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Final Preparations

If you're checking off the boxes for gubernatorial candidates, Thursday belonged to Gov. Rick Perry, who filed for reelection before noon on the first day he was allowed to do so.

If you're checking off the boxes for gubernatorial candidates, Thursday belonged to Gov. Rick Perry, who filed for reelection before noon on the first day he was allowed to do so.

Friday belongs to Houston Mayor Bill White, who's expected to say he's decided to run for governor rather than for the U.S. Senate. No Democrats filed for that post on Day One, but that list includes Felix Alvarado, Kinky Friedman, Hank Gilbert, and Farouk Shami.

Monday will see the news move back to Austin, where U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will file papers for her place on the primary ballot, opposite Perry and Debra Medina, who's running but hasn't put in the paperwork (and the check).

Those are just the headliners. It's time to harvest the political speculations of the last several months: Democrats and Republicans have until January 4 to put their names on the ballots, or not, in anticipation of the March 2 primaries.

No real surprises on the first day, but Steve Ogden finally answered the question about his race (he's in), and did it slowly enough to draw the first primary opponent of his career, in Ben Bius of Walker County. Dan Gattis won't be anywhere on the ballot, but that little shocker dropped a few days before the filing started.

Changes are part of the deal. Gilbert, the gubernatorial candidate, might call an audible before White's big production on Friday. Gilbert's campaign says he will conduct "a virtual press conference with Texas media to address his status in the race for Governor of Texas." The Democrat's staff sent the notice out at midnight, offering no clues as to what's going on. Other Democrats have been talking (constantly) about the shape of the party's ticket if White's in the race for governor. Gilbert, who ran four years ago for Agriculture Commissioner, could stay put, get out, or move into another statewide race. The most likely landing spot? Land commissioner has been the favorite rumor, but apparently isn't true. Another run at agriculture is also possible.

Dr. Alma Aguado, a San Antonio physician, says she's switching from the U.S. Senate race to the race for governor — still running as a Democrat. She's got a federal campaign account going — it had a $750 balance at the end of September — but hasn't run a state report yet. That filing isn't due until next month. William Corwin Dear, a private investigator from Mt. Calm, filed to run for governor, too.

It's also possible for candidates to move once they've filed. They can change races, pull out, you name it. It's a one-month biennial festival of political ambition, bluffing, chicanery, and rumor. It culminates when the doors close on January 4th and the parties stop accepting filings, and there's almost always something unexpected at the deadline.

Candidates file with the state parties if they're running a race in a district that crosses county lines. Statewide races cross all of them. But lots of urban and suburban candidates have districts that don't cross the lines; they can file in their county party offices. The state parties put the filings on the Internet; local offices have varied levels of skill. So the lists we've got are incomplete, because not all of those local parties have distributed the information.

The Republican Party of Texas lists its candidate filings here. The Texas Democratic Party's list is here. We'll add links for other counties, and to a comprehensive list we'll compile from those, when they open the spigots.

Top of the Ballot

Several Democrats filed for statewide office on the first day, including Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer running for Attorney General; Jeff Weems, a Houston lawyer who wants to be on the Texas Railroad Commission, and Bill Burton, a real estate instructor in Athens running for land commissioner.

Weems summarized his challenges (and those of other newbie candidates) like this: "I'm the new guy. You guys don't know me. A lot of people don't know me."

The Legislature

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, filed to run for a new term. He looked at the governor's race earlier this year and has been mentioned steadily as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor. But you can't run for two offices on the same Election Day, and Watson's looking for a repeat. Several Republican senators filed for reelection, including Kevin Eltife of Tyler, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, Ogden, Jane Nelson of Lewisville, Joan Huffman of Houston, and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio.

Carol Kent is seeking a second term in the House. But the Dallas Democrat, who upset a Republican incumbent in 2008, is now on defense. She filed on the first day major-party candidates can sign up. She's in a pack of people who filed for reelection on the first day.

A partial list of Democrats seeking reelection to the House also includes Robert Miklos of Mesquite, whose initial focus will be on utility and insurance rates, and fellow Dallas County officeholders Roberto Alonzo, Kirk England, Allen Vaught; Donna Howard of Austin; Ellen Cohen of Houston; Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice, Mark Homer of Paris, Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs, and Joe Heflin of Crosbyton.

