Texas Republicans are waiting to see what Kay will do. Everybody's been talking about it for months and months.
Texas Democrats are waiting to see if they'll have a full and serious statewide ticket in 2010. That's only now starting to get attention.
It's only the beginning of the political season and there are already seven people running for governor — four of them Democrats, three of them Republicans.
On the other hand, the rest of the executive branch offices feature incumbents holding tight or incumbents waiting to see what other incumbents do before they decide what's next. Only one of those Republican-held seats has attracted a candidate — publicly, at least — from the folks in the other party.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott and two out of three Railroad Commissioners are in the waiting group. If U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns to challenge Gov. Rick Perry and opens her spot, Dewhurst and RRCs Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones are all interested in taking her place. If Dewhurst leaves, Abbott has his eyes on that, and if he leaves, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz and Rep. Dan Branch have their eyes on that. Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky plans to run whether he stays or goes. And oil and gas attorney Jeff Weems of Houston is considering a run at the RRC's Victor Carrillo.
Everybody else — Comptroller Susan Combs, Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land and Railroad Commissioner Carrillo — all appear to want to keep the jobs they've got now.
Republicans have incumbents or wannabes lined up for every spot on the ballot.
The race for governor now includes Perry, Hutchison, and Debra Medina on the Republican side. The Democrats in that event are Tom Schieffer of Fort Worth, Hank Gilbert of Whitehouse, Mark Thompson of Garland, and Kinky Friedman of Medina. Thompson ran for Railroad Commission in 2008 but now wants the top job. So does Gilbert, who ran for agriculture commission in 2006 and was, until a couple of weeks ago, planning to do that again.
Outside of the governor's race, the Democrats have so far produced only one sure contender and one possible one. With the exceptions of Radnofsky and Weems, they're not raising money in a serious statewide candidate kind of way, and they haven't started calling around to form the sorts of networks needed for anyone hoping to win a statewide office (put down an exception for people who luck into the job because they catch the prevailing political winds).
Democrats say they've got plenty of time to produce candidates and say the uncertainty over what Hutchison will do has their candidates — like many Republicans — on hold.
And candidates who don't have primaries in front of them do, in fact, have more than a year to go before they'll face voters in a contested election. But it's a critical year for both parties to vie for the statewide posts. In 2010, the federal government will do a census and the Legislature will follow in 2011 by drawing new political maps. If the Legislature gets locked up over that — a high probability outcome — a panel called the Legislative Redistricting Board will take over and draw the maps. That panel includes the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, the attorney general, the comptroller, and the land commissioner. All but the speaker are on the statewide ballot, and the party with at least three of those five spots will control the maps drawn by the LRB.
One Democratic fallback is that even if the Lege fails to produce a map and a Republican LRB turns out a drawing, the whole thing has to get through a Democratic federal Justice Department and then will probably go to court. The cautionary tale is less than ten years old: The current maps were approved by the courts, too. And the Republicans have held the Lege and the Congress ever since.
Democrats for Schieffer
Tom Schieffer won endorsements from four of the Texas House's leading Democrats, picking up some support and giving an answer to the biggest question about him in one stop.
Reps. Garnet Coleman and Jessica Farrar of Houston, Jim Dunnam of Waco, and Pete Gallego of Alpine all endorsed Schieffer and said they'll try to convince their colleagues to join in.
Schieffer was a partner with George W. Bush in the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, was a Bush-appointed ambassador to Australia and Japan. More importantly, to some potential Democratic supporters, he says he voted for Bush every time his friend was on the ballot, and against Democrats Ann Richards, Garry Mauro, Al Gore, and John Kerry.
That's opened the possibility that another Democrat — more attuned to the party's primary voters — would step in and split the electorate with Schieffer. For instance, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, looked at the race for several weeks this summer, and while he was looking, Democratic donors were frozen, holding their money while waiting to see who all might run.
Schieffer's folks are hoping endorsements like these will give new contenders pause, and argue that the same things that make him a troublesome candidate for some Democrats make him a strong candidate in a general election, where moderate Republicans and conservative independents might be willing to give a Bush Democrat a chance. Dunnam opened that brief during the endorsements: "The two alternatives that we have on the other side are people that have been on the government payroll for the last two decades... and I think it's time we have someone who hasn't been in the government for the last two decades."
Showing off a big pot of money can scare others out of a political race — look at the line that's not forming up to face Attorney General Greg Abbott, who's got over $8 million in the bank. Schieffer didn't have a bag of gold in the mid-year reports, and the next campaign finance reports aren't due until mid-January. That's after the filing deadline for the 2010 races, so Schieffer will have to build a stack of endorsements or pull together some other show of strength to keep other serious candidates from joining the race. If he looks strong, they'll go elsewhere.
