House Speaker Pete Laney has a handful of problems he didn't have just a week ago, ranging from the decisions of a dozen committee chairmen not to seek reelection, to the decision by a prominent Republican House member to endorse Laney's nemesis, Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland.
Start with Rep. Rob Junell, D-San Angelo, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Add Paul Sadler, D-Henderson, head of the House Public Education Committee. Then accelerate the public announcements from veteran Democrats (and some Republicans) who say they won't be coming back for the next session of the Legislature.
Rep. Patti Gray, D-Galveston, chair of the Public Health Committee, won't run against Rep. Craig Eiland, also D-Galveston. She's staying home. Clyde Alexander, D-Athens, was paired with Republican Betty Brown, R-Terrell, but says he's had it. That's the Transportation chairmanship.
Rep. Fred Bosse, D-Houston, is not going to run for reelection, and he's decided against a congressional bid, too. Bosse says he'll run for county commissioner in the open seat left by Jim Fonteno's decision not to extend his tenure into a fourth decade on that court. Bosse, who chairs the House Civil Practices Committee, is paired in the new legislative maps with Rep. Joe Moreno, D-Houston, in a district that clearly favors Moreno.
Reps. Kim Brimer, R-Arlington, and Kip Averitt, R-Waco, are leaving the House to run for the Texas Senate, leaving open the top spots on the House panels on Business & Industry and on Financial Institutions. Rep. Tom Ramsay, D-Mt. Vernon, is quitting to run for Agriculture Commissioner. He is head of the House Committee on County Affairs. Bill Carter, R-Fort Worth, will give up the reins of the Urban Affairs Committee when he leaves at the end of next year.
Others on Laney's team about to announce departures: Rep. Ron Lewis, D-Mauriceville, is telling people in his district that he's done. He's the head of Energy Resources and the House's resident expert on water issues. In fact, his departure, taken with those of Sens. Buster Brown, R-Lake Jackson, and David Bernsen, D-Beaumont, will drain the Legislature of much of its expertise on that issue.
And several have very tough races ahead because of redistricting. Include in that bunch Rep. Debra Danburg, D-Houston, chair of Elections. Add Gary Walker, R-Plains, and Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, who are paired against each other and who run panels on Land & Resource Management and Redistricting, respectively. Rep. David Counts, D-Knox City, chairman of Natural Resources, is paired with Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon, in a district that's more to the Republican's liking than the Democrat's. Rep. Dale Tillery, D-Dallas, heads the House Committee on Pensions and Investments, but is paired with Rep. Terry Hodge, D-Dallas. And Bob Turner, D-Voss, is paired with Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville. Turner heads the Public Safety panel.
That adds up to sixteen chairmen in trouble or on the way out. One bright spot for management: Scotch rumors that Barry Telford, D-DeKalb, might quit. The chairman of the House Calendars Committee filed for reelection and says he scribbled "Hell, yes, I'm coming back" next to his name when he did so. Telford had been rumored to be considering retirement from the Legislature.
Republicans contend Laney and his team are living on borrowed time. The combination of new maps favorable to the GOP, and decisions by key members of the leadership to leave put Laney in a weak position to hold off a challenge to his speakership. That spin is part of the effort we noted last week: Republicans want momentum going in their direction, and the departures help make their case.
Craddick's Early Christmas Present
To compound the bad news for House Democrats, Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Carrollton, is endorsing Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, to be the next Speaker of the House.
Marchant, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, wasn't available for comment, but sent a letter to fellow House members making the endorsement and pointing out some of his reasons for it. That's a shocker because Marchant has been less partisan than many of his fellow Republicans and has acted as a bridge between some of those partisans and House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat.
That said, he was also one of the handful of Republican House members stripped of their chairmanships after the 1998 election cycle—Laney's payback for an aggressive but unsuccessful Republican effort to win a majority in the House.
Marchant was, until recently, talking about running for the top job himself. He then wanted to run for Congress when the new maps were drawn in court, but that option evaporated when U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, decided to move into the congressional district that includes Marchant's house. And finally, there has been some sentiment that Marchant was one of the so-called ABC Republicans—those who wanted Anybody But Craddick for speaker.