The Republican list includes Linda Harper-Brown of Irving, who survived the tightest vote count on the state ballot last year, winning by fewer than two dozen voters out of more than 40,000; Dallas County Republican Reps. Will Hartnett, Dan Branch, Angie Chen Button, and Jim Jackson; Harris County Republicans Patricia Harless, Wayne Smith, John Davis, Bill Callegari, Beverly Woolley, Dwayne Bohac, and Ken Legler; and Betty Brown of Terrell; Byron Cook of Corsicana; Wayne Christian of Center; Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville; John Zerwas of Houston; Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi; Phil King of Weatherford; Doug Miller of New Braunfels; and Delwin Jones of Lubbock.

The challenger list after the first day includes former Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, who'll be trying to win his seat back from freshman Democrat Kristi Thibaut. Greg Noschese and Cindy Burkett both filed in the GOP primary hoping to challenge freshman Rep. Robert Miklos next November. Charles Perry filed to run against Delwin Jones.

Dr. Susan Curling, chief of staff at both the Kingwood and Humble hospitals, will challenge Rep. Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, for the HD-127 seat in the House. In fact, he'll have at least four challengers if he runs, including her, Dan Huberty, Addie Wiseman and Martin Basaldua.

Abel Bosquez of Amarillo will challenge Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, but that's a Democrat challenging a Republican; first, the two have to get through the primaries.

Lance Gooden, a former legislative assistant to Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, is putting together a challenge to his former boss in the Republican primary. He's got a website up and running, but hasn't filed yet. She has filed.

No surprise here: Sergio Muñoz Jr., whose dad was a state representative, filed in the Democratic primary in HD-36. He's running for the seat now held by Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview. Flores announced, after he was indicted earlier this year, that he won't seek reelection. Sandra Rodriguez, who ran against Flores in 2008, is expected to get into this race, too. In another open seat, Republican Lanham Lyne of Wichita Falls filed to run for David Farabee's spot; Farabee won't run again. Three of the candidates who want to replace Gattis in the House all filed: Dr. Charles Schwertner, a surgeon; Patsy Williams, who listed her occupation as auditor/concealed handgun instructor; and Stephen Thomas, who left the Cedar Park city council to enter the race.

One More Time

State Sen. Steve Ogden, who said earlier this year he would leave the Legislature after his current term, will seek another two years in office after all. And he may have drawn the first primary opponent of his political career.

Ogden announced in September he would retire after this term. Rep. Dan Gattis of Georgetown and another Republican, Ben Bius of Walker County, both started campaigns. But Gattis dropped his bid over the weekend, saying he had talked to Ogden and announcing that Ogden was willing to come back. That turns out to be true, but Ogden was silent for several days and during that time, Bius apparently decided to forge ahead.

Unless one of them changes his mind, Bius — who's lost three previous bids for office — will face Ogden, who hasn't lost one yet.

Bius filed for the race bright and early on the first day for filings at state GOP headquarters and in an interview, didn't sound like a man who will stand down. Ogden, who's never had a contested primary, is resigned to that: "I have no one to blame but myself."

Ogden, a Bryan Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, says the next budget is going to be a mess and that he felt he could do more about it from his spot in the Texas Senate than from any other perch. He admits he considered running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, but says he wouldn't have enough political power as a freshman Republican in Congress to have an immediate impact on the federal deficit, health care, and other problems.

Ogden's take on state finance is that the recession, the federal government's deficit, and the developing health care bill in Washington will all hit the state budget, and in a bad way. "This will be the most difficult budget session since 2003," he predicts.

That was all apparent, for the most part, when he announced in September that he wouldn't seek another term. But sales tax drops have been much worse than expected. And Gattis got out of the race. "I basically felt I should offer myself in service," he says.

Senate terms ordinarily last for four years, but everyone in the Senate has to run for reelection in 2012, after the state's political districts are redrawn. Anyone on the ballot in 2010, then, will be seeking a two-year term.

Ogden got no promise that he'd be the Finance chairman if he comes back. He held that spot for three legislative sessions — six years — but committee assignments are up to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Ogden is operating on what he calls "a presumption," but says he doesn't have any assurance from Dewhurst.

The budget problems are getting more attention in Austin as the economy worsens. Sales tax receipts have fallen by double digits for five months in a row, prompting experts to fret over whether the state will have enough money coming in to cover current spending plans. The next budget has troubles even without those economic worries. The state's current budget includes billions in programs that were funded with one-time money. The business tax created to pay for local property tax cuts in 2006 brings in less money than is needed for those cuts. Spending on education and health and human services accounts for nearly 3/4ths of the budget. And increases in those two categories are outrunning increases in the economy.

