If U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison really does step down in October or November, as she said recently on WBAP-AM, the election to replace her could land anytime between December and May. It'd be in May unless Gov. Rick Perry — the guy Hutchison hopes to unseat — declares an emergency and sets an earlier date.
If she were to quit, Perry would appoint someone fairly quickly.
But what makes sense for the election date depends on the appointee (and how much political money he or she has), on what effect the date might have on the gubernatorial primary election and the Republican electorate, and on the competition for political money.
A politically rich Republican candidate like David Dewhurst could benefit from a quick election, since it would take place before most of the rest of the pack could pull together funding for a statewide race. The bugs in that soup are two Democrats, Houston Mayor Bill White and former Comptroller John Sharp, who have already banked $3.3 million and $2.9 million, respectively. Dewhurst doesn't have a federal account, but the widely held assumption is that he could write a personal check to finance a statewide campaign.
Other Texans with fat federal bank accounts at mid-year include U.S. Reps. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, $2.2 million; Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, $2.9 million; Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas $1.7 million; and Joe Barton, R-Ennis, $1.4 million. Nobody in that quartet has publicly expressed any interest in Hutchison's job. Barton lost to her in the special election in 1993. Paul, who has a national following (think fundraising) and an ardent base of supporters in Texas (think TEA parties and votes), would be an instant contender.
Most of those who have expressed an interest aren't in the million-plus club: Dr. Alma Aguado, a San Antonio Democrat who has never held public office, has no money on hand, according to reports she filed with the Federal Election Commission. Four Republicans have varying amounts: Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, $443,211; Sen. Florence Shapiro, $296,361; Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, $168,144; and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, $727,597.
Perry has kept his poker face, leaving the speculation about who'd get the appointment to everybody else.
A May election means voters would have no distractions from what promises to be the most competitive primary race since the 1990 Democratic demolition derby featuring Jim Mattox, Ann Richards, and Mark White. The governor's race (and all the other primaries) would be saved from competing for attention with a special election for Senate. And the Senate candidates would be rescued from trying to buy advertising time that not already been scooped up by Kay and Rick.
Maybe that's good for Perry, maybe not.
If the Democrats don't have any ballot-top battles, the Republican primary could attract independent voters drawn to the conflict, and maybe some Democrats who cross over to spoil the elephants' party. "Conventional wisdom" sounds like an oxymoron in this context, so put it like this: You can find Republican political consultants who think that a bigger-than-normal primary will be more moderate than a normal one and that that will be good for the more moderate candidate. They think that candidate is Hutchison. (The Hutchison campaign, meanwhile, is telling reporters that she's just as conservative as Perry but isn't confrontational about it — a sign they'll be positioning her to the right to appeal to GOP voters.)
Say, on the other hand, that Perry called a January special election. Voters would go to the polls that month. They'd probably go to the polls a month later for a runoff (the last open Senate election in Texas, in 1993, drew 24 candidates). And then they'd go to the polls on March 2 to vote in the primaries. That could produce some burned-out voters. That could lower turnout. And a lower turnout (again with the conventional wisdom) would concentrate die-hard Republicans — the kind of people who vote no matter what — and that would favor the more conservative candidate. They think that's Perry.
The money hunt is probably a wash. The Senate wanna-bes are already raising money and in virtually every scenario, they'll be raising money before, during and after the primaries. Hutchison and Perry have to compete with them and with everyone else who'll be dragging sacks for the March elections. The Republican gubernatorial candidates will almost certainly have all the money they need (at mid-year, she had a balance of $12.5 million; his was $9.4 million.) Down the ballot is where the money will get thin.
It's possible Perry could call a special election as early as December. But that would give current officeholders a risk-free run. A loser in a December special election for U.S. Senate would be able to run for a different office in the 2010 regular election. Eyes here generally turn to Bill White, who has consistently said he wants to run for Senate. A loss in an early election would give him time to regroup and file for a state office — governor, say — in the first week of January. If Perry puts the special election in January, White and others wouldn't have that safety net.
Hanging Up the Robe
Justice Harriet O'Neill says she won't seek reelection to the court next year.
The Republican judge has been on the court since 1999 and is second in seniority to Justice Nathan Hecht, who got there ten years earlier and remains there today. O'Neill was a district court judge and a justice on Houston's 14th Court of Appeals before joining the state's highest civil court. She has no plans to run again (but doesn't rule out something, someday), and doesn't know what she'll do when she's off the court. O'Neill had been talked about as a candidate for attorney general; that's not in the cards this time. "At the end of this term, I'll have 18 years as a judge and it seems time to do something else," she says. "It's really no more than that."
