Leave out the presidential contest and only a handful of the 173 statewide and legislative races on the Texas ballot are without incumbents. And they're all in the Texas House.
Every race on the statewide ballot has an incumbent Republican in it, but only one — Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Cathy Cochran — is running unopposed. And three of the incumbents drew opponents from their own parties. That group includes U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and two of Cochran's court colleagues, Tom Price and Paul Womack.
• Texas has 32 members of Congress, and each of them is running for reelection. There are six lucky ducks who drew no major party opposition. Two more have primary opponents but no major party opposition in November. Most — 22 — have no primary opponents but will face the other major party's candidate in November. That leaves two, from North Texas, who have opposition in their primaries and in the general election (assuming they survive March): U.S. Reps. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, and Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall. Also of note: There are 10 Republicans in the CD-22 primary battling for a chance to face U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, in November. Ten. Really. And Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, has serious opposition in what's proven to be a competitive district. Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larsen and businessman Francisco "Quico" Canseco are in the GOP primary.
• All 15 senators on the ballot this year are seeking reelection. We count seven lucky ducks, two with primaries and no generals, five with general elections and no primaries, and one with opposition in March and November. (Our counts here and elsewhere are based on unofficial ballots; the parties have another ten days to pull their ballots together, and there could be adds and drops, candidates we don't know about, and challenges that knock people out of the running.) Three incumbents on the early watch list: Sens. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
• The 2008 ballots have four former House members running for spots in that chamber, including a former Republican running as a Democrat, and a former Democrat running as a Republican. Only one of these matches is in a party primary: Democrat Al Edwards of Houston wants his HD-146 seat back and will run against Rep. Borris Miles, who unseated him. In November, four-termer Todd Hunter will try to unseat freshman Rep. Juan Garcia, D-Corpus Christi, in HD-32. Hunter, serving as a Democrat, didn't seek reelection in 1998. Now he's running as a Republican. In HD-98, former Rep. Nancy Moffat of Southlake wants a rematch with Vicki Truitt, who knocked her out of office. But Moffat, a former Republican, will run this time as a Democrat. And in HD-107 in Dallas, former Rep. Bill Keffer, a Republican, wants to unseat Allen Vaught, the Democrat who beat him in 2006.
• Only nine of the people who were in the House last time it met are volunteering not to come back, and both major parties have candidates in all but one of those races (we're including the HD-97 seat filled by Democrat Dan Barrett in a special election just before Christmas). Roland Gutierrez, late of the San Antonio City Council, is the only candidate who filed for the spot currently held by Democratic Rep. Robert Puente.
• Nearly half of the state's representatives — 64 — won't see major party opposition this year. Another 17 have primaries but nothing waiting in November. Party doesn't seem to have much to do with that. The House Chapter of the Lucky Duck Club includes 29 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Put another way, 44 seats now held by Republicans will be contested this year, as against 42 seats now held by Democrats.
Candidates running for office in districts that cross county lines file with the state Democratic and Republican parties, while those in districts that don't cross county lines file with their county parties. Long story short: It takes a little bit for the parties to consolidate their county and state lists. And some candidates who've filed might get knocked off the ballots. And some aren't eligible. And some have their names spelled wrong on the Party lists. And so on.
We've consolidated what the state and local parties have put out so far, and we're updating as they do. Anyhow, it's all in one list, available for download in our Files section. There's a date and time stamp at the top of each chart so you can tell what version you've got.
The two major parties have to certify their primary candidate lists for the Texas Secretary of State by January 14, and we'll update our lists — which consolidate the Republican and Democratic lists — as names are added and subtracted and other things change. (Libertarians choose their candidates differently and will have their lists available later in the year. Their unofficial list is online, here.)
Just after our last issue came out, the attorney general issued a long-awaited ruling on Texas House antics, the top prosecutor in the state capital called an end to his love-hate relationship with political rascals, scalawags, dopes, saints, losers, and avid practitioners of the Seven Deadly Sins, and a Democrat won an impossible election in Fort Worth.
Other than that, it was pretty quiet.
