the March primary without really running any campaign at all. He spent a few thousand dollars and did some social networking from the Cleburne library.

In the handful of interviews he’s granted, he revels more in the fact that he managed to win without running than focusing on what he would do if elected. His message seems to be that he’ll figure it out when he gets there. That’s not good enough. The agriculture commissioner has to be a strong voice for policy that will help the state face important challenges. Hogan, 63, doesn’t offer that.

Even though Friedman is mostly about smoke, at least his positions are clear. That makes him the better choice for the nomination.

That’s pretty much how I see it, and kudos to the DMN for getting Kinky to talk about more than just pot. Lord knows, I tried when I interviewed him, but I was no match for his message discipline. I totally get it if you find this choice distasteful, but it works for me.

On a related note, in the Republican runoff, the DMN went for Tommy Merritt on the grounds that his opponent is much worse.

[Sid] Miller, on the other hand, lacks the disposition or even the willingness to work with those who don’t see eye to eye with him. The Stephenville rancher has aligned himself with flame-throwing rocker Ted Nugent and insists on calling the Civil War “the War of Northern Aggression.” We gave Miller, 58, the opportunity to explain, revise or downplay his position on both matters. He declined.

Miller either doesn’t understand the divisiveness of those relationships and words, or, even more disconcerting, doesn’t care.

“Both” is always an option with choices like this. I suspect it’s mostly the latter in this case. I’ll say this much, a Kinky versus Miller matchup would not be boring.

Endorsement watch: None of the above

The Texas Farm Bureau is unhappy with its choices in the Ag Commissioner runoffs.

The political arm of the Texas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farming organization, will refrain from endorsing a candidate in the GOP runoff for agriculture commissioner after the group’s preferred candidate lost in the March 4 primary.

For the first time in its 25-year-plus history, the board of the Texas Farm Bureau Friends of Agriculture Fund voted Tuesday not to back a candidate.

“Our board and our members feel strongly that all remaining candidates in both primaries should address the serious issues concerning Texas agriculture’s uncertain future,” Kenneth Dierschke, Texas Farm Bureau and AGFUND president, said in a press release. “We will leave this decision in the hands of the voters of Texas.

I’m a little surprised they didn’t go for Tommy Merritt, who unlike Sid Miller wasn’t a complete tool while in the Legislature. I’ll be voting for Kinky Friedman in the Democratic runoff, but I can understand why the Farm Bureau is sitting this one out. As long as they do the right thing in the Lt. Governor’s race, it’s all good by me.

Pot polling

Our favorite pollsters aren’t optimistic about pot legalization despite some good looking poll numbers for it.

In the February 2014 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, we asked respondents for their opinions on marijuana possession and gave them four options to choose from:

  • “marijuana possession should not be legal under any circumstances;”
  • “marijuana possession should be legal for medicinal purposes only;”
  • “possession of small amounts of marijuana for any purpose should be legal;” and,
  • “possession of any amount of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.”

Overall, just under a majority of Texans, 49 percent, said that possession of either a small amount or any amount of marijuana should be legal for any purpose. When combined with those who think marijuana should be made legal for medicinal purposes, 28 percent, it’s clear that the vast majority of Texans think that marijuana should be legal in some form. These results are comparable to national numbers, which show a slim majority of Americans favoring legalization.

But the overall results cloud the distinct ideological and partisan divergence over marijuana. Overall, 23 percent of Texas voters think that marijuana should be illegal in all circumstances, but opposition grows to 32 percent when we focus on Republican voters. Conversely, 77 percent of liberals think that small or large amounts of marijuana should be made legal for any purpose, but among conservatives, that support drops to 35 percent. Add the 32 percent of conservatives who would only legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, and you see that the majority of the voters who drive elections in Texas remain clear-eyed in their opposition to recreational pot use.

This configuration of public opinion illustrates one reason (among the many possibilities) for some Democratic elites’ harsh attitudes toward Kinky Friedman’s candidacy for agriculture commissioner. However much potential there may be for the Democratic — and especially the liberal — grassroots to respond enthusiastically to Friedman’s emphasis on marijuana decriminalizationmoderates and independents are evenly divided between those who are relatively restrictive (favoring, at most, legalization of medical uses) and those who are permissive (supporting legalization of some amounts for any use).

In the midst of a campaign in which Democrats need to persuade at least some non-Democratic voters in addition to mobilizing their own homegrown base, the talk about marijuana is at best a mixed bag, offering Republicans the opportunity to tar Democrats as cultural liberals among the far more numerous conservative and moderate voters.

This divergence of opinion between the different ideological poles is not as strong as we’ve seen in many other policy areas (abortion, for example), but there is a real distinction. This polarization in attitudes — along with the general trajectory of public opinion and the revenue that states like Colorado are pulling in — means there is reason to believe that this issue will be around for a while: There are political and policy reasons for even conservative leaders to consider some form of legalization, but also ideological points to be scored in public opposition.

Like other policy areas that have a potential moral component, such as gay marriage, opposition to decriminalization may turn out to be significant, particularly because it is concentrated in the very constituencies that buttress Republican dominance of elections and the legislative process in Texas.

I would look at it this way. There was widespread public support for changing Texas’ laws about beer distribution to allow microbreweries and brewpubs to sell their wares directly to the public and in retail outlets, but it took several legislative sessions for a bill to finally pass, and even then it was nearly derailed. What it took was mostly a matter of organization and lobbying, with some scaling back of the original legislation to earn enough support from former opponents. Though the opposition was limited to one lobbying group for the beer distributors that had no real argument for maintaining the status quo, they had money and power and it took a large show of force to overcome them.

In the case of pot legalization, we have decent public support but a fiercely determined opposition that likely won’t go away when they find themselves badly outnumbered, and as yet there’s no organization pushing legalization, just one renegade candidate that still has to win a runoff and a general election, and isn’t particularly well-liked in his party. There’s a decent chance that advances will be made to further decriminalize pot, as treatment and alternative forms of sentencing are much more popular these days than jail time, and there’s a conservative push for de-incarceration as a matter of fiscal policy. That’s not the same as legalization, of course, but it’s a large and solid piece of middle ground with a less determined opposing faction. When there’s a commercial interest in favor of pot legalization, that’s when we’re likely to see some real action, assuming such an interest is shown by the Colorado and Washington experiences to be viable. But as with casinos, that’s no guarantee, either. My advice to those interested in advancing this cause is to work on decriminalization. It gets you most of the way there, it’s achievable, it will keep people out of jail, and it will make it easier down the road to take the next step when and if public opinion becomes more firmly in favor. Advocating for medical marijuana is also probably a decent bet. But in the absence of even a rudimentary grassroots movement for legal pot, I wouldn’t expect anything more than that to be possible.

How I’ll be voting in the runoffs

David Alameel

David Alameel

This is pretty straightforward, as there are only two races in the runoff for me to consider.

Senate – This is the definition of a no-brainer. David Alameel wasn’t my first choice. I voted for Maxey Scherr, and didn’t recommend a vote for Alameel in March because of questions about his past (and possibly present) political activities that I didn’t have the chance to ask and didn’t see get answered elsewhere. None of that matters now. Alameel’s ubiquitous web ads have put him firmly on the right side of issues I care about, and while there are still questions I’d like to ask Alameel – and I plan to try again to set up an interview with him – I’m satisfied with that. Just as I didn’t believe Mark Jones when he tried to convince me there were stealth moderates in the GOP primaries, I will take Alameel at his word on these issues. And not to belabor the obvious, but the alternative is unthinkable. I speculated before that perhaps the reason the establishment all lined up with Alameel early on is because someone foresaw the Kesha Rogers problem and reasonably concluded that Alameel and his bankroll were a solution to it. Whether that was by accident or design, it seems to be working pretty well and almost closed things out in the first round. I’ll be voting for David Alameel in the runoff.

Ag Commissioner – I feel terrible for Hugh Fitzsimons, who was clearly the best and most qualified candidate running in either party. I wish I had an answer to that; I do have a couple of thoughts that I’ll get back to later. I think I’ve been pretty clear about my view of Kinky Friedman and the pros and cons of his candidacy. I ultimately voted for Fitzsimons because I wasn’t fully sold on Kinky and his one-note crusade, but at least Kinky can articulate a reason why he’s running and is actually trying to win. That’s more that can be said for Jim Hogan. Here’s Hogan in his own words in the Trib:

Hogan said he did not spend money during the campaign because “it’d be silly to raise money.” He added that there was no need for a campaign website, which he doesn’t have, because “somebody’s going to Google you anyway.”

And in the Observer:

I talked to Hogan today, and he attributes his victory to the Almighty.

“It was a miracle and only God could’ve pulled it off,” he told me. “That doesn’t sell papers and you may think that’s corny but I truly believe it.”

I can understand why God wouldn’t want the atheistic Kinky Friedman representing God’s Party but what about Fitzsimons, who actually campaigned?

Hogan scoffs at the idea that “the Establishment” has anything to teach him.

“When I called Democrats and told them I was gonna be on the ticket first thing they said was, ‘How long you been in politics?’ I said, ‘I’m not no politician.’ They said, ‘Let me tell you something: It takes a lot of money to win a state race and you can’t win.’ I said, ‘Let me tell you something, y’all haven’t won since 1994.’”

And that’s true enough. Democrats have lost every single one of the last 100 or so statewide races since 1994. Hogan thought he’d try something a little different: He wouldn’t really campaign.

