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Buzz from the TV show: Hutchison rips Perry

No, the above headline isn’t a flashback from a couple of years ago. Yesterday, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison ripped Rick Perry a new one for messing up the Women’s Health Care Program in Texas.

So of course this came up in this week’s episode of YNN’s Capital Tonight. Here was my reaction:

You can watch the entire episode of Capital Tonight in its entirety this Sunday morning at 11 am on YNN Austin, elsewhere in Texas on the Texas Network, channel 888 on Time-Warner systems. Or you can watch the episode on the web any time.

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Handicapping the Republican primary for U.S. Senate

David Dewhurst

Nothing new: I’ve said from the start that the nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison is Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s to lose.

New: Dewhurst might just lose it.

Ted Cruz

Also running is former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who has shown what some have termed surprising spunk and strength in a race against the seasoned campaign winner and self-funding Dewhurst.

I’m not surprised. I first encountered Ted Cruz in Laredo in 2003. As the state Senate Democrats’ 46-day Albuquerque quorum break ended, they boarded a plane and went to Laredo to attend a hearing on the matter in Federal court. I accompanied them on the plane, and attended the hearing in the Laredo courtroom. Ted Cruz, then the Solicitor General, was the state’s lawyer in court that day. In other words – ironically – he was Dewhurst’s lawyer in the suit.

I have never seen a better courtroom performance, before or since. He was articulate, passionate, and flat-out out-lawyered the Democrats’ legal team. By the end of that hearing, not only was I convinced that Cruz had won the day (which he did), but he was so utterly great that I myself had serious doubts as to the merits of the Democrats’ suit. I’ve been a begrudging admirer of Cruz’ skills ever since.

Based on my observations in 2003 on a hot September day in Laredo, I know Cruz will be an articulate and passionate candidate. If and when the U.S. Senate candidates debate, Cruz will mop up the floor with ‘em all. And there’s little doubt that he will outwork Dewhurst in the campaign.

The Williams un-brothers – former Railroad Commission Michael, and former Secretary of State Roger – each started out in the U.S. Senate race, but quickly discovered that between Dewhurst and Cruz, there would be no oxygen left for either of them. They both jumped into a U.S. House race instead. State Senator Dan Patrick is a non-starter who won’t, and shouldn’t, run.

Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones remains in the race, but I don’t know why. She’s catching nobody on fire with her candidacy, and I expect that she will either quickly figure out that the air is thin and get out, or that she will stay, hoping that being the only woman in the race will mean something. In her case, it won’t translate to any support, and in this field she’ll come in last.

Tom Leppert

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who also has the ability to self-fund, is the odd man out – seemingly a solid candidate in any other race, or at any other time. My guess is that he’ll stay in the race and end up being somebody’s spoiler.

But the real story will be Dewhurst versus Cruz. Dewhurst’s strength is his personal wealth, with which everybody expects him to self-fund the race. Cruz’ strength is…everything else.

Here’s why Cruz will win the nomination: there’s only so much love Dewhurst can buy with all his money, among a Republican primary electorate increasingly uncomfortable with him, for many reasons. Cruz’ passion and key endorsements will create enough funding for Cruz to stay in the game, and as long as a candidate that good is suited up and on the field, he’ll make the big plays and ultimately rack up the highest score.

Here’s why Cruz won’t win the nomination: nobody ever loved David Dewhurst in a political race, except all the voters. Dewhurst has never run a race in which he was taken very seriously by the press or by political insiders, and he’s never managed to over-work himself in a campaign. Yet, he always ends up winning his races anyway, overwhelming opposition with a blockade of paid TV ads which nobody can match, silencing his opposition.

I still think Dewhurst is the front-runner. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he ultimately came in third, behind both Cruz and Leppert. Because whoever invented the pedestal probably invented it for the purpose of knocking candidates like David Dewhurst off of one.

With Cruz at his heels, Dewhurst is more vulnerable than many believe. What am I missing?

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Races to watch on election night

Here at Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters, War Room Division, it occurred to us that you, members of the crap-reading public, would be torn as to how to divide your attentions on election night as the returns come in. On one hand, there are races you care about. On the other hand, one shouldn’t let that get in the way of the massive amounts of alcohol you intend to consume, probably on some poor hapless candidate’s tab.

Thus, we herein present this handy guide on which races in Austin and around the state are worth watching as election returns come in tomorrow night. Hopefully this will save you enough time so that your political activism can remain balanced with your alcoholism.

And if this isn’t enough to whet your appetite for politics, if you’re in the Austin area on election night you can tune into News8Austin, where I’ll be joining Republican Ted Delisi, Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg, and news anchor Paul Brown for news and analysis on the election returns throughout the evening.

Governor

Republican Primary: Perry vs Hutchison vs Medina. Perry will lead. Will it be a run-off or a clear Perry win? Perry clearly thinks he can win it out-right, or he would have pulled down much of his TV traffic in recent days and instead saved it for the run-off. If he’s wrong, that means that more Republicans will have voted against Perry than for him.

Democratic Primary: White vs Shami vs a whole bunch of folks nobody ever heard of, including two Hispanics. White will lead heavily. Run-off or clear White win? Even with so many candidates on the ballot - seven in fact - the smart money’s on a clean win for White.

