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The Brief: Nov. 18, 2013

Texas Democrats find themselves in a position similar to that of the Houston Texans — wondering how to break a lengthy losing streak.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, officially files her candidacy for governor in front of a crowd of supporters at uShip’s headquarters in Austin on Nov. 9, 2013.

The Big Conversation

Texas Democrats find themselves in a position similar to that of the Houston Texans — wondering how to break a lengthy losing streak.

The Houston Chronicle's Patricia Kilday Hart tackles the topic in a must-read piece addressing the hopes for a Wendy Davis-led Democratic statewide ticket.

The big news late last week was the confirmation that state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, will announce on Saturday her candidacy for lite guv. Hart notes, though, that while Van de Putte brings star power to her contest, other Democratic pols tabbed for stardom, such as the Castro twins, have chosen to sit this cycle out.

The better question, though, is whether it's fair to saddle Davis with the title of savior of the Democratic Party. Hart notes at the outset of her piece the Dream Team of 2002 — led by Tony Sanchez for governor and Ron Kirk for U.S. Senate. That slate famously flopped.

"A decade later, the party still is haunted by the nightmare that followed: Despite a gold-plated campaign, the Democrats were massacred," Hart writes.

The Davis camp seemed eager to downplay any outsize expectations to Hart, saying Davis is interested in nothing more than running a successful campaign for governor. Hart quotes Matt Angle, Democratic consultant and brother to longtime Davis advisor J.D. Angle, who says Davis “is not running to turn Texas blue. Journalists want to make this about red versus blue. Her job is not to rebuild the Texas Democratic Party, but to expose the failure of one-party Republican control.”

There is, of course, a good reason that Davis partisans would want to tamp down expectations. That's because Republicans want to play up those expectations. Hart talked as well to GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak, who suggested that a Davis loss in 2014 would take Texas off the national board in the 2016 presidential election.

“There is a lot of zeal, but the real challenge will be if they lose in 2014. ... Is [Hillary Clinton] truly going to invest her resources in Texas in 2016 if Democrats can't win a statewide office?” Mackowiak said.

Republicans want to talk up that angle because it would invest a Greg Abbott victory next year with added national significance. It also underscores the baseline confidence in the GOP camp that it can keep the Democrats' losing streak in statewide races intact. A goose egg next year would run that streak to 20 years.

The Texans' losing streak, by the way, hit eight games on Sunday.


•    In One County, the State's Political Future (The Texas Tribune): "The two scenes capture the split political personality that has emerged this year in Tarrant County — both the largest reliably Republican county in Texas and ground zero of Democrats’ efforts to turn the state blue. The county, home of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas’ fifth- and seventh-largest cities, Fort Worth and Arlington, has become a focal point in the state’s political future."

•    Officials shut down Stockman campaign headquarters (Houston Chronicle): "The fire marshal and city building officials in Webster have ordered the emergency closure of an unorthodox campaign headquarters for Congressman Steve Stockman, citing multiple safety violations. The headquarters had been housed since early 2012 in a former motorcycle shop along the Gulf Freeway. Campaign staffers and volunteers had been both working and sleeping there, even though the commercial building was considered unsafe for human habitation, according to Webster city records and an interview with assistant fire marshal Warren Chappell."

•    Texas prison managers get double-digit pay raises, while rank and file got 5% (Austin American-Statesman): "Months after Texas prison guards learned their top boss got a nearly 40 percent pay raise while they got just 5 percent, new figures show other top prison officials have received hefty raises, as well. Executive pay increases ranging from 8 percent to more than 23 percent were given in September to top leaders in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, according to salary information obtained by the American-Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act."

•    Charters expand as school choice matures (Houston Chronicle): "Texas' largest charter school chain plans to expand outside the state - a signal of the maturation of the school-choice movement that has a strong Houston presence. Harmony Public Schools, a 40-school network in Texas founded by Turkish immigrants, is asking to open a math- and science-focused elementary school in Washington, D.C. The authorizing board there will vote Monday on whether to grant the charter."

•   Seeking any office? Well, slam abortion (San Antonio Express-News):  "As former state lawmaker Wayne Christian campaigns for a spot on the commission that oversees the oil and gas industry, he tells voters he 'will continue to fight for the rights of the unborn.' Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy, touting his bid for state comptroller, says Texas is the envy of the nation because of three things: job creation, business climate 'and our unwavering support for the unborn.'”

•    Win or lose, Davis race can help (Houston Chronicle): "Still, many political observers think that a Davis-Van de Putte ticket will provide the Democratic Party with an opportunity to rebuild decaying databases, donor networks and volunteer manpower — all the elements of winning campaigns. Houston lawyer and lobbyist Robert Miller, who writes a popular political blog, called Davis' candidacy against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott a long shot. However, he said, her decision to run is the first step Democrats have to take to become a viable force."

Quote to Note: “I have been surprised to learn how more heavily Texas has become in imposing regulations. Texas is more friendly on the regulatory side than states like California, but it is not as friendly as what some people say. And, so, we’re looking to streamline and improve the regulatory environment. I’m also looking at ways in which we can actually reduce taxes even more.” — Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, suggesting the Texas Miracle needs improvement


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Politics Greg Abbott Wendy Davis