The two youngest children of Sen. Jane Nelson kids are still in high school. That could turn out to be a real hitch in the getalong for someone who otherwise has a nice, clean (and rare) shot at a seat in the United States Congress. Nelson is probably the strongest in the Republican field to replace U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, R-Flower Mound.
Armey's announcement that he won't seek another term in the House broke a couple of days early–probably because his son, Denton County Judge Scott Armey, was calling supporters to see if they'd back him in a bid for his dad's seat. But in spite of the younger Armey's head start, Nelson has people asking her to get into the race. She's halfway there, having formed the obligatory exploratory committee to hold her place in line while she's making a decision. Her current Senate district's boundaries are similar to those of the new congressional seat, so she's a known quantity to many of the voters there. The younger Armey has run one countywide campaign (for his current job), and was a county commissioner before that. Armey would have to resign to run, but could serve out his term if less than a year is left. Filing on January 2, for instance, would allow him to stay in office and collect his county salary while he runs for Congress, since he would be remaining for less than a year.
Watching in the wings: Dee Kelly Jr. The Fort Worth lawyer wanted to run for Senate and thought redistricting would put him in a battle with Sen. Mike Moncrief, a Democrat, in a district that heavily leans to the Republicans. But Nelson moved from her new district into that district, which held a fair amount of her old territory. Kelly didn't want to challenge a Republican incumbent and backed down. He's not saying anything yet, but if Nelson drops out to run for Congress, he'll be back in play.
Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Carrollton, was mentioned in some reports as a potential candidate for the Armey seat, but he says he's not interested. It doesn't overlap with his statehouse district, and he doesn't want to move. He's running for reelection. Another Marchant might be in the mix, however. Ron Marchant, a Denton County justice of the peace and the legislator's brother, is considering a run for county judge if Armey the Younger moves on to something else.
And there's one more to mention: Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, isn't looking at Congress, but is telling friends she would be interested in a run for Senate if Nelson moves to the congressional race.
The Anthrax scare is getting at least some of the blame for the fact that Texas just went through some elections without the required approval of the U.S. Department of Justice. Some of the papers asking the federal government for permission to change the state's voting laws got stuck, literally, in the mail. Some of those approvals didn't find their way to the right people until a couple of weeks after the November elections, and that raises some questions about some of the issues posed to voters.
State legislation that changes election laws, at least in Texas and other southern states, has to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice before it takes effect. That's a requirement of the federal Voting Rights Act, and it affects everything from redistricting to bond elections.
A high-profile case in point: The big water bill, Senate Bill 2, which set up elections for regional water districts. More than a hundred pieces of state legislation went to the folks in Washington for a nod. But the package on the water bill got lost. They emailed it in, and the people at Justice either have to pass judgement on it or ask for an extension by February 8. If they pass on it, the elections gurus tell us that what was done in November will be, in effect, legal.
Speaker Candidate of the Week
Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, is the latest Republican to jump into the race for Speaker of the House, and he says he got in partly because he's annoyed about outside influences being exerted on what once were internal House politics.
Specifically, he cited the reception given to Curt Hinshaw by Republican Party officials. Hinshaw, who is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Tommy Merritt of Longview, was feted at the home of GOP national committeewoman Denise McNamera, who invited GOP executive committee members to a party at her home headlined by state party chair Susan Weddington and vice chair David Barton. A party spokesman said the two were there as individuals and not on behalf of the GOP.
To wit: Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Carrollton, endorsed Rep. Tom Craddick for speaker. Marchant is head of the GOP Caucus in the House, and in Chisum's opinion, should stay out of the speaker's race while several members of that Caucus are in contention. Chisum also knocked Marchant for endorsing a Midland candidate when one of Marchant's regional neighbors in the House, Brian McCall of Plano, is one of the candidates.
Chisum fears the pressure from outside is a sign that the House is becoming more divided, in the style of Washington, D.C. He says he thinks there will be a Republican majority and that there ought to be a Republican speaker. But he tempers that by saying he would vote for the Democratic incumbent, Pete Laney, in a close vote.
Chisum joins a growing list of Republicans who are running for speaker, and is one of several who have been steady Laney allies in past years. Reps. Pat Haggerty of El Paso and Buddy West of Odessa fall in that category. Others in the race include McCall and Ed Kuempel of Seguin.
Meetings and Machinations
As more Republicans declare candidacies, chances that the next speaker will be chosen by the GOP Caucus diminish. Some Craddick supporters have hoped he could win a vote in the Republican Caucus, which would then vote as a bloc to elect him speaker. But each Republican who declares him or herself a candidate shaves at least one vote off of that bloc.
