Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Maxey Scherr

Chron overview of Senate primary runoff

We’ve heard this story before.

David Alameel

David Alameel

Texas Democrats trying to gain traction in statewide elections face an awkward predicament in the May 27 primary runoff election for the U.S. Senate.

If the winner is Kesha Rogers, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, their nominee won’t even be welcome at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas next month. LaRouche is a perennial fringe candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination who espouses various conspiracy theories to explain world events. Since 2009, his followers have said President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is something Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party would have supported, a view embraced by Rogers in the Democratic primary.

“She’s not on our ticket,” said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer. “If she came to the convention, she wouldn’t be speaking.”

It’s a prospect Democrats hope to head off with David Alameel, a wealthy Dallas dentist better known for bankrolling races than running in them. But even as party leaders tried to warn voters off Rogers in the March 4 primary, she managed to finish second in a five-way race. More importantly, she kept the largely self-funded Alameel just under the 50 percent mark, thus forcing a runoff.

You know, the three other candidates in the race besides Alameel and Rogers were also campaigning for votes. One could quite reasonably argue that Maxey Scherr, who finished third and collected the lion’s share of Democratic club endorsements while vocally criticizing Alameel for his past history of giving to Republican candidates, is the reason Alameel couldn’t quite break the 50% mark. Given the existence of that crappy Trib poll that showed Kesha leading and had everyone freaked out, I thought Alameel did all right for a first time statewide candidate. He got his name out there and put himself in a position to win. What more do you want?

As I said the last time, this race is about getting the word out about who Kesha Rogers is, and making sure that people know they need to get out and vote. Alameel can do his part and the rest of us can do ours. I finally had a chance to do an interview with Alameel, so look for that on Monday. The Trib has more.

Endorsement watch: All for Alameel

In the March primary, most of the newspaper endorsements for the Democratic Senate race went to David Alameel. The one exception among major papers was the San Antonio Express-News, which went for Maxey Scherr. As Scherr did not make it to the runoff, they needed to make a new recommendation. Not surprisingly, they joined their peers in endorsing Alameel.

David Alameel

David Alameel

[Kesha] Rogers is not a credible Democratic candidate. It is difficult to envision her as any party’s nominee.

Alameel, on the other hand, would have appeal as a Democratic candidate even if Rogers hadn’t managed to make it into the runoff, itself a story of Democratic Party disarray in Texas.

Alameel has a compelling personal story and good positions on serious issues. He is a Lebanese immigrant who arrived in this country when he was 20, a U.S. Army veteran and a Dallas dentist who built a successful business of clinics.

He would bring to the Senate solid positions on sensible budgeting, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, bringing the troops home, holding banks and Wall Street accountable and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

[…]

In the runoff, there is simply no question about the better choice: We recommend Alameel for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

No question indeed. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone who realizes this votes in the runoff. Early voting starts soon, so get ready to get out there and do your job.

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.

Endorsement watch: Chron for Alameel

The Houston Chronicle makes a nice endorsement of David Alameel for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

David Alameel

David Alameel

David Alameel isn’t your usual political candidate. Most big money political donors don’t start like Alameel: a gas station attendant and farm laborer. But this Lebanese immigrant’s story of working his way up to the top by joining the Army, becoming a dentist and eventually selling his chain of dental offices in Dallas to a venture capital firm stands as an embodiment of the American dream. It is a tale that grows rarer every year, with skyrocketing costs of higher education and a middle class that’s losing the economic potential necessary to fuel our economy. That’s where Alameel puts his focus. “I don’t care what other issues are involved,” Alameel told the Chronicle. “You have to keep pushing education.”

His passion for the issues comes from his experience as an immigrant and as a father who married into an Hispanic family. For him, immigration policy isn’t just a topic for political debate, but something that he’s lived: citizens harassed by border patrol, grandmothers separated from their children, businesses that need hardworking laborers. It is a refreshing perspective in a campaign season filled with hyperbolic claims from folks who live their lives in sanitized suburbs.

While other Democratic candidates will hit the pavement to register and turn out voters in Texas’ big cities, Alameel says he wants to stay along the border and make sure that those folks vote not just in the primary, but in the general election. It is an admirable goal in a state with such low turnout.

They throw in a few nice words for Maxey Scherr at the end but concede that Alameel will be better funded. The Chron’s rather warm embrace stands in contrast to the Star Telegram, who also endorsed Alameel but wasn’t impressed with any of the Democratic candidates and mostly went with Alameel on the grounds that he might be able to have a reasonably well-financed campaign. I was going to say that the Chron endorsement of Alameel was the first major endorsement by someone other than an individual I’d seen, but a scan of his campaign Facebook page shows that he has been receiving a decent number of group endorsements around the state, and it included the link to the FWST editorial that I’d missed. Scerr, for her part, is quick to send out emails touting her endorsements, which recently included the San Antonio Express News and the Austin Chronicle.

