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A Dog's Breakfast

Maybe it's a failure of imagination, but we don't see an overarching narrative line in the results of this week's primaries. It's like sitting with a palm reader who, after five minutes of scrutiny looks up and says, "Well, this is interesting."

Maybe it's a failure of imagination, but we don't see an overarching narrative line in the results of this week's primaries. It's like sitting with a palm reader who, after five minutes of scrutiny looks up and says, "Well, this is interesting."

When people look back on this one, turnout might be the remarkable feature. It stunk. With some counts still out, it appears the Republicans attracted 661,797 voters, or 5.2 percent of those registered, and the Democrats attracted 522,064, or 4.1 percent. Put it this way: 9 of 10 registered voters is eligible to sign a petition for Kinky Friedman or Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

• Nobody in the state's congressional delegation got beat. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, comfortably beat former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, getting almost 53 percent of the vote. And former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, got 62 percent in the GOP primary, living to face Democrat Nick Lampson in November in a race of national interest. Van Taylor, the richer of the two Republicans seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, and the one with the Iraq war on his resume, won that primary with about 54 percent.

• Six incumbent state legislators — a senator and five House members — lost their bids for reelection. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, in incomplete returns, managed only 43.1 percent against his challenger, Rep. Carlos Uresti. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, beat House Public Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf in a race seen in Austin as a referendum on leadership plans for education. Truth be told, it's also a story (as is the Madla saga) about an incumbent going unchallenged for a long time, getting careless about his local politics, and then getting up too slowly when serious competition finally arrived; your previous case study, two years ago, was House Appropriations Chairman Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston. Two more incumbents from the Dallas area are out, though by possibly recountable margins: Jesse Jones, D-Dallas, lost to Barbara Caraway by 68 votes, and Elvira Reyna, R-Mesquite, lost to Thomas Latham by 64 votes.

• Two of the so-called Leininger Five — Roy Blake Jr. of Nacogdoches and Carter Casteel of New Braunfels — lost to Republican challengers. Former Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, beat Blake with plenty of room to spare, getting 56.2 percent. Nathan Macias of Bulverde had a 45-vote margin over Casteel, out of 20,307 votes cast; that'll likely lead to a recount. Three others — Charlie Geren of Fort Worth (54.9 percent), Delwin Jones of Lubbock (60.2 percent), and Tommy Merritt of Longview (58.5 percent) — won handily.

• There'll be a runoff for U.S. Senate, between Barbara Ann Radnofsky, who got 43.4%, and Gene Kelly, who got 37.4%. She campaigned but didn't advertise much; he did neither.

Chris Bell is the Democrats' nominee for governor, getting 63.7% of the vote and putting Bob Gammage to bed. Bell got 82 percent in Harris County, the place that sent both men to Congress, a couple of decades apart. And he got 80.7 percent in Fort Bend County, home of Tom DeLay. Bell's ethics complaint against DeLay in Congress broke a longstanding truce between the political parties and was one of the first signs of DeLay's current political trouble. Gammage won in four counties, all in Central Texas: Llano, Gillespie, Burnet and Blanco.

• In the GOP gubernatorial primary, Gov. Rick Perry got 84 percent against three no-names.

• There will be a runoff for lite Guv between Maria Luisa Alvarado (39.9%) and Ben Z. Grant (38.7 percent) on the Democratic side. Grant, with less than 40 percent of the vote, had the only non-Hispanic name in that contest. Another fun fact: The race for lieutenant governor got more votes on the Democratic primary ballot than either the U.S. Senate race or the race for governor. On the GOP side, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst got 78 percent against Tom Kelly, a political unknown. And over there, the governor's race was the biggest vote attractor.

• In HD-38, Eddie Lucio III will apparently join his dad in the Lege. Lucio the elder is in the Senate; the younger won the Democratic primary for a House seat.

• In Laredo's HD-42, Richard Raymond came up 38 votes from an outright win over three challengers, including former Webb County Judge Mercurio Martinez, who came in second.