We covered all this in detail between issues in Texas Weekly's Notebook, so we'll do this in digest form here:
• The House makes and interprets its own rules and isn't subject to executive or judicial branch kibitzing, according to AG Greg Abbott. Legal translation: House Speaker Tom Craddick's ruling that he can't be unseated or challenged to recognize members is up to the House. They set their rules and conduct their own business. Political translation: If House members don't like the rules and/or want limits on the powers of the speaker, that's up to them. Expect rules to become a talking point in the elections where this comes up (if it does) and in the contest for speaker a year from now.
Secondly, Abbott says the courts would probably decide the speaker is a state official for legal purposes, but he hedged his bet and, anyhow, opinions rendered by Texas attorneys general have no power beyond persuasion. But if it's so, one way to remove a speaker is through impeachment (generally the House indicts and the Senate convicts or acquits); another is for two-thirds of the House to vote to toss him (or her). That last bit would require the speaker to recognize the insurrectionists; see the riff about House Rules in the previous paragraph.
Abbott's opinion doesn't change much. But it should end the conversation from What Happened Last May to the subject of new House rules and what the next speaker — Craddick or not — has the power to do. More detail on the Speaker's Power is at these links: Abbott's Opinion; The Questions; The Arguments; and Reactions.
• Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle announced he won't seek reelection. That's of statewide importance because the chief prosecutor in Austin has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the course of Texas politics, the Capitol, and all that. Earle prosecuted former House Speaker Gib Lewis, D-Fort Worth, and is currently involved in a legal melee with former U.S. Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. He's gone after others and missed, including U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Attorney General Jim Mattox, then-Comptroller Bob Bullock, and former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro.
Everybody in the race to replace Earle is a Democrat who currently works for him. That bunch includes Gary Cobb, Rosemary Lehmberg, Mindy Montford, and Rick Reed.
• The newest state representative is a Democratic attorney from Fort Worth named Dan Barrett, who won a holiday runoff against Republican Mark Shelton in what most everyone assumed was a Republican district (the Texas Weekly Index in that district goes 23.6 points to the right, meaning the average statewide Democrat has lost to the average statewide Republican by that many points in the last two elections). Barrett won the low-turnout runoff with 52.2 percent. He's alone on the Democratic side for a full term. Three Republicans, including Shelton, are vying for a crack at him in the general election in November.
• Texas, with two sites among the finalists for the FutureGen project, lost to Illinois. Jewett and Odessa were among the contenders for that clean coal project, but the U.S. Department of Energy gave the nod to Mattoon, Illinois.
• The virtual moat around the Texas Capitol will become permanent, with a new "perimeter security" plan. They'll install retractable bollards — big, thick posts that can stop traffic or be lowered to let it through. They'll admit traffic at only one gate, and they'll move a major bus stop. They hope to replace the four 24-hour guard posts that now control traffic at each of the entrances to the Capitol grounds. The estimated tab: $3.3 million.
Two House candidates are also state employees, or were until this week.
Republican Donna Keel and Democrat Diana Maldonado both work for Comptroller Susan Combs, who has decided there are too many conflicts of interest running in contested House elections while working in an agency whose budget and some policies are controlled by the Legislature. The rule, we're told, is that employees who run can go on leave if they're in contested primaries — they could be available to work again if things don't go well in March — but have to leave the agency to run in November elections. Keel, who's challenging Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin, in HD-47, is outta there. So is Maldonado, who's running for an open seat in Round Rock, where Republican Rep. Mike Krusee decided not to seek reelection. Neither woman has a primary opponent.
• Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, has enemies off the ballot as well as on it. The Texas League of Conservation Voters launched a "Toxic Mike Jackson" website trash-talking the incumbent on clean air and environmental issues. He'll face a Democrat to be named later in November, after a two-man Democratic primary in March.
• The SD-21 race started with a little spice from the incumbent. Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, welcomed Democrat Rene Barrientos to the race by sending reporters a photo she took of the gate to his ranch. It's got a political sign posted for Republican candidate Louis Bruni, who'll face the winner of the Democratic primary. The money quote: "Guests at my November reception in La Salle County were surprised to see Bruni's campaign sign by the gate of Barrientos' La Golondrina ranch, indicating that he sees the handwriting on the wall and expects to lose. My Democratic opponent apparently is supporting my Republican opponent, and my Republican opponent doesn't understand that this is a Democratic district."
