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The Brief: February 9, 2010

Just before the Democratic debate began, Farouk Shami's campaign manager said their strategy was "a secret." Sadly for them, it was still a secret even after the debate was over.

Feb 8, 2010. The press conference following the Democratic gubernatorial debate.

THE BIG CONVERSATION

Just before the Democratic debate began, Farouk Shami's  campaign manager said their strategy was "a secret." Sadly for them, it was still a secret even after the debate was over.

The debate was a big chance for Shami to introduce himself directly to voters and make news that might live beyond the debate itself. But the news he made probably wasn't quite what he was hoping for. Throughout the hour, the wealthy haircare magnate often seemed to rely more on soliloquys that didn't always tie back to the questions asked. As he gained momentum in his responses, Shami soon began making sweeping promises and memorable, if bizarre lines. Among them: a promise that under him, "everybody's going to go to work" and that "within 10 years, you will not have an electric bill." (For the best line, see the Brief's ever-popular quote-of-the-day below.)

Shami's performance "launched his campaign against himself," wrote Bud Kennedy at the Star-Telegram.

Former Houston mayor Bill White lived up to his reputation as nerdy and direct. He tied almost every answer to a solution he'd found in his tenure as mayor and took on an almost teacher-like tone in describing various programs. He seemed to barely acknowledge his competitor and instead focused on criticizing Perry. 

Since neither candidate has run statewide before, the viewership was probably drastically lower than it was during the Republican debates, which is too bad. This was the first debate to really mention education and the death penalty, issues that are frequently in the news but never made it to either Republican debate.

And the set, much more exciting than those of the Republican debates, featured a fake city-scape background and cut out windows. It reminded me of a late night tv show. And if the whole governor's thing doesn't work out, Shami might be ready to host.

CULLED

• Bounce in his step? Bill White had a good reason to look happy going into the debate last night: a few hours before, he'd gotten the Austin American-Statesman endorsement. The editorial board applauded his "low-key, thoughtful approach" and his willingness to acknowledge what he couldn't predict. The paper also slipped in a barb at Shami, who they said had "a total lack of anything that would prepare him to be governor."

The Dallas Morning News managed to endorse Kinky Friedman in an editorial almost entirely about his opponent, Hank Gilbert. "Gilbert knows agriculture issues in vastly greater depth than Friedman, but he would lead Texas in the wrong direction in key areas."  The editorial board doesn't seem to think particularly highly of either candidate. Their most glowing praise for Kinky's plan? It's "not a great model for the job, but a better one than Gilbert proposes."

• How quickly the tides change! In the aftermath of Rep. Terri Hodge's guilty plea to tax fraud, Dallas Democrats are lining up to switch their endorsements over to challenger Eric Johnson. Rep. Rafel Anchia said Hodge's name will remain on the ballot, despite having dropped out, and should she get the votes to win the primary, then the precinct chairs would choose a nominee. (There is a Republican running for the seat). Emily Ramshaw already highlighted some of the tensions between Johnson and the Democratic establishment in the district.

"Without Mexicans, it'd be like a day without sunshine." — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami during the Democratic gubernatorial debate, on the best way to approach the immigration situation.

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