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One Question Remains

What do you say about this governor's race? That the trailer was better than the movie? That sometimes a Super Bowl featuring the two best teams in the league turns into a blowout? That Texans who vote with their middle fingers differentiate between the bums in Austin and the bums in Washington? That the pundits who expected a barnburner were full of chorizo?

What do you say about this governor's race? That the trailer was better than the movie? That sometimes a Super Bowl featuring the two best teams in the league turns into a blowout? That Texans who vote with their middle fingers differentiate between the bums in Austin and the bums in Washington? That the pundits who expected a barnburner were full of chorizo?

Whatever. The real puzzler is, will there be a runoff?

No public poll or vote count in more than three years has had Gov. Rick Perry at or above 50 percent, which is what he needs to finish this off. The last time he saw that number was in the 2006 primary, when he pulled 84 percent against three no-name candidates. He won the general with 39 percent against a Democrat, two independents and two lesser lights. Since then, every poll has had him in the high 30s and into the 40s. He's close, though. Recent polls have Perry under 50 but appear to have enough undecided votes to put him over the top.

The possibility of a runoff evidently changed the Perry campaign's strategy. They were talking just a couple of weeks ago about pulling down all of their negative campaign ads, replacing them with biographical and closing commercials and sailing lyrically to the end. But the glow around Debra Medina, and Kay Bailey Hutchison's relatively steady numbers apparently convinced the Perry folks to stick to what they were already running. As Medina's vote was bigger than the difference between Hutchison and Perry, a runoff was the only outcome.

After the debates, Medina was off the air, without the money to stay on television with advertising and completely dependent on "free media," which is what campaigns call news coverage. That almost assured a drop in her support, even without mistakes. She made mistakes — a couple of doozies, like the 9/11 thing gaffe on the Glenn Beck radio show — but the possibility of a runoff lingers.

Perry has kept the negative ads up for a while longer, and added a new spot that has him sitting in front of a Texas flag, talking about the 10th Amendment and "keeping Washington out of our business." There's a dog whistle in there with a frequency aimed at Medina voters, telling them that Perry is with them on the anti-Washington stuff and that it's time to come home in the GOP primary. If he can shrink Hutchison's numbers or Medina's, he'll have a chance at a in without a runoff, and then he can start worrying about a business-friendly, well-financed Democrat who wants a crack at him in November. Former Houston Mayor Bill White isn't a Washington guy, and that frame might be out of style by October anyway.

White is hoarding money while the Republicans fight — Farouk Shami and the five other Democrats in that race haven't mustered serious support. When the Republicans are done, and that could happen next week, the race to define White will begin, with him painting the rosy picture and the GOP candidate painting the gray one.

The runoff date is April 13. The Republicans will either wrap it up next week or play a version of Groundhog Day, with six more weeks of hyperactive television advertising. And there's a sidebar to that, too: A runoff would likely cost each of the contestants another $10 million if they plan to stay on the tube and keep up the fight. Perry wants to avoid a runoff. With her numbers, Hutchison has to be hoping she'll get six more weeks to try to win this thing. And Medina wants either a runoff or a new forum. A race for U.S. Senate, perhaps?

Field Reports

Rick Green, the former state representative now seeking a GOP nomination to the Texas Supreme Court, is running an old endorsement video on his Facebook page even though the famous pitchman died almost two years ago. It runs about a minute and has this tagline: "This is what Charlton Heston once said about Rick Green and his service to the State of Texas." The endorsement from the late Heston, actor and NRA jefe, was loaded onto Green's political Facebook page "one month ago." The site also features a video made for Green's 2002 race for state Legislature by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. He's still alive.

• A close of the campaign letter from Houston Democrat Jarvis Johnson to his opponent, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, accuses her of stealing his yard signs, and not just the ones with his name on them — the ones in his yard. Check it out: "We are astonished and disappointed to learn that your campaign is stealing our campaign signs. I woke up this morning to find that my family, friends, neighbors and supporters throughout the 18th Congressional District had their “Jarvis Johnson for Congress” signs stolen from the private property in front of their homes last night. Even the campaign signs in my own front yard were stolen. Miraculously, your signs were left intact." He went on to say that they'd prosecute anybody they catch. Just a few more days.

• The Republican challenger in HD-7, David Simpson, appears to be ramping down instead of ramping up. His 8-day report says he’s only spent $2,900 recently — as opposed to the almost $29,000 he showed spending in his 30-report. Incumbent Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, is doing things more traditionally: almost $80,000 spent this past month, compared with $8,000 in his January report. Simpson raised $19,000, while Merritt reported almost $41,000.