• Susan Criss might've pulled the trigger too early. Her camp said before the filing deadline that Democratic opponent Linda Yañez didn't have the right number of signatures to run against her for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court. But Yañez got busy collecting signatures and says now that she cured the problem before the deadline. The winner of that primary will face Republican Justice Phil Johnson in November.
• Former Frisco Mayor Kathy Seei joined the CD-4 race — U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall, is the incumbent — with signatures rather than with a fee.
• Jim McGrody, a Republican who entered and then exited the CD-23 race in San Antonio, says he'll support Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson in the GOP primary. The winner in that March contest will face U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, in November.
• The difference between a goof and a spoof isn't always clear. In a press release announcing his HD-129 candidacy against Rep. John Davis, R-Houston, Republican Jon Keeney of Taylor Lake Village says Republicans have to clean their own house or the Democrats will do it for them. "... it seems the incumbents in Austin have been consumed by the same problems as Congress..." he says in the press release. But that sentence has a phrase crossed out. The earlier version: "... it seems the incumbents in Austin have been drinking the same kool aid consumed by Congress..." It turned out to be a goof; they went with the first version in a later press release.
• Texas Railroad Commission candidate Dale Henry starts with an endorsement from state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who called him the "most progressive candidate in the race." Henry, running as a Democrat, ran previously as a Republican. If he wins the primary (his two opponents are Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton), he'll face Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and will at the very least grab a footnote: He'll apparently be the first person to run against every single member of a sitting Railroad Commission. Henry already lost to Republican Elizabeth Ames Jones in the 2006 general election and to Victor Carrillo in the 2004 GOP primary.
• Tom Craddick has his first election opponent in years. City Councilman Bill Dingus is the candidate, and he'll be running as a "conservative Democrat". Craddick, first elected in 1968, last had an opponent in 2000, when he beat Democrat Gilberto Garcia 78.3 percent to 21.7 percent.
• El Paso Rep. Pat Haggerty will run again, and as a Republican (in spite of rumors that he might switch parties), and he threw in a curve ball: He'll be a candidate for speaker of the House. Whether that holds is anyone's guess, but it puts his Republican challenger, Dee Margo, in a spot. Haggerty's the only candidate in the race talking about having a Speaker from El Paso (the last one was in the 1920s). And it lets Haggerty rag on Speaker Tom Craddick without saying he's for a Democrat or for a Republican whose campaign is backed by Democrats.
• James Shepherd, a former Richardson city councilman and school board member, won endorsements from Sen. John Carona, Rep. Fred Hill (who has the seat now and isn't seeking another term) and from County Commissioner Mike Cantrell of Garland. Carona and Hill will do an Austin funder for Shepherd. That's a three-way primary; Angie Button and Randy Dunning are both from Garland.
• Mike Pearce, one of the Republicans running for Dianne White Delisi's spot in HD-55, wins endorsements from two members of the State Board of Education: Ken Mercer and Gail Lowe both say they'll support the former public school teacher.
Candidates don't officially report their finances until mid-month, but U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega, a Democrat, says he raised about $968,000 during the fourth quarter of last year. Details will follow later in the month. Noriega's one of four Democrats seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio.
• Larry Joe Doherty, an Austin Democrat seeking the CD-10 nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, says he raised more than $150,000 during the fourth quarter of the year, enough to put his total so far at about $380,000.
• Brian Thompson, who's challenging state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, in HD-46, says he raised $10,145 online since announcing last month. State candidates' reports are also due in mid-January, but they'll cover the last six months of the year instead of the last three.
Political People and Their Moves
Heather Paffe is leaving her lobbying post at Planned Parenthood after almost six years there to run the Gulf Coast Oceans Program for Environmental Defense. She'll be based in Austin.
Former Deputy Texas Comptroller Jesse Ancira moves this month to DeCharme, McMillen & Associates, where he'll do business development, some tax work, and some lobbying.
Courtney Read Hoffman is hanging out her own shingle after four years with Eric Wright and Associates. Some of her clients came along to the new shop: CRH Capitol Communications.
Tom Harrison, the former executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission, is now its chairman. The board elected him last month, and named Ross Fischer vice chairman.
Mike McMullen becomes a lobbyist with the Texas Chemical Council, leaving Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, where he had a number of postings. Janek's replacing him with a veteran of the Pink Building: Kelly Young will be the new director of the Subcommittee on Emerging Technologies and Economic Development.