Also in the Chron were a handful of judicial primary endorsements, with this one being of the most interest:

113th Civil District Court: Steve Kirkland

Steve Kirkland’s loss in the 2012 Democratic primary for the 215th civil district court stands as a case study in the pitfalls of a partisan elected judiciary. After serving for years as a dedicated and highly praised judge, Kirkland was challenged by an unqualified opponent whose campaign was almost exclusively funded from a single source – local plaintiff’s attorney George Fleming, who coincidentally had lost a major judgment in Kirkland’s court. The election was marred by underhanded attack ads, and the message to Harris County was clear: Justice is for sale.

Democracy should not go to the highest bidder. But history threatens to repeat itself. Fleming is at it again, bankrolling Kirkland’s only challenger in this race, Lori Gray. There is no question in this election. Democratic Party voters should send a message and put Kirkland back on the bench where he belongs.

A graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, Kirkland served for four years as a civil court judge and eight years as a municipal court judge. He may not have the backing of a big-dollar plaintiff’s attorney, but he does have the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle.

I noted Fleming’s financial involvement in my roundup of 30-day finance reports for county candidates. I hope the dynamics of the primary this time are more favorable to Kirkland, but we’ll see. The Chron made no recommendation in the Democratic primary for County Criminal Court at Law 10, and made endorsements in three Republican judicial primaries. I have to assume there are more of these to come, as there are quite a few other contested primaries, and I can’t believe the Chron won’t take the opportunity to weigh in on the GOP race for the 311th District Family Court, home of Judge Denise Pratt. We’ll see if they have more to say on these and a few other races, like SD15, as early voting gets underway.

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.

Interview with Maxey Scherr

Maxey Scherr

Maxey Scherr

As previously noted, there’s a huge gaggle of candidates running for Senate this year – eight Republicans, counting incumbent John Cornyn; five Democrats, four (!) independents, three Libertarians, and a Green, who may or may not be in a pear tree. The first Democrat in the race and the subject of today’s interview is Maxey Scherr. Scherr is a Texas Tech graduate and attorney from El Paso. Though this is her first campaign for office, she and her family have long been involved in Democratic politics. Her campaign so far has been as much about Ted Cruz as it has been about John Cornyn, and that was one of many things we discussed.

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

Alameel wants a refund

Good luck with that.

David Alameel

David Alameel

Just like his first run for office in 2012, David Alameel’s second bid for public office is drawing questions about his past campaign donations.

Alameel, the owner of a multimillion-dollar chain of dental clinics that caters to Hispanics, is one of five Democrats vying for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican John Cornyn. In recent years, Alameel has emerged as one of the top donors to Democratic groups and candidates in the country. However, before 2010, his donations were more bipartisan. Over several years, he donated more than $750,000 to Republican candidates and groups, including $8,000 to Cornyn in 2004.

In a phone interview Monday, Alameel said he would not make the same donations to Republicans again.

“I want a refund right now because I believe John Cornyn and his Republican friends in Washington work for Wall Street and not Texans,” Alameel said. When asked if he regretted those earlier donations to Republicans, he reiterated that he wanted “a refund.”

Alameel said that his view of the Republican Party has changed in recent years.

“I used to think that Democrats and Republicans work together, but you know, it’s becoming more and more crystal clear that today’s Republican Party is far too extreme,” Alameel said. “John Cornyn is part of that extreme problem.”

Not clear from this story if he’s just asking for his $8K back from Cornyn or if he’s seeking to recover the whole enchilada. I kind of doubt it’s the latter, but if it is I don’t see how it happens. For that matter, Cornyn isn’t playing ball, either, and he does a nice bit of knife-twisting for good measure. Let this be a lesson about being careful to whom one makes political donations, kids.

There’s been a lot written about Alameel’s past history of political giving, with the Lone Star Project – a recipient of his largesse as well – highlighting his Dem-only track record since 2008, and the Maxer Scherr campaign understandably pushing his GOP donor history. Here’s a Google spreadhseet I’ve put together, based on a query of Alameel as a contributor, from January 1, 2000 forward, sorted chronologically. I’ve helpfully highlighted the Republican recipients, as best as I recognize them, for your convenience. As you can see, there are none after February of 2008, which is consistent with what the Lone Star Project has highlighted, but doesn’t explain the reasons behind the change.