• In HD-146, Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, came close to an outright win, but for want of 121 votes, he'll face Borris Miles in a runoff.

• And in HD-72, Rep. Scott Campbell, R-San Angelo, will face a runoff with Drew Darby, who finished first in a three-way race there. Number three in that contest, Kevin Housley, endorsed Darby in the runoff against Campbell.

• A couple of other Republican House members with stiff challenges both won, but in HD-78, where El Paso Rep. Pat Haggerty beat Lorraine O'Donnell by 96 votes, watch for a recount. Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, was in trouble a few weeks ago, but won pulling away. He got 57.5% against Anette Carlisle.

• Courts: Justice Don Willett had a skinny win over former Justice Steve Smith for the Texas Supreme Court, getting 50.5 percent and winning by 5,441 votes out of 555,399 cast. Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, beat back a challenge from Tom Price, who'll remain in his seat on that court. And Charles Holcomb and Terry Keel will run for Holcomb's spot on that court; Robert Francis of Dallas is out of that one.

• Republican voters put three folks running in open seats on trajectories for the Texas Senate. In SD-3, former highway commissioner Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, got 54% in a four-man field. In SD-7, radio talk show host Dan Patrick, R-Houston, got 69% in a wildly expensive four-way that included two state reps and a Houston city councilman. And in SD-18, Rep. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, got 55% in his primary.

Dismemberments, Voluntary and Involuntary

Five senators and at least 17 House members will be in office for a special session this spring knowing they won't return for a regular session next January.

Another three House members are in primary runoffs and will know on April 12th whether voters want them around after the end of the year.

With the exceptions of two House members who hope to be in the Senate next year, those legislators will be voting as if their political futures don't depend on it. They've got nothing to lose, feeding speculation about the prospects for a tax bill and about the political stability of Speaker Tom Craddick, who's expected to seek another term in the House's top job when the Lege convenes next January.

Five senators are on the farewell tour: Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria; Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin; Jon Lindsay, R-Houston; Frank Madla, D-San Antonio; and Todd Staples, R-Palestine.

In the House, the Dead Members Walking include Reps. Roy Blake Jr., R-Nacogdoches; Carter Casteel, R-New Braunfels; Mary Denny, R-Aubrey; Bob Griggs, R-North Richland Hills; Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington; Peggy Hamric, R-Houston; Glenn Hegar Jr., R-Katy; Ruben Hope Jr., R-Conroe; Bob Hunter, R-Abilene; Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas; Jesse Jones, D-Dallas; Terry Keel, R-Austin; Pete Laney, D-Hale Center; Joe Nixon, R-Houston; Elvira Reyna, R-Mesquite; Jim Solis, D-Harlingen; Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. Put asterisks next to Hegar and Uresti; they won primaries for Senate seats and might be back in bigger offices.

A few House incumbents have runoff elections ahead of them and will find out next month whether they're dead or alive, politically speaking: Reps. Scott Campbell, R-San Angelo; Al Edwards, D-Houston; and Richard Raymond, D-Laredo.

Three members will serve in the special session for the first time, getting their first bite at school finance: Kirk England, R-Grand Prairie; Ana Hernandez, D-Houston; and Donna Howard, D-Austin. All three won special elections to replace members who died or resigned.

And then there's a group that won't be named until November: Members who will find out in the general election that they are currently serving their last term in the Legislature. But they'll be voting and behaving in a special session as if they're coming back; the free agents are the people who'll know during the special session that their days of political risk — and perhaps, caution — are behind them.

It Cost How Much?

Even when there aren't any notably expensive statewide races, state races can be expensive. Even for losers. We took some of the most competitive and expensive battles and charted the costs and the costs per vote. One Senate race — the SD-7 contest in Houston — cost the candidates well over $2 million. And one of the losers — Rep. Joe Nixon — was in for more than $206 per vote. (Click on the chart to download a printable .pdf version.)

