Whether or not the outcome of tomorrow's gubernatorial primary is conclusive — whether or not we have a runoff six weeks hence — we can say this with certainty: One of the five main candidates on the ballot will be the next governor of Texas. And this: Forty-hours from now, we'll know much more about the state's coming political landscape than we do today. While we bide our time and wait for results, we present these final snapshots of the campaigns as they wound down.
Reeve Hamilton flew west with incumbent Gov. Rick Perry as he reconnected with a part of the state, and the kind of voters, he knows best.
Perry’s message to the largely business-minded audience seated in the room at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls was nearly identical to his pitch to the fired-up, over-capacity crowd at a later stop at Lubbock’s Daybreak Coffee Shop: It’s all about jobs — and if Texas is a business, he is its CEO. “If the company’s running right and making a profit,” he says, “I don’t think they want to can the CEO.”
His business model consists of “four simple principles”: Keep taxes low on businesses, maintain a fair regulatory climate, have a legal system that doesn’t allow for oversuing, and create an accountable public education system. “Then get out of the way,” he says. It’s a mantra that he's been repeating for months. “Message consistency is very important,” he notes.
Brandi Grissom travelled to see U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in Houston, where she combined rodeo chic with unceasing optimism in the face of polls that suggest the likely outcome Tuesday is a something other than a first-place finish.
Hutchison headed outside for a brief interview with a Houston TV station. The reporter asked about attack ads from Perry’s campaign that call her the queen of earmarks and a Washington insider. She told him she’s got a strong record of bringing Texans’ tax dollars back home to the Lone Star State to help create jobs, bolster the economy and strengthen institutions like the University of Houston. “That is doing my job,” she said. The reporter asked her to predict the outcome of the race. She smiled, not responding for a few moments, and then said, “Of course, I’m going to be in the runoff with Gov. Perry, and we’re going to start all over, and I think I’m going to win this race.”
Abby Rapoport watched Debra Medina win over an Abilene crowd with an unyielding anti-government appeal and a refusal to give up hope that her upstart campaign can still upend the establishment.
She insisted that she can win, pointing to numbers of contributors rather amounts of contributions. While Hutchison and Perry raised and spent more, she said, about 5,000 people had given to her campaign. She took credit for Perry’s recent actions against the Environmental Protection Agency, saying she’s been talking about the issue for months.
She explained that reporters from across the country had come to cover her — once a man from the London Times even showed up. That's evidence, she argued, that her campaign is going somewhere. “London is watching,” she practically shouted over the cheers. “Germany is watching.”
Matt Stiles listened to Bill White at a pachanga in Austin, where his pitch to voters confirmed that he's already looking past Tuesday to the general election and his likeliest opponent.
Rather than focusing on Shami, who is trailing significantly in polls, White has been questioning Perry's record on education, transportation and jobs at recent campaign stops. Last week, during an event at Parque Zaragoza in Austin, he implied that the governor doesn't care about the needs of many Texans.
"We have schools in this community where there are few extracurricular activities because they don't have the funds for it," White said. "We have citizens who are looking for work, struggling right now from some of the highest unemployment rates we've had in Texas. But he says everything is just fine, because he's governor. We need somebody who understands where Texans are coming from."
And Emily Ramshaw watched Farouk Shami dance around a San Antonio ballroom, as well as the question of how, at this late date, he can possibly pull off the upset of all time.
“The polling numbers, I don’t go by that,” Shami said dismissively. “We’re not a campaign of political career people. And we’re not reaching for regular political voters.”
When asked what differentiates his campaign strategy from Kinky Friedman’s failed 2006 bid — which relied on the same premise, courting unlikely voters — Shami flashed a tight-lipped smile and made a thinly veiled slap at Friedman. “We are an organization, and we have our issues,” he said. “But without naming names, we know what we’re doing. We’re serious people.”
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