I still haven’t gotten a date from Alameel’s campaign for an interview and at this point I’m not holding out much hope for one, so we’ll all have to decide for ourselves how sincere his apparent conversion is. At least by going from R to D no one can claim he’s doing it for the easier path to victory. Alameel has some other questions to answer as well, and I’m sorry I won’t get the chance to ask them, or to hear his answers for myself. I have no problem believing that Wendy Davis sees something worthwhile in Alameel, but I’m reserving my own judgment on that.

UPDATE: Sen. Leticia Van de Putte has endorsed Alameel, so she sees something in him as well.

Endorsement watch: Davis for Alameel

This was unexpected, at least by me.

David Alameel

Texas Democrats may be working on drafting a 2014 dream team.

State Sen. Wendy Davis announced today that she’s backing David Alameel in his bid for the U.S. Senate nomination.

The wealthy Dallas dentist and investor is one of five Democrats vying in the March primary. The winner will face two-term Sen. John Cornyn, if he survives his own primary fight with Rep. Steve Stockman and a handful of others.

“Dr. Alameel is an astute and successful business leader who shares my commitment to creating good paying jobs, improving education for all our children and protecting the retirement our seniors have worked hard for and earned,” said Davis, D-Fort Worth. “I am pleased to endorse him for U.S. Senate.”

Davis gained national attention last summer after an 11-hour filibuster over an abortion bill. Since then, she has become a rallying point for Democrats hoping to put some blue back in Texas’ deep red Republican politics. She’s likely to face Attorney General Greg Abbott in November.

“I am honored to have the support and encouragement from my good friend, Senator Wendy Davis,” Alameel said in a statement. “Wendy knows I will work hard to make sure every Texan has a real voice in Washington and that I will bring fair and common sense leadership back to our nation’s capital.”

Alameel brings deep pockets to the race, with an estimated fortune of about $50 million. He flexed his financial muscle in a 2012 campaign for what is now Rep. Marc Veasey’s Fort Worth congressional district. He spend more than $4.5 million in the Democratic primary, ending up in fourth place with 10 percent of the vote.

Alameel would not be my first choice, in part because I know precious little about him. His webpage is new and as of this morning still hasn’t been indexed by Google – his old webpage is still the first result when you Google his name, and it doesn’t redirect to the new webpage – and his Facebook page was created January 6 and isn’t displayed when you enter “David Alameel” in Facebook’s search box. The main thing I learned when I did find these two pages is that Alameel has been endorsed by Wendy Davis.

I’m personally leaning towards Maxey Scherr, who I think has the highest upside and who has been the most active campaigner so far. Mike Fjetland is someone I’ve known for several years for whom I have a lot of respect. But Davis prefers Alameel, and while it’s easy to see a financial motive in that choice, I’ll take her at her word. Be all that as it may, let’s not forget that the real bottom line here is to ensure that LaRouchie wacko Kesha Rogers is not the nominee. We can argue all we want about which of the others is the best choice, but right now I care more about Rogers not being the nominee than I do about who is.

More primary thoughts

I wonder if Big John Cornyn will come to rue this interview.

Big John Cornyn

Big John Cornyn

BDS: At the kickoff for your reelection campaign in November, Governor Perry said that you are “the epitome of what I look for in a U.S. senator.” He has certainly been embraced by members of the tea party. But in your speech you said that Republicans should be the party of the “big tent,” which sounded an awful lot like it was pointed in their direction.

JC: To be clear, I was talking about being a welcoming party, not an exclusive party. I don’t know how we got off on this track, where some people are welcome in our party and some people are not. Hence my reference to Ronald Reagan’s line, “What do you call someone who agrees with you eight times out of ten? An ally, not a twenty-percent traitor.” Well, we’re at a point where you can agree with someone 98 percent of the time, but they think of you as a 2 percent traitor, which is just an impossible standard. I like to point out that my wife and I have been married for 34 years, we don’t agree with each other 100 percent of the time. We need to be a little more realistic about the goals, and we need to look not just at the short term but at the long term. If the goal is to change the direction of the country—and I would say to save the country from the big government track we’re on now—then we have to win elections by adding voters, not subtracting them.

That sound you hear is Steve Stockman rubbing his hands and cackling with glee. Remember, Steve Stockman is nuts. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but seriously. That boy ain’t right.

Josh Marshall ponders what the implications are of Stockman’s entrance.

Everyone seemed to think Cornyn had successfully evaded a challenge and that he was home free. And Stockman got in just under the wire. I’m curious whether he waited so long precisely to assure a serious Democrat didn’t get into the race. As long as there’s no serious Democrat running, that will make it easier for him to argue he’s not another Akin in the making.

Of course, he is basically an Akin in the making, or an Akin before there was Akin (Stockman first came in in the ’94 Republican landslide but was too nuts and got bounced out after one term). But if there’s no credible Dem, maybe he gets through?

