Skip to main content

Everybody In!

Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn both got enough valid signatures to get onto the gubernatorial ballot in November.

Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn both got enough valid signatures to get onto the gubernatorial ballot in November.

Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams said Friedman turned in 137,154 valid signatures and Strayhorn turned in 108,512. Both were comfortably above the 45,540 needed under state law.

Friedman piped up first: "Not one but two viable independent candidates have made the ballot for the first time in nearly 150 years. This tells us what we've long suspected: the two-party system has failed our state. Only an independent candidate — one who is not owned by special interests — can restore Texas."

And then Strayhorn: "Let the race begin. Almost a quarter of a million Texans signed petitions to place my name on the ballot because they want to shake Austin up. This is a two-person race between Carole Keeton "Grandma" Strayhorn and Rick Perry. I am the only challenger with the resources, and the history of getting people to the polls, who can and will end Rick Perry's regime for a special few."

The race for governor will include five candidates, including the two independents, incumbent Republican Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell, and Libertarian James Werner.

No other candidates who tried to get on with signatures made the cut, including former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, who needed just 500 valid signatures to get on the ballot in CD-22 — the seat that belonged to U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, until DeLay's resignation from Congress earlier this month.

A spokesman for Williams said it cost the state about $50,000 to verify the signatures on all of those petitions.

Bragging Rights

Richard "Kinky" Friedman got more valid signatures to the Secretary of State than Carole Keeton Strayhorn did, a factlet that doesn't have any legal weight but that does come with a fair amount of built-in topspin.

Friedman's campaign turned in 170,258 signatures. SOS Roger Williams found that 137,154 of them were valid, meaning they came from registered voters who didn't vote in either primary, either runoff, and who didn't sign any other petitions to get a gubernatorial candidate on the ballot.

Strayhorn turned in more — 222,514 — but turned in more bummers, too. She ended up with 108,512 valid signatures. Put another way, 80.6 percent of his signatures were valid; 48.8 percent of hers were valid.

He got three times as many signatures as he needed. She got over two times what she needed.

A Rose is a Rose

Carole Keeton Strayhorn is now on the ballot, but it's not clear how her name will appear. She wants "Grandma" in there, and says it's her nickname and that voters will know her by it. That last part might be right, in a sense: Her commercials during the last two election cycles called her "One Tough Grandma."

Whether it's going to be that way on the ballot is up to the Secretary of State, who is taking up that issue now that he's through deciding whether the candidates had the signatures to get on the ballot in the first place.

Strayhorn has been elected locally in Austin and on the statewide ballot under two different names during her nuptial/electoral history: Carole Keeton McClelland and Carole Keeton Rylander. This will be her first appearance on a ballot as Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Me, Two

Okay, that's twice now that the Carole Keeton Strayhorn campaign has blasted Democrat Chris Bell for "partisan rhetoric." (We just felt the need to point it out.) That came after Bell and his campaign called the state comptroller's campaign for governor "an Austin mirage." Bell and Strayhorn are pushing the same button lately, telling reporters and others that the race for governor is a two-person race between Gov. Rick Perry and, depending on your jersey, Bell or Strayhorn. Kinky Friedman hasn't jumped into the positioning contest in the same way, but eagerly points out that most of the Internet polls have him strongly in contention.

This is all about who'll make the best alternative for voters who want a new governor. The votes are there, if any candidate can squash the other challengers into the margins.

The math is the same for all three challengers. Perry starts at 35 or 40 percent, depending on the poll you're looking at, and a challenger needs to get to about 30 percent to come within anything close to striking distance. If there are three candidates (four, if you count Libertarian James Werner) to split up the remaining 60 percent of the vote, you get a race for second place.

Strayhorn has argued that Bell doesn't have the money to win. He's argued she doesn't have the party infrastructure — the votes — to win. Friedman has argued that voters are sick of the system and that he's the only alternative to the professional pols.

All this is more than idle talk. The candidates are in the closing days of a fundraising period that's important because what they do during the period that ends on June 30 will give the political world a look at the financial health of each campaign. For some folks, that'll be a measure of each campaign's viability.