Money and votes in some competitive and expensive legislaltive primary races

 

Up or Out

Legislators seeking higher offices got mixed results on Election Day.

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, didn't have an opponent in the GOP primary for agriculture commissioner; he's okay so far. Rep. Terry Keel, an Austin Republican who was the only other lawmaker seeking statewide office, will be in a runoff against incumbent Judge Charles Holcomb for the GOP nomination to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Houston Republican Reps. Peggy Hamric and Joe Nixon finished second and third in a race for state Senate. Reps. Glenn Hegar Jr., R-Katy, and Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, won their primaries for state Senate and move to the next round. Uresti beat Sen. Frank Madla; Hegar was running for Ken Armbrister's spot since the Victoria Democrat didn't seek another term.

Rep. Ruben Hope Jr., R-Conroe, decided he'd rather be a state district judge than serve a fifth term in the House. Now he's headed for a runoff. He got 32 percent of the vote in a six-person race for the 258th District Court. He'll face Cara Wood, who got 25 percent, on April 11. The last-place finisher in that field is a former House member: Keith Valigura.

New Kids on the Block

The Texas Parent PAC, formed as a foil to state legislators who have resisted higher spending on schools while pushing state-level reforms in public education, endorsed a slate of candidates from both parties in their first outing as a political group.

The group endorsed all five Republican incumbents challenged by candidates financed by Dr. James Leininger of San Antonio, a voucher advocate whose views the TPP opposes: Reps. Roy Blake Jr. of Nacogdoches, Carter Casteel of New Braunfels, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Delwin Jones of Lubbock, and Tommy Merritt of Longview. Blake and Casteel lost.

The group endorsed four Republicans in open-seat contests: Jimmie Don Aycock of Killen in HD-54; Anne Lakusta of Flower Mound in HD-63; Drew Mouton of Big Spring in HD-85; and Vicky Rudy of Montgomery in HD-16. Their pick in the open SD-3 was Republican Bob Reeves of Center. Mouton, Rudy and Reeves all got beat; Aycock and Lakusta are in runoffs.

The group targeted six incumbent Republicans: Betty Brown of Terrell in HD-4; Larry Phillips of Sherman in HD-62; Scott Campbell of San Angelo in HD-71; David Swinford of Amarillo in HD-87; Kent Grusendorf of Arlington in HD-94; and Elvira Reyna of Mesquite in HD-101. Grusendorf and Reyna got beat and Campbell's in a runoff. Brown, Phillips and Swinford all won.

No incumbent Democrats were on their hit list, but they endorsed several who were challenged in their primaries, including Dora Olivo of Missouri City in HD-27; Richard Raymond of Laredo in HD-42; Juan Escobar of Kingsville in HD-43; Chente Quintanilla of Tornillo in HD-75; Norma Chavez of El Paso in HD-76; Joe Pickett of El Paso in HD-79; Helen Giddings of Dallas in HD-109; Jesse Jones of Dallas in HD-110; Kevin Bailey of Houston, in HD-140, and Garnet Coleman of Houston in HD-147. Raymond's in a runoff and Jones lost; the rest won.

Include Carole Out

Railroad Commission Chair Elizabeth Ames Jones entered the final weekend with endorsements from every non-judicial statewide official except for Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. An aide to Jones says they didn't ask for the comptroller's blessing. Strayhorn, the top vote getter of any GOP candidate four years ago, is running as an independent against Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed Jones to the RRC.

Strayhorn wouldn't have endorsed Jones if she'd been asked, as it turns out. Doing so, in the view of Strayhorn's attorneys, would have put her independent candidacy at risk. Like the voters who sign their petitions, independent candidates disqualify themselves if they vote in primaries. But for the candidates, it goes further. Strayhorn's camp interprets the law to say she can't take part in any activities of a political party: endorsing their candidates, voting in their primaries, going to their functions, you name it. Jones did her a favor by not asking for her support.