“Basically I run on the internet and a phone,” he said. “My motto is: My phone and Internet can outrun any jet plane or car across the state of Texas. I don’t have to be there.”

But how did voters know about him at all? Details about his candidacy only appear in a handful of small-town papers.

“All you gotta do is Google my name—’jim hogan ag commissioner’—and there’s enough on there.”

Sorry, but I refuse to vote for someone who doesn’t campaign. If Hogan wants to be the next coming of Gene Kelly, he can do it without my help. If the result of the Ag Commissioner primaries has you looking elsewhere or sitting it out, I understand. But you can’t beat something with nothing, and Hogan is nothing. I’ll be voting for Kinky.

As I said, I’m sad this happened to Hugh Fitzsimons. Frankly, we’re lucky it didn’t also happen to Steve Brown, but one random result is enough. Someone needs to be thinking how to deal with this in 2018, because unless everyone is running for re-election, Dems are going to have to try to fill out another slate with quality candidates. Getting such people for the top of the ticket shouldn’t be too hard (we hope), but we still need those Commissioners and Supreme Court/CCA justices, and raising statewide money for those offices is a huge challenge. It shouldn’t be that expensive in a primary to establish enough name ID for someone to avoid this scenario. Some targeted mail, some online ads, maybe a spot of cable TV – I saw plenty of ads for Nathan Hecht and Glenn Hegar on ESPN and CSN-Houston during early voting. Maybe if some people would quit screwing around with Republican primaries and questionable PACs they might realize such a thing wouldn’t be all that expensive and it might just help the next Hugh Fitzsimons make it through to November. Our bench isn’t nearly deep enough to burn candidates like that, and it won’t be deep enough in four years’ time. If we can’t figure out a way to invest in these guys, we’ll face the same problem then. BOR has more.

The case for Kinky

The Trib sums up the reasons for voting for the Kinkster in the runoff.

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

The race for agriculture commissioner is far down the list, both in terms of voter interest and the interest of people who write checks to political campaigns. It is the backwater of state politics, which makes it a great place for a candidate who is well known and doesn’t need the help of the financial people to get the attention of voters.

Miller and Merritt have never run statewide races. Friedman ran for governor in 2006 in a pack that included Republican Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell and Republican-turned-independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn (who has since divorced and changed her last name back to Rylander). Friedman finished fourth.

Let us argue the case on behalf of the Republican candidates.

One, Friedman got decimated in the 2006 race even though — and perhaps because — the voters knew who he was.

Two, it’s a Republican state, and the Democrats are unlikely to win, especially with a candidate who can be difficult to take seriously.

Three, Friedman’s idea of legalizing marijuana and making it a cash crop in Texas is out of the mainstream and cannot possibly be a winning issue in a Texas election.

The other side? He is better known than either Miller or Merritt. They, like Friedman himself, have been rejected by voters, and the deficiencies that made their opponents successful are there for new opponents — like Friedman — to exploit.

It will be hard for all of the candidates to raise money — an advantage for the best-known candidate, as long as it’s not a bank robber.

Marijuana — if it doesn’t turn off the voters — sets Friedman’s campaign apart. It’s something for voters who are not otherwise interested in the Texas Department of Agriculture to talk about. Public opinion is shifting; the governor recently talked about decriminalizing pot. Perry is not for legalization, but decriminalization is a long way from the zero-tolerance policies that were in vogue a few years ago.

We’ve covered this before. Other than the Trib’s mention that Kinky could highlight his differences with the state Democratic Party as a general campaign theme, there’s nothing new there. Either you buy into the idea of Kinky as a viable and potentially successful candidate, or you’d sooner French kiss an electric outlet. I can’t say either of these views are wrong, but if you vote in the runoff – and you should come out to vote for David Alameel, because Kesha Rogers must be stopped – then you’ll have to decide how you feel about this.

Primary results: Statewide

So Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott won easily.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

They never had to sweat their primaries, so on Tuesday night Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis turned their attention to a fall election that is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested and closely watched Texas governor’s races in decades.

Davis, who was winning almost 80 percent of the vote in early returns, and Abbott, who was pulling in more than 90 percent at last count, both gave early victory speeches on a night when uncertainty and surprise shook up candidates in several other key state races.

Davis went first, focusing her remarks on job creation and education, saying Texas badly needed new leadership after years of uninterrupted Republican rule.

“I want you to know this: I am ready to fight for you and to fight for every hardworking Texan across this state,” Davis said at her campaign headquarters in Fort Worth. “Now is the time to fight for our future. This is not a time to stand still.”

But Davis’ remarks quickly turned into an attack on Abbott. She criticized him for defending in court steep cuts made by the Legislature to public education in 2011 in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of school districts that say the state’s education system is flawed and doesn’t appropriately fund schools.

“He’s defending those cuts,” Davis said. “Cuts that laid off teachers and forced our kids into overcrowded classrooms.”

She also mentioned the ongoing abortion debate in Texas — the issue that helped turn her into an overnight sensation last summer when she filibustered a restrictive abortion bill. Davis bashed Abbott for his stance on abortion, saying that he wants to “dictate for all women, including victims of rape and incest.” Abbott has said he believes abortion should be legal only when the mother’s life is in danger.

“I will be the governor who fights for the future of Texas,” Davis said, adding that “Greg Abbott is a defender of the status quo.”

There were a lot of uncounted ballots at the time I called it a night last night, but turnout on the Dem side will probably be around 600,000, or about what we had in 2012. A bit more than half the votes were cast early, which strongly suggests yesterday’s rotten weather had some effect. Republicans also had more than half their turnout come in early, so it affected both sides. This is why I always vote early, y’all.

John Cornyn easily won his primary, but with a not-terribly-impressive 58% or so of the vote. Barring any late surge, David Alameel will finish with about 47% and will face (sigh) Kesha Rogers in the runoff, as she finished second with about 22%. I expect he’ll win easily in a low turnout race, and I have to wonder if this is the reason he got those early endorsements from Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and a whole passel of Dem officeholders. Maybe someone in the hive mind had the foresight to think that he had the best shot at solving the Kesha problem, hopefully in March but surely in May if it comes to it. Be that as it may, let me take this opportunity once again to spit on that crappy Trib primary poll. Use a dartboard next time, fellas.

Anyway. Alameel will be joined in the runoff by Kinky Friedman and Jim Hogan, who led the field for Ag Commissioner for no apparent reason. At least Steve Brown won the Railroad Commissioner nomination, so there was just one random result.

On the Republican side, Baby Bush collected 73% in the Land Commissioner race, so he joins Abbott in getting to start running for November. Glenn Hegar was within an eyelash of 50% at the time I closed up shop; if he falls back, Harvey Hilderbran will get another shot at him. All Supreme Court incumbents won, and all Court of Criminal Appeals races had clear winners. Otherwise, here are your runoff lineups:

Lite Guv – Dan Patrick versus David Dewhurst. Sure looks like The Dew is going down.

Attorney General – Ken Paxton versus Dan Branch. Back to the Railroad Commission for you, Barry Smitherman.

Ag Commissioner – Sid Miller versus Tommy Merritt. If things hold to form, Ted Nugent will have had quite the successful primary himself.

Railroad Commissioner – Wayne Christian versus Ryan Sitton. Yeah, I know, who?

That’s all I got. What are your thoughts about the primaries?

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

And here’s the reality:

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

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

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

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

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

And the actual result:

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

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

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

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

Chron overview of Ag Commissioner race

It’s mostly about Kinky and pot, because what else is there to talk about?

Democrat Kinky Friedman is attempting to add a little spice to the crowded agriculture commissioner race by being the lone candidate to advocate legalizing marijuana and tapping it as a new state cash crop.

Of the eight candidates jostling to replace Republican Todd Staples as agriculture commissioner, only Friedman of Kerrville supports legalizing marijuana and taxing it for state revenue. He wants Texas to move quickly before other states follow Washington and Colorado’s lead and legalize the drug for recreational use, which could deprive the Lone Star State of potential revenue, like the $578 million in tax revenue that Colorado expects from first-year sales.

“Texas will be the dinosaur dragged in by the tail,” Friedman said. “We will be the caboose on the train.”

Friedman’s comments on legalizing marijuana follow those voiced by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who called for legalizing the drug for medical use and possibly decriminalizing it.

And Republican Gov. Rick Perry who told the World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he signed laws putting the state on the path to decriminalization, and suggested that all states, under the 10th Amendment, have the right to decide how to handle the herb.

But other agricultural commissioner candidates from both major political parties were reluctant to voice those types of sentiments, preferring to focus on top priorities like illegal immigration and improved water infrastructure.

“Pot doesn’t really matter,” said Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III, another Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner. “What matters is if you have any water.”

Cleburne farmer Jim Hogan, also seeking the Democratic primary nod, said he understands the arguments for legalization, and he said he could favor a shift in emphasis from punishment to rehabilitation for Texas drug users.

“If I was a judge and a woman (charged with possession of marijuana) had three kids, I couldn’t send her to prison,” Hogan said. “I could have her rehabilitated, maybe.”

None of the five Republicans in the race gave support to Perry’s comments or bucked their party’s hard line stance against drug possession or legalization.

I ran interviews last week with Friedman and Fitzsimons. Pot is a worthwhile issue to discuss, and I support Friedman’s position on it, but as Fitzsimons says it’s all secondary to water. Sure would have been nice to have seen what some of the Republican candidates have to say about that in a story like this. It also might have been worthwhile to mention the Republican candidates’ self-interested hypocrisy on receiving federal agriculture subsidies. But hey, no one’s really paying attention to a race like this anyway, am I right?