The first talking point in a recent Strayhorn memo to political financial types is the "two-man race" argument. "No other candidates have the resources, no other candidates have the ability to continue to bring in more resources, and no other candidates have the proven history of getting their voters in a statewide race to the polls. Carole has been elected statewide four times in the last 12 years," the memo says.

It says she's stronger than the two main challengers in recent polls — that's debatable, but this is a sales letter — and says, interestingly, that her own polling shows her popularity jumps significantly when voters are reminded of who she is. "... those public polls don't reflect what we know from our own internal polls — the name change from Rylander to Strayhorn has not completely sunk in with voters (She has never run as Strayhorn). But 'One Tough Grandma' has stuck. Once voters are told that Strayhorn is 'One Tough Grandma' she jumps 10 points in every poll we have taken and Perry drops. No public poll has tested her nickname 'Grandma,' only Strayhorn. Her name will officially appear on the November ballot as: Carole Keeton 'Grandma' Strayhorn." The nickname issue is pending with the Texas Secretary of State.

The memo says she would repeal the tax bill just passed by the Legislature (she'd have to get the Lege to go along with that); stop plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor; make sure senior citizens get property tax relief (they were left out of the legislative plan); and that she'd pay for tax relief with a combination of slot machines at racetracks, changes to the current state franchise tax, restoration of government and public school performance reports.

Political Notes

Kinky Friedman followed news he'll be on the ballot with an email blast asking supporters for money. It included a brag about the number of signatures he and Carole Keeton Strayhorn collected, congratulating his supporters for getting 25,000 more valid signers while spending one-tenth what the comptroller spent.

• Strayhorn's post-validation blast included her own estimate that the Secretary of State disallowed some valid signers. A statement from her campaign said they had independently verified 183,439 of the signatures they turned in. That would put them ahead of Kinky, if it's so. But her campaign didn't have at least one critical bit of info: People who signed Kinky's petitions weren't eligible to sign Carole's, and vice versa. Nobody has both lists but the SOS.

• Ask, and Rick Perry's henchfolk will tell you that Chris Bell is the strongest of the opposing candidates for governor. But that's not who they're shooting at. Responding to news that Friedman and Strayhorn will both be on the ballot, the Perry camp went straight at the comptroller, saying "her shrill act is wearing thin" and "even Kinky Friedman has more support..."

Fickle Texans

More Texans are happy with Gov. Rick Perry than are unhappy, according to a Survey USA poll that got the opposite result a month ago.

Those pollsters say 51 percent of Texas adults approve of the job Perry is going; 45 percent disapprove. A month earlier, the numbers were 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval. Since then, the Legislature worked out its school finance problems. And the May number might have been off the mark; Perry has been more popular than not for most of this year. Last year, when he and the Legislature were bickering their way through a regular session that didn't produce a school fix, his numbers looked more like May's.

The poll, done for KEYE-TV in Austin and WOAI Radio in San Antonio, was done June 9-11. 600 people were interviewed, and the margin of error, with 95% certainty, is +/- 4.1 percent. The pollsters didn't screen, apparently, to find out whether the people interviewed are registered or likely to vote.

You can see the numbers for yourself, with some crosstabs, at the pollster's website.

Once you're there, you'll see a list of the governors' rankings in all 50 states. Scroll down to Texas and click on the link, and it'll take you to the particulars for Perry.

More Fickle Texans

A new Zogby Battleground States poll done for The Wall Street Journal has Gov. Rick Perry in the lead with 37.7 percent of the votes, followed by Democrat Chris Bell with 19.7 percent, Kinky Friedman with 17.5 percent, and Carole Keeton Strayhorn with 14.1 percent.

That poll earlier this year had Strayhorn in second place, and Perry — at least by these numbers — didn't get much of a bounce out of the special session on school finance. His numbers were up slightly, as were Friedman's. Bell slipped a point, and Strayhorn dropped five points.

The same pollsters peg U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at 56.7 percent to Democrat Barbara Radnofsky's 33.2 percent.

The online polling was done June 13-19 by Zogby International, which supplemented the online results by calling a fraction of the respondents. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent with 95 percent certainty. And you can look at full results either at The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) or at Zogby's website (time-delayed for non-subscribers).