Fort Worth Republican consultant Bryan Eppstein took Craddick to a meeting last weekend in the offices of Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington. The purpose: To broker a deal that would keep Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, in the House where Craddick needs his vote for speaker and his education expertise, and to get him out of a Texas Senate race against Rep. Kim Brimer, R-Arlington. Grusendorf says now that he will run for reelection to the House. Brimer appears to get a less troublesome race (there were still almost three weeks to go to the filing deadline when we went to press). Eppstein gets several of his clients out of a sticky wicket and gets a chance to bow to Craddick, who's been on the opposite side of Eppstein clients in several Republican primaries over the years and who might, if things go his way, be the next House Speaker.
Eppstein says he's not playing in any of the speaker races, since several of his current and former clients are in it, including Brian McCall, R-Plano, and Kuempel. Brimer, who won't be voting in the House election because of his decision to run for Senate, followed the meeting with a letter to his colleagues touting Craddick. He says in the letter that he thinks there will be a Republican majority and a Republican speaker, and that he hopes the next speaker will continue in the bipartisan tradition of Laney and his predecessor, Gib Lewis, D-Fort Worth. He ends by "recommending" Craddick.
Kuempel and others discount talk of momentum at this stage. The election, they point out, is more than a year away. Many of the voters (that would be House members) haven't even been elected yet. And since the maps came out, there hasn't been a particular event that would stampede support to one candidate or another. A senator reminded us that the momentum a year ago was with Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, in his bid for the lieutenant governor's post. Bill Ratliff, who got the job, wasn't on most people's radar as late as two weeks before he won the election. The argument from those folks: There is plenty of time for the lead to change and change again, and the race won't be over for a year.
Possible Resurrections & Early Resignations
Former Sen. Bob Glasgow, D-Stephenville, lost his perch in the Legislature when redistricting lines were drawn ten years ago. He found himself in a district that stretched deep into Republican territory in Northern Tarrant and Southern Denton Counties; that was the start of Sen. Jane Nelson's tenure in the upper legislative chamber. Now that the districts have been redrawn again, he's talking about a comeback. Stephenville and the rest of Erath County ended up in Sen. David Sibley's district. But the new redistricting maps move it again, into the district now held by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay. "I hate to think about waking up every day in Troy Fraser's district," groans Glasgow. He says he's been approached to run, and says he might.
One thing would certainly keep him out of the contest: If Rep. Bob Turner, D-Voss, decides to bag his own House race and run for Senate against Fraser instead, Glasgow will support Turner. The new maps pair Turner in a district with Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, in a district that favors a Republican candidate. But Turner is one of a handful of Democrats who have defied the numbers and continued to win as Democrats in heavily Republican territory. Hilderbran's backers think their guy could win, but they're nervous about it.
That House race is important to two leading candidates for Speaker of the House. Democrat Pete Laney, the five-term incumbent speaker, badly needs Turner's vote. And he can't afford to lose more chairmen; more than a dozen members of his leadership team have already announced they won't be back in 2003. Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, still trails Laney in spite of some gains in the last three weeks (after the redistricting maps favoring Republicans were revealed by a panel of federal judges). He could use Hilderbran's vote and can't afford too many races where Democrats beat the numbers and take potential Republican seats out of the House and out of his column.
Turner says he honestly hasn't made up his mind about the race, but will announce whether he wants to run for the House or the Senate within a week. He says the House district is the easier of the races, by the numbers, and says he considers Hilderbran a friend (Hilderbran was hired by the Texas Farm Bureau while Turner was a board member there). But, he adds, he doesn't want to hand his seat to the Republicans.
• Don't be surprised if Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, resigns from office between now and the March primary elections. That would allow him to crank up his post-officeholder business, lobbying and lawyering in Austin. And it would set in motion a special election, possibly to the benefit of Rep. Kip Averitt, R-Waco. Averitt, Sibley's former chief of staff, is leaving the House after five terms to run for his old boss' spot in the upper chamber. A win in a special election would put him in position to call himself the incumbent in next November's elections, and to raise money as a sitting senator instead of as a lame-duck House member.
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Gyrations and Filings from Around the State
Former Secretary of State Henry Cuellar says he has decided not to run for election to his old House seat. He left the House to take the SOS appointment, then abruptly resigned from that job in October and returned home to Laredo. He said friends were encouraging him to run against Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, but says he decided that running for the House would be a step backwards. He'll stay out for two years, then have another look at things, he says.
• Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, also considered a congressional run. But the district that she was interested in representing evaporated, and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, who talked about moving a couple of hundred miles south to run in a new district, decided to stay. (His son, Brad Barton, is running in the Central Texas district that the elder Barton looked at.) Some of her buddies were just as happy to see the Washington opportunity pass: Wohlgemuth has a reasonable chance of stepping into a leadership position if Republicans take control of the House.