Hank Gilbert was going to run for agriculture commissioner until a couple of weeks ago, when he went to Tyler and heard Tom Schieffer speak.
"I just didn't get goosebumps," he says.
Gilbert, a rancher and Democrat from Whitehouse who ran for the ag job in 2006, says he decided a few days later to join the race for governor. He'll face Schieffer, Kinky Friedman, Mark Thompson and anybody else who shows up; the winner will probably face either Rick Perry or Kay Bailey Hutchison in the general election a year from November.
Gilbert said a call from former gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell sealed the deal. He says Bell tried to encourage him to support Schieffer and to stay in the agriculture race. The candidate says he'll promote education and insurance reform, term limits (no more than two terms for each statewide executive office), and tighter control of transportation planning and state spending. He retooled his website for the venture and will announce officially on September 21.
The Bicker Ticker
We once believed that admonition about not paying attention to politics until after Labor Day, but that's long dead, and the two leading Republican candidates for governor are hitting the "Send" button on their press blasts at a hyperactive pace. A sampling from our inbox over the last week, more or less in the order received:
Rick Perry accepts debate invitations from the Denton and Tarrant County GOP. Implores Kay Bailey Hutchison to join him.
Hutchison says Perry should say how much state money he's spending on "phony re-signing ceremonies" — traveling around the state for ceremonial signings of bills he signed early in the summer.
Perry issues an unflattering video summary of Hutchison's announcement tour.
Hutchison's team makes open records requests asking for financial details of the signing ceremonies.
Perry got an endorsement from Texas Eagle Forum president and Republican National Committee member Cathie Adams.
Hutchison follows employment announcement from the state by pointing out that the number of government employees under Perry is rising.
Perry posts a new Internet video in a series his folks call "You Never Know What Kay Will Say".
Hutchison elbows Perry for talking, in The Wall Street Journal, about the goings-on at the 1976 Republican Convention, noting that the governor, at the time, was a Democrat and voted for Jimmy Carter that year.
Perry starts a drumbeat for Hutchison's personal income tax returns, implying her husband's income from bonds on public projects is linked to her votes on funding for those projects (denied by the Hutchison campaign and not in evidence in the couple's income tax returns, which came out later in the week).
Hutchison says the state balanced its budget with $12 billion in federal stimulus money and that Perry, who's been bashing the federal spending, signed it.
Perry wins the endorsement of Texas Right to Life.
Hutchison bangs the drum about the signing ceremonies, and about increases in state spending and the number of state workers.
Another video from Perry, this one on inconsistencies in Hutchison's writing and voting on bailouts.
Hutchison presses Perry to answer questions about the Trans-Texas Corridor (he says it's dead; she says it's still in his toolbox) and refers supporters to a Trans-Texas Corridor Clock she says will run until he answers TTC questions to her satisfaction.
Perry was endorsed by the Houston Realty Business Coalition.
Hutchison posts an unflattering video about Perry's efforts to disrupt her announcement tour.
Perry asks again for Hutchison's tax returns, and also directs supporters to the unflattering video she posted earlier, adding a letter to ethics officials asking if Perry should report it as a political contribution.
Hutchison distributes an article about medical and other problems resulting from the same HPV shots Perry tried to mandate for teenaged girls in 2007.
Perry announces an endorsement from the Texas Apartment Association.
Hutchison releases tax returns showing she and husband Ray paid $2.1 million in income taxes from 2000 through last year.
Linda Rogers, chairman of the Burnet County Republican Party and president of the Texas Republican County Chairman's Association, endorses Perry.
Hutchison's newest unflattering video, titled "groundhog day," spoofs Perry's bill signings. And they ask him again how much money it's costing to fly around and sign those bills.
Latino lawmakers want the next set of Texas political maps to reflect the full strength of the state's growing Hispanic population.
The state demographer's office estimates Texas' Hispanic count will swell from its 2000 figure of 31.9 percent of the state's population to anywhere from 35 to 44 percent in 2010, setting up a battle some lawmakers believe is already destined for the courts. The 2010 numbers — based on the Census to be conducted next year — will form the basis for redrawing state political districts in 2011. Those districts, in turn, will form the new political map in the 2012 elections.
Those with a stake in the game are already drawing up plans.
"From what I can see there is only one political party in state of Texas that seems to have trouble with Latinos, and that's not the party that I am in," said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat. "I can't speak for what they are doing but I can tell you this, the growth is undeniable. Everybody recognizes that Texas is poised to gain seats as a result of the explosion in our population."
Martinez Fischer, chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, believes that barring some near-miracle the issue will again go before the courts. Past lessons learned, he added, means there will be a watchful eye over the process "to make sure that all of these maps reflect our demographic changes and reflect the fact that Texas is a growing and diverse state."
