This really would be sort of a sweet time to own a television station, wouldn't it? Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Bill White, and Farouk Shami spending, combined, something upwards of $1 million a day, with much of that going on the air or in the mail?
The electing part of the election is underway as of this week. Some of the candidates and consultants we've talked with complain there's less excitement than they hoped for. But their expectations were set in the weird environment of 2008, and the first peek early voting numbers don't bear out their fears. The Secretary of State collects day-by-day totals of early voting in each of the top 15 counties in the state. In 2006, 40,492 people voted in the first two days of early voting, or about one half of one percent of the registered voters. In the first two days of this year, it's about double that: 87,704 people have voted, or about 1.1 percent of the registered voters (which itself is a bigger number than four years ago). The numbers are higher this year, in that very small sample, in both primaries, but the GOP primary is where the action is this time: Republicans accounted for 58 percent of the early voters in those counties on those days; two years ago, they were 46 percent of the voters on the first two days. The caveat is that the sample is too small to mean much in the long term, but it's interesting. And it makes logical sense: The Republicans have a real and well-financed battle at the top. The Democrats have a bigger gap between two lesser-known candidates. Bluntly, it's just not as big a draw.
Republicans had the turnout advantage in 2006, with 626,732 voter to the Democrats' 501,233; Democrats had it in 2002, with 974,149 voters to the GOP's 624,716. In 2002, about 32 percent of all primary voters voted early; in 2006, it was just under 40 percent.
The hanging question is whether Debra Medina's 9/11 moment on the Glenn Beck radio show defined her candidacy and in a negative way. We haven't seen and don't know of any polling outside the campaigns, and the conventional wisdom is that she did herself in by entertaining questions about whether the U.S. government had something to do with the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center. She very well might have, but these things are deceptive: Clayton Williams told a rape joke early in his 1990 race against Ann Richards and that's not the moment that doomed his candidacy (though it was the first part of the pattern of gaffes that wrecked him).
If Medina remains strong enough, she could deny Rick Perry a March 2 victory, perhaps reviving Kay Bailey Hutchison's anemic campaign. If Medina is in fact fading, the question is whether her votes go to the incumbent or to the challenger. Are Medina voters opposed to Perry and willing to join anyone against him? Or are they conservatives who want an outsider and, denied that, will return to Perry, the more conservative of the two remaining candidates?
One persistent bit of lore that needs to be put down: Debra Medina can't run for governor if she loses the GOP primary. Seems simple enough, but we've heard from people who ought to know better that she could show up as the Libertarian nominee, or as an independent. That's against the law, and besides, the deadline is past. She'd have had to file by January 4 — the same deadline she had to meet as a Republican candidate. One more: She's not eligible, as a Republican primary candidate, to have write-in votes on her behalf counted by the state.
Signs of Cooperation
In Southlake, Republican precinct chairman Harry Rumzek says two of Rep. Vicki Truitt's three Republican primary opponents came knocking on his door two weeks ago, campaigning together. Both of the alleged conspirators — Giovanni Capriglione and Rich DeOtte — say that's false, but they did coordinate on something else this week, buying a bunch of signs placed all over the district for people to see one morning: "Truitt Blew It."
First things first: Rumsek says Capriglione and DeOtte came together to his home to talk about the race and to ask whether he would support either of them if they made it into a runoff with the incumbent. Rumsek, who says he's a strong Truitt supporter, said no. Colorfully: "I told them I'd bet them a kid that that wouldn't happen."
Capriglione and DeOtte both say Rumsek's got it wrong. DeOtte says he's never been to Rumsek's house; Capriglione says he did go talk to Rumsek but had a campaign aide with him and not DeOtte. "I don't know where he lives," DeOtte says. "I've never been to his house... I've never, ever, knocked on doors with Giovanni. We do have some cooperating effort going on right now, but it's not knocking on doors and it's limited to just one thing."