End Notes

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, closed with an email to supporters telling them to turn out because Democrats were seen early-voting in GOP primaries. And phone bank robo-calls carried messages from DeLay himself, from Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert, from Galveston County Tax Assessor-Collector Cheryl Johnson, and from the state's top lawyer. To wit:

"This is Attorney General Greg Abbott with an important reminder that Election Day is this coming Tuesday, March 7th. Congressman Tom DeLay has been attacked by liberal Democrats from across the country. Now it's time to show these Democrats we stand for our conservative congressman and will support Tom in this election. More than ever, we need a congressman who isn't afraid to take on the Democrats and fight for our conservative Texas values. I hope you will join me in supporting our friend, Tom DeLay. Please vote for him on Tuesday."

Van Taylor, trying for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, got a late visit from his friendly neighborhood governor. Rick Perry endorsed Taylor over fellow Republican Tucker Anderson. In a taped message that Taylor stuck on his website (at www.vantaylor.com), Perry said he's the better candidate to take on Edwards in November. Public squabbling between the Republican candidates and between the county chairs of the GOP in that district got the incumbent's attention. Edwards campaign emailed news clips to political reporters with the snarkiest parts of the GOP dogfight highlighted in bright yellow.

• Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell closed the Austin part of his primary campaign with a Sunday rally featuring an endorsement from Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin. The two won't serve together, even if Bell wins: Barrientos isn't seeking reelection.

• The loudest of the state's Senate primaries ended with Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, debating an empty chair on television and with Rep. Carlos Uresti's campaign advisors filing an ethics complaint against Madla. The TV debate was set up when Uresti said he'd joust anytime and anyplace. He backed out, but the show went on without him and Madla got an open forum.

Meanwhile, the Uresti camp complained to the local DA that Madla's campaign accounting didn't include all of the money it should have. His numbers don't match those filed by Texans for Lawsuit Reform, according to the complaints. The PAC reported giving $655,707 while Madla reported receiving $36,772. Madla's camp says it's a timing issue and that the numbers will match when the report dates synchronize.

Somebody out on the Internet sent a note to Uresti's campaign that was scribbled on the bottom of an email that appears to have come from Helen Madla. The email urges people to vote on "Tuesday, May 6th." The note scribbled at the bottom: "You should win your election Representative Uresti because Senator Madla's wife doesn't know when election day is." Whatever the reason, Uresti ended with 56.9 percent to Madla's 43.1 percent.

• Gov. Rick Perry hit three hot spots on election eve, making campaign visits to Reps. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, and Elvira Reyna, R-Mesquite. Truitt was the only winner in the bunch.

Diane Patrick — the Republican school board member who defeated House Education Grusendorf, R-Arlington — took a late hit from several local conservatives who disagreed with her votes on textbooks as a member of the State Board of Education in 1994. That was one of Grusendorf's themes, and he got reinforcements: Tarrant County GOP Chair Stephanie Klick, former Chair Steve Hollern, and former Christian Coalition Chair Scott Fisher held an election eve presser to take his side. Patrick ended last week with an ethics complaint against Grusendorf, accusing him of passing out anonymous flyers. Those handouts were put on tables at a candidate forum and were targeted at those textbook votes by Patrick. The flyer included pictures of naked men, according to the Patrick camp. Grusendorf denied having anything to do with them and suggested the Patrick campaign handed them out to generate a sympathetic backlash.

Martin Rogoff, one of the GOP precinct chairs whose name was on a letter endorsing Senate candidate Dan Patrick, pulled his name and said he'd be voting for Rep. Joe Nixon in that Houston-area contest. Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale sent out an email critical of Patrick and his campaign; Van Arsdale said he'd been attacked for his support of Nixon. Rogoff said he was joining Van Arsdale and didn't get a look at the endorsement letter that had his name on it. He said he doesn't "want to be associated with the tactics of the precinct chairs that are viciously supporting Dan." Nixon's camp, meanwhile, said Patrick listed the support of 117 GOP precinct chairs in a recent mailer and adds that 29 of them aren't actually precinct chairs. Patrick got 69 percent in a four-person field that included him and three elected officials.