Interview with Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

We come to my last set of interviews for the primary season, the Democratic race for Ag Commissioner. Some primaries feature candidates that don’t differ all that much. This race is not one of those. Making his second run for Ag Commissioner and third statewide campaign is musician/comedian/entrepreneur Kinky Friedman. As you’ve likely heard, Friedman has based his candidacy on advocacy for the legalization of marijuana. He’s passionate and sincere about it, but it’s fair to say that he faces a skeptical primary electorate, given his 2006 run for Governor as an independent. I’ve certainly been one of those skeptics, but in a year with an open seat and an opponent that will likely have no statewide profile, he might be in a good position to leverage his celebrity and his unorthodox issue advocacy for good. These were the things we discussed in the interview:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2014 Election page.

What’s at stake in the Democratic primaries

I’ve had my fun poking holes in Mark Jones’ ridiculous argument that we should all just vote in the Republican primary, but now it’s time to talk about the Democratic primary and why these races matter.

US Senate

David Alameel

David Alameel

On Monday and Tuesday I published interviews with Mike Fjetland and Maxey Scherr. I wish I could present an interview with David Alameel today, but as you can see I don’t have one. I made contact with his campaign manager, but after some initial back and forth I heard nothing for a couple of weeks, then got an email out of the blue late last week from another campaign staffer; after replying to him I heard nothing further. Team Alameel is welcome to contact me any time between now and Primary Day and I’ll do my best to accommodate his schedule, and run the interview the next weekday. Y’all have my email address and my cell number. I’m not going anywhere.

There are twenty-one candidates running for the Senate, including the incumbent, and five of them are Democrats. Two of them, Fjetland and Scherr, are clearly worthy of your consideration. I personally lean towards Scherr because I have a preference for younger candidates and I think there would be value in having three women at the top of the ticket, but both of them are honorable and will run respectable campaigns. One candidate, Harry Kim, is largely unknown to me and I daresay to most people reading this. He has a website now, though the content is generic to the point of being formless, his campaign Facebook page was last updated on January 7 when he uploaded a cover photo, and his campaign Twitter account has yet to tweet anything. I don’t think I’m asking too much of first time candidates operating on a shoestring to at least take advantage of the free tools that are available to them so those of us that will not otherwise get to interact with them can learn a little something about them.

One candidate should come with glaring spotlights and screaming klaxons, to warn everyone in her path to stay the hell away. I speak of course of the LaRouche nutball Kesha Rogers, who for the last two elections managed to get herself and her message of impeaching President Obama nominated in CD22. That’s mortifying to say the least, but in the end neither nomination had any effect on anything. Nominating her for the Senate – even allowing her to slip into the runoff – would make all of us a laughingstock on a national scale with the force to knock Chris Christie out of the news cycle and with the potential to administer real damage to Wendy Davis’ campaign. This is what we get with Kesha Rogers. She has thrived in the past on obscurity in low profile, low turnout elections. The only antidote to this is a sufficiently informed electorate. Make sure everyone you know knows about Kesha Rogers.

And then there’s Alameel, who despite plastering the entire Internet with his ads, remains an enigma. Forget my own inability to get an interview with him, I’ve yet to see a profile of him in some other news source. We all know that he made a lot of contributions to Republicans in years past but has been Democratic-only since 2008. We know there are questions about his commitment to reproductive rights, given past and possibly ongoing connections to a Catholic pro-life group. We know that despite these things, both Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte saw fit to endorse him. But we don’t know the answers to these questions, and until someone with a microphone or notebook gets to pose those questions to him, we won’t know any more than we do right now. The Davis and LVdP endorsements carry some weight, but without knowing more about him I can’t recommend even considering a vote for him at this time. If I get the opportunity to interview him, even if I just get the opportunity to read something written by someone who has had the opportunity to speak to him, I may change my mind about that. I’ll let you know if that happens.

Governor

We’re all voting for Wendy in the primary, right? I mean, whatever misgivings you may have about her campaign at this time aside, Ray Madrigal has done no campaigning that I can see, he has no online presence, and he offers zero odds of competing against Greg Abbott, let alone winning. The only real item of interest here is Davis’ vote share. If she fails to get above some arbitrary number – I don’t know what that arbitrary number is, but I do know that it will be decided after her vote total is in – there will be some number of stories written about Democratic “discontent” with her, or maybe just “trepidation” about her. The number of such stories is inversely proportional to her actual vote share, as it the number of “unnamed Democratic insiders/strategists” quoted in those stories. To paraphrase those DirecTV ads, don’t let there be lots of stories written about Democratic “discontent” – or “disenchantment”, there’s another good word – with Wendy Davis, with multiple quotes from “unnamed Democratic insiders/strategists”. Vote for her in the primary and do your part to head that off.

By the way, I do presume there is an arbitrary number for Greg Abbott as well. Partly because he has a gaggle of opponents, and partly because he’s not Wendy Davis, I presume his arbitrary number is lower than her arbitrary number. I also presume the tone of those stories, if they get to be written, will be more of surprise than an opportunity to pile on and air grievances. This is of course an untestable hypothesis – like I said, we don’t know what each candidate’s arbitrary numbers are – but however you want to slice it, I’d bet Abbott would get more slack for a lower-than-you-might-have-expected vote share than Davis would get. Assuming either of them gets less than one might expect, whatever that is.

Ag Commissioner

The stakes here are pretty basic: A well-known candidate that can generate his own press and who is running on a sexy issue but whom basically no one trusts to be a good Democrat, versus a highly qualified and much more acceptable to the base candidate who will be utterly ignored by the press. Dumb ideas aside, Mark Jones did at least characterize this race correctly. Kinky is clearly higher risk, but at least potentially higher upside. Hugh Fitzsimons is solid and trustworthy, but again will get absolutely no attention from the press save for a cursory campaign overview story some time in October. Which do you prefer? Again, I’m ignoring the third candidate, Jim Hogan, who does not appear to be doing much of anything. Maybe that’s foolish after Mark Thompson came out of nowhere to win the Railroad Commissioner nomination in 2008 over two more experienced candidates, but it’s what I’m doing.

Railroad Commissioner

No one is going to claim that this race will be on anyone’s radar, but there’s still a choice, and in my consideration it’s a clear choice. Dale Henry is by all accounts a well-qualified candidate, having been the Democratic nominee for RRC in 2006 and 2012. He’s also, to put it gently, old school in his campaign style and methods. Steve Brown is young, dynamic, an outsider for an agency that could use a fresh perspective, a modern campaigner who will work hard for himself and the top of the ticket, and has a future even if all he gets out of this election is the experience of running statewide. I think he’s the obvious call to make, but in a low profile campaign anything can happen. But if you’re paying attention and you want a better slate overall, you’ll be sure to vote for Steve Brown.

Local races

Here’s where Mark Jones’ idea really makes no sense. Pretty much every county where Democrats are strong features important primaries. We already know about Harris County, where the need to nominate Kim Ogg outweighs Jones’ suggestion all by itself. Travis County is electing a County Judge, as is El Paso County, which also features three hot legislative races. Bexar County has races for County Judge, County Clerk, District Attorney, District Clerk, and a slew of District Court judges. Dallas County has a power struggle between current DA Craig Watkins and Party Chair Darlene Ewing, with the former running his own slate of candidates, including one against Ewing. Tarrant County will be key to Rep. Mark Veasey’s re-election. And those are just the big counties.

Bottom line: We have some important, consequential decisions to make beginning on February 18. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Endorsement watch: Fitzsimons for Ag Commissioner

The Chron recommends Hugh Fitzsimons as the best choice for Ag Commissioner in the Democratic primary.

Hugh Fitzsimons

Hugh Fitzsimons

A 59-year-old San Antonio native and third-generation rancher, Fitzsimons produces honey and raises grass-fed organic bison on his ranch in Dimmit County. One of the top reasons he’s running for office, though, is water.

Before running for agriculture commissioner’s four-year term, Fitzsimons served on the Wintergarden Water Conservation District. That experience becomes apparent when he discusses ways for Texans to conserve water, balancing the needs of cities, farmers and fracking.

As part of a solution, he says he’ll work to promote water recycling in the fracking process and irrigation systems that prevent evaporation.

He is also the only Democrat to receive the endorsement of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a national organization dedicated to supporting independent family farmers.

And while many other candidates speak only in hyperbole about immigration, Fitzsimons speaks with compassion. Instead of horror stories about death along the border, he talks about the time he kayaked down the Rio Grande.

If you care about the future of the Texas Democratic Party, vote for Fitzsimons. If you’re tempted to vote for Kinky, make a donation to the Drug Policy Alliance instead.

The Chron also endorsed Eric Opiela on the Republican side, with a kudo for J. Allen Carnes and a brickbat for former Rep. Sid Miller. They wrote about twice as much for the Dem primary endorsement, beginning with two paragraphs of potshots at Kinky Friedman and his pro-pot campaign. Their objection was more about Kinky and his past history of being more showman than statesman in his campaigns, which I can certainly understand, than it was about marijuana policy. I’ve got interviews with Kinky and Fitzsimons set to run next week, and I’ll have more to say about this primary in a future post. On the merits, this is an unassailable recommendation, and if you aren’t acquainted with Hugh Fitzsimons yet, you really should get to know him.