• It's official: John Roach Jr. of Plano, a former city councilman and aide to Sen. Florence Shapiro, has paid his filing fee to run against Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson. Roach had originally intended to run in an open seat in southern Collin County, but decided this fall to challenge the incumbent. He came out swinging, too, upbraiding Madden for dry cleaning and laundry bills listed among Madden's campaign expenses in finance reports filed with the state.
• Republican Dan Branch will run in HD-108 in Dallas, and part of that announcement was the withdrawal of another candidate. Ron Walenta, who lost a race two years ago, had planned to make a run. Instead, he's dropping out and endorsing Branch.
• Maria Luisa "Lulu" Flores, who lost a House race ten years ago, plans to run in HD-51 and will announce, officially, before Christmas. She's a Democrat, and that district is in Austin.
• Republican Jerry Mikus, a Republican, will run in HD-50, another Austin-area seat. He's a Pflugerville businessman who lost out in the GOP primary for Congress two years ago. His opponent went on to resign from the race, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, remained in office (it was a solidly Democratic district, we should add).
• One more in Austin. Kris Gillespie, owner of a management consulting firm, says she wants to be the first Black Republican female elected to the Texas House. She's also running in HD-50.
• Eddie Shauberger is trying again. The Liberty County businessman lost races for the House in 1998 and 2000, but filed to run in HD-18 against Rep. Dan Ellis, D-Livingston.
• Former Comal County Judge Carter Casteel is officially in the race for the House in HD-73. That used to be the territory of Ed Kuempel, but the new lines cleared the way for her to run without challenging him. She's a Republican, and lives in New Braunfels.
• Wayne Smith filed to run in HD-128, making that a three-man contest that could be one of the most interesting primary races around. Smith is an engineer and a former member of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. He'll face Tom Butler and Reggie Gonzales in the primary.
• Larry Taylor paid up and is in the race in HD-24, a Galveston County district that includes his home turf in Friendswood. That's an open seat and by the numbers should go Republican.
• Glenn Hegar, a Waller County farmer, filed to run in HD-28, another open seat, that includes part of Fort Bend County along with Waller and Wharton Counties. He's a Republican.
Chief Justice Tom Phillips of the Texas Supreme Court picked up an endorsement from Texans for Lawsuit Reform. So far, he's the only candidate from either party in the race for the court's middle seat. The tort reform group's political action committee is also backing Rep. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, in his Senate bid. Williams is in a primary with former Sen. Michael Galloway, R-The Woodlands, and Dr. Martin Basaldua of Kingwood, the vice-chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. TLR endorsed Galloway when he was an incumbent, and doesn't have any quarrel with Basaldua, but is going with Williams because of his votes on TLR bills in the House.
Gyrations, Houston Style
Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, will run in HD-137, a race that can only loosely be called a reelection bid. None of his current district is in his new district, which is made up of chunks taken from the old districts of Republican Reps. Joe Nixon and Kyle Janek and Democratic Rep. Debra Danburg. Still, Hochberg thinks it's a winnable race. He had also been considering a bid for Congress, since U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen is leaving his spot to run for U.S. Senate. But Hochberg wants to stay in the Texas House. He notes in his announcement that the district's voters preferred Democrats in most of the big races in 1998 and 2000, favoring John Sharp in the 1998 lieutenant governor race and Paul Hobby in the comptroller's race that year (both lost statewide). The district also favored Al Gore over George W. Bush in last year's presidential election. By a whopping 19 votes.
• Steve Munisteri, whose brother Richard Munisteri is the general counsel to Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander, is running for a position in the Texas House. He's a Houston Republican and wants the HD-134 seat on the new redistricting map. That's the seat where Danburg, Hochberg and Janek now reside. Hochberg is running in that other district. Janek is running for Texas Senate. Almost a third of the new district overlaps with Danburg's old district.
• Peter Wareing, who lost an expensive Republican primary for a Houston congressional seat two years ago, is coming back for more. This time, he'll run in CD-31, the new congressional district that stretches from Harris County to Williamson County (or if you prefer, from the Houston suburbs to the Austin suburbs). An aide says Wareing will file before Christmas. Two years ago, Wareing pulled together 40 percent of the vote in losing a GOP primary runoff to John Culberson, R-Houston, who went on to Congress after the general election. Wareing spent $4 million in that race, while Culberson, who was then a state representative, spent just over $1 million. He'll face Phil Sudan, a Republican lawyer who spent $3.2 million in a losing race eventually won by U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Houston.
• One of the things we'll find out in the March primary elections is whether Sam Texas is a good ballot name. Mr. Texas is running as a Republican in SD-6, where the incumbent is Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr., a Democrat. In his filing with the state GOP, he listed his occupation as "political operative." He says on his website (www.samtexas.com) that he works as a legislative aide, political consultant and political lobbyist and has spent 15 years helping "people who are afraid of the government." He also says he is not accepting campaign contributions.