• First Lady Anita Perry opened a get-out-the-vote email with a sure indication that the people in the Governor's Mansion weren't worried: " While there aren't any high profile statewide contests that are grabbing headlines, there are still many races that are critical to the future of our great state." Her husband, Gov. Rick Perry, had three primary opponents.

Political People and Their Moves

Former Gov. Ann Richards asked her doctors about an odd feeling in her chest and, after some tests, found she has esophageal cancer. She's seeing doctors at M.D. Anderson in Houston for more testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

Aides to Carole Keeton Strayhorn aides say consultant George Shipley isn't on the payroll yet, but they expect him to be helping the campaign. For those just tuning in, that would mean that a Republican state comptroller running as an independent has one of the state's prominent Democratic consultants among her advisors. Shipley has been an advisor to a long list of Democrats over the years, including Ann Richards, Bob Bullock, Dan Morales, Henry Cisneros and Judith Zaffirini. In recent years, he's been working with the five lawyers who won a huge settlement for the state from the tobacco industry.

Two hot-handed Democrats have decided to put a logo and a website on their partnership; Kelly Fero and Jeff Hewitt are calling the enterprise Fero Hewitt Global. Their recent campaign collaborations include wins with Austin Democrat Donna Howard, who won a House seat over a favored Republican, and Rep. Carlos Uresti, who beat incumbent Sen. Frank Madla of San Antonio in the Democratic primary. They've got a website: www.ferohewitt.com.

Caasi Lamb is moving from the House Appropriations Committee, where she was director, to Speaker Tom Craddick's office as a policy analyst for corrections, business and industry and government reform. Andrew Blifford will take over the House committee's budget staff. He's worked for Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, for the last three-and-a-half years, most recently as legislative director.

Take the "interim" off the executive director title on Pat Sweeney Robbins' desk. The board of the Associated Republicans of Texas elected her to replace Norm Newton, who got the job in 1975.

Newbie state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, will get spots on the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism. House Speaker Tom Craddick assigned those after she was sworn in last week, and the assignments will hold until after the November elections, when committees are rebuilt.

Alan Johnson, a Harlingen banker and a retired U.S. Army captain, will join the Veteran's Land Board. The appointment was Gov. Rick Perry's; the chairman of the VLB is Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Johnson is replacing the late Mike Ussery of Amarillo.

Three appointments and a reappointment to the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying: Nedra Foster, president of Shine and Associates in Silsbee; Paul Kwan, president of Landtech Consultants in Houston; Anthony Trevino Jr., a Laredo attorney; and Douglas William Turner of League City, also with Landtech.

Quotes of the Week

LULAC's Ramiro "Gambi" Gamboa, quoted in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on the state's decision not to fund operations at the already-built Irma Rangel Pharmacy school: "It's plain as day. They've given us a brand new Mercedes without the tires and motors, they've given us a Whataburger without the burger."

Gov. Rick Perry, quoted by the Associated Press on his excitement on the eve of the primaries: “I've been doing this for 22 years. This is just another day at the office for me, and as will Tuesday be and then there will be Wednesday.”

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, on Dr. James Leininger's big spending on politics, in the San Antonio Express-News: "There are so many wealthy people who are interested in politics. That's just life. Those with money can by a Maserati, and those of us who don't have the kind of money have to buy a lesser car. That's just the way it works."

Leininger, in the same paper, saying his detractors are doubling his net worth when they call him a billionaire: "They're trying to paint me as this evil billionaire trying to buy the Legislature. I'm only half-evil."

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, running an auction to raise money for the Harris County Republican Party and quoted by the Houston Chronicle: "I'm like a cemetery — I'll take anything!"


Texas Weekly: Volume 22, Issue 36, 13 March 2006. Ross Ramsey, Editor. George Phenix, Publisher. Copyright 2006 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 info@texasweekly.com. For news, email ramsey@texasweekly.com, or call (512) 288-6598.

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