• In HD-20, Republican Milton Rister had quite the 8-day report, seeing $46,000 in contributions, a big jump from the $1,900 he had in his 30-day report. The contributions include $2,500 from social conservative James Leininger of San Antonio and $25,000 of Bob and Doylene Perry's money. But even with the impressive gains, Charles Schwertner is still outspending Rister by quite a bit. Schwertner reported $123,000 in expenditures for the last month — more than double what his three competitors spent combined. The Perrys also gave $25,000 to Stephen Thomas, who used to head the Texas Residential Construction Commission — an agency set up less than ten years ago at the behest of builders like Perry and euthanized by the Legislature last year. With that funding, all three major candidates in the primary appear to have mailers out, hoping a last piece of mail might make the difference.

• In HD-83, Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, found himself in an uncomfortable position: he’s not endorsing either his legislative colleague Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock or his former employee Zach Brady. Jones sent out a mailer showing him with Duncan, and soon had to fend off charges that he was faking an endorsement. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Jones said he was only asserting that Duncan and he “work as a team” in Austin. Brady took issue with that. Brady maintains a slight lead over Jones in both contributions and expenditures going into the last week of the race (he raised $71,000 to Jones’ $66,000). Third musketeer Charles Perry lags behind, although he says all three candidates have mailers in the field.

• Just because your opponent drops out doesn’t mean your people move on. Rep. Terri Hodge, D-Dallas, withdrew from her primary race after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion, but some of her supporters are still urging residents not to vote for her challenger Eric Johnson. Hodge is asking people to stop pushing her name, but if she wins the most votes, the district’s precinct chairs would choose a new candidate. Some of them want to. But Johnson has secured support from many of the sitting Democratic lawmakers in the area and a majority of precinct chairs, and this week, he reported $67,000 in contributions and endorsements from Parent PAC and The Texas Association of Realtors.

• According to their most recent campaign finance filings, Victor Leal raised significantly more money than his opponent, Walter “Four” Price IV, in the lead-up to the HD-87 primary. And his expenditures were proportionally greater. As the race entered its final days, Leal had $88,330.51 on hand as compared to Price’s $72,381.76. The Amarillo Globe-News noted that over 60 percent of Leal’s donations come from outside the district, while over 50 percent of Price’s are from inside HD-87.

• Accusations are flying in HD-98, and they are taking the form of mailers and websites. Incumbent Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, unveiled highlighting an investment in a cemetery by opponent Giovanni Capriglione’s company that’s run into some trouble related to, of all things, grave robbery (someone spit back with Pacesetter Capital, which employs Capriglione, invested in Arizona-based Perpetua, which owns and operates a cemetery outside of Chicago that's under investigation for digging up remains from 300 gravesites and then reselling the gravesites to new customers. Capriglione, using a line promoted on yard signs paid for by his campaign and that of fellow challenger Rich DeOtte, retaliated with It features "Vickipedia" — a sort of encyclopedia of criticisms from Capriglione's campaign kicking the incumbent on issues ranging from health care to taxes to needle exchanges.

• There's a new mailer from former Plano City Councilwoman Mabrie Jackson and a new website accusing her opponents, businessmen Wayne Richard and Van Taylor, of leaving a few items off their resumes. She accuses Richard of voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary, "cheating on his business property taxes," running "dubious" businesses (including travel website, and accepting the financial backing of extremists. Taylor gets sideswiped for telling the Waco Tribune-Herald that he would stay in West (South of Waco, stop for the kolaches) whether or not he lost his 2006 bid for Congress (shortly before moving to Plano), reusing ads from his 2006 campaign in his current race, and being a "political carpetbagger." A spokesperson for the Jackson campaign said, "It's just a comparison of candidate resumes is all it is. I don't think this qualifies as going negative." Her opponents disagree. Richard's campaign issued a response. "We have run an honest, ethical, grassroots campaign that is above board and without reproach," Richard says. "Unfortunately one of my opponents has decided to attack me both personally and professionally and I can no longer sit idly by and allow these attacks to remain unaddressed." He says he was a Rush Limbaugh-inspired CHAOS voter in 2008, that his business property taxes "have always been paid on time and in full," and that his supporters are "staunch conservatives who put their money where their mouth is." He even re-launched for those who want to dig around — or share their vacation experiences. Taylor also issued a response in which he characterizes the attacks as "the most negative mail pieces in Collin County history." Far from trying to hide his 2006 run for U.S. Congress, his campaign says he "has repeatedly referred to the race in public forums."