Jim Moseley, who announced his candidacy for Texas Supreme Court in June, followed O'Neill's announcement by saying he'll run for her open seat (he hadn't specified a seat before now). Moseley, who's been on Dallas' Fifth Court of Appeals for 13 years, is an active Republican and was first appointed to that court by then-Gov. George W. Bush in 1996.
O'Neill is one of three justices whose terms end next year; Scott Brister and Paul Green are also up for reelection in 2010.
Kay Bailey Hutchison shuffled her gubernatorial campaign staff while we were out, naming Terry Sullivan the campaign manager, Jennifer Coxe-Baker a senior communications advisor, Jeff Sadofsky the press secretary, and Joe Pounder the deputy communications director. Hans Klingler is now communications director, and Rick Wiley, who had been the campaign manager, has moved on to other pastures. Sullivan was here four years ago preparing to run Hutchison's 2006 campaign for governor. When she backed out, he returned to his home on South Carolina.
Hutchison fired an Internet consultant after the Austin American-Statesman wrote about hundreds of phrases — "rick perry gay" was one, "pro choice kay bailey hutchison" was another — woven into the unseen parts of her website. The idea, they said, was to manipulate Internet search engines to raise the site's profile. The first part didn't work, but they did raise the site's profile.
Gov. Rick Perry accepted two debate invitations from the Belo Corp. and the Collin County GOP, prompting Hutchison to do the same. The weird part? The dates haven't even been set.
Hutchison slammed Perry for saying he opposes the federal "cash for clunkers" program (she also opposes it), noting that he signed off on the state's own, more modest, program. Perry answered that the Texas plan is fully funded and that the federal program is not. She put her version in an Internet spot.
Florence Shapiro, who'd like to move from the state Senate to the U.S. Senate (if Hutchison moves on, etc., etc., etc.), won endorsements from former U.S. Secretaries of Education Bill Bennett and Margaret Spellings.
Spellings, who went to Washington with George W. Bush, is a former legislative staffer in Texas and worked on education matters there. Shapiro heads the state Senate Education Committee.
Democrat Jack McDonald, the tech exec putting together a challenge to U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Austin, is giving up his job as CEO of Austin-based Perficient. He'll remain chairman of the board. McDonald had $557,557 in the bank at mid-year to McCaul's $359,088. That district stretches from Austin to Houston.
Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Democrat running for state attorney general, says she's won endorsements from 52 Democratic county chairmen.
Put Cedar Park City Councilman Stephen Thomas on the list of candidates looking at Dan Gattis' seat in the state Legislature. This is an "if, then if" situation: If Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, gives up his seat in the state Senate, Gattis, R-Georgetown, wants to run. And if he's not in place, Thomas is one of two candidates (so far) telling Williamson County Republicans he's interested. The other is Milton Rister, a former political consultant and former head of the Texas Legislative Council. Thomas is a state employee — a deputy executive director at the Texas Facilities Commission.
While we're there, at least three Republicans are knocking around the idea of a challenge to freshman Rep. Diana Maldonado, D-Round Rock, including one of the losers in the 2008 GOP primary for that HD-52 seat. Maldonado wrested the seat away from the Republicans after Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Austin, decided not to seek reelection. John Gordon, who finished third in the GOP primary, is telling people he's interested, as is Stephen Casey, who works for the Texas Supreme Court, and Ralph Pina, the veep at Fumée, a cigar retailer.
Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, says he will seek reelection to a sixth term in the Texas House in HD-132.
Actual Mileage May Vary
It's illegal for a corporation or labor union to reimburse a state officeholder for transportation, food, and lodging expenses that arise from making a speech or presentation to a group, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.
"An elected officeholder may not accept transportation, meals, and lodging from a corporation or labor organization in return for addressing an audience or participating in a seminar if the officeholder's services are in connection with his or her duties or activities as an officeholder," the commission says in a new opinion approved 5-1 by the TEC board.
The ruling (it's opinion #547) could affect reimbursements dating back two years, according to lawyers who've looked it over. Since many trade groups are organized as corporations, reimbursements they've made to state officeholders for speaking to their groups could be in question.
Officeholders already know they can't accept honoraria for such appearances. And the reimbursements are legal under the penal code and the state's lobby laws. It's the campaign finance statutes that cause the problem. Texas doesn't allow corporations and unions to give to campaigns and candidates.
Even, as it turns out, to reimburse expenses like these.
