If you are a Republican and you want this messy thing to be over, now's the time to spin the tale that Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has bagged the votes he needs to become the next speaker of the Texas House. But it's far too early for Craddick himself to say anything like that.
The latest development: Craddick grabbed the support of two representatives who have usually been counted as ABC votes—those Republicans would go for Anybody But Craddick. Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo and David Swinford of Dumas are both geographic and political neighbors of the current speaker, Democrat Pete Laney. And as recently as last spring, it appeared that they would stick with Laney in the face of a Republican stampede to take over the Texas House. That all started to crack about the time the House was voting on redistricting last year, and now the two have joined a small but important list of former ABCs who've come over to Craddick's side. The most recent additions are Reps. Dennis Bonnen, Lois Kolkhorst and Burt Solomons. They join Ken Marchant and Buddy West, both of whom gave up ideas of being speaker themselves to go with the flow.
Craddick's supporters count 49 or 50 Republican incumbents they think will return for another term who are also committed to vote for Craddick for speaker. They think they'll get at least 21 new Republican representatives who have said they'll vote for Craddick if they can get to Austin. And they say the combination of ABCs who switch to their guy and Democrats who secretly have promised him their fealty will take him over the top. Since they're spinning, they say they can count only 13 returning GOP incumbents who haven't taken the pledge. The Democrats? They count on 58 seats for sure, then think they can grab half of what they think are competitive seats. Their total is 70 Democrats returning which, with a few hard-core ABCs, could be enough to keep Laney in office.
Crystal Balls and Broken Glass are Made of the Same Stuff
Calling the result of a political race in advance is risky. Calling it a year in advance is just stupid. Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff wasn't automatically lieutenant governor when President George W. Bush started Texas in a game of musical political chairs. Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown, R-Lake Jackson, was the early front-runner until revelations of a personal scandal arose. Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, was the apparent successor to Rick Perry right up until about ten days before the actual election. Somebody in the Senate didn't vote the way everyone expected and—ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom—Ratliff got elected.
The election for Speaker of the House will be held after the November elections. Officially, the vote will come in January—as a practical matter, a change in the top job in the House is usually apparent after the election and before the beginning of the session.
If Laney falls, Craddick is in place to be the first Republican speaker since who knows when. Laney isn't conceding, though, and is a little like the guys in the slasher movies who keep popping up after they're supposed to be dead. Don't count him out this early in the show.
Craddick, who has come back from a fair number of what looked like politically fatal moments, is keeping some rhetorical distance from friends who think he's won. If he becomes an apparent winner this early, his opponents will put together a research program to find ways to knock him off (if they haven't already) in an attempt to restart the speakers race and get a different result.
Craddick and Laney are both seasoned enough to know that the race won't be over until all of the voters have been elected and all of the mud's been slung. With about three decades each in the House, the two college classmates know there is plenty of time for things to change, and to change again.
The First Real Governor's Race Since 1994
You could read every major paper in the state, know that the reporters were writing accurately, and still not know for sure whether Dan Morales and Tony Sanchez Jr. had agreed to debate, how many times they would debate, what languages they would debate in, or whether they would allow Bill Lyons and John WorldPeace on stage with them.
That's because it's not settled yet. Sanchez has agreed to two debates, one in English and the other in Spanish. The first would be the Texas Debates sponsored by The Dallas Morning News and the Texas Association of Broadcasters, among others; the other would be a debate sponsored by the San Antonio Express-News and Telemundo. Morales wants to debate once a week and is agreeing to almost every invitation; Sanchez wants to debate twice. Sanchez says Morales just wants the free publicity from debates; Morales says Sanchez just wants to buy the keys to the Governor's Mansion.
What's not to like about this? The Democrats have their first real primary for governor since 1990, and the race has actually generated some interest that has been lacking since George W. Bush beat Ann Richards in 1994. This has some pizzazz and could gin up interest in other races, too.