The two coordinated the sign blitz this week, each paying for some of the signs that peppered the district this week. DeOtte says Capriglione called and asked if he wanted to partner on that and he decided it was a good idea. Truitt was not amused, taking to Twitter to express her displeasure: "Campaigning hits new low in NE Tarrant Co. Opponent shows sophomoric behavior by personally attacking me on campaign signs. No class."
She apparently didn't know at the time that both DeOtte and Capriglione were on the other side, but someone figured it out. "There were an awful lot of signs [dumped] in my yard this morning," DeOtte says.
A Crash of RINOs
Milton Rister says he's got nothing to do with the speaker-bashing in an email making the rounds in Georgetown — one of those "neighbor to neighbor" messages where one person brags on a candidate to his or her friends. Rister is one of four Republicans seeking to succeed Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, who decided not to seek another term.
The message, which has his campaign logo in it, takes swipes at Speaker Joe Straus, at the Republican insurgents who toppled Tom Craddick and elevated Straus to that post, and puts Rister, who was and is closely allied with Craddick, on the other side of that fight. From the email:
"The 81st Legislative session was noted as the worst session in Texas history! While Republicans held a majority, this majority was nullified due to 11 Liberal Republicans and the newly elected Speaker of the House. The Speaker's appointment of RINOs and Democrats to key committees created a shutout of Conservative legislation. Milton Rister has been fighting "liberals" for 20 years and he will go to Austin to continue that fight, and will cast his votes for the benefit of his constituents."
It goes on to tout his resume and a list of endorsements that includes two of his former employers: Sen. Jane Nelson and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Rister said he never saw it until we showed it to him, and he said he disagrees with the attacks on Straus. "Supporters get exuberant and get carried away," he said. "I'm smart enough not to pick a fight with the speaker." He added that he would "probably" sign a pledge to support Straus if the speaker asked him for one.
"Everything that my campaign produces or sends out has my campaign disclaimer on it," Rister said. "I appreciate my supporters communicating with their friends regarding their support for me (and this case other candidates). But their views are their views. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Senator Nelson are both supporting me and I am not attacking Speaker Straus."
And by the way — just in case it comes up again — a collection of rhinos is called a "crash."
Guns and God
Texas voters who cling to guns and religion — at least those who want pro-gun and pro-life elected officials — got some help in picking their candidates this week when the Texas State Rifle Association and Texas Right to Life both dropped their primary voter guides.
TSRA's list is nicer to Democrats than TRL's (which included only Dora Olivo, of HD-27), though most of the A+ ratings on the report card went to Republicans. In most GOP races, the gun rights' group went with the friendly incumbent. There was one slight, though: In HD-83, the seat Delwin Jones currently holds, both of his Republican primary opponents, Charles Perry and Zach Brady, got the nod instead.
At the top of the ticket both TSRA and TRL chose Gov. Rick Perry as their preferred candidate, though U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison got the same A+ rating as the governor on the TSRA's report card. TRL made a point of not choosing the senator, saying that "Texas babies would not be protected under 'Governor' Hutchison," citing her view on first trimester abortions.
TRL, which endorsed candidates in 30 primary races, also shied away from endorsing against incumbents in contested primaries, but it turned a cold shoulder to GOP congresswoman Kay Granger and endorsed one of her primary opponents, Mike Brasovan.
— Morgan Smith
In one of the most talked about State Board of Education races, endorsements are proving to be a liability. Primary challenger Tim Tuggey received endorsements from Parent PAC, the Austin American-Statesman and former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff — and incumbent Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, blasted the announcements as evidence of Tuggey's liberal tendencies. In the same announcement, Mercer touted his own endorsement from the Republican Assembly.
Restaurant owner Victor Leal is dealing with questions regarding his residency in HD-87. Though his restaurant has always been in the district, until five months ago, Leal lived with his family in neighboring Randall County, in HD-86. He still meets residency requirements as he will have lived in HD-87 for over a year by the time the general election rolls around, but it has become a campaign issue.