He expects the higher courts — if redistricting plans come before them — to uphold the federal Voting Rights Act in a way that reflects the impact the Hispanic population has on the new political map. The law requires legislative and congressional seats to be reapportioned based on population following the decennial census, and that redrawn maps be submitted to the Department of Justice for review.
"Every redistricting scenario that I've seen where there has been widespread litigation has always come down to the way Latinos specifically were treated," he says. "I think that we have demonstrated in the last several decades that when it comes to the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act And Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that those words have meaning."
Time to engage in dialogue remains, he said, but so does the obvious alternative. "They can listen to us and invite us in and accept our input or they can be instructed by the Supreme Court," he said.
Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, sits on the House Committee on Redistricting and hinted that having a committee focused on redistricting is positive, but may be only for show.
"It's quite different because there is what a textbook would tell you to do and what really goes on," he said. He assumes "what really" will go on following the 2010 census will be legislative gridlock and a new map instead drawn by the ex officio-comprised Legislative Redistricting Board after a partisan stalemate in the Texas Legislature.
"I would imagine that the Republicans would want to push this through to the (Legislative) Redistricting Board," he said, predicting a strong GOP resistance to any map that dilutes the party's strength.
Then, he said, it will be off to the courthouse they go, led by whoever feels slighted by the maps drawn by Texas officials.
But the rift is not just between parties, Peña reminded, as Democrats tend to muddy their own waters through territorial battles. Groups like LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) promote the creation of more districts and in turn more Latino representation. They tangle with party members who want to maximize their political strength within existing boundaries, he said.
"People have to decide what they want. Sometimes an Anglo Democrat can be a better representative than Hispanic Democrat," he said. "You have to say to yourself, 'Are we just looking at last names?'"
Nina Perales, MALDEF's regional counsel in San Antonio, said Latino incumbents might also prefer the status quo and fight to keep it that way, which throws another wrench into the gears.
"Latino civil rights advocates might say 'We are underrepresented in the state of Texas,' and they might look at increasing Latino population in the state as an opportunity and a mandate to draw more Latino-opportunity districts," she said. "That goal sometimes comes into conflict with Latino incumbents. If you are pulling Latino population out of an existing Latino-opportunity district to make another one adjacent, the incumbent in the district that is losing Latino population might be uncomfortable with that."
Perales has successfully argued against proposed redistricting maps this decade, including in 2001 in a case that successfully restored Rep. Mike Villarreal's district after it was dissolved during redistricting that same year. The resulting rulings allowed the San Antonio Democrat a successful bid at reelection in 2003.
Villarreal is the current vice-chair of the House Committee on Redistricting and said it's too soon to tell how the numbers will play out, but believes his committee can be put to good use until then.
"I think that there are opportunities to have honest conversations now, early during this interim," said Villarreal. "Not (necessarily) making any decisions but just coming to terms with the demographic changes of our state and having legislators come to a consensus on a regional level."
Villarreal, whose district borders that of Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, did align himself with what Peña characterized as the "MALDEF" approach to redistricting that maximizes the number of Latino-opportunity districts instead of packing Hispanic voters into a smaller number of districts.
"I believe it's a disservice to pack any demographic group in to a single district," said Villarreal. "I think there is more effective representation when a representative has to represent a diverse group of people and that could be diversity, not just ethnically, but also by (income) class."
In North Texas, the 2010 census and the subsequent map it produces have some hopeful the region will have another Latino representative at the state and federal levels.
"There is already a lot of talk in North Texas about the need for a Hispanic majority congressional seat and a state senate seat. Right now there are no Hispanic state senators north of San Antonio," said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. "(Former Sen.) Gonzalo Barrientos used to hold the seat in Austin but now he is no longer there and it really impacts the Hispanic communities' political clout in North Texas."
Anchia, a three-term House member, declined making a prediction on how Hispanics would fare, but said the process would likely end up being less than neat.
"It would be nice if there was a transparent and rational process but redistricting is anything but that. I am a very practical person and I understand that there are many competing constituencies," he said.
Anchia said he was also increasing his efforts to dispel the census myths that could lead Texas to once again record one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation, specifically as it pertains to Latinos.
Anchia conceded that in the current political climate surrounding voter ID, immigration and border security, the census for Latinos could be seen as a political "cucuy," the mythical Mexican "boogeyman" that plays on the irrational fears of the timid or superstitious. Even honest answers could draw fears from documented, undocumented and Hispanic U.S. citizens whose full faith in the U.S. government is not realized, Anchia agreed. As chair of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Education Fund he is helping spearhead a campaign called Hagase Contar (Make Yourself Count), in order to ensure an accurate count next year.
MALDEF is also embarked on a similar campaign, as are county and city governments across the state that realize maximizing participation is the obvious first step toward reflecting the demographic changes of Texas. The stakes are high for Latino politicians hoping the Census translates into long-awaited political strength and maximum representation. For others, it could mean a fierce battle to maintain the status quo and in turn, their political futures.