Michael Banks won a big victory in HD-11, but it wasn’t the primary. The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by the City of Dallas on a case that could have opened the door to turning a large expanse of East Texas into a reservoir known as Lake Fastrill, which would have been a cornerstone of the city’s water plan. Instead, the region will be a nature preserve. Banks, co-chair of Friends of the Neches River, was very active in the fight against Lake Fastrill. His efforts were acknowledged in an unlikely place — a celebratory press release from Democratic agriculture commissioner candidate and fellow Fastrill opponent Hank Gilbert, who says the kudos were not political and he isn’t taking sides in the race. Banks is running against Rep. Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville, who switched parties and is now running as a Republican.

Larry Gonzales found a friend in Bob Perry in the last weeks before the primary: he and his wife, Doylene, gave $70,000 to Gonzales' bid in the HD-52 GOP primary. That dwarfs what his opponents have raised — his closest competition in fundraising among the three other candidates is John Gordon, who has about $26,565 on hand. Gonzales also released a TV ad last week on cable in the Round Rock, Taylor and North Austin areas.

• On the last weekend before the District 146 Democratic primary, Al Edwards will hold a “Fight Against Violence, AIDS, and Get Out to Vote Rally.”

— Julian Aguilar, Reeve Hamilton, Abby Rapoport, and Morgan Smith

Already Over, Just Beginning

While most eyes have been set on the primary races for the last couple months, almost half the House has effectively been elected. In the House, 70 incumbents — 31 Democrats and 39 Republicans — face no challenges in either the primary or general elections. Lucky them. Then there are the candidates whose races won’t start until Wednesday. In 48 House races, the incumbent went uncontested in the primary but has a general election opponent. Most of the uncontested primaries came on the Democratic side, likely thanks to the Tea Party movement drawing more attention to the GOP. Of course the Libertarians are mounting campaigns in many of these “uncontested” races, but until they change their history of losing to major party candidates, they’re not going to give the Ds and Rs much worry.

• Lucky Ducks (members who are already in):

HD-5, Bryan Hughes, R; HD-6, Leo Berman, R; HD-10, Jim Pitts, R; HD-13, Lois Kolkhorst, R; HD-16, Brandon Creighton, R; HD-18, John Otto, R; HD-19, Mike Hamilton, R; HD-21, Allan Ritter, D; HD-22, Joe Deshotel, D; HD-24, Larry Taylor, R; HD-25, Dennis Bonnen, R; HD-29, Randy Weber, R; HD-30, Geanie Morrison, R; HD-31, Ryan Guillen, D; HD-32, Todd Hunter, R; HD-37, Rene Oliveira, D; HD-38, Eddie Lucio III, D; HD-40, Aaron Pena, D; HD-42, Richard Pena Raymond, D; HD-46, Dawnna Dukes, D; HD-49, Elliott Naishtat, D; HD-53, Harvey Hilderbran, R; HD-54, Jimmie Don Aycock, R; HD-55, Ralph Sheffield, R; HD-60, Jim Keffer, R; HD-61, Phil King, R; HD-62, Larry Phillips, R; HD-63, Tan Parker, R; HD-67, Jerry Madden, R; HD-68, Rick Hardcastle, R; HD-70, Ken Paxton, R; HD-71, Susan King, R; HD-72, Drew Darby, R; HD-73, Doug Miller, R; HD-75, Chente Quintanilla, D; HD-77, Marisa Marquez, D; HD-79, Joe Pickett, D; HD-80, Tracy King, D; HD-81, Tryon Lewis, R; HD-82, Tom Craddick, R; HD-86, John Smithee, R; HD-88, Warren Chisum, R; HD-89, Jodie Laubenberg, R; HD-94, Diane Patrick, R; HD-95, Marc Veasey, D; HD-97, Mark Shelton, R; HD-103, Rafael Anchia, D; HD-104, Roberto Alonzo, D; HD-109, Helen Giddings, D; HD-110, Barbara Mallory Caraway, D; HD-111, Yvonne Davis, D; HD-112, Angie Chen Button, R; HD-115, Jim Jackson, R; HD-116, Trey Martinez-Fischer, D; HD-118, Joe Farias, D; HD-120, Ruth McClendon, D; HD-121, Joe Straus, R; HD-123, Mike Villarreal, D; HD-124, Jose Menendez, D; HD-125, Joaquin Castro, D; HD-129, Wayne Smith, R; HD-130, Allen Fletcher, R; HD-131, Alma Allen, D; HD-135, Gary Elkins, R; HD-136, Beverly Woolley, R; HD-139, Sylvester Turner, D; HD-140, Armando Walle, D; HD-142, Harold Dutton, D; HD-145, Carol Alvarado, D; and HD-147, Garnet Coleman, D.