Dropping Out

Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, dropped his bid for state Senate and won't seek reelection to the Texas House next year. Gattis said the campaign and his legislative duties were too great a burden for his young family and law practice right now. He and his wife have three kids under six, and he's half of a two-man law firm in Georgetown.

"In the last two months, we've seen a real softening in the economy and in the law practice..." he said. "I know it's not going to get better if I'm not there."

He didn't rule out political ambitions for the future — just for now.

Gattis' move is a real surprise. He was elected to the House in 2002 and was briefly a candidate for speaker almost a year ago, when the House deposed Tom Craddick and put Joe Straus in the high chair. In the new lineup, Gattis didn't get a chairmanship. But a door opened in September, when Ogden announced he would not seek another term in the Senate.

Senate District 5 runs from Bryan to Georgetown, and Gattis and Ben Bius — who's from the other end of the district — were the only two candidates who had publicly expressed any interest. At least four candidates — Milton Rister, Patsy Williams, Charles Schwertner, and former Cedar Park City Councilman Stephen Thomas — have been campaigning to replace Gattis in that Williamson County House district.

Off the Leash

While he's running for reelection, Steve Ogden is researching constitutional law to find out just how to start a petition from the states that would force Congress to amend the Constitution.

Start with a federal deficit that he believes is out of control and his observation that Texas is in better fiscal condition that most other states. He credits the constitutional requirements to keep spending in line with income, and with requirements that Texas generally has to ask voters for approval when it wants to incur large debts. The feds don't have those restrictions. And they have a financial hole they can't fix.

"It's politically impossible to balance the budget without a constitutional limit," Ogden says. He wants to add the limit by getting the states to petition the federal government. "I'd like to see Texas lead the way and round up some other states," he says.

In the short term, he's arguing against his own interests: federal restraint would be hard on Texas, which used more federal money in the current budget than ever before. "The more fiscally responsible Congress is," Ogden says, "the harder it is to balance the state budget."

Hopson, Re-Branded

Rep. Chuck Hopson filed for reelection in a new place this time — he switched to the Republicans from the Democrats a couple of weeks ago — and says he did the right thing, given the politics of his district.

"East Texas is really not Obama land," he says. Republican John McCain easily defeated Barack Obama in that district in 2008.

"McCain, in my four counties here, got 72 to 74 percent... I think if the election were held today, that would be something like 80 percent," Hopson says.

His friends, he says, are still his friends, and the people who didn't like him before, he says, really don't like him now. Under a dozen sought refunds after he left the Democrats and joined the Republicans. "If they wanted their money back, we sent it back to them," Hopson says.

One Republican, Michael Banks, is already in the primary to challenge Hopson. He expects another, and says the Democrats will probably field a candidate to run against the Republican nominee in November. Hopson says some of the people trying to talk him into switching also tried to assure him he'd get a pass in the primary. "I really didn't believe that," he says.

There's a recording of the whole conversation here. It's about nine minutes long.

Is This a Test?

Doubt about Houston Mayor Bill White's plans is scarce. But just for grins, undo this political pretzel.

1. White said last week he'll consider running for governor and will get back to the people of Texas by Friday, December 4.

2. White's campaign today announced an Austin rally featuring him and other elected Democratic officials at Scholz Garten, a watering hole with a long political history.

3. It's set for next Sunday, two days after the short fact-finding exploration and timely enough to attract the political press that resides in Austin.

Field Notes

The City of Laredo and Farouk Systems — the Houston company founded and run by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami — brought 96 soldiers who couldn't afford the trip from El Paso for an early Thanksgiving with family last week. The soldiers were from Laredo, San Antonio, and smaller towns in the Rio Grande Valley. They visited last Tuesday, and shipped out for Iraq on Saturday. And for the curious, the press release came from Farouk Systems, and not from the campaign. As did the photo, one of several in the press packet.

• Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, will seek reelection next year. That's not surprising, unless you thought her bid for U.S. Senate was a sign she wanted to get out of Austin. She's still in the hunt for U.S. Senate. But with Kay Bailey Hutchison saying she won't resign immediately, Shapiro opted to try for another term in the state Senate while waiting to see whether the other door opens. That closes the door down the ballot; several local pols were considering the race to replace Shapiro. And rumors about House members jumping up to challenge Shapiro — Ken Paxton, anyone? — appear to be unfounded.