A couple of new faces have appeared at the Sanchez campaign. One is Steve Bouchard, who'll try to organize Sanchez supporters around the state and will handle day-to-day campaign management. He recently worked on the campaign that made Mark Warner the governor of Virginia last year. Glenn Smith remains campaign manager, but will hand over some of the daily stuff. And John Moore, a former deputy comptroller and director of the state's Sunset Advisory Commission, moves in to work on policy issues. Geronimo Rodriguez Jr. is managing Morales' campaign, which is still staffing up. They apparently haven't hired campaign consultants, but have been busy raising money.
Something to Talk About
With competition, policy has become important earlier than some in the Sanchez campaign expected. The Laredo businessman has been working on this for more than a year without taking any positions stronger than the architecture at the University of Texas (he and other regents vetoed a trendy design for a new art museum in favor of a traditional design from a different architect). When Morales got into the race, Sanchez staked out positions on two or three issues in a matter of days.
He recommended combining the Public Utility Commission with the Texas Railroad Commission and dumping the appointed PUC commissioners in favor of elected regulators ala the RRC. That's a perennial idea that's been proposed by a number of legislators over the years. It's usually shot down by the oil lobby, which doesn't want utilities joined with oil and gas regulation, and by the utilities, which have similar fears from the opposite direction.
Sanchez, who made a chunk of his personal fortune in an oil business regulated by the RRC, brought up the issue to highlight problems with the PUC's Max Yzaguirre, a former Enron executive whose disclosure forms were incomplete when his nomination was approved by the Senate and whose files at the governor's office were altered sometime after he filled them out. Gov. Rick Perry has stuck with the commissioner, but Sanchez and others are trying to keep the issue alive. Three Hispanic Democrats in the Texas Senate—Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, and Mario Gallegos Jr. of Houston—followed Sanchez' merger proposal with a letter to Perry asking him to force Yzaguirre's resignation. The governor, for now, is sticking with his guy.
Sanchez also went back and forth with Morales on the death penalty for mentally retarded killers. Sanchez said he would have signed legislation outlawing that practice; Morales said he doesn't want to restrict the use of the death penalty in any way, and opposes that change for the mentally retarded.
Morales, making his official announcement last weekend, said he would push for his original idea for the money from the state's tobacco settlement if elected. When he was attorney general, he tried to direct the settlement money to health insurance and benefit programs. That was spiked by legislators who didn't want to give up control of the incoming funds and who, in some cases, wanted to use the money for other things. Morales said he would push for the original ideas if elected governor.
And They Don't Care Who Wins
The group that's trying to raise money to win Republicans a majority and thus the speakership of the Texas House is holding a fundraiser with a marquee name you might have heard. Florida Secretary of State Kathleen Harris is coming to Austin (at the same time Republicans from all over the U.S. will be in the city for a separate confab) to raise money for Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC. That group has five board members: U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza, Sen. Florence Shapiro, Rep. Dianne Delisi and former Rep. Bill Ceverha of Dallas. It has three stated goals: Elect a House majority to help guarantee the election of a Republican speaker; increase the Republican Senate majority; and maintain Republican control of all 29 statewide offices.
Democrats have a problem with the first of those, though they don't appear willing at this point to press the point too hard: Executive branch officials like Garza aren't supposed to be involved in speaker races. Before we get into the wiring of this thing, John Colyandro, a spokesman for TRMPAC says Garza "hasn't lifted a finger to help or hurt a particular candidate for speaker."
The law says executive and judicial branch officials and employees can't contribute time, money, or goods for or against a speaker candidate. The Democrats aren't accusing Garza of supporting a particular Republican, but of supporting the defeat of a particular Democrat: House Speaker Pete Laney. If you advocate the overthrow of a candidate, they argue, and you're in the executive branch like Garza is, you've run afoul of the law.