I seriously doubt the condition of the Democratic field for Senate had anything to do with Stockman’s move. I don’t think he operates that way, and I don’t think the Texas GOP would behave any differently towards him if he wins the nomination regardless. A better question is whether or not the DSCC and other national Dem groups get involved in the event it’s Stockman versus Maxey Scherr or David Alameel or Mike Fjetland. If it winds up as Stockman versus Kesha Rogers, we may as well just admit that this whole experiment in self-governance has been an abject failure and see if Great Britain is willing to take us back.

Speaking of Maxey Scherr, the El Paso Times covered her campaign kickoff in Austin.

[Scherr] said she is coordinating her effort with statewide Democratic organizations that are hopeful that with Texas’ changing demographics and, in Wendy Davis, an attractive candidate at the top of the ticket, 2014 will be the year Texas starts to turn blue.

[…]

“If I can raise $7 million, I can be competitive, and I think I can,” she said.

She plans to suspend her law practice and spend the coming year the same way she spent Monday — traveling the state in a motor home towing a car with a smashed-in hood and emblazoned with her campaign slogan, “Texas on Cruz Control.”

If she wins the Democratic Primary, Scherr will likely face Cornyn, but she says her real opponent is Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz, who won’t be on the ballot until 2018.

“This race is about Ted Cruz,” Scherr said. “This race is about Ted Cruz because John Cornyn has taken a back seat to Ted Cruz. It’s unfortunate that our senior senator of Texas has done everything that Ted Cruz, the junior senator, wants him to. He doesn’t have the guts to stand up to Ted Cruz on anything that matters to Texans and I will.”

[…]

Among the issues Scherr plans to attack Cornyn are education, health care, women’s rights and immigration. On the latter topic, Scherr said she’s tired of Republicans whipping up false fears about security on the border.

“Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill every single time it has come up. I find that offensive,” she said.

“I come from El Paso and El Paso been consistently rated as one of the safest cities for several years. What these guys want to do is militarize our border, put a military-type outfit along the border. But they are wrong about that. El Paso is a huge border city and we don’t need to militarize it. We are safe as can be. What we need to do is pass comprehensive immigration reform that doesn’t tear apart families.”

Even if Emperor Cruz stays out of the GOP Senate primary – well, at least if he doesn’t take any overt action – a Stockman win would cement the point that Scherr is making about Cruz driving the action. In a sane world, Cornyn would have nothing to worry about in March. He may yet have nothing to worry about, but I doubt he’ll run his campaign that way. Of the sane Democrats running, I see Scherr as having the highest upside. I look forward to seeing her first couple of finance reports to see if she can make any headway on that fundraising goal.

More news from El Paso:

Meanwhile, all of the El Paso County incumbents in the Texas House of Representatives have filed for re-election.

Four have challengers.

District 76 Rep. Naomi Gonzalez faces former state Rep. Norma Chavez and Cesar Blanco, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego.

District 77 Rep. Marisa Marquez faces El Paso attorney Lyda Ness-Garcia.

District 75 Rep. Mary Gonzalez is being challenged by Rey Sepulveda, president of the Fabens school board.

And District 79 Rep. Joe Pickett, the dean of the El Paso delegation, faces Chuck Peartree.

I have no brief for Reps. Marquez or Naomi Gonzalez; they can explain their support of Dee Margo over Joe Moody (who did not get a primary challenger) to the voters. Pickett has been the Transportation Committee chair and has some juice, but he also voted for HB2; if he gets beaten up about that in his primary, I’ll shed no tears. The one legislator in that group I do care about is Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who is a force for good and deserves to be supported for re-election.

I mentioned yesterday that Rep. Marc Veasey avoided a rematch in CD33 with Domingo Garcia. I thought at the time that meant he was unopposed in the primary, but apparently not.

Several local members of Congress drew opponents as well.

U.S. representative, District 6: Republican Joe Barton (i), Frank Kuchar; Democrat David Edwin Cozad.

U.S. representative, District 12: Republican Kay Granger (i); Democrat Mark Greene

U.S. representative, District 24: Republican Kenny Marchant (i); Democrat Patrick McGehearty

U.S. representative, District 25: Republican Roger Williams (i); Democrats Stuart Gourd, Marco Montoya

U.S. representative, District 26: Republicans Michael Burgess (i), Joel A. Krause, Divenchy Watrous

U.S. representative, District 33: Democrats Marc Veasey (i), Thomas Carl Sanchez

There had been much speculation about whether former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, D-Dallas, would challenge Veasey for the 33rd Congressional District, setting up a rematch of last year’s hotly contested primary race. But Garcia put out a statement late Monday that he would not enter the race.