Retirements, defeats and the redistricting maps put 41 new people in the Texas House in 1993. In 1983, 50 freshmen joined the House, and in 1973, 83 new members were elected (that was the election after the Sharpstown scandal. The 2000 elections resulted in the smallest turnover in the House since before the Great Depression–only 11 new members joined the House.
• The new redistricting maps for the Texas House resulted in 124 districts where George W. Bush beat Garry Mauro in the 1998 elections; 84 where Rick Perry beat John Sharp in the Lite Guv race; 91 where John Cornyn beat Jim Mattox in the attorney general race; and 82 where Carole Keeton Rylander beat Paul Hobby in the comptroller's race. If you count the statewide composites–an average of all the statewide races–Republicans won in 96 of the new House districts and Democrats won in 53. In one district, that averaging results in a tie.
• A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll done the week after Thanksgiving had Americans ranking the honesty and integrity of people in various fields. Start at the top: Firefighters, members of the military, nurses, police officers, and then clergy. This next part can't last: Journalists outranked senators, congressmen, lawyers, stockbrokers and business executives.
UNENGAGED BRAINS, Editorial Division: Democrat Greg Underwood, the losing candidate in last month's special election for state Senate, lives in Bowie. And he told local reporters that he just might run for the SD-30 seat in the regular elections next year, in spite of his two previous losses. That SD-30 seat went to Republican Craig Estes of Wichita Falls.
Political People and Their Moves
Former Alaska Gov. Steve Cowper has signed on with the Austin law firm of Hance Scarborough Wright Ginsberg & Brusilow. He was governor at the time of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The firm also signed a former assistant Texas attorney general, Lynn Hamilton Butler, who is touted as a bankruptcy whiz. That firm, headed by former politico Kent Hance, has offices in Texas and in Washington, D.C... Tim Reeves, a Dallas political consultant who did time in Austin working in the state Senate and who has managed campaigns for Lite Guv candidate John Sharp and state Sen. David Cain, is calling around to test support for a campaign of his own. Reeves says he's gathering signatures from precinct chairs so he can run for Dallas County Democratic Party chairman. The current chairman, Bill Howell, plans to seek reelection... Gov. Rick Perry is promoting Wayne Roberts to budget director. He's been in the budget office there since George W. Bush was in office, in the lieutenant governor's office (under Bob Bullock) and on the Legislative Budget Board staff. Roberts will report to Mike Morrissey, who recently joined Perry as director of budget, planning and policy... Perry appointed John "Jack" Miller, an Amarillo businessman, to the Oilfield Cleanup Advisory Committee, a new panel that will oversee the Texas Railroad Commission's administration of the Oilfield Cleanup Fund... The governor added three new names to the Texas Commission for the Blind and reappointed C. Robert Keeney of Houston to that panel. The three newbies are: Lars Anderson, a Carrollton engineer; Ann Lemke, director of counseling for the El Paso Community College District; and Charles Sibert, associate dean of ministry programs at Abilene Christian University... Tom Harrison, executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission, won an election of his own and will do three years on the steering committee for the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws, a group of people in jobs like his from all over the planet. He'll also be the secretary/treasurer for a year... Kevin Heyburn is leaving Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, to work in the attorney general's tort litigation division. Ogden's new general counsel is Constance Allison.
Quotes of the Week
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, testifying in the U.S. Senate on what his Department of Justice has been doing to combat terrorism: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, at a Washington, D.C. Gridiron Club dinner (as reported by Roll Call), spoofing the highest-ranking Texan and his home state: "A lot of Democrats are criticizing President Bush on his decision to cancel normal trials and hold military tribunals with quick executions. But to be fair, it worked well for him in Texas."
Outgoing Appropriations Chairman Rob Junell, D-San Angelo, quoted by the Austin American-Statesman on writing state budgets in good times and bad ones: "It's harder when you have too much money, because when you don't have enough, you just say 'No' to everything."
Former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, quoted in the San Antonio Express-News on the mood of Democratic voters towards candidates: "They're interested in the politics of winning and interested in the politics of getting the Republicans out, and are not enthusiastic about the political philosophies of these candidates. The public doesn't know what the political philosophies are of these candidates."
Political adviser Karl Rove, telling The New York Times how the events of the last three months have changed President George W. Bush: "It's a little more somber when you're dealing with life-and-death issues instead of the patients' bill of rights."
Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, talking about low legislative pay in Texas in an Austin American-Statesman story: "I do think most members spend more than $600 a month on incidentals associated with the job. My cleaning bill when I'm in Austin is more than $600 a month."
This is the last issue of Texas Weekly for this year (although our daily news clips will continue). We wish you the best of the season, and we'll be back with another issue in the first week of January. Happy Holidays!
Texas Weekly, Volume 18, Issue 25, 17 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.
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