January finance reports for Democratic statewide candidates

BagOfMoney

With the exception of a stray missing report here and there, all of the January campaign finance reports for state office holders and seekers are up on the Texas Ethics Commission webpage. Here’s a brief look at the reports filed by Democratic candidates for statewide offices. I already have reports for the candidates in contested primaries on my 2014 Election page, so this is a chance to look at the uncontested candidates as well.

Governor

Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis SPAC
Wendy Davis GPAC

Ray Madrigal – No report

As you’ve probably read by now, Wendy Davis filed three campaign reports – basically, the first one is her previously existing Senate account, to which people were contributing before her official announcement that she was running for Governor; the second is her special purpose PAC account for her gubernatorial campaign, similar to the “Friends Of” or “Texans For” PACs that Republicans often use; and the joint Battleground Texas PAC that has gotten every Republican’s panties in a wad. I’m not going to rehash any of that, I’m just going to note with amusement that her total must have really freaked them out to have reacted so strongly instead of just pointing to Greg Abbott’s bottom line, which is enough to make Switzerland salivate. Davis certainly answered the question about her ability to raise the funds she’ll need, but once won’t be enough. She’ll need to post similar, if not better, numbers for July. But we’ll worry about that another day.

Lt. Governor

Leticia Van de Putte
Leticia Van de Putte SPAC

As with Wendy Davis, the first account is the pre-existing Senate account, and the second is for the Lite Guv race. Here are the details from each:

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Senate $154,087 $177,799 $235,084 LG SPAC $290,514 $ 21 $251,756 Total $445,601 $177,820 $486,840

I presume all of the expenditures came out of the Senate account, which makes sense. The SPAC was created on November 23, so basically it represents five weeks’ worth of fundraising, which isn’t too shabby. I didn’t go through its contributions, but I did go through the expenses for the Senate account, and I did not see any transfers from the one to the other, so that $290K figure is accurate and as far as I know doesn’t include redundant funds. For five weeks during the Thanksgiving/Christmas period, that’s a decent total, which would project to $1.5 million to $2 million at that pace for the July report. Not bad as I say, but not really enough, either. LVdP doesn’t need to be in Wendy’s league, but she does need to have enough to do some real statewide outreach. If she doesn’t raise at least $5 million for July, I’d be concerned she won’t be able to do that. On the plus side, she can hit up Wendy’s supporters, including and especially the big-dollar ones. I feel confident that she is more than up to this challenge, but if you’ve donated to Wendy and not to Leticia, you need to rectify that.

Attorney General
Comptroller

Sam Houston
Mike Collier

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Houston $184,595 $ 41,216 $153,678 Collier $213,518 $170,791 $439,015

I put these two together, because they’re the only other candidates to report significant fundraising totals. Houston’s report begins in October, whereas Collier had the whole six month period in which to raise money. Both did pretty well, with Collier’s totals being boosted by $400K in loans ($250K from himself, $150K from his company; Houston reported $10K in loans as well). Collier spent $30K on video production, and $50K on “website design and video advertising”; he also spent many thousands on consultant fees, which I didn’t add up. As Van de Putte needs to kick it up by an order of magnitude this period, so do these two. I’d be happy with $2 million raised from each. We know the base is big enough to support Wendy’s campaign, and I’m confident that support will extend to LVdP. Will it reach this far? I hope so.

Ag Commissioner
Land Commissioner
Railroad Commissioner

Kinky Friedman
Hugh Fitzsimons
Jim Hogan

John Cook

Steve Brown
Dale Henry

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Kinky $26,416 $ 4,256 $22,159 Fitz $27,200 $ 6,549 $74,401 Hogan $ 0 $ 3,750 $ 0 Cook $13,153 $17,010 $ 0 Brown $ 4,455 $ 5,661 $ 0 Henry $ 0 $ 0 $ 0

Not a whole lot to say here. Fitzsimons had $50K in loans, and Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso, had a bit more than $19K in loans. I’m not exactly sure why neither Cook nor Brown reported any cash on hand, but it’s not that important. With the exception of Kinky, none of these folks will have much in the way of name recognition in November, but then neither will any of their opponents other than Baby Bush. From this point on, it’s all about the top of the ticket.

Supreme Court
Court of Criminal Appeals

William Moody
Larry Meyers
Gina Benavides

John Granberg

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Moody $ 7,500 $ 9,358 $ 4,037 Meyers $ 1,000 $ 3,750 $ 441 Benavides $ 2,500 $ 3,750 $ 0 Granburg $ 780 $ 5,296 $ 780

Again, not much to say here. I thought Larry Meyers might have a few bucks stashed away just due to his longevity, but apparently not. He does have about $94K in outstanding loans, presumably money he has already spent. In case you’re wondering, that $3,750 figure you see is the filing fee. Again, these races are determined by the top of the ticket more than anything else. Maybe the state party will raise some money to campaign for the slate as a whole.

That’s it for these reports. I’ll look at others as we go along.

Kinky and pot

The Trib talks to Kinky Friedman, making another run for Ag Commissioner as a Democrat, and his new signature issue.

Bi-polar and tri-partisan

Friedman, 69 — a singer, humorist, novelist and hawker of tequila — has tried, frequently, to add “elected official” to his résumé. But his celebrity status and unique charm have not translated into success at the ballot box, and that seems to be an itch he cannot help but scratch. He has tossed his iconic black cowboy hat into the ring for the race for agriculture commissioner with what he calls a clearer focus.

The campaign is his third run for statewide office in three cycles. A 1986 bid for justice of the peace in Kerrville is his fourth overall. In 2006, running as an independent, he placed fourth in a six-way race for governor. Four years later, he came up short in his first bid for the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner.

This time, he said, his campaign has a sense of mission that he lacked in 2010. Its central issue will be the legalization of marijuana, which he predicted could be the state’s biggest cash crop, financing solutions to a variety of the state’s problems.

“It’s a nonbinding referendum,” he said of his candidacy. “It’s bigger than just another conniving politician trying to worm his way into office. That’s not what’s happening here. What’s happening is, if I actually win this thing, the heat on this issue on the Legislature and whoever the governor is will be enormous.”

His two primary opponents are not taking the bait.

“I’m interested in grass, but it’s not that kind,” said Hugh Fitzsimons, a Democratic contender who raises grass-fed bison in Carrizo Springs. “To me, we have some serious, serious problems, and it’s primarily centered around water.”

Jim Hogan, a Cleburne farmer, responded similarly. “I don’t smoke it,” he said. “I don’t have anything to do with it. That’s the last I want to talk about it. I want to talk about raising cattle, trees, goats, tomatoes and peppers.”

No Democrat has won a statewide race in two decades, so whoever emerges from the primary will be considered an underdog against the winner of the Republican primary, which has five candidates. Two Libertarians are currently locked in a primary of their own.

Friedman speculated that having two primary opponents might aid his prospects by splitting the anti-Kinky vote — the existence of which he is aware.

“Politicians like the word gadfly,” he said. “They use it as a negative. They use it with me sometimes — usually Democrats who don’t take me seriously. But if you had a gadfly buzzing around some of this, it wouldn’t hurt a thing. It might help.”

As you know, I have been a member of the anti-Kinky caucus. This year, as you also know, I’m somewhat more willing to hear what he has to say. Back in November, the Houston Press had a cover story on Friedman and his pot-centered candidacy for Ag Commissioner. Reading it at the time, I had to admit that so far at least he’s saying the right things.

Of course, Friedman’s sincerity was immediately questioned. The day of his official announcement, Republican candidate Eric Opiela quickly issued a press release that characterized Friedman’s candidacy as a joke, saying, “The issues facing Texas are serious. Our Agriculture Commissioner should be too.”

“We need an agriculture commissioner,” added Opiela, “who will focus on jobs, not jokes; drought, not drama and water lines, not punch lines.”

Yes, it was that scripted and wooden.

Eye roll from Friedman, who says he expected GOP candidates would take a dismissive tack in responding to his candidacy.

“But if they really weren’t worried about me, I don’t think they’d have started attacking me immediately.”

“Look, I’m 69, I don’t have time for stunts,” the musician, novelist, cigar and salsa salesman, tequila distiller, former Peace Corps volunteer and maverick politician explains as he walks up the Drag in Austin puffing his trademark cigar. “I’m dead serious about this run and about pushing for legalization. Marijuana is at the heart of a crucial matrix that, if we can get it straightened out and in motion, will become a great economic engine we can use to solve some of the biggest problems we face as a state.

“It’s time Texans asked themselves: Are we going to secede or are we going to lead?”

As long as he’s using his one-liner power for good and not for self-aggrandizement, it’s a win. I would also point out that marijuana has more to do with the office of Ag Commissioner than abortion has to do with the office of Railroad Commissioner. And if there’s anyone on the statewide ticket that I’d be okay with talking about pot, it would be Kinky. Again, he’s saying the right things.

“The governor and his cronies want to talk about reducing the size of government?” says Friedman. “Well, why are they all for these for-profit prison operations? How does putting 70,000 people in those private jails help us? Keeping pot illegal and jailing users for profit, this doesn’t help the people of Texas; this helps the outlaws who operate the illegal drug business and don’t pay taxes. How smart is that?”

“Look at history, look at what happened when Prohibition was lifted,” he continues. “The turf wars were over because the criminals lost their source of revenue. The legitimate liquor companies got stronger, and that’s a vigorous, profitable industry today that results in significant tax revenues. I think the same thing will happen when we legalize marijuana.”