The Republicans say that's hooey. All TRMPAC is doing, they say, is trying to get a majority—just like the Democrats are doing. And if the statute gets the kind of reading the Democrats are giving it, they say, it would be illegal for anyone outside of the House to help a campaign designed to knock off any speaker candidate. All the Democrats would have to do to get the GOP out of their hair would be to declare every Democratic House member a candidate for speaker. The Democrats (and we'll leave it at this for now) say the GOP is trying to knock off Laney and employing officeholders to do it.
And the question for either side is this: Who would jump in and enforce that one, and weather the lawsuits and counter-suits that would result?
In the Bank, and On the Way
Kirk Watson, the former Austin mayor running for attorney general, says he raised $2.3 million in the four-and-a-half months he's been a Democratic candidate. The specifics won't be available until next week, when candidates file reports on contributions and expenditures for the last six months of 2001. And it includes $450,000 in pledges. Watson pulled in $1.85 million in real money and the rest in promises from past and potential contributors. The total came from more than 1,000 people.
Watson released the names of some of the people who contributed $50,000 or more to his campaign. That list includes current and former Dell Computer executives and some business consultants. And he's apparently been more successful at tapping high-tech money than most other politicians and certainly more than most Texas Democrats. Watson, himself a lawyer, raised about 23 percent of his money—about $1.53 million—from attorneys, according to an aide.
The Republican in the race, former Supreme Court Justice Greg Abbott, wouldn't let reporters have an early peek at his numbers. They'll be available when the reports are filed, aides said.
U.S. Sen. candidate Ron Kirk picked up the endorsement of Henry Cisneros, the former San Antonio mayor and Clinton cabinet secretary. Cisneros also said he'll stick with Tony Sanchez Jr. for governor, although Dan Morales is a fellow San Antoniac and a friend. Cisneros says no hard feelings, but he'd already signed on with Sanchez before Morales got into the race. That switch got him off the hook, in a way: Kirk was in a race with Morales, giving Cisneros the choice between a more or less anointed candidate, in Kirk, and a hometown boy, in Morales.
Two Elections to Replace One Guy
David Sibley's resignation from the Senate will trigger one, and maybe two, special elections. They have to have one to fill his seat. And if Rep. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, wins that race, there might have to be a second special election to fill his seat. Plus the primary. Plus the general election in November. Ed Harrison, the homebuilder running against Averitt in the primary election, can't run for Sibley's stub term. Harrison apparently lives in the new district, but not in the current district. Averitt doesn't have to run for that stub term, but says he will. He is Sibley's former chief of staff and has his boss' endorsement. But Harrison is making some noise with flyers attacking Averitt's votes.
Sibley decided last year not to seek reelection, and began telling friends and supporters in early December that he would step down early. He'll open a lobby practice in Austin and will also lobby in Washington, but he and his wife plan to keep living in Waco.
Related: Bert Vandiver, a Waco businessman who had hired consultants and everything, decided at the last minute to get out of the race to replace Averitt. He said, reasonably enough, that he wasn't willing to gamble away his kids' college money on a House race that he wasn't certain to win. He did a poll that showed him in a virtual tie for second place with Walt Fair at about 10 percent of the vote, while Holt Getterman was getting 21 percent.
Candidate Lists, from the Sources
We put a Democratic website in the newsletter last week, but it wasn't the one with the candidate lists. For that, go to www. txdemocrats.org/campaigns2002-enter2.htm.
For a list of the Republican candidates, try www.texasgop.org/ filings2002.
Libertarian candidates are listed at http: //www.tx.lp.org/database-ro/candidates/index.html.
The Green Party doesn't list its candidates on its website; that list, if it doesn't show up there, will eventually find its way to the Texas Secretary of State, which will have and hold the final and official list of everyone on the state ballot this year. For now, the lists on the websites will include candidates who filed with parties' state offices; after a few more days, counties will send the state parties their lists of single-county candidates and then the lists will be complete.
Drop lobbyist Randy Lee from the race against Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock. Lee signed up and raised money but dropped out when reporters started nosing around about his residence in Travis County—outside the district. Lee grew up in the district and still owns a house there; he maintained since he filed for the race that he was a resident there.