“I am truly humbled by the encouragement and support I have received to run for congress this year but after careful consideration I have decided against a run for congress in 2014,” he said. “I look forward to helping turning Texas blue and will continue to work to register and turn out more voters. I look forward to continuing to serve the community in one capacity or another.”

Democratic officials said Monday that little is known about Veasey’s challenger, Sanchez of Colleyville, other than that he is an attorney.

I feel reasonably confident that Rep. Veasey will win, but as always it’s best to not take anything for granted.

On the Republican side, Burka has a couple of observations. Number One:

Two trends are evident in this year’s campaign. One is that this is not necessarily shaping up as a tea party year. There are a lot of Main Street Republicans running for the House of Representatives — business people and school district leaders. Some of the candidates backed by Michael Quinn Sullivan might find themselves on the losing end of races. Matt Schaefer faces a strong opponent in Tyler. The same is true for Jonathan Stickland, whose opponent in Bedford is a popular former coach and educator.

That would be fine by me, but see my earlier comment about underestimating the crazy. Numero Dos:

The most significant late filings in the Republican primary:

(1) Steve Stockman vs. John Cornyn (U.S. Senator)

(2) Robert Talton vs. Nathan Hecht (Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court)

(3) Matt Beebe vs. Joe Straus (House District 121)

(4) John Ratcliffe v. Ralph Hall (U.S. House District 4)

(5) Mike Canon vs. Kel Seliger (Texas Senate District 31)

Stockman is about as far-right as far-right can get in this state. Cornyn can swamp him with money, but the tea party will be out in force against Cornyn.

Talton is a conservative trial lawyer who is famous for once having stationed a DPS officer outside his door to prevent gays from entering his office. He is a threat to Hecht (the stationing of the DPS officer outside his door notwithstanding).

Talton’s most recent foray into elections was last year as the GOP candidate for Harris County Attorney. He won that primary but lost the general, and slightly underperformed his peers. Hecht of course is deeply unethical. The winner of that race faces Bill Moody in the general.

There’s still a lot to process from the candidate filings. I don’t have a full picture yet of everything, and I suspect there are still some unexpected stories to tell. I’m already thinking about what interviews I want to do for March; with the primary back to its normal spot on the calendar next year, there isn’t much time to plan. What caught you by surprise this filing period?

Maxey Scherr kicks off her campaign

From the inbox:

Maxey_Scherr_Headshot

Maxey Scherr, an El Paso attorney, officially kicked-off her campaign for United States Senate today with a web video and event over a hundred supporters in El Paso. Scherr is vying to be the first person from El Paso to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Watch the web video, “Get Texas Off Cruz Control,” here.

In addition, Maxey’s campaign launched an accompanying website: TexasOnCruzControl.com

“Ted Cruz is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with Washington – and John Cornyn is along for the ride,” Scherr said. “I’m running for the U.S. Senate because their agenda leaves too many people behind. You deserve a senator who listens and is respectful, and who is focused on solving problems. Senator Cornyn is stuck on ‘Cruz Control’ on every issue that matters and I’m running for Senate because I won’t be.”

In addition, Maxey Scherr was endorsed by former Congressman Silvestre Reyes, State Senator Jose Rodriguez, and State Representative Joe Moody:

“Maxey was one of the brightest and most talented people who worked on my staff,” said former Congressman Silvestre Reyes. “Maxey has a deeply personal understanding of different backgrounds that compose Texas. Her energy and focus are exactly what we need in Washington to deal with issues like immigration reform and increasing the minimum wage. I’m proud to support her.”

State Senator Jose Rodriguez said, “Maxey Scherr is dynamic, smart and committed to Texas. She’s a great candidate for U.S. Senate who will work for access to health care, improved education, and immigration reform. Unfortunately Texas leadership only works for the interest of large corporate donors today. We need to change that, and focus on policies that help small business, workers and families – and Maxey will be that type of Senator.”

State Representative Joe Moody said, ““I’ve known Maxey Scherr for years and am proud to endorse her for U.S. Senate because of her character. She will focus on solving problems. Whether it’s cutting wasteful government spending or supporting an increase to the minimum wage – Maxey will be a passionate advocate for Texas families.”

Here’s an embed of that video:

It’s a good video, well produced with a catchy hook and some appealing ideas. I agree with PDiddie that attacking Cornyn via Cruz is a worthwhile idea, one that isn’t necessarily limited to Democratic candidates for Senate. The video also can – and should – be cut into shorter versions for sharing or making more specific points. It also accomplished the job of earning some media, which is no small feat at this time of the cycle and with so many Republicans running around saying crazy things.