As for how it plays out if he actually wins the election, Friedman sees a fairly quick move by the legislature to legalize the drug.

“Politicians move with the voters,” he observes. “If I win this running on legalizing marijuana, I think you’ll see a lot of position-shifting on the issue and a scramble to see who gets a bill onto the Governor’s desk first.”

I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that a larger push to at least decriminalize pot is coming, and it’s just a matter of time before the politicians realize they need to get on board with it. That could be a long time from now, of course. If you listened to my interview with Sen. John Whitmire, he thinks legalization won’t happen during his lifetime, and he’s a few years younger than Friedman. I personally think Sen. Whitmire is a bit too pessimistic – I mean, back in 2005 when we were enshrining a ban on same sex marriage in the state constitution, who thought we’d be where we are on that issue now? – and Friedman is a bit too optimistic. Where the truth is between those two, I don’t know. And again, credit where it is due, Kinky is saying the right things.

The rest of Friedman’s economic engine involves farming hemp (a non-potent form of marijuana) for industrial use and export while realizing significant water conservation gains due to hemp’s low water requirement vis-à-vis cotton; reducing insecticide use — hemp is essentially a weed and insects aren’t interested; and opening casinos so Texas money stays in Texas.

“I’ve never understood why we give all this money to other states,” Friedman shakes his head. “We’re just waving good-bye to the money for school improvements and roads, for mass transit, money we can put into drought remediation, into water-conservation projects, stuff this state is crying out for. What are we thinking?”

Friedman says the last couple of years, all the governor and attorney general have done “is rant about Obama” and spend hundreds of millions of dollars in state money challenging federal laws to appeal to their right-wing voting base.

“They can call my campaign a joke, but if the Republicans have any answers to the great problems this state faces, why haven’t they implemented them instead of obsessing about women’s reproductive systems or gay marriage?” he notes. “They’ve had total control of this state almost 20 years now, but nothing is getting fixed.”

I’m a realist. I haven’t forgotten 2006, and I haven’t forgotten the many instances of Kinky Friedman saying ugly things. He’s a risk to go off at any time, and if he does so as a Democratic nominee, you can be sure the Republicans will use that against the rest of the ticket. Given the racial nature of some of his past comments, I’d be very concerned about Friedman turning off voters of color, who Dems need to turn out in droves this fall. If he sticks his foot in his mouth the Republicans will be all over it, and will force Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte to renounce him in a way that Greg Abbott will never do with his more controversial supporters. It’s a risk putting him on the same ballot with Davis and LVdP. By the same token, Friedman will have vastly more name ID and potentially more crossover appeal than whichever low-wattage Republican wins that primary. He’ll generate news like that Trib story by virtue of who he is and the under-rated support for the issue he’s flogging. If Davis were a solid favorite to win in November, I wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole. But underdogs need to take risks, and Kinky has enough upside to at least be worth considering. Hugh Fitzsimons is clearly a serious candidate that’s worth a good look, but as of today I am leaning towards a vote for Kinky Friedman, which is not something I would have said four years ago or eight years ago. That could change tomorrow, so check with me again before early voting begins.

Final filings: We have a statewide Democrat

Boy, I didn’t see this coming.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

Longtime Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers announced Monday that he is leaving the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for the Texas Supreme Court.

Meyers, of Fort Worth, filed Monday on the last day of filing to seek Place 6 on the Supreme Court, currently held by Jeff Brown.

“I am thrilled to welcome Judge Meyers to the Texas Democratic Party,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “I am even more excited to know that Judge Meyers doesn’t stand alone. Every day, I hear from real voters that our party represents the strongest path forward for our state.

“Texas is changing and voters will continue ot reject a Republican Party more focused on ideology than ideas.”

Meyers’ party switch makes him the first statewide Democratic officeholder since 1998.

What’s more, since his term on the CCA isn’t up until 2016, no matter what happens in that race he’ll be on the bench at least until then. It’s a little strange having a criminal court judge running for a civil court, but that’s far from the strangest thing that’s happened this cycle. Meyers announced a challenge to Sharon Keller in the GOP primary in 2012 despite having previously been an ally of hers, but as far as I can tell he didn’t actually go through with it; the SOS page for the 2012 GOP primary shows her as unopposed. In any event, welcome to the party, Judge Meyers. Best of luck in your election.

That was the first surprise of the day but it wasn’t the last and may not have been the biggest, for next came this.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has filed to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the March GOP primary, joining at least eight other hopefuls vying for the senior senator’s seat, according to a spokesman with the Republican Party of Texas.

Stockman, who had filed for re-election in Congressional District 36, had to withdraw from that race to seek Cornyn’s seat.

In an interview with the website WND, Stockman said he was running because he was “extremely disappointed in the way [Cornyn] treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”

There’s crazy, there’s bat$#!+ crazy, and then there’s Steve Stockman, who does a triple lutz barrel roll with a half-gainer but still sticks the landing. Take that, Louie Gohmert!

GOP political consultant Matt Mackowiak said Stockman faces an uphill battle, from recent investigations into his political and fundraising operation to Cornyn’s “huge bankroll.”

“Now we will find out if Sen. Cornyn is truly vulnerable, which I have doubted,” Mackowiak said, adding, “I predict that not one member of the congressional delegation will support Stockman. Ultimately, he will need outside groups to spend, and that is the most important unknown right now.”

All I can say is that so far, no one has gone broke underestimating the insanity of Republican primary voters. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. In the meantime, I join with PDiddie, Texpatriate, Juanita, and BOR in marveling at the spectacle.

Stockman’s change in office means that he won’t be running for CD36, which means there’s at least a chance Congress could be a tiny bit less wacko in 2015. There are three other Republicans running, and one Democrat.

Meanwhile, Michael Cole has had his eye on the heavily-Republican district since 2012, when he ran as a libertarian. He got about 6,000 votes in that election.

Now Cole, a 38 year old teacher from Orange, Texas, is running again as a Democrat. He says he has a campaign team in place, has been crisscrossing the district, and is about to file his first report on fundraising to the Federal Elections Commission. He said he’d focus on getting things done and charged outgoing Stockman with wasting time on politics.

“I can listen to what my constituents want instead of just showboating against Barack Obama,” he said, noting that his major focus would be on middle class job growth.

The change in candidates doesn’t change the fact that this is a 70% GOP district. But still, a Republican and a Libertarian both turning Democrat to run next year? Not a bad day if you ask me.

Anyway. Here’s the TDP list, which will not include people that filed at their county offices, and the Harris County GOP list; I’ve put the HCDP list beneath the fold, since the updated version of it isn’t online just yet. Stace notes the contested primaries of interest in Harris County, but here are a few other highlights:

– In addition to Larry Meyers, the Dems have two other Supreme Court candidates (Bill Moody and Gina Benavides, who is a Justice on the 13th Court of Appeals) and one CCA candidate (John Granberg for Place 3). Not a full slate, but not too bad. According to a TDP press release, Granberg is an attorney from El Paso (as is Moody, who is a District Court judge) and Benavides is from McAllen.

– Kinky Friedman has a second opponent for Ag Commissioner, Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. Either the Dems got used to the idea of Friedman on the ballot or they failed utterly to find an opponent for him that isn’t some dude. I never thought I’d say this, but as things stand today I’d vote for Kinky.

– Another press release from the TDP makes a nice-sounding claim:

Today, the Texas Democratic Party announced its slate of candidates for 2014. Texas Democrats are fielding more candidates for statewide office in this election cycle than any time since 2002.

In addition to the statewide slate, the party devoted significant time to recruiting for down ballot races, and announced challengers in State Senate districts 10 and 17, and a full slate of candidates to the State Board of Education.

The party spent significant time recruiting Justices of the Peace, County Constables, County Judges, County Commissioners and others in places like Lubbock, Wichita Falls, San Angelo and across Texas.

I like the look of that. I wish they had more information in that release, but it’s an encouraging sign regardless.

– There will not be a rematch in CD33 between Rep. Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia. As a fan of Rep. Veasey, I’m glad to hear that.

– Rep. Harold Dutton did file for re-election in HD142. Some people just can’t be rushed, I guess. Rep. Carol Alvarado joined Rep. Alma Allen in drawing a primary challenger, as Susan Delgado filed at the last minute in HD145. I’ll be voting for Rep. Alvarado, thanks. Oh, and the GOP did find a challenger for HD144 – Gilbert Pena, who lost in the primary for that district in 2012.

– Dems did not get candidates foe each local judicial race, but there are a few contested judicial primaries. Yes, that’s a little frustrating, but people will run where they want to run.

– No one is running against Commissioner Jack Morman, and no one else is running for County Judge. Alas. Ann Harris Bennett has an opponent for County Clerk, Gayle Mitchell, who filed a finance report in July but has been quiet since.

– Possibly the biggest surprise locally is that outgoing CM Melissa Noriega filed for HCDE At Large Position 7, making that a three way race with Traci Jensen and Lily Leal. I will have more on that later.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about many of these races soon. Here’s the Chron story for now, which doesn’t add anything I didn’t already have here. What are your thoughts about the lineups?

(more…)

Sam Houston officially announces for AG

Good.

Sam Houston

Sam Houston

Houston attorney and fortuitously named Democrat Sam Houston announced Thursday his plans to make a statewide run at Attorney General, making him the first Democrat to officially toss his hat in the ring.

