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The Brief: February 18, 2010

Shami takes another hit, Keller back in the spotlight and the state of Texas' health.

Democratic candidate for Governor Farouk Shami  greets visitors at an evening meet and greet at the Celestial Room in downtown McAllen, TX.


And then there were none.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami lost the bulk of his staff on Wednesday following days of internal strife over who was leading the Houston businessman's campaign. Campaign manager Vince Leibowitz, press secretary Charlie Ray and communications director Kelly Love Johnson have all left, prompting Shami to become his own spokesperson. The move comes fewer than two weeks until the Democratic Primary.

The genesis of the hullabaloo appears to be the hiring of additional communications strategists for Shami's campaign, specifically South Texas native David Diaz. Diaz began authoring and distributing news releases without the consent or knowledge of Shami's political advisors. Trouble was that Shami himself was in-the-know while the others were not. An internal e-mail was inadvertently sent to several media outlets from the Shami campaign asking "who in the Hell" Diaz was. Diaz was apparently hired by Shami's corporate staff, not his political team, which led to a debate over who was in charge of what and why. Enter corporate gurus and exit political professionals.

The loss could signal a death knell for the campaign but some could wonder if it hadn't already been sounded. Despite pouring millions of his own money into his bid to triumph over opponent Bill White, recent polls indicate Shami's campaign was scheduled to sunset sooner than later.

In a statement released late Wednesday Shami thanked his former staff members for their efforts and tried to reiterate that his campaign remains stable.

"Please do not underestimate my camp because my campaign is stronger than ever," he stated. "I am the spokesperson, and I have a Communications team that has experience and believes in my vision."



  • Some still think Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller should be held accountable for her refusal to let a condemned man file an appeal on the scheduled day of his 2007 execution. The San Antonio Express-News is reporting that "the Commission on Judicial Conduct accused Keller of discrediting the judiciary after death row inmate Michael Wayne Richard was unable to file an appeal after the court clerk's closing time on the day of his execution, Sept. 25, 2007."Keller's attorney, Chip Babcock, told the Associated Press he was "disappointed that the prosecutors continue to pursue Keller" even after a state district judge determined last year that Keller should receive no further reprimand for her actions.  On the brighter side of Texas execution news, Hank Skinner, the subject of a two-part series by the Texas Tribune's Brandi Grissom, received word Wednesday his execution date has been postponed for a month. Skinner was scheduled for execution next week, but the date has been pushed back to March 24. Skinner, convicted of murdering his former girlfriend and her two sons, has maintained his innocence since his arrest. For a look back at the case and some video of Skinner on Death Row,  check out Grissom's initial report here and here. Need more? No problem. The Texas Observer has a nice piece from what it calls it's "token conservative" on why like-minded folks should oppose the death penalty.
  • How healthy is your Texas county? Live in Bexar, not so much. How about El Paso? Surprisingly well. In Williamson? Top of the charts. A report released on Wednesday ranks 221 of Texas' 254 counties on the health status of their populations based on morbidity rates and other factors. Some of the results could surprise you.


The Firing Line - Texas Tribune

Effort to remove judge resumes - Austin American-Statesman

Mexican President Felipe Calderon strategy still lacks specifics - El Paso Times

Dems challenging GOP lieutenant governor mostly agree - The Dallas Morning News





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