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Bashur, Influential and Admired Capitol Insider, Dead at 59

Reggie Bashur, a well-regarded lobbyist and political and media consultant, died this afternoon. The 59-year-old had been battling cancer for several months.

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Reggie Bashur, a well-regarded lobbyist and political and media consultant, died this afternoon. The 59-year-old had been battling cancer for several months.

Bashur first appeared in Texas politics as a press aide to Bill Clements, the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Over the years, he worked for most of the state's top Republicans and on any number of high-profile issues as a lobbyist and spokesperson. He kept working until just a couple of weeks ago, calling and visiting with his familiar greeting: "Hey. What are you hearing?"

His ability to read a political situation and then to work his way through it — or to work a client through it — was rare. His honesty and candor were, too.

Most lobbyists would rather eat sand than deal regularly with reporters. A lot of them relied on Bashur for that. Reporters liked him and found him reliably forthright — sometimes against his own interest. He had a remarkable grasp of the overlapping worlds of politics and government and lobbying and media, and an ability to figure it out and to explain it.

A few personal stories (and feel free to add yours, respectfully, in the comments): 

• Republican Clayton Williams ended his unsuccessful 1990 campaign for governor with a colossal goof, telling reporters that he hadn't paid taxes five years earlier because of oilfield losses. That happened on the Friday before the election, and there wasn't much time to react. Bashur was traveling with the candidate and a sizeable number of reporters, and on that Saturday, was talking to a reporter about this new and perilous problem. "What should we do?" he asked. How about releasing the tax returns, the reporter suggested, repeating a request the press — and Williams' opponent, Democrat Ann Richards — had been making for months. "He won't do it," Bashur said, obviously having had the same thought. "It's not gonna work."

• Companies don't hire expensive media consultants if they don't need them, when everything is rosy or when nobody's interested in reporting on them. But Bashur was often hired when those needs arose.

When he was about to start his lobby practice, Bashur went to lunch with a couple of reporters and asked how his change of jobs would be played, both in and out of print. Gtech, the company that runs the state lottery, had been at the center of a storm of publicity and the lottery itself was controversial. "You'll be fine," R.G. Ratcliffe, then at the Houston Chronicle, said at the time. "It's not like you're going to work for Gtech, right?" Bashur turned pale. That was his first client.

• When Bill Clements was governor, the best way for reporters to catch him was on the South steps of the Capitol, between the door and his station wagon, as he left the office. To ask him a question for a story, a reporter would camp out and wait. Several of the Austin bureaus for various outlets were in an office building across the street, many with views of the Capitol. If you had no questions for Clements but wanted to know if your competition was waiting for him, you could grab a pair of binoculars and have a look at the steps. You could raise the glasses and peer into the second floor window where Bashur sat at his desk. And you could call him and watch him jump, just by barking, "Hey, get your feet off that desk!"

Some reporters never got tired of that one.

Arrangements are pending. Here's his official obituary:

Born in Brooklyn, New York on April 19, 1952, Reggie Bashur was the only child of Ruth and Reginald George Bashur.

For nearly 30 years, Reggie’s extraordinary abilities as a political and communications strategist placed him in the thick of every major political issue in Texas.  He was a friend and adviser to many of the most prominent figures guiding public policy in the state, including former Governors Bill Clements and George W. Bush, Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Comptroller Susan Combs.  A dynamic, focused and honorable man, Reggie was a trusted ally of policy makers and respected for his integrity from newsrooms to corporate offices to the halls of the Texas Capitol.

Reggie’s passion for U.S. history led to two degrees in history—a bachelor’s from Adelphi University and a master’s from Villanova University.  He also earned a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University. 

After graduation, Reggie worked as a reporter for Dix Newspapers of Ohio, and then as press secretary for the Ohio Republican Senate Caucus.  He also worked as an account executive for Hill & Knowlton, Inc.  He later joined the Washington, D.C. staff of then-U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H., as press secretary and policy director, and also worked on Humphrey’s successful re-election campaign.

While in Washington, Reggie met the love of his life, Jan Powell.  After marriage, the couple settled in Jan’s home state of Texas.  Reggie didn’t simply move to Texas; he loved the state and its history. 

In 1985, Reggie was selected by Governor Clements to serve as press secretary for his re-election campaign.  He served as press secretary until mid-1989 during Clements’ second administration. 

With a quick wit and an uncanny ability to assess political climates, Reggie was sought after by political candidates and private sector clients.  The highlights of his career are numerous: during the 1988 presidential campaign, Reggie served as Texas communications director for Vice President George H. W. Bush.  In 1990, he managed the Kent Hance gubernatorial campaign.  During the 1990 general election, he was communications consultant for the Clayton Williams gubernatorial campaign.  From 1991 to 1993, Reggie worked for Systech Environmental Corporation, a subsidiary of Lafarge Corporation.

In 1994, he served as a consultant to the gubernatorial campaign of George W. Bush, who subsequently asked him to join the new administration in 1995 as a deputy executive assistant.  In that role, Reggie helped navigate the personalities, politics and intricacies of Texas public policy for Governor Bush.  Reggie was a consultant for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in her 2000 re-election, and he served as an advisor to the political campaigns of Governor Perry, Lt. Governor Dewhurst and former Ambassador Tony Garza.  Reggie was a longtime confidant and consultant to Comptroller Combs.  And for a generation of political journalists in Texas, he was an honest source of information whose word and integrity were impeccable.

Reggie’s political thought processes and philosophy shaped the policies of numerous private sector clients, and he enjoyed a successful career as a government relations and communications consultant for major corporations and trade associations for many years.

Reggie was an usher and a longtime member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.

Above all, Reggie loved Jan and his children.  When his first son was born, he told a friend, “This is what it’s all about.”  

Reggie is survived by his wife of 26 years, Jan; children Bryan, Will and Kathleen; sisters-in-law, Joan Powell of Austin and Jeannine Scanlan and her husband, Rocky of Katy; a niece and nephew; and numerous cousins, aunts and uncles.  He was predeceased by his mother and father.

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