Houston, who received the most votes of any Democrat on the ballot in 2008 (3.5 million, 46%) when he ran for state Supreme Court, will be challenging three Republicans vying for the position, including state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, and Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman of Houston.

“I will make a formal announcement in the coming weeks,” Houston said in a press release. “Until then, I look forward to speaking with the people of Texas about our shared vision for the future of our great state.”

See here for more on Houston. I met Sam Houston back in 2008 and I think he’ll make a fine candidate. I hope one of the things he talks about is the obsession in recent years that AG Greg Abbott has had with “voter fraud”, which his would-be successors on the GOP side are eager to continue pursuing, which has cost taxpayers millions, has nothing to show for it other than some harassed citizens, and has come at the expense of other priorities. If he can raise some money, and I think he will be able to, this should be an interesting campaign. In the meantime, Kinky Friedman made his bid for Ag Commissioner official – we’ll see if anyone challenges him for that – and we’re still waiting on Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. The level of bullshit in the Lite Guv race is already toxic – we desperately need an antidote for it. Please say you’re in, Senator VdP, and please make it soon. PDiddie has more.

Kinky for Ag Commish, Sam Houston (maybe) for AG

One and a half candidate announcements to note from the weekend. First, from the Trib, is the quadrennial appearance of Kinky Friedman.

Bi-polar and tri-partisan

Singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist and former Independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman will run for the Democratic nomination to be the state’s next agriculture commissioner.

A formal announcement is expected on Monday.

This will not be Friedman’s first bid for statewide office. In addition to running for governor as an Independent in 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner in the Democratic primary in 2010. He expects this cycle to be different, in part because of the excitement surrounding state Sen. Wendy Davis at the top of the Democratic ticket.

“The better Wendy does, the better we will do,” he said. “And we will also be able to bring a lot of Independent voters and people who have never voted before.”

Though no Democrat has won statewide office in nearly two decades, Friedman predicted that this cycle could be “very winnable” — if the party can attract non-traditional voters.

Friedman, who describes himself as “an old time Harry Truman Democrat,” had been mulling a gubernatorial bid. He previously expressed interest in promoting the legalization of marijuana and casino gambling in Texas. On Saturday, he said that the two issues would remain a part of his platform as a candidate for ag commissioner, especially the idea that the state should “legalize, cultivate, tax and regulate marijuana.”

“It could be an economic engine for the state, enabling us to do whatever we want to do,” he said.

Ag Commish isn’t one of the offices I suggedted Kinky run for when he popped up again like one of those inflatable clown dolls, but what the hell. At least it’s an office for which Dems didn’t currently have a candidate. PDiddie makes the case for Kinky based on the issues he wants to emphasize, while BOR reminds us of the reasons to be skeptical. For now, I see this as PDiddie does, a low-cost gamble with some upside. Friedman doesn’t help diversify the ticket, and we’ll all hold our breath every time he’s in the vicinity of a microphone, but if he can stay focused on the issues he says he cares about, it’ll be all right. I hope. Texpatriate has more.

Meanwhile, the Lone Star Project brings news of a possible announcement.

Sam Houston Likely to Announce for Texas AG
Respected Texas attorney was a top vote getter in 2008

As expected, Senator Wendy Davis’ announcement that she is running for Texas Governor is encouraging other strong, qualified Democrats to run statewide. The Lone Star Project has learned that highly respected Houston attorney, Sam Houston, will likely soon announce his candidacy for Texas Attorney General.

Sam Houston’s background is law, not politics
Apart from having about the best ballot name any Texan might imagine, Sam Houston is a respected, highly competent attorney with deep roots in Texas. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, Sam would enter the AG’s office with more than twice the experience as a practicing attorney than Greg Abbott when he became Attorney General. Unlike Abbott and John Cornyn, who were political appointees and professional Republicans before becoming AG, Sam Houston would bring practical experience advocating for clients in the court room.

Sam was born and raised in Colorado City in west Texas (about halfway between Abilene and Midland). His Dad owned a small auto supply/hardware store where Sam often worked. He went on to get his college degree at UT and then earned his law degree at Baylor. Sam lives in Houston with his wife, Jantha and their two children.

Abbott, as Texas AG, has been the counsel to cronies
As Texas AG for over a decade, Greg Abbott has turned the office into a legal advocacy organization for partisan politics and doling out special favors to political friends and donors.  Recently, the Lone Star Project detailed how Abbott looked the other way while some of his top donors bilked the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) of millions of dollars in tax funded grant awards.  This follows a long history of Abbott taking the side of special interests over Texas citizens.

A top vote getter in 2008
Sam was a Democratic nominee for the Texas State Supreme Court in 2008.  Despite the fact that virtually all resources for statewide candidates were diverted for local candidates and out-of-state national races, Sam received over 3.5 million votes – more than any other Texas Democratic candidate on the ballot in 2008.

It’s not official, but…
Don’t be surprised if Sam Houston files to run for the Democratic nomination to become Texas Attorney General.

It may not be official, but it seems highly unlikely that Matt Angle et al would risk making a fool of himself like this if it were anything but a matter of timing or paperwork at this point. Sens. Carlos Uresti and Jose Rodriguez have also been mentioned as possibilities, and I suppose either or both could still jump in; they’re not otherwise on the ballot till 2016, so it’s a free shot. I think Sam Houston would be a strong candidate – he’s well-qualified, unlike many other people running on both sides he has statewide candidate experience, he can probably raise a few bucks, and I do think being named “Sam Houston” is likely to be beneficial to him – so I’ll be happy if this possibility turns into a sure thing.

Medina for Governor?

Well, this would shake things up.

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

We’ll always have Kinky

Like cicadas on a four-year cycle, he keeps coming back.

Bi-polar and tri-partisan

Kinky Friedman doesn’t know if he’s ready to jump back into Texas politics.

But the cigar-chewing humorist and musician — known for the black attire and cowboy hats he normally dons — said he may soon create an exploratory committee to help him decide whether to run for office again.

And if so, for which one.

“Maybe I should do what Rick Perry does and pray for an answer on what to do,” Friedman, 68, said with a chuckle Tuesday during a telephone interview with the Star-Telegram.

Some political observers say they wouldn’t be surprised to see Friedman throw his hat into the ring for nearly any statewide office.

“A comedian needs an audience,” said Harvey Kronberg, editor and publisher of the Austin-based Quorum Report, an online political newsletter.

Friedman said he probably will run for office as a Democrat, as he did during his unsuccessful 2010 bid for Texas agriculture commissioner, rather than as an independent, as he did in his failed 2006 gubernatorial bid.

“I’m keeping my options open,” said Friedman, a self-proclaimed Jewish Cowboy who lives in the Hill Country.

Yes, well, what else is new? If you need a reminder why Friedman is rather less than beloved among Democrats, read this blast from the recent past. Of course, he went from that to being a Wendy Davis for Governor cheerleader, which I suppose at least shows he’s capable of learning. I’m tired of bashing Friedman all the time, so let me make him a deal. If he promises to run for Railroad Commissioner, or Land Commissioner if John Cook decides against it, I’ll shut up about him through next November, assuming he doesn’t say anything too stupid. Hell, he can run for Attorney General if he wants to, on the premise that even a non-lawyer jokester like him would do a better and less detrimental job than a blinkered partisan hack like Greg Abbott, and I’ll be okay with that. Just stay the hell out of the Governor’s race, and don’t go up against a better Dem in anything else, that’s all I ask.

On Tuesday, he outlined his top two political priorities if elected to office: Legalize marijuana use and casino gambling in this state.

“Texas is going to do all this in the next ten to 15 years,” he said. “But by then, he will be the caboose on the train.”

Making his top two priorities reality, Friedman said, will provide a key boost for Texas’ economy.

Legalizing casinos in Texas would “stop the bleeding from all the billions of dollars that are walking out of the state for gambling,” he said.

And making marijuana use legal in Texas, he said, “would put a real crimp in the Mexican drug cartels — and make Willie Nelson very happy.”

I admit, Railroad Commissioners don’t have much to do with either of these things. He’d have to learn some actual policy stuff to be RR Commish, not that that was a prerequisite for the likes of David Porter or Elizabeth Ames Jones. But he could possibly get elected to the Railroad Commission, and that would give him a real platform to advocate for these things. Best I can do, sorry.

On a side note, since I mentioned the office of Attorney General, I’ll note that State Rep. Dan Branch announced his intention to run, a move that was almost as widely expected as Greg Abbott running for Governor. In doing so, Rep. Branch did his best Abbott impersonation, promising to protect the right of unborn babies to carry assault weapons so they can defend themselves from a rapacious federal government, or something like that. I might be a bit fuzzy on the details. I’m not sure if it’s more a pity or just pathetic that a generally low-key legislator who’s built a fairly solid reputation as a policy wonk has to spout such pablum – I suspect he didn’t sound much more genuine in saying it than I would have – but these are the times we live in. And as a result, and because Branch’s main competition is people like the more ludicrous and less substantive Barry Smitherman, you can see why Kinky for AG isn’t such a crazy idea after all. It’s not that hard to sound sensible opposite the likes of that. Kinky is downright statesmanlike in comparison.

Oh, God, make it stop

Hell, no.

More music, less politics

[Kinky] Friedman, the singer-satirist and unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2006, says Perry is vulnerable to a challenge if he runs for re-election in two years.

And Kinky knows just the challenger to beat him — Kinky Friedman.

“I don’t think Perry is going to win, and if he thinks he is, he’s very mistaken,” declared Friedman, who says he’s seriously considering another run.