One other point to note is the three endorsements Scherr received. Sure, they’re from hometown politicians, but I’d bet money she’s the only candidate in the increasingly crowded Senate primary that gets any endorsements from such prominent Democrats. In a race between candidates that don’t have a statewide profile, having any kind of base of support will help. That’s a bigger deal now, because via Juanita I see that perennial LaRouchite nutball Kesha Rogers has filed for the Senate as well. Rogers was a bad enough joke as a two-time nominee for CD22. At least there, she was in a deep red Congressional race that no one paid any attention to. If she somehow manages to get nominated for the Senate, that would be a catastrophe. In my earlier post about Lloyd Oliver rearing his head again, I said that “no good Democrat wants him on the ballot”. That goes a billion times for Kesha Rogers. Someone asked me in the comments what I meant by “a good Democrat”. Well, for starters, a good Democrat wants to nominate good candidates, and does not want to vote for someone that would be actively toxic to other Democrats on the ballot and who would be an even bigger disaster if they somehow managed to get elected. This isn’t a particularly high bar to clear here. And as with Lloyd Oliver and Kim Ogg, that means Democratic elected officials and other candidates can’t afford to stay on the sidelines. No one has to endorse Maxey Scherr, or any other specific candidate, but for goodness’ sake please do your part to make sure people know that there’s a bad choice on the ballot that they need to avoid. No excuses, no pleading ignorance, no avoiding the responsibility. Start now and avoid the rush. And be sure to keep an eye out for Maxey Scherr as she makes her way around the state with the Cruzmobile.

And then there were three Democrats running for the Senate

This one has run for something before and spent a bunch of money doing it, though he was not very successful at it.

David Alameel

Democratic dental center mogul David Alameel has confirmed he will run for the seat held by Texas’ senior senator, joining at least six other hopefuls from both major parties. Alameel said he has mailed his filing forms to Austin.

“I don’t like what’s happening with our political system,” Alameel told The Texas Tribune on Friday. “I don’t like the detachment and apathy people have about about politics, and I would like the change the way they think.”

Alameel added that establishment politicians like Cornyn are “part of the problem.”

[…]

In the Democratic primary, Alameel faces El Paso lawyer Maxey Scherr and former GOP House candidate Michael Fjetland of Houston, who switched parties after the 2006 elections.

Alameel is no stranger to crowded primaries. In 2012 he ran for the newly created Congressional District 33 seat against 10 other Democrats. After spending more than $2.6 million on the race — most of it his own money — he finished fourth; state Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, was the eventual winner and won the seat in November. In his failed bid, Alameel outspent every other Congressional candidate in the state.

Alameel won 10.93% of the vote in that 2012 primary for CD33, finishing behind three candidates that had previously won elections. He might be able to make better use of his money in this primary where his opponents will be about as well known as he is. It’s nice to have some of your own money for the general election, but unless he wants to spend about ten times as much as he did in 2012, it’s probably better to try and raise what you need from actual supporters. We’ll see if anyone else jumps into this race in the week or so remaining before the deadline.

Fjetland files for Senate

Texas Democrats will have a contested primary for the right to run against Sen. John Cornyn next year.

Mike Fjetland

Michael Fjetland, a previous GOP House candidate, has filed as a Democrat to run for the Senate seat held by Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

Fjetland, 63, of Houston, said he is not satisfied with the work the state’s two senators have been doing and criticizes both Cornyn and Ted Cruz for “reckless actions.”

“Mr. Cornyn has been a career politician,” Fjetland said. “He voted for (President George W.) Bush tax cuts and two unpaid wars that helped generate the worst recession since the Great Depression.”

On his home page, Fjetland calls himself the “Anti-Cruz” and criticizes the young senator for leading the government into shutdown in a snit over people getting federal health care.

“Mr. Cruz and Cornyn have government-paid insurance,” Fjetland said. “They are basically opposed to ordinary Americans having the same thing.”

Between 2000 and 2006, Fjetland ran in GOP primaries against then-Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, but he later decided to change parties.

“I switched from the Republican Party to the Democrats because the GOP has become too extreme, especially since 2010 and the rise of the tea party,” Fjetland said. “It is even more extreme than it was a decade ago when I ran against Tom DeLay.”

Fjetland said the tea party and Republicans like DeLay drove him away from the Republican Party and led him to vote for President Barack Obama in 2008.

“I cannot be in the same party with people like Steve Stockman and Michelle Bachmann,” Fjetland declared. “The Democratic Party looks like America – very diverse, just like the good people I have met around the world.”