Larry Gonzales' campaign in HD-52 won endorsements from the Austin American-Statesman, The Williamson County Republican Assembly, and the Conservative Republicans of Texas. Texas Right to Life, which has already endorsed Gonzales, also gave its stamp to Stephen Casey.
In HD-47, the Conservative Republicans of Texas picked Holly Turner, who also received an endorsement from Texas Right to Life.
Former Wichita Falls Mayor Lanham Lyne received the endorsement of Steven Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Texas. He debated his HD-69 opponent, retired state trooper Joe Clement, and covered a range of topics, from border security to gay marriage. On gay adoption, Lyne said, "I think sexual orientation does make a difference where if you place a child and how that child was raised and what the expectations are."
The Texas Parent PAC gave its endorsement to Democrat-turned Republican state Rep. Chuck Hopson in HD-11, saying the incumbent "has a voting record that demonstrates his unwavering commitment to public education. He consistently votes to adequately fund and strengthen neighborhood schools while at the same time working for meaningful tax relief for property owners."
David Simpson, the challenger to Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, in HD-7, is touting endorsements from Republican Party chairs in three counties in the district, as well as three State Republican Executive Committee members.
In HD-20, Stephen Thomas picked up endorsements from the Austin American-Statesman, Williamson County Republican Assembly, Texas Parent PAC and Texas American Federation of Teachers. The Texas AFT is the closest thing to a teachers' union Texas has.
In HD-83, Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, is bringing in the big guns: Speaker Joe Straus has officially endorsed the incumbent. Challenger Zach Brady can claim the Texas Association of Business endorsement, while challenger Charles Perry scored the support of the Young Conservatives of Texas.
Now that Rep. Terri Hodge, D-Dallas, is officially not campaigning, HD-100 endorsements for challenger Eric Johnson are rolling in. A majority of precinct chairs have voiced their support, not to mention the Dallas County Tejano Democrats, Dallas County Young Democrats, Greater Dallas Restaurant Association and the Texas Restaurant Association.
Kay Bailey Hutchison's campaign may have come under fire for strategy, but apparently they're doing something right. As newspapers rolled out their endorsements this week, every one went for Hutchison. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White had a near-identical list of endorsements, leaving Farouk Shami, Debra Medina, and Gov. Rick Perry without the newsprint love. But despite the high praise for Hutchison, Perry is still leading in the polls. The papers supporting White and Hutchison include: Amarillo Globe-News, Beaumont Enterprise, The Bryan-College Station Eagle, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Lubbock Avalanche Journal, Marshall News Messenger, and the San Antonio Express-News.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman picked up an endorsement from the political arm of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers. Guzman, appointed last year by Gov. Rick Perry to the high civil court, faces Rose Vela in the primary. The same group endorsed another statewide Republican incumbent — Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo. Carrillo also got a nod from Tony Garza, a former commissioner and also former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
— Julian Aguilar, Reeve Hamilton, Abby Rapoport, and Morgan Smith
The Week in the Rearview Mirror
1. It's a '90s flashback: Kenneth Starr, of Whitewater fame, has been named president of Baylor University in Waco. The school's board of regents unanimously elected Starr, who has been serving as dean of Pepperdine's law school.
2. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami had a busy week. He started last Friday in an interview with WFAA-TV when asked if he supported making employers use an E-Verify system to check their employees' immigration status. He said most of the workers in his factories are Hispanic and then added, "I don't find many white people really willing to work." In the same interview, he appeared to empathize with the 9/11 "Truther" movement that believes the U.S. government may have been involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "Look, we don't even know who killed John F. Kennedy," he said.