In his letter, however, he says he's solidly in Craddick's corner.
First, he says everyone who's talking about running for the job is a friend of his. He says he's thought about the direction of the Legislature over the next few years. He says the issues coming up in the next legislative session are big challenges. And he says he is convinced Republicans will have a numerical majority in the Texas House after the 2002 elections. Then, he writes: "With all of these factors in mind, I have decided to share with you my wholehearted endorsement of Representative Tom Craddick to be the next Speaker of the Texas House."
Marchant's endorsement goes on to say that Craddick will "lead the House with a fair, even hand," and says Craddick has "earned the respect and esteem of colleagues on both sides of the aisle."
And Coal in His Stocking
The Land Where Trees Don't Get Tall now has two candidates for Speaker of the Texas House instead of just one. Rep. George "Buddy" West, R-Odessa, filed the paperwork required of candidates and says he's in the contest. He's the fifth Republican in the race to unseat Laney, the five-term speaker whose tenure is threatened by a redistricting map that tilts the table in the direction of the Republicans. Craddick started the race by declaring his candidacy earlier this fall. He was followed quickly by Reps. Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso, Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, and Brian McCall, R-Plano.
West said he's been thinking about this for some time, and jokes that he already has one vote and needs to talk to 149 more people about supporting him. West and Craddick are from sister cities, but they've alternated between war and peace. Craddick is building momentum as the Republican establishment's candidate for speaker; West's candidacy, if nothing else, is a way for him to stay alive without committing to the guy from the next city. In his announcement, he said he would be a candidate "who has a respected history of working well with representatives across party lines." That's a poke at Craddick, who has led Republican efforts to take control of the House. It's because of those efforts to win control that Craddick has become the favorite of some GOP stalwarts while giving some of his fellow lawmakers' reservations about him. West is also seeking a sixth term in office.
And Now, Some Spin from the Democrats
The redistricting maps are bad, but less so than they first look, according to some Democrats we've been talking with. Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander, a Republican, beat Democrat Paul Hobby in 82 of the new districts in 1998. Republican Rick Perry beat Democrat John Sharp in the Lite Guv race in 84 of the new districts. Those are kinder numbers than the 89 Republican seats claimed by the other side. Also, the Democrats point out that redistricting always nails a lot of members, and a lot of chairmen. In 1993, 11 of the 36 who held chairs in 1991 didn't return.
Run, Win, and Run Again
Craig Estes, the Republican businessman from Wichita Falls, easily beat Greg Underwood of Abilene in the runoff for the North Texas Senate seat left open by Sen. Tom Haywood's death. Estes got 62.7 percent of the vote against Underwood in the runoff, a result surprisingly similar to Haywood's 1998 defeat of Underwood. In that earlier effort, Haywood got 62.64 percent of the vote.
There was one oddity in the numbers worth a look. The number of voters dropped, as you would expect, from the special election last month to the runoff this month, from 35,731 to 21,509. Estes got 16,870 votes in the six-candidate special election; that fell to 13,491 votes in the two-man runoff. Underwood got 8,189 votes in the special election and almost as many—8,018—in the runoff. He got walloped, but his voters were either more loyal or more organized.
Estes will be sworn in on Monday, December 10, giving the 31-member Texas Senate the same one-vote Republican majority it had when Haywood was still alive. But the Legislature probably won't meet while he serves out Haywood's term. Estes—and anyone else who wants the job—will have to win another election to hold the seat for the next regular legislative session that begins in January 2003. The only candidate officially in that race at our press time was Dave Deison, a Republican CPA and former mayor from Weatherford. Underwood, by the way, doesn't live in the district as it was redrawn by the Legislative Redistricting Board.
A Bad Aftertaste
U.S. District Judge John Hannah Jr. stuck with the other two members of the federal panel when it was time to vote on redistricting plans, but couldn't resist coming back with a bitter concurring opinion after the fact. Hannah filed a five-page blast at the results on the last day of November, finding deplorable what he had already found to be legal. Hannah wrote that the Republicans who drew the LRB map treated the Democrats like "'enemies of the state' instead of respected state leaders."