Their lobbyists can make those contributions, so unions and corporations with non-staff lobbyists can run the money back through those folks.
One more twist: An elected official who makes an appearance during a legislative session can't be reimbursed during a legislative session. It's illegal to accept campaign contributions while the Lege is in regular session, for a month before, and for three weeks after the session ends. That taboo applies to everyone — not just corporations and unions.
Kino Flores Indicted
Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, has been indicted on charges he hid sources of income, gifts, real estate holdings and other information from his legally required personal financial disclosure forms.
Travis County District Attorney announced the indictments on Friday afternoon, saying the grand jury handed up six different indictments — each relating to a different year — containing 16 counts of tampering with a government record and three counts of perjury.
Flores, reached by phone, said he had not yet seen the indictments and had no immediate comment. His attorney, Roy Minton, said he was "not impressed" by the indictments. "Almost everything they allege is failure to report income," he said. Minton said misreporting on personal financial forms is a common mistake and one that shouldn't have led to an indictment. "Never have I had an indictment on a guy [in this situation]," he said. "Now they do it to a Hispanic from the Valley. I'm really sorry they did it."
Minton said Flores will file a not guilty plea and said he expects to go to trial on the charges sometime in the fall.
Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg described the indictments this way in a press release:
"The income that Flores failed to disclose exceeded $152,000 in 2004, $125,000 in 2005, $115,000 in 2006, $135,000 in 2007, $185,000 in 2008 and $135,000 in 2009. One count also alleges that he failed to disclose income a dependant child received from HillCo Partners, an Austin lobby firm. The real estate and sales of property that he is alleged to have failed to disclose include a lot in Hidalgo County, a cabin on the inter-coastal waterway in Cameron County, a small ranch in Hidalgo County, a residence in Mission, a condominium in Austin, land in Bastrop County and a residence in Austin. The indictments also allege that he failed to disclose certain gifts, including trips on a plane owned by the LaMantia family in 2007 and an ownership interest in a racehorse given to a dependent child by a lobbyist in 2004."
Flores later issued a statement:
"When I was first elected to represent my constituents, I took an oath to uphold the laws and ethics rules of this great state. At no point during my public service have I intentionally or knowingly violated any state law or rule. So today, I am extremely disappointed that the Travis county public integrity unit has decided to hand out an indictment against me after a lengthy investigation into my personal and political dealings. Today's indictment concerns a number of reports that were allegedly incomplete. Throughout this entire investigation, I have fully cooperated and have disclosed any evidence required of me. Moving forward, it is my intent to continue my cooperation in order to bring closure to this matter. I hope that I receive the support of my constituents throughout this unfortunate event and ask that they reserve judgment until I have my day in court. I can assure you that I will fight as hard as I do for District 36 to clear my name. My family and I ask for your thoughts and prayers during this tumultuous time."
You can see the press release and all six indictments here.
Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables
This stuff is going to be on the ballot in November, and Secretary of State Hope Andrade says it'll be in the following order:
Proposition 1 (HJR 132)
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the financing, including through tax increment financing, of the acquisition by municipalities and counties of buffer areas or open spaces adjacent to a military installation for the prevention of encroachment or for the construction of roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure to protect or promote the mission of the military installation."
Proposition 2 (HJR 36-1)
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for the ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property's value as a residence homestead."
Proposition 3 (HRJ 36-3)
"The constitutional amendment providing for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for ad valorem tax purposes."
Proposition 4 (HJR 14-2)
"The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund."
Proposition 5 (HJR 36-2)
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to authorize a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that elect to provide for consolidated equalizations."
Proposition 6 (HJR 116)
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the Veterans' Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized."
Proposition 7 (HJR 127)
"The constitutional amendment to allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices."
Proposition 8 (HJR 7)
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans hospitals in this state."
Proposition 9 (HJR 102)
"The constitutional amendment to protect the right of the public, individually and collectively, to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico."
Proposition 10 (HJR 85)
"The constitutional amendment to provide that elected members of the governing boards of emergency services districts may serve terms not to exceed four years."
Proposition 11 (HJR 14-1)
"The constitutional amendment to prohibit the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for public use unless the action is for the ownership, use, and enjoyment of the property by the State, a political subdivision of the State, the public at large, or entities granted the power of eminent domain under law or for the elimination of urban blight on a particular parcel of property, but not for certain economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes, and to limit the legislature's authority to grant the power of eminent domain to an entity."
Political People and Their Moves
Steve McCraw became the 12th director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. He'd been director of homeland security in the governor's office since 2004, but started his career at DPS as a trooper in 1977. He also did a stint with the FBI.