• Department of Creative Spin: Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, who's in the same pack of would-be U.S. Senators that Shapiro is in, says the field is narrowing and her "campaign continues to gain momentum." The evidence? "It appears former Houston Mayor Bill White, a liberal Democrat, may drop his bid for the U.S. Senate and instead will run for Governor. Just last week Republican State Senator Florence Shapiro suspended her campaign for the U.S. Senate and chose to run for re-election to the Texas Legislature." She's right about White — he's announcing his decision on Friday. But she's not quite on the mark about Shapiro, who still plans to run for the federal seat if and when it's open. And, a reader points out, she's also wrong about White: He'll be the mayor of Houston until the end of the year.

• Remember Van Taylor? The one-time congressional candidate plans to run for the Texas House — for seat opened when Rep. Brian McCall decided not to seek reelection. If you're the sort of nerd who follows this stuff, you've already noticed the change in locale. Taylor ran for Congress in 2006— against U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco. At the time, Taylor hailed from West, a small town on I-35 north of Waco where everybody stops for kolaches and gasoline. He got a full-court press in that one, with endorsements from Gov. Rick Perry and several members of the Bush Administration (the district's most prominent resident at the time was George W. Bush), and from then U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. He took shots from Edwards for owning, according to his financial disclosures at the time, $5 million to $25 million in Exxon stock. At the time, gas prices were high enough to be a political issue. Taylor managed only 40 percent in the election. Now he's in Plano for an open seat race in the Texas Legislature. He joins a field that includes former Plano City Councilwoman Mabrie Griffith Jackson and businessman Wayne Richard. Taylor's a Harvard grad and served in the first Iraq conflict with the Marines.

Political People and Their Moves

Chris Traylor moves from the driver's seat at the state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program to the head of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. That's a huge agency, with a $6.8 billion budget and nearly 18,000 employees.

Eric Opiela is out as executive director of the Republican Party of Texas — that shortly followed the ascendancy of Cathie Adams to be the new chair of the Texas GOP — and has been replaced in the short term with Wayne Hamilton. Hamilton, now a political consultant, had the ED gig from 1997 to 2003. They're looking for someone who'll stay and there's a potential hitch: Adams is filling the rest of Tina Benkiser's term and has to run for a full term of her own at the party convention next year. She's not the only candidate, though, and the ED who gets hired now might have to survive another turn at the top.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Alfonso Charles of Longview to the 124th District Court there. Charles, who had been a county court at law judge, will replace Judge Bill Jennings, who died of a heart attack.

Deaths: Bill Summers, president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, founder of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, and a longtime promoter and economic development guru for that region, after a bout with cancer. He was 71... Bill King, a lawyer who also worked as a banker, an FBI agent, an assistant Texas Attorney General, and commissioner of the original State Securities Board. He was 84. His wife, Betty King, was the long-time Secretary of the Senate.

Quotes of the Week

Gov. Rick Perry, in The New York Times: "I don't think Texas becomes an urbany, really highly cultured place until like the last decade."

Perry consultant Dave Carney, in the same story, asked if his dismissal of "Country Club Republicans" includes Karl Rove: "Yeah, absolutely. It would be impossible to deny that there are Reagan Republicans and there are Bush Republicans."

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, interviewed by WFAA-TV on Perry's criticism of Republicans who voted for the federal bailout bill a year ago: "Governor Perry knows it's very easy to second-guess the decisions made of elected representatives, particularly months after the fact, and I would just urge him to be careful about that."

Perry, after filing papers saying he'll seek another term as governor: "Mack Brown has been the head coach of the University of Texas for longer than I've been governor and I don't hear for anyone calling for Mack to step down."

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, quoted in Politico on his opposition to sending more troops to Afghanistan: "I don’t think we can win the argument. But eventually we'll win — not because they're going to listen to us and have another foreign policy. But we're going to win because we don't have any money, we're broke and the troops will come home."

Democrat Jeff Weems, who's running for Railroad Commissioner: "I'm trying to get all the Red Man-using Democrats aboard."

Shirley Bradley, mother of prosecutor John "Marty" Bradley and State Board of Education member John "David" Bradley, telling the San Antonio Express-News she doesn't allow discussions of politics and religion at family gatherings: "It's my rule... Those are just forbidden subjects. We all have heard each other's opinions enough. It was nonproductive. I want to have happy times with them. I respect their opinions. I don't agree with them, but I taught them to have opinions."

Volume 26, Issue 46, 7 December 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 For news, email, or call (512) 288-6598.

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