• Pete Wrench was going to run for the Texas House in that open seat in Irving. But he waited until the last day to file, and then, with no time left for repairs, filed his form listing the wrong House District number. Bzzzzzt! That leaves Rose Cannady and Linda Harper-Brown in the race in HD-105.
• Other withdrawals include Russell Gill, who was running for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, and Michael Paris, who entered the race to replace U.S. Rep. Dick Armey and then thought better of it.
• Still in that race and trying a Ron Paul approach: Dr. Michael Burgess of Lewisville. He's not a libertarian like Paul once was, but he has delivered 3,000 babies in the district. Paul turned the same kind of foundation into a seat in Congress. He's running on a platform where every sentence starts with "Instead of Scott Armey." Armey, the county judge and the son of the outgoing congressman, is probably the frontrunner in that race, at least at the outset.
CORRECTIONS: All of these names are spelled correctly (we fervently hope): Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio. If you have nothing better to do, you'll find a paragraph in the last issue where they were all spelled incorrectly.
Republicans are worried that two inexperienced statewide candidates could be in trouble. Texas Supreme Court Justices Wallace Jefferson and Xavier Rodriguez each drew primary opponents. They've got high-level support, but neither has been in a race before, both are minorities, neither has been at the fund-raising game for very long, and neither is well known. Those vulnerabilities were always there, but some in the GOP hoped the two Rick Perry appointees could skate through the primaries and rely on Republican coattails if everything goes right for the GOP in the general election in November. Jefferson faces a Lake Jackson attorney named Sam Lee in the primary; Rodriguez faces Steven Wayne Smith, an Austin attorney known for his work on the Hopwood discrimination case.
Signing on the Dotted Line
• Michael Fjetland got dropped from the Republican ballot because the signatures he turned in didn't prove up. He needed 500 and turned in more than that, but when the GOP went to validate them, he didn't have 500 good, usable John Hancocks. For instance, his own signature was apparently on the petition twice. He told his local paper he'll file suit to get back into the congressional race against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. He filed on the last day and didn't have time to fix the problem before the deadline.
• Ronnie Dugger, a nationally known liberal writer and the former editor at the Texas Observer, wanted to run for governor of this fair state, but didn't make the deadline. We heard of this from someone in Boston, Massachusetts—honest—who said Dugger was sending in a petition with enough signatures to get on the ballot. But he didn't send it in time. Miss the deadline—miss the ballot.
Appearing Soon in a Theater Near You, Notes
The Democratic candidates stole some of the light, but Gov. Rick Perry started the cycle's round of announcement tours, flying around Texas for a week and hogging local coverage in each locale. Next up to bat: U.S. Senate candidate John Cornyn. The Republican starts on Monday and hits 17 cities. Cornyn left one out-of-the-way place off of the normal tour of Texas: El Paso.
• U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk says he raised $900,000 for that contest and ended the year with $700,000 cash on hand. He had a short run for that, raising money in earnest for the last two months of the year. Federal reports come out at the end of the month.
•Van Brookshire, who lost the three-way Republican primary for Texas Senate to now-Sen. Todd Staples two years ago, is running for congress. Brookshire jumped in against U.S. Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett. The Republican finished third in that race two years ago in spite of his last name. Brookshire grocery stores are sprinkled all over East Texas. They're not related, but each store is a billboard.
• Former Comptroller John Sharp picked up endorsements from the Rural Friends of Electric Cooperatives, the political action committee for those utilities. And he got the nod from the Texas Hospital Association's PAC.
• Former Travis County Commissioner Todd Baxter, who quit that job to run for the Texas House, landed a paying job in the Austin office of Winstead Sechrest & Minick. He'll be "of counsel" to the firm, and is off and running in HD-48 against freshman Rep. Ann Kitchen, D-Austin.
• That candidate running against Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, is new to the game, but he's got political genes. Mike Head, an attorney, is the son of former Rep. Fred Head.