He took issue with a couple of the lines that were drawn, saying that El Paso County should have been drawn for one senator, instead of cutting out a piece for a district that stretches to San Antonio. And he took a swipe at the splitting of Jefferson County for a district that cuts a J-shaped pattern from Port Arthur to University Park in Harris County, going along the Gulf Coast and cutting through parts of six counties. He concludes the piece by saying it was legal, "as distasteful as portions of it may be."
Cuellar's Back, and CD-25 is Roiling
Former Secretary of State Henry Cuellar is circulating a letter to supporters saying he's interested in running for his old seat in the Texas House. If he goes, that would put the Laredo Democrat in a race with Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo. Raymond works for gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez Jr.; Cuellar is on Republican Gov. Rick Perry's side in that contest.
• Houston City Councilman Carroll Robinson was first to jump in the race for CD-25. That's the seat held now by U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen, who's running for the U.S. Senate. Robinson has hired Bethel Nathan to oversee day-to-day operations and Nashville-based Fletcher & Rowley for media. Still looking at that race: Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, former Rep. Paul Colbert, also D-Houston (and Hochberg's former boss), and Chris Bell, who finished third in the mayoral race last month.
• The two major political parties are posting their candidate filings on the Internet, and that's probably the best way to keep up with things on a daily basis. The Internet address for candidate filings by the Republicans is <http://www .texasgop.org/filings2002/index.asp>. To track the filings by Democrats, go to <http ://www.txdemocrats.org/campaigns2002-enter2.htm>. Both parties are posting their own candidates and trying to keep up with filings from the opposition, but for the most up-to-date information, it's best to check in both places. Some races won't get posted there because they don't cross county lines. Candidates who want to represent a House seat that never leaves Harris County, for instance, file locally. But the parties are trying to scoop those filings up in an attempt to keep their lists up to date.
Land Commission candidate Jerry Patterson used the name of this publication and its editor in a fax to potential financial supporters and lobbyists knocking his GOP primary opponent Kenn George. But he did it without permission, and he was quoting from a conversation in which we explained to him why the story he was pushing was unfit for us to print at that time (we'll reserve the right, as always, to change our mind as more information comes in). We won't repeat the details of the story—that would be printing it, right?—but we told Patterson he shouldn't have used our name to try to bolster the credibility of a tale that was, at best, incomplete.
We told Patterson last month that his charges against George weren't ready for Prime Time. At that time, he was hoping the story would appear in print without his own fingerprints on it. He was unwilling to publicly question George's business practices until stories appeared here or elsewhere.
We looked at his questions, we investigated, and we decided not to go forward based on the information that we had pulled together. We explained that decision to Patterson. That's when things went South: He decided to go public with his questions, but used some of our conversation in his faxes in a way that made it appear we were questioning George's behavior. If our research, which was fairly extensive on this issue, had resulted in some substantiated questions about the candidate from Dallas, we would have put it in print ourselves. But that's not what happened. We take issue with quoting this or any publication on the content of stories that never appeared in print. It's a novel and wrong-headed concept, and it raised the stomach acid levels around here considerably.
We apologize to anyone who got the mailer and thought it had our stamp of approval on it. It did not. Patterson has admitted he committed a foul and graciously apologized for it in an email that followed a telephone conversation: "If it's not in print, it can't be used. I should have known that, maybe I did know that, but I truly didn't think of it, until you called. Don't know what to say that I haven't said. I pride myself on honesty and straight-dealing with the press, and I feel I haven't done that in this instance." Patterson said he has redone his pitch without us in it.
You Pick 'em: Sweet Dreams or Nightmares
Hard time getting to sleep at night? Running for office and want to make sure your consultants aren't fibbing? You can look at the political maps for the Texas congressional and legislative districts at the Texas Legislative Council's website.