Picking a Scab

We're well within the rumor range of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Texas congressional redistricting case; by that we mean that the lawyers and political types and reporters are buzzing about the case coming down "any day now."

And that's the local backdrop for Texas Republicans stepping up to block consideration of extending the Voting Rights Act. In particular, they're against a provision that requires Texas and eight other mostly Southern states to get voting changes pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department while most states don't have such restrictions. And some don't like the requirement that ballots have to be prepared in other languages if enough of their voters don't speak English. The federal law is the basis for one of the arguments against the state's mid-decade redistricting, so it's a hot topic.

And U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, added some logs to that fire. Carter was quoted in the Houston Chronicle about the Republican effort to slow things down, saying, "I don't think we have racial bias in Texas anymore." And later in the story, he was quoted saying, "I simply believe you should be able to read, write and speak English to be a voter in the United States."

A spokeswoman says Carter wants to wait until after the Supremes rule on redistricting and "really has no other objection to the Voting Rights Act." He apparently made the comments to the Republican Caucus, and the aide said his remarks were taken out of context.

Whatever he meant, that second comment lit up the Democrats and the blogosphere with comparisons to the literacy tests that were used for years in the South to keep African Americans from voting. Carter didn't say how he'd test voters to find out whether they could speak or write or read or even whether he'd make any of those things a legal requirement.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, likened literacy tests to poll taxes and said Democrats would fight the idea "like we did in the redistricting battle." The Mexican American Legislative Caucus decried it, and the Texas Democratic Party chimed in. Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, speaking on behalf of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said the states named in the law aren't ready to be released from it: "Even a blind person could see what we still have racism in the state of Texas, and throughout other areas of the South."

Understudies on Hold

Put the CD-22 race on the back burner until next week.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks will hold a hearing then on whether Texas Republicans can take former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay off the ballot and replace him with someone new.

The Texas Democratic Party sued to stop the ballot shuffle, saying DeLay was elected in the primary and ought to remain on the ballot. DeLay quit Congress and officially declared a residence in Virginia. The idea was that the move would make him ineligible to run for the seat and that Republican officials in Texas could put someone else on the ballot.

Since DeLay's notoriety had become a major rallying point for Democrats — both in fundraising and in campaigning — taking him off the ballot would brighten the outlook for the GOP. But the Democrats got a state district judge to freeze the name swap. Republicans got that case moved to federal court, and Sparks will hold a hearing on the restraining order that, for the moment, keeps DeLay's name on the ballot and keeps his would-be replacements waiting in the wings. That makes it difficult for those potential candidates to raise money, among other things.

Whoever gets out of the melee — DeLay or someone else — will face one former congressman. Democrat Nick Lampson won his party's primary to face DeLay, and Steve Stockman, a Republican running as an independent, came up short when Secretary of State Roger Williams determined he was short of the 500 valid signatures needed to get him on the ballot.

Political People and Their Moves

Andrew Weber — the clerk of the Texas Supreme Court — is leaving that post to return to private practice. He was appointed in July 2002 to a four-year term, and will stick around through next month. The court has started a search for a replacement.

Dr. Margaret Carter McNeese and Dr. Irvin Zeitler Jr. will join the Texas Medical Board. Gov. Rick Perry appointed both to the board that regulates doctors and other healthcare types. She's associate dean for admissions and student affairs and a pediatrics prof at the UT Health Science Center in Houston.  He's a family practice physician in San Angelo.

The Guv appointed Bill Smith of Silverton to the 110th Judicial District Court. Smith is the Briscoe County Attorney. Smith already won the Republican nomination to succeed John Hollums in that court.

Manuel Cavazos IV and Cydney Donnell are Perry's newest additions to the Texas Credit Union Commission. He's a CPA and corporate counsel to TexCom; she's a prof and the director of real estate programs at Texas A&M University's business school.

Gov. Perry named three new regents for the Texas State Technical College System. Joe Gurecky of Rosenberg, and Dr. Rolf Haberechet and Joe Hearne of Dallas will join that panel. Gurecky is president and owner of a manufacturing company. Hearne works for a subsidiary of Raytheon Systems Co.