Friedman knows he has detractors. He knows that when some people hear he might run for governor again, they envision a rerun of a glitzy but ill-fated bid loaded with one-liners and light on position papers. But he also senses a gathering sentiment that people believe Perry has embarrassed the state and has rewarded wealthy interests at the expense of cash-strapped Texans worried about their health care and their children’s schools.

“Perry has created a state that’s first in business climate and 49th in education. What’s wrong with that picture?” Friedman said.

This time, Friedman said he would run as a Democrat, not an independent, and as a more serious and substantive candidate. These days, the cosmic cowboy is reading Churchill.

“The main thing is to defuse the idea of being a comedian or even being an independent. I’m an independent-thinking Democrat and I’ve been a Democrat way further than most of my detractors,” he said. “It would have to be what you show the Democrats during that primary, and if you can show them a different side of Kinky Friedman, and it’s definitely there. Most of us realize the real comedian is already in the Governor’s Mansion.”

Friedman has a habit of popping up between elections to torment us with the idea of running for office again. It’s like a case of the clap that keeps flaring up no matter how many penicillin shots you get. He swears he’s a real true Democrat in the tradition of JFK and Ann Richards, except of course when he’s not.

Yet, simply put, Rick Perry and I are incapable of resisting each other’s charm. He is not only a good sport, he is a good, kindhearted man, and he once sat in on drums with ZZ Top. A guy like that can’t be all bad. When I ran for governor of Texas as an independent in 2006, the Crips and the Bloods ganged up on me. When I lost, I drove off in a 1937 Snit, refusing to concede to Perry. Three days later Rick called to give me a gracious little pep talk, effectively talking me down from jumping off the bridge of my nose. Very few others were calling at that time, by the way. Such is the nature of winning and losing and politicians and life. You might call what Rick did an act of random kindness. Yet in my mind it made him more than a politician, more than a musician; it made him a mensch.

These days, of course, I would support Charlie Sheen over Obama. Obama has done for the economy what pantyhose did for foreplay. Obama has been perpetually behind the curve. If the issue of the day is jobs and the economy, Rick Perry is certainly the nuts-and-bolts kind of guy you want in there. Even though my pal and fellow Texan Paul Begala has pointed out that no self-respecting Mexican would sneak across the border for one of Rick Perry’s low-level jobs, the stats don’t entirely lie. Compared with the rest of the country, Texas is kicking major ass in terms of jobs and the economy, and Rick should get credit for that, just as Obama should get credit for saying “No comment” to the young people of the Iranian revolution.

[…]

So would I support Rick Perry for president? Hell, yes! As the last nail that hasn’t been hammered down in this country, I agree with Rick that there are already too damn many laws, taxes, regulations, panels, committees, and bureaucrats. While Obama is busy putting the hyphen between “anal” and “retentive” Rick will be rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.

Link via TM Daily Post. ‘Nuff said, and shame on you, Wayne Slater, for falling for it. For the love of God, Kinky, please stick with your cigars and Willie Nelson collaborations and whatnot and leave the politics to anyone else. Harold Cook and BOR have more.

Americans Elect starts the petition process

And they’re off.

Will not be on the ballot

Americans Elect — an emerging, alternative third party that plans to use the Internet to field a presidential ticket this year — is starting to gather signatures of registered voters in Texas to try to gain a spot on this year’s election ballot.

“Americans Elect continues to gain ballot access state by state to provide voters in Texas and across the country with another choice for president this November,” said Elliot Ackerman, chief operating officer with Americans Elect. “We are creating a second nominating process for president by holding an online primary for the first time in history, bypassing the two-party system and giving every voter a chane to have their voice heard regardless of where they live.”

You know how I feel about Americans Elect. This is going to be different than it was for Carole Keeton Strayhorn or Kinky Friedman in 2006 when they were petitioning to get on the ballot. It’s one thing to recruit on behalf of an actual candidate, who has policy ideas that can be articulated in favor of doing so. It’s another, I suspect, to recruit on behalf of a concept that may result in the inclusion of anyone from Rocky Anderson to Dennis Kucinich to Olympia Snowe to Buddy Roemer to Ron Paul. But maybe I’m wrong and everyone will see what they want to see and that will work for them. We’ll know soon enough.

Ezra Klein talks to Ackerman and Khalil Byrd of Americans Elect, and it’s still not clear to me what exactly it is they think they’re doing, or how they think they’re going to be different than, say, the Reform Party. They say their real goal is to get down-ballot access and run candidates in all kinds of races all over the country. Again, I have no idea who will choose to do that for a group that doesn’t have some set of principles, but who knows? I’m just going to point out that Klein is wrong when he says they their “real accomplishment is having secured ballot lines in all 50 states”, since clearly they have not yet done so in Texas, and leave it at that. Ed Kilgore and Colin Woodard have more.

About the Tommy Lee Jones bandwagon

I really don’t think this will amount to anything, but I have three things to say about it anyway.

In recent weeks, an idea of Houston attorney Geoff Berg’s turned into a Facebook page and then became a website that he hopes might spark a movement. The message: “Draft Tommy Lee Jones for Senate.”

Berg, a left-leaning commentator and host of the radio show Partisan Gridlock on KPFT, says he is “absolutely serious.”

“I can’t think of another Democrat in Texas,” Berg says, “that has the necessary name ID, that has positive name ID, that would be able to raise money, and that would have at least the potential to attract string voters and a substantial number of Republicans.”

1. I would hope that if we’ve learned anything from the Kinky Friedman saga, it’s that projecting your political desires onto a celebrity candidate with an enigmatic political history is at best a roll of the dice. With all due respect to Berg, I’ll remain on the sidelines until I hear Jones talk policy in a coherent manner.

2. While I recognize that we don’t likely have any better choices for the 2012 election, finding some old white guy, even a famous old white guy who could have a puncher’s chance at winning, isn’t a long-term fix for what ails us. To his credit, Berg doesn’t suggest that it is, and there’s certainly something to doing whatever it takes to win the next election, which we haven’t done statewide in far too long. Just keep this in perspective, that’s all I’m saying.

3. I certainly understand the appeal of a candidate who has “the potential to attract … a substantial number of Republicans”. We had a candidate like that in Bill White last year, and in a more normal electoral season, his ability to draw those Republican votes might have carried him across the finish line. But I don’t think we can run any more of those non-threatening, moderate, crossover types. The lesson I believe we need to take from the last election, the budget debate, and the current activism is that a candidate whose appeal is that he or she will do a better job of running government as we know it can’t win. We need candidates who will say that what we’re doing – what the Republicans have been doing – isn’t working, and what we need isn’t someone who can do it better but someone who will do it differently. There are plenty of people who have been saying this for awhile now, and I’m sure they’re wondering what took me so long to say this. Simply put, I don’t think that was a message that would resonate before now. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t know that it will be more successful now. But I do know that the old way has run its course, and pursuing it further is a sure loser.

Again, I think this is much ado about nothing. Jones himself has had no comment about the effort, not even a perfunctory “I’m not ruling anything out” statement, which says to me this is little more than a fantasy football exercise. But hey, that’s what blogging’s for, right? PDiddie has more.

Rick Perry and the Latino vote, part 3

Having looked at the 2002 election last week, I turn my attention now to 2006. This presents a number of challenges, thanks to the bizarre four-way contest that was the Governor’s race. In all my previous work on the 2006 elections, I’ve generally skipped over the Governor’s race because the numbers are so different from all the other races. Today it can’t be helped.

Let’s start with the basics. Here’s how the four candidates did in the 29 State Rep Districts (SRDs) in which the Spanish surname voter registration (SSRV) percentage was at least 50. Note that these are not the exact same SRDs as in 2002. SRD78 was a smidge over 50% in SSRV in 2002, but not in 2006, while SRD140 did not meet the threshhold in 2002 but did do so in 2006. All other SRDs are the same.

HD Perry Bell Kinky Strayhorn ======================================= 31 3,094 8,896 717 1,567 33 9,595 8,996 3,831 5,212 34 9,781 9,354 3,458 4,664 35 9,867 10,337 4,156 6,615 36 3,845 5,766 533 1,812 37 4,054 5,503 828 3,179 38 6,298 6,191 1,009 4,240 39 3,505 5,112 503 2,096 40 2,309 4,545 483 1,747 41 6,370 4,981 1,125 2,748 42 3,741 7,308 1,019 2,699 43 7,176 6,236 1,561 3,721 74 9,812 8,194 3,436 5,269 75 5,223 5,996 1,527 3,278 76 3,502 7,769 1,209 2,953 77 3,840 6,572 1,555 2,741 79 5,534 5,361 1,625 3,577 80 7,595 8,168 2,713 5,030 104 2,347 6,142 1,088 1,409 116 5,178 7,828 2,615 4,044 117 7,357 7,366 2,848 4,932 118 6,561 8,160 2,974 5,482 119 5,318 7,931 2,679 4,836 123 8,114 5,436 3,164 3,983 124 6,257 7,834 2,493 5,165 125 7,498 8,894 3,244 5,584 140 2,168 4,055 871 956 143 2,284 4,273 1,097 1,020 145 2,649 4,904 1,308 1,243 160,872 198,108 55,669 101,802 HD Perry% Bell% Kinky% CKS% ====================================== 31 21.68% 62.32% 5.02% 10.98% 33 34.72% 32.55% 13.86% 18.86% 34 35.88% 34.32% 12.69% 17.11% 35 31.85% 33.37% 13.42% 21.36% 36 32.16% 48.23% 4.46% 15.16% 37 29.89% 40.57% 6.10% 23.44% 38 35.51% 34.90% 5.69% 23.90% 39 31.25% 45.58% 4.48% 18.69% 40 25.42% 50.03% 5.32% 19.23% 41 41.84% 32.72% 7.39% 18.05% 42 25.33% 49.49% 6.90% 18.28% 43 38.39% 33.36% 8.35% 19.90% 74 36.73% 30.68% 12.86% 19.73% 75 32.59% 37.42% 9.53% 20.46% 76 22.69% 50.34% 7.83% 19.13% 77 26.11% 44.68% 10.57% 18.64% 79 34.38% 33.30% 10.10% 22.22% 80 32.31% 34.75% 11.54% 21.40% 104 21.36% 55.91% 9.90% 12.83% 116 26.33% 39.81% 13.30% 20.56% 117 32.69% 32.73% 12.66% 21.92% 118 28.31% 35.21% 12.83% 23.65% 119 25.61% 38.20% 12.90% 23.29% 123 39.20% 26.26% 15.29% 19.24% 124 28.77% 36.02% 11.46% 23.75% 125 29.73% 35.27% 12.86% 22.14% 140 26.93% 50.37% 10.82% 11.88% 143 26.33% 49.26% 12.65% 11.76% 145 26.22% 48.54% 12.95% 12.30% 31.15% 38.36% 10.78% 19.71%