Cory Pomeroy moves from staff attorney for the Senate State Affairs Committee to General Council for Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock. And Jennifer Fagan becomes director of that committee, as well as its general counsel. Two more changes there: Sarah Hamm, who's been working for an Austin law firm, joins Duncan as a natural resources wiz (Brandon Lipps left to return to Texas Tech law school), and Pam Dutton is leaving Duncan's San Angelo office after four years later this month.
Gov. Rick Perry ended 2007 with a slew of appointments, naming:
• Larry Kellner of Houston and Sandy Kress of Austin to the Select Committee on Public School Accountability, where they'll wait for the speaker and the lieutenant governor to fill out the panel. Kellner is chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines. Kress is a lawyer with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld with a history of involvement in education issues.
• Richard Nedelkoff as the new conservator of the Texas Youth Commission. Nedelkoff was most recently the COO for a Florida non-profit running residential and community programs for at-risk kids in ten states.
• Don Ballard of Austin to head the Office of Public Utility Counsel, which represents consumers in state and federal utility cases. He's general counsel to the Texas Workforce Commission now, and he'll replace Suzi Ray McClellan, who was first named to the job in 1995 by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
• Patricia Kerrigan of Houston to the 190th Judicial District Court, where she'll replace Judge Jennifer Elrod, who is now on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Kerrigan has been a partner at Werner and Kerrigan. She's running for the rest of the term, and will face two others in the GOP primary.
• William Boyce and Jeffrey Brown of Houston to the state's 14th Court of Appeals. Boyce was a partner with Fulbright & Jaworski. Brown has been judge of the 55th District Court in Harris County. Both will be on the ballot; neither drew a primary opponent. Jeffrey Shadwick, an attorney with Andrews Myers Coulter and Cohen, was Perry's pick for the 55th District Court post. He's got two primary opponents in March.
• Don Minton as judge of the El Paso Criminal Judicial Court No. 1. Minton is a child support judge for El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson counties.
Recovering: Texas Eagle Forum chief Cathie Adams, after cracking a rib and her back in a holiday automobile accident.
Deaths: Ric Williamson, the obstreperous, smart, innovative former legislator who led Gov. Rick Perry's effort to rework the state's transportation infrastructure, apparently from a heart attack. He was 55. Williamson, who served in the Texas House for 14 years, was most recently the head of the Texas Transportation Commission, single-mindedly and aggressively pushing a massive expansion and rehabilitation of the state's roads. He was both controversial and effective, and was entering his final months as chairman of the commission. Williamson, who specialized in the state budget when he was a legislator, earned the nickname "Nitro" when he was in the House, a perfect description of a guy who was both useful and volatile.
Craig Foster, a leading advocate for equal funding of public schools around the state and the founder of The Equity Center, an organization of low-wealth school districts that has been pursuing that notion for years, from cancer. Foster was executive director there for 18 years, then an advisor for another six. He was 69.
Quotes of the Week
Gov. Rick Perry, during a pre-Christmas stop in Iowa (YouTube video here) on behalf of presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani: "Let me share something with you. George W. Bush was never a fiscal conservative... Look, he was better than Al Gore."
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who is married, in an email to his executive secretary that was inadvertently made public by a federal court, a disclosure that prompted him to drop a reelection bid: "The very next time I see you I want to kiss you behind the right ear."
Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, deputy director of the Texas Education Agency, talking to the Austin American-Statesman after calling for the firing of an employee who forwarded a notice of a pro-evolution talk: "The concern was, should these sorts of things be on the TEA e-mail? ... I realize that people have their opinions. If you want to do that, Yahoo is free. Get a Yahoo account."
Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, asked by The Dallas Morning News whether legislative remedies at the Texas Youth Commission were sufficient: "We probably don't have management raping kids now."
Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, on how his colleague, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Lufkin, survived politically, in The Dallas Morning News: "What gets politicians in trouble is when you do something and you hide it and then it comes out and then you try to explain it. "Next thing you know, you're perjuring yourself. But Charlie was always very open, very honest — what you saw is what you got."
Texas Weekly: Volume 25, Issue 1, 7 January 2008. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2008 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For news, email email@example.com, or call (512) 288-6598.