Fjetland’s webpage is here and his Facebook page is here. I noted his candidacy in passing on Monday. He joins Maxey Scherr in the race, though Scherr has not officially filed yet. I know Mike Fjetland, I interviewed him in 2004 when he ran as an independent against Tom DeLay. He’s a good guy and his heart is in the right place, but I don’t know how much traction he’ll get in the primary. This is a longshot race for either candidate, we’ll see if one of them can stand out as the better alternative.

Grownups

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn preached the gospel of a big-tent GOP at a Friday rally for his re-election, saying Republicans must prove to voters they can govern like “responsible adults.”

Cornyn has been bedeviled by some tea party activists who say he suffers in comparison to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who played a key role in the government shutdown as he urged an end to funding for the federal health care law known as Obamacare. The tactics championed by Cruz have divided Republicans, with some GOP leaders fearing a voter backlash.

Cornyn, joined by Gov. Rick Perry at a rally at Scholz Garten before filing his re-election paperwork, said the GOP must be the party of the late former president Ronald Reagan, who considered people allies if they agreed with him 80 percent of the time.

“When we’re divided, we capitulate. We basically hand the victory to our political opponents,” Cornyn told reporters after the rally, adding “that leads us in disastrous directions like we’re seeing now.”

“We need to demonstrate that if the American people are willing to give us the opportunity in this next election to win that election, then we will be the responsible adults in the room. We will actually govern,” he said.

Asked about Cruz, Cornyn said, “I think he’s been a great new addition to the United States Senate.

Dude. Forget about Ted Cruz, who was not elected to govern, for a minute. You’re the party of Louie Gohmert and Steve Stockman. There’s a long list of B level talent in the Texas GOP Congressional delegation, but these are the headline grabbers and the public face of the party. All snark aside – and Lord knows, there’s plenty of it – you want to be seen as grownups, you need to do something about these guys. Just some free advice from someone who admittedly wants to see you lose, but who also wants to have a functioning federal government again.

Of course, Cornyn is a big part of the problem, too, but at least in terms of optics he’s Estes Kefauver next to those guys. Needless to say, we can do better. I’ve already mentioned Maxey Scherr, and I look forward to hearing more from her camapaign. Scherr now has some company in the primary, as former Republican and two-time challenger to Tom DeLay in CD22 Michael Fjetland has jumped in. Either one would serve as an excellent role model for actual adult behavior for Cornyn and his buddies.

Barton versus Cornyn?

From Warren Throckmorton:

Big John Cornyn

Big John Cornyn

There is a lot of chatter these days among tea partiers in Texas about who should run against John Cornyn in the 2014 Senate primary. Despite a conservative voting record, Cornyn is being targeted by the tea party set because he is perceived to be soft on Obamacare, immigration, taxes and the national debt. As I reported on Monday, David Barton has been asked by some tea party folks to consider a challenge to Cornyn. The spin is that Barton has party experience, broad name recognition, and, probably with Glenn Beck’s help, could access adequate funds for a Senate campaign.

Without Barton in the mix, Cornyn seems safe. Cornyn’s current challengers probably could not mount a significant campaign to unseat Cornyn. Thus far, those challengers include attorney Linda VegaErick Wyatt and Dwayne Stovall.

[…]

If these three are the only challengers, the Senate seat seems safe for Cornyn. However, I suspect the situation would change if Barton gets into the race.

Barton’s name recognition would swamp the other three challengers and soon involve the national media. A Barton v. Cornyn confrontation would place additional focus on the current GOP Civil War. Barton’s supporters would invoke memories of Ted Cruz’s improbable victory over an establishment candidate in Texas with Barton cast as Cruz’s ally. Given Barton’s early support for Cruz, I suspect Cruz would endorse Barton. Cornyn would have a boatload of opposition research to use but Barton’s followers seem immune to such things. All of this is probably enough to cause major heartburn among the GOP establishment in Texas.

Ed Kilgore fills in a few details.

This possibility dwarfs even Craig James’ disastrous 2012 Senate campaign in Texas as a possible source of schadenfreude.

In case you’re not familiar with David Barton, he’s the “historian” who is heavily responsible for the “Christian Nation” meme beloved of conservative pols, and for the inversion by conservative evangelicals of their historic support for separation of church and state (the above-mentioned Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical Christian scholar himself, co-authored a recent book debunking Barton’s especially twisted take on Thomas Jefferson).

The Texas Freedom Network has a good primer on Barton, whom they’ve been keeping an eye on for awhile since he’s been heavily involved in the textbook wars around here. I have no idea if this really is a thing or not, but if Barton were to get elected, hard as this may be to believe, he could displace Ted Cruz as the craziest Senator from Texas. Thankfully, we Dems will have a candidate in the race, so get to know Maxey Scherr, you’ll need to know that name later. Burka, Unfair Park, and The Slacktivist have more.