• First Round Byes (members without primary challengers who have November opponents):

HD-1, Stephen Frost, D; HD-3, Mark Homer, D; HD-8, Byron Cook, R; HD-9, Wayne Christian, R; HD-12, Jim McReynolds, D; HD-17, Tim Kleinschmidt, R; HD-23, Craig Eiland, D; HD-26, Charlie Howard, R; HD-28, John Zerwas, R; HD-33, Solomon Ortiz, D; HD-34, Abel Herrero, D; HD-35, Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D; HD-41, Veronica Gonzales, D; HD-47, Valinda Bolton, D; HD-48, Donna Howard, D; HD-50, Mark Strama, D; HD-51, Eddie Rodriguez, D; HD-52, Diana Maldonado, D; HD-56, Charles "Doc" Anderson, R; HD-57, Jim Dunnam, D; HD-74, Pete Gallego, D; HD-78, Joseph Moody, D; HD-85, Joe Heflin, D; HD-90, Lon Burnam, D; HD-93, Paula Pierson, D; HD-96, Chris Turner, D; HD-101, Robert Miklos, D; HD-102, Carol Kent, D; HD-105, Linda Harper-Brown, R; HD-106, Kirk England, D; HD-107, Allen Vaught, D; HD-108, Dan Branch, R; HD-114, Will Hartnett, R; HD-117, David Leibowitz, D; HD-119, Roland Gutierrez, D; HD-126, Patricia Harless, R; HD-127, Joe Montemayor, D; HD-132, Bill Callegari, R; HD-133, Kristi Thibaut, D; HD-134, Ellen Cohen, D; HD-137, Scott Hochberg, D; HD-138, Dwayne Bohac, R; HD-141, Senfronia Thompson, D; HD-143, Ana Hernandez, D; HD-144, Ken Legler, R; HD-148, Jessica Farrar, D; HD-149, Hubert Vo, D; and HD-150, Debbie Riddle, R.

— Abby Rapoport

The Trials of Felipe Reyna, Redux

Tort reform groups are out for blood on the state's 10th Court of Appeals. Al Scoggins is their candidate to knock Justice Felipe Reyna off the Waco bench, and they’ve thrown all their weight behind him to make it happen.

Scoggins has raised almost $25,000 in the past three weeks. The endorsements of tort reform folk have been rolling in for a while now — Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Civil Justice League have all given the nod to Scoggins over his incumbent opponent — but until recently had yet to contribute big bucks to his bid. Now, they’re all over his campaign finance reports: there’s $5,000 from TLR, $4,400 from the TMA’s TEXPAC and $1,000 from TCJL. Richard Weekley of Houston, a founder of TLR, chipped in $1,000 of his personal funds, too.

Ellis County Republicans — a press release cites 15 of them — have also turned out for Scoggins, who sits on the district court there. In addition, former Texas Supreme Court justices and tort reform advocates Craig Enoch, Tom Phillips, Eugene Cook, and Scott Brister, join state Reps. Jim Pitts, Sid Miller and Byron Cook, who all have constituents in the 10th court’s district, in supporting Scoggins.

— Morgan Smith

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

1. Texas health officials neglected to tell the public they were sharing hundreds of dried blood samples taken from infants with military researchers working on a forensic database. And they quickly settled a suit late last year before coming to the part of discovery that would have brought their sharing arrangement to light. According to The Texas Tribune, which reviewed nine years of emails, the Department of State Health Services also tried to manage the debate around the program and to limit public knowledge of it.

2. Texas Transportation Commissioners voted to help the North Texas Toll Authority borrow money to build Fort Worth's Southwest Parkway and to finish State Highway 161 on the Dallas-Tarrant County line. But they won't do it for nothing, and the conditions they added could block the deal. NTTA has to decide whether it wants to risk the penalties it would face if the money doesn't flow from the two toll roads as planned.

3. The extrajudicial (and extramarital) activities of a prosecutor and the judge in Charles Dean Hood’s 1990 death penalty case weren’t enough to get the Collin County man a new sentencing trial. But faulty jury instructions about mitigating evidence were, the Court of Criminal appeals decided this week. Hood’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of the high criminal court’s refusal to rehear his case last fall when the pair admitted under oath to the affair received national attention.