• Jason Johnson, chief of staff to Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, quit that job (amicably) to work for Brad Barton's congressional race. Barton, son of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, moved south to run in the new district that runs from Katy to Round Rock.
• More proof that Austin is a weird place for politics. The next week will see the state's AFL-CIO convention in one place while Republicans are gathered elsewhere to elect a new chairman of the National Republican Committee (that would be former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot).
Political People and Their Moves
Sens. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, got battlefield promotions when their committee chairmen resigned. Sen. David Sibley's resignation from the Texas Senate leaves open the center chair in the Business & Commerce panel. Fraser, the vice-chairman, will be acting chairman there. Sen. Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi, isn't quitting the Senate, but he isn't running for reelection and is giving up his chairmanship of the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations panel. Shapleigh is the number two there; he'll assume the duties of chairman. Ratliff didn't name new chairmen to the committee and didn't appoint new members in place of the two departing senators... Two of the governor's top policy wonks are leaving, without specifying plans once they're outside. Victor Alcorta III, who heads the policy shop for the governor, and Billy Phenix, the governor's water policy wizard, are going. No replacements have been named... Eric Wright, who came back to government a year ago when Sen. Bill Ratliff was elevated to lieutenant governor, is leaving for uncharted areas of the private sector. He'll start a consulting business, but hasn't detailed who he'll be working for or what he'll be doing. In his place as chief of staff to Ratliff: Patricia Hicks, who has been the director of research for the Lite Guv... Mindy Meadows Carr is ending her lobbying for the Texas Apartment Association to sign on with another association; she'll be director of government relations for the Texas Land Title Association... Richard Holcomb is leaving Campaigns for People, a group lobbying for campaign finance reform, to become executive director of the Samaritan Center in Austin... Austin City Manager Jesus Garza is on his way to a job at the Lower Colorado River Authority. The city just got a new mayor, what with Kirk Watson running for attorney general; now the search is on for a new executive at City Hall... While we're in that pond, Brewster McCracken, son-in-law of former Sen. John Montford, has the political bug. He plans to run for Austin City Council... Spanked: State district Judge Raymond Angelini got a warning from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for "rolling his eyes, smirking, frowning in disapproval, shaking his head in the negative, yawning in boredom, or sighing in an exaggerated manner," all in obvious bias against the defendant in a trial and in favor of the prosecutors. The defendant got a new trial; Angelini got a warning...
Quotes of the Week
San Antonio's Henry Cisneros, endorsing the only African-American candidate for U.S. Senate, in the San Antonio Express-News: "If Ron Kirk is our nominee, the ticket will reflect the true Texas. All we lack is a woman for the major part of the ticket."
Sharon Mullino, who heads the Democratic Party in Haskell County, where Republican (and former Democrat) Gov. Rick Perry grew up, telling the Houston Chronicle why voters there favored Perry's opponent in the last statewide elections: "Rick's still a good old hometown boy. People have nothing against him other than he's a Republican."
Gov. Rick Perry, quoted in the Dallas Morning News giving his opinion of the tweed sports car hat a reporter was wearing at the governor's reelection bid announcement: "Other than a turban, that probably is the worst piece of headgear you could wear in Haskell."
John Roach Jr., a former Plano city councilman challenging Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, after Madden pointed out his opposition to a property tax cut while on the council, as quoted in the Plano Star Courier: "I knew some day some politician would rub that in my face."
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez Jr., telling the Austin American-Statesman why he only wants two debates with Dan Morales: "That's what we think is sufficient. He is using this as a plot to get additional TV time. And you know, he got into this race -- let him pay for it."
San Angelo attorney Clara "Betsy" Johnson, quoted in the San Angelo Standard-Times on why she is running as a Democrat now but ran as a Republican in 2000: "I am a Republican on some issues and a Democrat on others. I think that shows how much I want this job."
Texas Weekly: Volume 18, Issue 27, 14 January 2002. 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.