2014 Democratic lineup updates

In honor of Peggy Fikac, an update on who is running for what as a Democrat in 2014. Starting at the top, folks who attended the HCDP Johnson-Rayburn-Richards event on Saturday had the opportunity to meet Maxey Scherr, a 33-year-old attorney from El Paso who will be filing to run for Senate against John Cornyn. Art Pronin has a couple of pictures of her on his Facebook page – see here and here, assuming his security settings allow for that, and see here for a brief bio and video. I had a chance to meet Maxey on Friday thanks to Barbara Radnofsky, who was hosting her and introducing her around. She would be a first-time candidate, which is daunting to say the least at a statewide level, but she has some connections that will serve her well to get going. She is friends with both Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Rep. Silvestre Reyes, and is good friends with and a former schoolmate of the daughter of John Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso who is now the Democratic candidate for Land Commissioner. Scherr’s father James Scherr is a fixture in politics there and will apparently take a year off from his position as senior partner at their law firm to fundraise for her. I think she has the potential to raise a few bucks, which will be worth keeping an eye on. Rick Noriega took in about $4.5 million over the course of his candidacy in 2008; I think Scherr can top that. I also think she can take advantage of advances in technology and changes in the electorate and how to reach them to stretch those dollars farther. I expect her to run a progressive campaign geared at least in part towards voters of her own cohort, which is something we’re not used to seeing in this state and which ought to provide a good contrast to an old-boy establishment figure like Cornyn. Look for more information and a formal announcement from Maxey Scherr shortly.

A bit farther down on the ticket, BOR confirmed something that I first reported two weeks earlier, that former Fort Bend Democratic Party Chair Steve Brown is exploring a run for Railroad Commissioner. From BOR:

Steve Brown

In our exclusive interview, Mr. Brown spoke with me about his political history, including having served in the Clinton White House and how he was elected as chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party in 2010. He resigned the Chairmanship earlier this year when he began considering a run for elected office. He stated that he wanted to run for Texas Railroad Commissioner because the Commission needs an advocate for regular Texans while making sure people who are doing the right things in regards to oil and gas production are not being punished.

Mr. Brown stated his preference to see the Commission change its name to reflect that it is a regulatory commission over the energy sector, and not railroads. He also stated his desire to see stronger ethics rules implemented over the Commissioners. When asked about Republicans who cited federal oversight was a job killer, Mr. Brown responded that people who used that excuse were not being creative when it came to finding solutions. He pointed out again that one of the roles of a Commissioner is to punish bad actors who violate laws, not to give everyone a free pass.

Stephen Brown has been a great advocate for the Texas Democratic Party as Fort Bend County’s Chairman and served the Party with distinction and honor.

There’s an interview at the link, so go give it a listen. With Scherr and Brown jumping in, the one remaining hole among the non-judicial offices is Lt. Governor, where we are still waiting on a decision from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. While she waits, as noted by PDiddie, Maria Alvarado, the 2006 Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov., has announced her candidacy. Good for her and all, but with all due respect, I’m still waiting for Sen. Van de Putte.

That still leaves judicial candidates. Via both Maxey Scherr and Attorney General candidate Sam Houston, whom I saw briefly on Saturday evening, El Paso District Court Judge Bill Moody, the top Democratic votegetter in 2006, will be running for Supreme Court again. Sam Houston told me that the TDP was working with other candidates for Supreme Court and that he expected the Dems to field a full slate there, though he didn’t know what was going on with the Court of Criminal Appeals. This is the first news I’ve heard about the statewide judicial races, and it’s reasonably encouraging. If you have heard anything about these races, please leave a comment and let us know.

Finally, in Harris County, we now have a Democratic candidate for the At Large HCDE Trustee position that Jim Henley vacated in June. Traci Jensen, who ran for the State Board of Education in 2012 and who had expressed interest in being appointed to fill Henley’s seat, announced on Facebook that she would run for the position. Rumor has it that former Trustee Michael Wolfe, who was ousted by Diane Trautman last year, is seeking to reclaim a spot on the Board, so having a strong and well-qualified candidate like Jensen will be important.

Last but not least, Glorice McPherson is out collecting signatures to run for County Commissioner in Precinct 2, which would be against Jack Morman. McPherson ran against Steve Radack in 2012 in CC3, which puzzled me a bit at first, but her voter registration card indicates she lives in CC2, so I presume she moved in the last year or so. A lot of people have been talking about running in CC2 so I don’t expect this will be the last word, but for now there is at least one candidate in the race.

That’s all I’ve got. If you have any further rumor, innuendo, or actual fact about 2014, leave a comment and pass it on. Remember, the filing period begins November 9, so there’s hardly time to catch one’s breath after this election before the next one gets going.