Charles Matthews, chancellor of the Texas State University System for the last five years, announced plans to resign in February 2010 (that'll make it five years on the job). He's a former Texas Railroad Commissioner and Garland mayor. The schools in that chain include Texas State University in San Marcos, Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Lamar University in Beaumont, and Sul Ross State University in Alpine.
Remove the "interim" from Michael Kelley's new title at the Texas Department of Public Safety. The agency's former legislative guy is now chief of the Driver License Division.
John Cox, the Texas Education Agencys chief information officer, has been promoted to associate commissioner for information technology and agency operations. He'll keep the CIO title, too.
Former state Rep. Juan Garcia, D-Corpus, won U.S. Senate confirmation as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
Steve Roddy is moving on after 18 years as a Senate staffer, and Dave Nelson will be the new chief of staff for Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville. No, they're not related. Janet Elliott, formerly of the Houston Chronicle, joined the staff as communications director. Brooke Hambrick got promoted to district director, and Austin Holder will be the new clerk on the Health & Human Services Committee, replacing Kyle Baum, who's leaving for law school.
Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia is the newly elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, or NALEO.
Dennis Nixon, a political player and banker in Laredo (he's the CEO of International Bank of Commerce), got selected as Mr. South Texas 2010. He's the 60th person to receive the honor.
Gov. Rick Perry appointed:
David Cibrian of San Antonio to the Finance Commission of Texas. Cibrian is a partner with Strasburger and Price and a former CPA.
Rodney Satterwhite of Midland to the 441st District Court in Midland County. Satterwhite is an attorney with Stubbemann, McRae, Sealy, Laughlin and Browder.
W. Bernard "Barney" Fudge to the 78th District Court in Wichita County. He's been a partner at Fudge and Elder.
Quotes of the Week
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, quoted by the San Antonio Express-News saying he'll vote against confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court: "The stakes are simply too high for me to confirm someone who could address all these issues from a liberal, activist perspective."
Michael Vivio, publisher of the Austin American-Statesman, quoted in that paper announcing that its owner is taking it off the sale block: "Cox Enterprises said from the beginning that it would not preside over a fire sale. This is a profitable company, and it just did not make sense to sell it for the prices offered."
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, quoted by Congressional Quarterly on Gov. Rick Perry's decision to seek reelection next year: "Nobody expected him to run for 15 years, and I think there's a chance that he wouldn't run because he would see how divisive it is and that he's trying to stay too long and that he can really help in many ways if he doesn't run, in which case I could then be able to stay in the Senate all the way to the end."
Gov. Rick Perry, in The Dallas Morning News: "I guess 15 years in the Senate is not too long."
Dr. Ron Anderson, CEO of Dallas' Parkland Health & Hospital System, quoted in The Dallas Morning News on the high cost of chronically homeless people, remembering one in particular: "When I ran the ER I used to say if we bought him a place on the French Riviera and gave him a $50,000 a year stipend, it would be cheaper."
Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, quoted in the San Antonio Express-News on the state's use of dedicated fee and tax income for other purposes: "It is a shell game, but you know, life is a shell game."
El Paso County Commissioner Dan Haggerty, on a running argument between Rep. Norma Chavez and county lobbyist Claudia Russell, in the El Paso Times: "Call me a chauvinist pig, but it's a bunch of catfighting among women. Girls, let's cut our nails."
A Note to Texas Weekly Readers
The Texas Tribune is buying Texas Weekly and naming me the managing editor of the new enterprise.
The Tribune is a newly created nonprofit, nonpartisan public media organization whose mission is to promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide interest.
One of the things they'll be doing — we'll be doing — is publishing the newsletter a few of you have been receiving every week since 1984 — and that all of you see every Friday morning.
We don't expect any more disruption than in 1998, when founding editor Sam Kinch Jr. sold his share of the newsletter to me, or when George Phenix, our publisher and the last of the three founders (the late John Rogers was the third), retired in 2006.
You will see some changes by the end of the year. But frankly, the biggest of them is probably this note. We'll continue to do what Sam and George and John set out to do in the first place — to give you honest, entertaining, and insightful reporting and analysis, every week, on what's going on in Texas politics and government.
We remain devoted to you, and will continue to strive to deserve the loyalty you've shown us for all these years.
—Ross Ramsey, Editor
Texas Weekly: Volume 26, Issue 29, 10 August 2009. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2009 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 email@example.com. For news, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (512) 288-6598.