—by Julian Aguilar
Gingrich Likes Mike
Michael Williams picked up an out-of-state endorsement from Newt Gingrich in his bid to become the next U.S. Senator from Texas. Williams broke the news in an Austin American-Statesman blog, and then on Facebook and Twitter, directing his supporters to a fundraising and endorsement letter from the former U.S. House Speaker.
Gingrich can't vote in Texas, but the endorsement could help raise Williams' profile in a pack of Republican and Democratic candidates who'd like to take over when Kay Bailey Hutchison leaves that seat. Hutchison, who's running for governor against fellow Republican Rick Perry, has told supporters and reporters she'll resign later this fall. She's not required to do that, but if she does, Perry would appoint someone to the seat and also call a special election to pick a permanent replacement.
Williams, who's on the Texas Railroad Commission, is one of several pols expressing an interest. The pack includes Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, state Sen. Florence Shapiro, and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams — all Republicans — and Alma Aguado, former Comptroller John Sharp and Houston Mayor Bill White — all Democrats.
Political People and Their Moves
Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, will seek a tenth term in the Texas House, in HD-67. He's probably going to be in a rematch with Republican Jon Cole of Plano, who ran against him in 2008 and came within 265 votes of knocking him off.
Greg Noschese resigned as mayor pro tem of Mesquite and will run for the Texas House against Rep. Robert Miklos, D-Mesquite, in next year's election. Both men are attorneys. Miklos, a freshman lawmaker, beat former Mesquite Mayor Mike Anderson in last year's election.
Darlene Brugnoli, who did tax policy for Gov. Rick Perry and, before that, for then-House Speaker Tom Craddick, left the Pink Building to work as a special tax counsel for the attorney general's office.
Angela Hale, communications director for House Speaker Joe Straus, is leaving that job for the private sector. She'll join Red Media Group, a public relations firm made up of former TV folk like Hale herself, who worked at KXAS-TV in Fort Worth before going to work for Attorney General Greg Abbott. She came to Straus' office from Abbott's at the beginning of this year. No replacement has been named.
Mike Barnett is the new director of political affairs for the Texas Association of Realtors. He's a former House staffer who's been working for the Realtors on local campaigns and policy issues in North Texas.
Stephanie Gibson is the new executive director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.
Gov. Rick Perry appointed:
Ruben Gonzalez Jr. of Fort Worth to the 432nd District Court. He's an attorney with his own practice and a former Tarrant County assistant district attorney. He'll serve until the next elections (and after that if he runs and wins).
Dallas accountant and recent city council candidate George "Brint" Ryan, Midland County Judge Michael Bradford, and Steve Mitchell, a business systems analyst from Richardson, to the board of regents at the University of North Texas. Ryan backed Carole Keeton Strayhorn in the last governor's race and took some shots from Perry's camp. Now he's a Perry supporter and contributor. And a Regent. Ryan and Mitchell are NT alums.
Carlos Rubenstein of Austin to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and picked Bryan Shaw, who's already on that board, to chair it. Rubenstein was deputy executive director at TCEQ.
Department of Corrections: George Clayton of Richardson has opened a campaign account to run against State Board of Education member Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, R-Dallas. We mixed him up with his treasurer, James Southward, in last week's edition... One more: We put Billy Briscoe, who's running for the Texas House, on Bill Hobby's staff. He worked for Paul Hobby, son of the former lite guv. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Quotes of the Week
State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, joking with constituents at a town hall meeting that had nothing to do with federal health care proposals, quoted in a Midland Reporter-Telegram story: "You've been seeing people stand up and yell at all these town hall meetings, so if you feel the need to do that, go ahead."
Carol Biedrzycki of Texas ROSE, quoted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I don't like that part of the rule at all. I just think the [retail electric providers] ought to accept the estimate and eat it... All these REPs, they're just crybabies who cry about every little dollar. If an estimate is off a little bit, it's not going to be the difference in the company staying in business or not."
Democrat Tom Schieffer, asked by a Houston Chronicle reporter why he still finds himself answering questions about his political ties to former President George W. Bush: "I guess I just keep running into you, R.G."
U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, telling the Wichita Falls Times Record News that he supports Kay Bailey Hutchison's bid for governor: "I support her personally. She backed out of the race four years ago with an understanding she would run in this election cycle. She's been very effective for Texas in Congress. I think we're in for quite a show."
Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, starting off a press conference by telling reporters that his daughter wrecked a car on the first day of school: "Put that in the paper — maybe she'll stop driving fast and start watching where she's going."
Democrat Hank Gilbert, asked why he decided to run for governor: "That's always the first question."
Texas Weekly: Volume 26, Issue 32, 31 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For news, email email@example.com, or call (512) 288-6598.
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