4. Houston doesn’t want the permit for its largest refinery renewed, but that doesn’t matter, according to the TCEQ. Though the city asked for a public hearing prior to granting the new permit, the state environmental agency said that because the refinery wasn’t requesting an increase in emissions, a public hearing wasn’t allowed under law. The refinery has a “flex permit” which limits overall emissions instead of output from different sources of pollution, a permit that the EPA has said violated the Clean Air Act because it “denies the public an opportunity to review a plant's operations.”

5. Not everyone was as upset about the pilot’s attack on an Austin IRS office last week. The Associated Press writes that many “anti-tax, anti-government” extremist groups have lauded pilot Joseph Stack as a hero. He killed himself and another man when he flew his plane into an office building in North Austin last week.

6. Oh, that election? Ron Paul is the most popular Republican nominee for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, based on a Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll. He scored 31 percent of participants’ support; former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney came in second with 22 percent.

7. The violence in Juarez is prompting many residents to flee, according to the El Paso Times. Officials estimate over 420,000 have already left the Mexican border city, based on the 110,000 abandoned homes in the city. And the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory telling people to "exercise extreme caution" when visiting Juarez.

8. While actually firing the guns is still outlawed, those who’d still like to carry them may now do so at national parks and wildlife refuges. Officials don’t expect the new provision to have any impact on poaching.

— Julian Aguilar, Reeve Hamilton, Abby Rapoport, and Morgan Smith

Political People and Their Moves

Frank Sturzl, who's been working at the Texas Municipal League for 31 years, will retire at the end of October. He's been the executive director at TML since 1988. The board is starting the search for a replacement.

State District Judge John Stevens Jr. of Beaumont is President Barack Obama's choice to be the U.S. Attorney for East Texas — a district that runs from the counties north of Dallas-Fort Worth all the way to the Gulf Coast (but doesn't include DFW). Obama hasn't yet named the chief federal prosecutors for other districts in Texas, and Stevens' appointment still requires Senate approval.

Tom Forbes and Robert Peeler are starting up their own public affairs and lobbying shop, called Longbow Partners. The two had been with El Paso-based Kemp Smith, Forbes as a partner there, Peeler of counsel.

Trey Trainor takes his lobby practice to Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, joining that firm's Austin office. He's been out on his own.

Deaths: Myra McDaniel, a ground-breaking lawyer who served as Texas Secretary of State and later as managing partner of the Bickerstaff, Heath et al law firm in Austin, of lung cancer. McDaniel was the first African-American to hold either of those positions in Texas. Gov. Mark White appointed her to the SOS post; she had been his general counsel up until then. She was 77.

Quotes of the Week

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White, referring to his GOP rivals as he described his post-primary strategy, quoted in The Dallas Morning News: “When the forces of darkness are licking their wounds, let's get out there.”

Debra Medina on the Austin plane bomber, recorded by KDFW-TV at a Tea Party Rally: "They are criminal acts and we can never excuse them, but nor can we wash our hands and say, oh well, the government didn't have anything to do with that, people are hurting and they are tired of abuse at the hands of their government."

Newly elected Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who’s already won six races between her bids for city council and controller, to Texas Monthly on her electability: “How many elections do I have to win before I become electable in Houston?”

Jonathan Darman of Newsweek, who got to know Rielle Hunter during his 2008 coverage of the John Edwards campaign, on her behavior since the discovery: "And yet, for two years, she has behaved with more public dignity than any other figure in the Edwards scandal. In fact, she acted with more discipline and discretion than any mistress in the recent history of sex scandals."

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, quoted by Politico at a hearing on climate change doubters: "It reminds me in some ways of the debate taking place in this country and around the world in the late 1930s. During that period of Nazism and fascism's growth — a real danger to the United States and democratic countries around the world — there were people in this country and in the British Parliament who said 'Don't worry! Hitler's not real! It'll disappear!"

Joe Lopez, the Farouk Shami campaign’s paid organizer in El Paso, telling The Texas Tribune why people support his candidate in El Paso: “He’s so pro-everybody.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pennsylvania, quoted by CNBC on the need to regulate the banking industry: "When your dog just keeps wetting the carpet, there's only one thing to do, you've got to whack him on the nose to let him know that's not what he's supposed to do. Maybe the regulators have to whack the banks a little bit to make them respond."

Republican candidate David Simpson, who’s challenging Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, for HD-7, talking to The Texas Tribune about raising money from his Christian supporters: “They just believe that God’s going to raise me up. I’m grateful for that, and I do believe that’s true. But I also believe God uses means. So I’d like to see a $500 check."

Volume 27, Issue 8, 1 March 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 For news, email, or call (512) 716-8611.

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