That's also where you can read through the final orders of the federal judges who settled the thing (at least for now) and where you can pull down the numbers detailing demographics and political trends in each district.
Add the Greater Houston Builders Association and the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas to Greg Abbott's list of endorsees. The former Texas Supreme Court justice is running for attorney general against Democrat Kirk Watson...
The Texas State Teachers Association endorsed two Democrats—Tony Sanchez Jr., and John Sharp—in their races for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. TSTA's president is Rep. Ignacio Salinas Jr., D-San Diego. The group said it hasn't endorsed in statewide races this early in the last 25 years of elections...
Young Conservatives of Texas, a group of college Republicans and alums, endorsed former Sen. Jerry Patterson of Austin (formerly Pasadena) over Rep. Kenn George of Dallas in the Republican primary for Land Commissioner. So far, that's the only executive office up for election this year that has attracted two Republican candidates.
Musical Chairs in Dallas
Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, D-Dallas, is going for a governmental Trifecta. The former Dallas school trustee will leave the House at the end of this term to run for Dallas County judge. She says she wasn't thinking about the job until current Judge Lee Jackson announced his plans to leave after this term. And she says she might have gone ahead and tried for the county job even if the courts had given her a better legislative district than they did. But three federal judges helped her make up her mind.
A day after she learned Jackson was leaving, the federal panel ruled, pairing Ehrhardt with Republican Rep. Kenn George of Dallas. That's not a problem by itself, since George is leaving the House to run for land commissioner. But the new district is strongly Republican. Ehrhardt says flatly that she probably wouldn't have won in that district and isn't sure any Democrat can win it.
State District Judge Margaret Keliher is considering a run for Dallas County judge. She's a Republican. Keliher is also a CPA, in addition to being a judge and lawyer. We've already noted that Richard Rozier is sniffing around, but got his town wrong: He was mayor of DeSoto, not Duncanville.
Two years ago, Democrat Regina Montoya Coggins pulled in 44 percent of the vote against incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions in the 5th district. This year, Sessions is moving to the new CD-32 and leaving CD-5 open, but she says she won't make that race. She's also knocking down rumors that had her looking at the empty Dallas County judge's chair. Montoya Coggins says she wants to concentrate on business right now.
Politicians in Motion
Rep. Tom Ramsay, D-Mt. Vernon, says he'll give up his seat in the House, and his chairmanship, to challenge Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. Ramsay was paired in the final legislative maps with Rep. Mark Homer, D-Paris. Two-thirds of that district overlaps Homer's current district, and although Ramsay says he could win a head-to-head race, he doesn't want to do that. Earlier this year, he said he was considering a run for agriculture or land commissioner; he says he's better suited to the former. Ramsay thinks the race could cost up to $1.5 million if he can raise that much; Combs said a few weeks ago that her campaign has more than $1 million already in the bank.
• Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan, took a long, hard look at the newly created 31st Congressional District and has decided to take a pass on it. He'll run for reelection. Likewise, Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, looked and demurred. He, like Brown, will try to return for another term in the Pink Building.
• Rep. Mike Villareal, D-San Antonio, will run for reelection now that the district lines have been drawn to his liking. In earlier maps approved by the Legislative Redistricting Board, he was paired with another incumbent. He had decided to run against Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo. But he'll take the reelection route now that the maps are more to his liking.
• Put Pete Wrench, a 36-year-old computer programmer/software consultant, into the Republican primary in HD-105. He calls himself a conservative Republican and says he is for, among other things, lower taxes, less government regulation and interference and passage of the Defense of Marriage Act. He hasn't signed on with a speaker candidate yet, but says he has talked with Rep. Tom Craddick about that and won't vote for a Democrat for that job. He also said he wants the GOP Caucus to make the decision if Republicans are in the majority and then vote as a bloc.
Wrench is one of three candidates in that race. We've mentioned Rose Cannaday. Add Linda Harper Brown to the list. She resigned from the Irving City Council to run in the new open district. Brown announced with some endorsers already in line, including Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, the Irving Police Association and the Irving Police Patrolmen's Union.