Justin Unruh has left the Pink Building and the staff of Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, to work for Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Matt Welch, who left TLR to take on more clients, will still do some work for that PAC.

Jackie Lain is back at the Texas Association of School Boards after five years with Standard & Poor's. She's TASB's associate executive director for governmental relations; she worked in that department for three years before a stint as a White House Fellow and then the S&P job.

Bill Webb, who's been at the Texas Motor Transportation Association for ten years, is leaving for a job at FFE Transportation. He'll be replaced by John Esparza, Gov. Rick Perry's advisor on community affairs. Webb is leaving at the end of July; Esparza will start a month before that to learn the reins before he becomes TMTA's president.

Shelley Kofler, the last Austin reporter for Dallas' WFAA-TV before they closed their capitol bureau, is signing on with Tate Austin, a public affairs firm. She's been working freelance for the last 18 months.

Justin Keener moves from Edelman to the Austin offices of Weber Shandwick, another public relations-public affairs outfit; the former Senate staffer will consult clients on public policy stuff.

Judicial spankings: The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public warning to state district Judge Britt Plunk of Hardin County, saying he took actions in a couple of cases that appeared to favor a particular lawyer whose mother is the judge's court coordinator. They cited him for letting a relationship affect his conduct and, in another case, for threatening an attorney with sanctions for asking him to recuse himself because of his ties to the opposing lawyer.

The Writer's League of Texas put together a $1,000 journalism scholarship to honor the late Felton West, a longtime capitol (and elsewhere) reporter for the Houston Post. The first recipient is a journalism major at Baylor University from Garland: Tramese Darcell Andrews.

Deaths: Doyle Willis, a former state representative, state senator, and Fort Worth city councilman who served 42 years in state office starting when Harry Truman was president and ending when Bill Clinton was in office. He was 97.

Crillon "Cril" Payne II, head of the legal department at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston, a former employee of the comptroller's office and the Texas Railroad Commission, and a former undercover FBI agent whose book, Deep Cover, described his infiltration of the Weather Underground. He was 63.

Quotes of the Week

State Rep.-turned-lobbyist Arlene Wohlgemuth, describing Carole Keeton Strayhorn's role in privatizing health and human services program, a change Strayhorn now opposes, in the Houston Chronicle: "In a way, she was the grandma of House Bill 2292."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell, going after independent candidate for governor Carole Keeton Strayhorn: "While she can change her name and she can change her positions, she can't change her record."

Howard Wolfson, former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, telling The Wall Street Journal that Texas-style mid-decade redistricting could become the norm in politics: "If the Supreme Court decides that it's legal, not doing it would constitute a unilateral surrender."

Sam Haskett of Simonton, a retiree who told the San Antonio Express-News he doesn't like the new tax bill and had a reaction to seeing Gov. Rick Perry touting it in a commercial: "I threw a shoe at my TV, and my wife got mad at me. But it was an old TV, and it's terrible what he's doing."

Jason Stanford, a spokesman for Chris Bell, telling the McAllen Monitor that the campaign returned a contribution in the form of $8,000-plus in gems because the donor turned out to be a Mexican citizen who'd told them several different stories: "If the guy can't give a straight address, no wonder we can't get a straight answer on any thing else. I don't think there's anything that this guy has said that has been consistent or accurate."

Steven Winn, president of NRG's Texas operations, telling the Houston Chronicle that the company's plans to add to the nuclear reactor in Bay City have built-in incentives to stay on track, as opposed to overruns when municipal and private utilities built the original plant: "If we screw up the project, the ratepayer doesn't own it this time, it's the responsibility of the shareholders."

Former U.S. Sen. and current Rev. John Danforth, R-Missouri, speaking to the Episcopal General Convention about seeking middle ground in political situations: "I've gone to political conventions. I've never participated in drafting a platform. I've never read a platform, and I've never felt bound by a platform. I invite you to join my club."


Texas Weekly: Volume 23, Issue 3, 26 June 2006. Ross Ramsey, Editor. 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 (512) 302-5703 or email biz@texasweekly.com. For news, email ramsey@texasweekly.com, or call (512) 288-6598.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

Quality journalism doesn't come free

Yes, I'll donate today