Campaign Chatter

The Texas AFL-CIO's political arm endorsed former state Sen. Paul Sadler of Henderson in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, and knocked off one of his rivals in the process. The labor group heard from three of the Democratic candidates at their COPE convention last weekend, including Sadler, Daniel Boone and Jason Gibson.

That endorsement apparently spurred Gibson, who heads the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, to get out of the race. He was counting on labor to put his statewide bid together; without that, he's out, saying he will back Sadler.

• The state's biggest labor organization also endorsed Democrat Keith Hampton for presiding judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The current presiding judge, Republican Sharon Keller, is seeking reelection.

Scott O'Grady, the former fighter pilot seeking office for the first time, dropped his bid for the Texas Senate, leaving that Republican primary open to state Rep. Ken Paxton, who had all but wrapped up the local political support and who's got more than $850,000 in his campaign account. The two were vying for the seat now held by Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who's not seeking reelection.

O'Grady's exit notice: "I would like to thank all of my supporters and citizens of North Texas for their encouragement. At this time due to the uncertainty of a primary election date from redistricting I am suspending my campaign for the Texas State Senate. I will continue to concentrate on championing conservative values and volunteering to make Texas a vibrant and prosperous state for all to live. God's blessings, Scott."

He made another exit after the official one, telling the Plano Star-Courier that Shapiro had promised to back him and then pulled the rug. Shapiro told the paper she'd made no such promise and had recently advised O'Grady to reconsider since Paxton appeared to be locking things up.

• Paxton picked up an endorsement from TEXPAC, the political action committee of the Texas Medical Association.

• Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones decided to ask the state's top lawyer to decide whether declaring San Antonio as her residence violates a constitutional provision that requires statewide officeholders to reside in the capitol. Jones, a former House member from San Antonio, is challenging state Sen. Jeff Wentworth in the Republican primary.

Wentworth has challenged her on residency, saying she either lives in Austin, which isn't in the Senate district, or she lives in San Antonio, which would — in his reading of the law — require her to quit her statewide post. Jones, hoping to put it aside as a campaign issue, is asking Attorney General Greg Abbott for his official opinion. She says Wentworth isn't reading the constitution correctly, and with the letter, she can tell voters in the district she's waiting for the official word from Abbott. On the other hand, Wentworth can tell voters that even the commissioner doesn't know the answer about where she's supposed to live, and had to ask the state's top lawyer. That fight goes on.

• Gov. Rick Perry's first glitzy public appearance since the presidential race will be on Monday, when he and First Lady Anita Perry appear at the annual Reagan dinner and fundraiser for the Williamson County GOP. He'll speak after an introduction by Dewhurst. The evening's emcee? A George Washington impersonator named Michael Collins.

• Bragging rights: El Paso's Beto O'Rourke, who's challenging U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes for the Democratic nomination for Congress, out-raised the incumbent $221,704 to $177,344 during the fourth quarter of the year. He's still behind overall, though, having raised $247,608 to the incumbent's $710,669 for this election cycle.

In Dallas, where longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has drawn two primary challengers, Taj Clayton led in the finance department in the fourth quarter, raising $216,253. Johnson raised less than half that amount — $95,186 — but ended up with more in the bank. State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway raised $15,741. She ended the year with $413 in the bank.

• Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst got the endorsement of the National Association of Realtors' political action committee, which was going on the recommendation, he says, of the Texas Association of Realtors. He also announced an endorsement from the Texas Retailers Association PAC. Dewhurst is chasing the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate. He also released an online ad featuring an endorsement from Michael Reagan, son of the late president.

• Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman got endorsements from four former commissioners, all Republicans: Victor Carrillo, Charles Matthews, Michael Williams, and Barry Williamson.

• Tom Pauken, the chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and a former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, endorsed Randy Stevenson, who's challenging State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff in the Republican primary.

• Republican House candidate Bennett Ratliff of Coppell won the endorsement of the guy he wants to replace. State Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, says he interviewed all of the Republicans who want to succeed him in the Texas House and found them "all good, well-meaning conservatives who can do the job if elected." That said, he decided to endorse Ratliff and to contribute to his campaign.

Philip Cortez, a former city councilman running for state representative in San Antonio's HD-117, won the endorsement of the San Antonio AFL-CIO, the city's Firefighters' and Police Officers' associations and the Bexar County Deputy Sheriff's Association. Cortez is one of three Democrats hoping to challenge Republican Rep. John Garza.

• State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, says he won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association and got an "A" on that group's report card. Ron Simmons, a Republican running for the seat being vacated by state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, got an "A" from the group, which has not yet endorsed anyone in that HD-65 race.