• Rep. Glen Maxey, D-Austin, says he won't run for reelection. Maxey, whose name almost always precedes the words "the only openly gay member of the Legislature," says he'll continue to work in politics and promised to be "the constituent from hell." And Rep. Judy Hawley, D-Portland, doesn't plan to return. The redistricting maps left her paired with Rep. Gene Seaman, R-Corpus Christi. Democrats thought they had a chance there, but she's not going to try it.
Political People and Their Moves
The next Texas Secretary of State will be Gwyn Clarkston Shea. After pondering several names over the last couple of months, Gov. Rick Perry named his former colleague in the Texas House to the job in time, more or less, to get things rolling on the next election year. Shea is a constable in Irving and is immediate past president of the Texas Healthy Kids Corp... Barry McBee, former chief of staff to Perry and the former executive director of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, has a new gig. He has signed on with Bracewell and Patterson's Austin office, and says he'll be involved in some lobbying and some lawyering. McBee worked for Perry at the Texas Department of Agriculture and came back to run the staff when Perry was elected lieutenant governor. He left the governor's office last summer... Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff appointed McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez to the Texas State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision. Rodriguez has also been police chief in Harlingen and in Brownsville, director of the parole division of the Texas prison system, and chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The new council is part of a national system to keep track of probationers and parolees who cross state lines... Ratliff also appointed Kevin Cole to the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board. Cole is an Austin lawyer... Robert Miller wants some of his life back and says he'll leave the chairmanship of Houston Metro as soon as his fellow board members name a replacement. Miller hasn't decided whether to remain on Metro's board... The Texas Farm Bureau reelected Donald Patman as the group's president. He was first elected in 1999, when the Texas organization's president, Bob Stallman, was elected president of the American Farm Bureau Federation... A couple of Texas politicos will go on stage with Ballet Austin, appearing as "Mother Ginger" in the Nutcracker. A bunch of kids will run out from under the skirts—we're not making this up—of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and of Austin Mayor Kirk Watson. Watson wears the two-story costume on December 7; Hutchison on December 16.
Quotes of the Week
Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, assessing the race for Speaker of the House and saying he could become a candidate for the job: "It's going to be a mess. I think it's anybody's race."
Missouri State Rep. Catherine Hanaway, who is supporting former U.S. Rep. Jim Talant, a fellow Republican, in his challenge to U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, (a Democrat who beat now-Attorney General John Ashcroft a year ago), in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "They are going to tell you that you should vote for the other Senate candidate just because she has a set of ovaries."
Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, telling the Jasper News-Boy about availability of funding for rural fire departments: "The people from the city come out to the country and build grand weekend homes. They leave thinking that during the week their home is well protected by fire departments. Little do they know that the only fire protection they may have is Bubba and a bucket of water."
Dallas mayoral candidate Tom Landis, asked in a debate about the standing of that office, quoted in The Dallas Morning News: "The mayor is basically a glorified ribbon-cutter. You're asking me if I want more power as mayor? Of course I do."
Perennial candidate Gene Kelly of Universal City, telling the Austin American-Statesman why he's running this cycle: "I am so well-known and so well-accepted that I really honestly believe the people of Texas want me as their senator." And when that paper's reporter reminded him of his similar confidence before his seven previous losses: "You can't be correct all the time."
Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, in a Dallas Morning News story about Republican Curt Hinshaw knocking Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, for winning an award from the Legislative Black Caucus: "We don't usually give an award for the stupidest candidate, but if he keeps traveling down that road, he could certainly be the first recipient."
Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, following a group of fellow legislators at a Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce roast in his honor: "This group reminds me of the true meaning of the word 'politics.' 'Poli-' is a Greek word, meaning 'many.' '-tics' are blood-sucking insects."
Texas Weekly: Volume 18, Issue 24, 10 December 2001. Ross Ramsey, Editor. George Phenix, Publisher. Copyright 2001 by Printing Production Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. One-year online subscription: $250. For information about your subscription, call (800) 611-4980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For news, email email@example.com, or call (512) 288-6598.