3. Shami's campaign experienced its second major shakeup. The first came three weeks into the campaign, when the hair care potentate fired his campaign manager, his spokesman, and others. This week, their replacements, campaign manager Vince Leibowitz, press secretary Charlie Ray, communications director Kelly Love Johnson, and two others, left the campaign after they learned that Shami's corporate spokesperson Jessica Gutierrez and P.R. professional David Díaz were sending reporters Shami-approved messages without their knowledge.
4. Gov. Rick Perry, accompanied by Attorney General Greg Abbott and agriculture commissioner Todd Staples, announced he's taking his longstanding battle with the Environmental Protection Agency to the courts. The state is challenging the EPA's recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health, a move that paves the way for their regulation under the Clean Air Act. Abbott charged that the agency had engaged in a "worldwide miscalculation, sometimes outright fabrication," of climate data because it used conclusions from the UN's Intergovernmental Climate Policy Panel.
5. State agencies on Tuesday began submitting their proposals to trim five percent from their current biennial budgets because of sliding state revenues. The deficit next session could be between $11 and $20 billion. And for several months in a row, sales tax receipts have seen double-digit declines from last year. Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus asked all state departments to propose cuts. Those proposals were due this week.
6. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund announced last week it is doing something it said state leaders should have done a long time ago: create a Complete Count Committee to promote participation in the decennial census. The U.S. Census Bureau lists eight Texas counties on its list of the 50 hardest-to-count counties in the U.S. It estimates that about 373,000 Texans went uncounted in 2000, resulting in about $1 billion in losses of federal funds for the state. The headcount begins in Texas next month.
7. Hank Skinner has another month to convince the courts to allow DNA testing he claims will prove he didn't kill his girlfriend and her two sons. Skinner was convicted of the killings in 1995, and was to be executed on Feb. 24, but the date has been pushed back to March 24, because of technical errors in the court process. His attorneys are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will intervene in the case and force Texas to test the DNA evidence from the crime.
8. Early voting for the March 2 primaries began on Tuesday, February 16. Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Bill White voted in Houston on Tuesday. Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted in Dallas the same day. Gov. Rick Perry voted on Wednesday.
— Julian Aguilar, Reeve Hamilton, Abby Rapoport, and Morgan Smith
Quotes of the Week
Kay Bailey Hutchison Campaign Manager Terry Sullivan, talking about Rick Perry, who was behind in polls a year ago and leads in them now, in The Weekly Standard: "He really regained his footing. She focused on being a United States senator. He ran around the state talking about secession."
Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Flower Mound, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, speaking indirectly to President Barack Obama, quoted in The Dallas Morning News: "You're intellectually shallow. You're a romantic. You're self-indulgent. You have no ability."
GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina on why she believes she can still make the runoff for the Republican primary, in the Texas Observer: "This race is going to be won with shoe leather and elbow grease."
An internal campaign memo from the Farouk Shami campaign sent shortly before three key staffers quit, regarding a press release from previously unknown campaign worker David Diaz: "Seriously, can we hunt these people down and muzzle them?"
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a letter to a would-be screenwriter on the legal arguments for secession: "If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede."
CD-23 Republican candidate Will Hurd on his challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, in The Texas Tribune: "Our campaign is Hannibal, and we're coming over the Pyrenees and the Alps, and people don't know we have elephants with us."
Texas Freedom Network spokesperson Dan Quinn on the State Board of Education Republican primary challengers Tim Tuggey and Thomas Ratliff: "They don't see public education as a cultural battleground in which every issue becomes a fight between Christians and people who are supposedly left-wing radicals who hate Christians."
Former state Rep. Buddy Temple at Charlie Wilson's memorial service, recalling the former congressman's concerns about becoming godfather to Temple's daughter, quoted in The Dallas Morning News: "We've got a problem. I just talked to the preacher and he said I have to renounce the devil and all of his works. Would it be okay if I renounced the devil and some of his works?"
Texas Weekly: Volume 27, Issue 7, 22 February 2010. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2010 by The Texas Tribune. 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) 716-8600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For news, email email@example.com, or call (512) 716-8611.