Perry’s percentage drops a bit from 2002, while Bell’s percentage is dramatically lower than Sanchez’s. I’ll get into the details of that in a minute, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that there were two SRDs in which Perry received more votes in 2006 than in 2002, even though his overall total in these districts declined from 232,177 to 160,872. Those districts were SRDs 31 and 42, both of which include Sanchez’s home base of Webb County and which were easily his best-performing SRDs. They’re also the SRDs with the highest (SRD 31, 91.2%) and third-highest (SRD 42, 85.9%) SSRV. In the district with the second-highest SSRV (SRD40, 88%), Perry’s 2006 vote total was 81.6% of what it was in 2002, but given that his overall vote total was only 69.2% of what it was in 2002, that’s not bad at all.

As with 2002, I then compared Perry’s performance with four other Republican candidates. As before, I used the Senate and Lt. Gov. races, but this time I looked at the Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner races for the other two, as the downballot races were where Democrats did the best. Here’s how that looked:

Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio ================================================ Senate Hutchison 2,661,789 63.12 0.62 Lt. Governor Dewhurst 2,513,530 60.85 0.65 Ag Commish Staples 2,307,406 56.72 0.69 RR Commish Ames Jones 2,269,743 56.42 0.70 Governor Perry 1,716,792 39.37 1.00 Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio State ======================================================= Senate Hutchison 243,158 49.20 0.63 0.62 Lt. Governor Dewhurst 211.977 43.28 0.72 0.65 Ag Commish Staples 187,330 39.39 0.79 0.69 RR Commish Ames Jones 188,359 40.68 0.77 0.70 Governor Perry 160,872 31.15 1.00 1.00

Unlike 2002, Perry performed better relative to other Republicans across the board in 2006. Since it would not necessarily be the case that Bell’s relative performance would be the inverse of Perry’s, I checked that as well:

Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio ================================================ Senate Radnofsky 1,555,202 36.88 0.81 Lt. Governor Alvarado 1,617,490 39.15 0.77 Ag Commish Gilbert 1,760,402 43.28 0.69 RR Commish Henry 1,752,947 43.58 0.69 Governor Bell 1,310,337 29.97 1.00 Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio State ======================================================= Senate Radnofsky 251,022 50.80 0.76 0.81 Lt. Governor Alvarado 277,788 56.72 0.72 0.77 Ag Commish Gilbert 288,303 60.61 0.63 0.69 RR Commish Henry 274,721 59.32 0.65 0.69 Governor Bell 198,108 38.36 1.00 1.00

Indeed, Bell did do worse relative to other Democrats. This suggests to me that he was hurt more by the presence of Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Rylander in these districts than Perry was. My guess is that the reverse may be true in red areas, but that’s a post for another time.

Finally, we have to consider turnout here, and the effect that the overall lesser turnout may have had on each side. I took the four non-Governor’s races from each year and compared the totals in each of the common SRDs:

HD R Tot D Tot R Avg D Avg 2002 R% 2002 D% 31 9,680 61,788 2,420 15,447 13.54% 86.46% 33 50,184 62,661 12,546 15,665 44.47% 55.53% 34 54,074 57,600 13,519 14,400 48.42% 51.58% 35 59,829 67,349 14,957 16,837 47.04% 52.96% 36 17,447 51,982 4,362 12,996 25.13% 74.87% 37 17,562 39,030 4,391 9,758 31.03% 68.97% 38 27,565 44,873 6,891 11,218 38.05% 61.95% 39 19,088 44,219 4,772 11,055 30.15% 69.85% 40 10,571 42,410 2,643 10,603 19.95% 80.05% 41 35,185 39,008 8,796 9,752 47.42% 52.58% 42 22,601 90,335 5,650 22,584 20.01% 79.99% 43 36,529 57,211 9,132 14,303 38.97% 61.03% 74 53,337 60,369 13,334 15,092 46.91% 53.09% 75 22,776 43,592 5,694 10,898 34.32% 65.68% 76 15,391 61,788 3,848 15,447 19.94% 80.06% 77 18,797 47,873 4,699 11,968 28.19% 71.81% 79 27,140 40,596 6,785 10,149 40.07% 59.93% 80 42,063 58,150 10,516 14,538 41.97% 58.03% 104 15,605 37,932 3,901 9,483 29.15% 70.85% 116 36,438 48,683 9,110 12,171 42.81% 57.19% 117 39,691 40,307 9,923 10,077 49.61% 50.39% 118 39,867 45,324 9,967 11,331 46.80% 53.20% 119 35,600 49,944 8,900 12,486 41.62% 58.38% 123 39,940 51,019 9,985 12,755 43.91% 56.09% 124 37,774 47,238 9,444 11,810 44.43% 55.57% 125 48,220 53,471 12,055 13,368 47.42% 52.58% 143 15,890 33,709 3,973 8,427 32.04% 67.96% 145 19,341 34,858 4,835 8,715 35.69% 64.31% 868,185 1,413,319 217,046 353,330 38.05% 61.95% HD R Tot D Tot R Avg D Avg 2006 R% 2006 D% 31 9,408 43,773 2,352 10,943 17.69% 82.31% 32 50,671 51,515 12,668 12,879 49.59% 50.41% 34 52,947 49,150 13,237 12,288 51.86% 48.14% 35 60,151 55,072 15,038 13,768 52.20% 47.80% 36 15,498 29,340 3,875 7,335 34.56% 65.44% 37 17,958 31,196 4,490 7,799 36.53% 63.47% 38 27,804 36,470 6,951 9,118 43.26% 56.74% 39 15,390 26,989 3,848 6,747 36.32% 63.68% 40 10,023 24,290 2,506 6,073 29.21% 70.79% 41 30,067 27,416 7,517 6,854 52.31% 47.69% 42 16,658 38,631 4,165 9,658 30.13% 69.87% 43 33,073 35,885 8,268 8,971 47.96% 52.04% 74 51,648 45,024 12,912 11,256 53.43% 46.57% 75 24,952 35,500 6,238 8,875 41.28% 58.72% 76 15,442 42,765 3,861 10,691 26.53% 73.47% 77 17,947 36,841 4,487 9,210 32.76% 67.24% 79 26,924 33,351 6,731 8,338 44.67% 55.33% 80 42,838 43,873 10,710 10,968 49.40% 50.60% 104 12,019 29,325 3,005 7,331 29.07% 70.93% 116 30,992 42,673 7,748 10,668 42.07% 57.93% 117 43,302 40,557 10,826 10,139 51.64% 48.36% 118 41,429 44,839 10,357 11,210 48.02% 51.98% 119 32,761 44,731 8,190 11,183 42.28% 57.72% 123 32,767 44,169 8,192 11,042 42.59% 57.41% 124 37,005 44,844 9,251 11,211 45.21% 54.79% 125 44,754 49,759 11,189 12,440 47.35% 52.65% 143 11,597 20,667 2,899 5,167 35.94% 64.06% 145 13,781 23,991 3,445 5,998 36.48% 63.52% 819,806 1,072,636 204,952 268,159 43.32% 56.68%

The third and fourth columns are the average vote totals in the four examined races for each SRD. Republicans did better overall in 2006 than in 2002. What’s clear is that the decrease in turnout from 2002 to 2006, which we have discussed before, affected Democrats more than it affected Republicans. The Democrats’ task in these areas isn’t as much persuasion as it is base turnout. If these folks come out to the ballot box, they’ll vote Democratic in large numbers. It’s just that they may or may not show up. The job for Bill White and every other Democrat on the ticket is to give them a reason to participate.

It’s also important to note that while Perry held onto a larger share of the vote in these SRDs than Bell did, it’s still the case that his support declined. Again, we can’t say for certain what proportion of the vote in these SRDs is Latino Perry voters, but it’s clear he didn’t get 35% in 2006, and if he didn’t do that in these SRDs, he didn’t do it overall, either. He has his work cut out for him just to match the 37% he rung up in 2002.

I have one more post for this series. I hope you’ve found it useful. Let me know if you have any questions.