Lt. Governor

Democratic primary: Linda Chavez-Thompson is favored to win. Does Ronnie Earl’s history as the man who brought down Tom DeLay have any impact? If so, does Marc Katz become the spoiler that creates the run-off?

Agriculture Commissioner

Democratic Primary: Hank Gilbert versus Kinky Friedman. This is similar to situations such as when a car dealer or newscaster runs for office: Gilbert has the substance, but Friedman has the name I.D. Which wins?

State Senate Races

(both are Republican primaries)

SD5 (College Station to North Austin suburbs) Republican primary. Incumbent Steve Ogden, the chairman of the all-powerful Senate Finance Committee, should be ok. But challenger Ben Bius has been very aggressive, and this could be a test case for whether the “anti-insider” teabagger sentiment runs deep, or if they’re just messin’ around.

SD22 (Waco to Southern D/FW suburbs) Republican primary. Incumbent Kip Averitt is on the ballot whether he likes it or not (hint: he doesn’t like it. He quit campaigning a couple of weeks after the filing deadline), and many if not most folks in Waco are going to vote for him anyway. Will a popular incumbent who didn’t suit up for the game win it anyway, against fringe nobody Darren Yancy?

State House races

HD83 (Panhandle) Republican primary. They’ve written Republican Delwin Jones’ political obituary many times, and he’s survived them all – the only legislative race he ever lost was to Pete Laney, but that was in a Democratic primary back when the earth cooled. Jones later came back as a Republican, with Laney’s goodwill and friendship. Jones is in a big fight this time against challengers Zach Brady and Charles Perry. Will he survive this time or is he done?

HD11 (East Texas) Republican primary. Democrat Chuck Hopson switched to the Republican Party, for fear that he couldn’t win the general election. But now he’s in the fight for his life in the Republican primary instead, against 2 challengers – Michael Banks and Allan Cain. Does Chuck go or does Chuck stay?

HD76 (El Paso) Democratic primary. Incumbent Norma Chavez was previously thought to be doing well in her re-election bid against two challengers, until the El Paso Times released a poll over the weekend showing her neck-in-neck with one of her challengers, Naomi Gonzalez. Has the home town newspaper’s dislike for Norma gotten the best of their editorial judgment, or might Norma’s challenger get the best of her?

HD92 (Tarrant County) Republican primary. No-holds-barred cage fight pits incumbent Todd Smith against Jeff Cason. Some Republicans blame Smith for the death of voter ID, and have used the issue effectively. Then he got caught calling Republican women in his district “too stupid” on an answering machine message. We’ll see what Republican primary voters call Smith.

HD146 (Houston) Democratic primary. This is the re-re-match between (this time) incumbent Al Edwards and (this time) challenger Boris Miles. Both candidates have had their issues, but which one can convince voters that he’ll get it right this time?

HD43 (South Texas and Rio Grande Valley) Democratic primary. This is geo-politics at its best. Tara Rios Ybarra won the district 2 years ago because her base, the south end of the district, out-voted the incumbent’s base, the north end of the district. J.M. Lozano is challenging her this time, and similar to Rios’ last race, his base is in the north end of the district. Early voting this time suggests that last election’s voting trend hasn’t continued – the north end is out-voting the south end. Has she made in-roads in the north end or not?

HD36 (Rio Grande Valley) Democratic primary. This is the open seat that Kino Flores vacated following his indictment, and the race to take his seat got dicey in a hurry, featuring an abortion TV spot so rough I’m surprised the local stations didn’t reject it. Sandra Rodriguez is running against Sergio Muñoz Jr., with the bulk of the Flores organization apparently backing Muñoz. Money is pouring in from all quarters, and the race totals are nearing $1 million.

Local Travis County races

(all Democratic primary races)

County Commissioner Precinct 4: Margaret Gomez vs Raul Alvarez. Gomez supporters are happy as clams because they say she’s solid. Alvarez supporters aren’t happy as clams, because they say she’s not proactive enough. Both candidates are spending a lot of clams.

Judge, 201st District. This is a race defining which candidate has Democratic Party cred. Amy Clark Meachum, the challenger of sorts, is said to be leading against Jan Patterson, who has held a different judgeship for a decade. But Patterson was caught playing footsie with Rick Perry, which would have resulted in handing a Democratic-leaning court of appeals to the Republicans. Patterson has been explaining herself for the entire primary election, and you know what they say about candidates – if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

Judge, 299th District. This is a toss-up race with 4 candidates, but it’s likely to result in a runoff between Mindy Montford and Karen Sage. Who will lead going into a likely runoff?

County Court-at-Law #3. The race features John Lipscomb versus Olga Seelig. Lipscomb has most of the club endorsements, but Seelig got the Statesman. Both candidates are qualified, either though judicial experience or longstanding Democratic activism. This, along with the race for the 201st district court above, could be an indicator of whether the institutional strength of the local Democratic clubs remains solid.

J.P. Precinct 1. This is a toss-up race (if only in my mind) between Yvonne Williams and Daniel Bradford. Will voters see this generically as two qualified Democrats running, or at an Anglo gay Democrat (Bradford)  against an African-American Democrat (Williams), in what is largely an African-American district? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

What races are we missing? Sheila Jackson-Lee? Ralph Hall? Terri Hodge? Some random incumbent nobody knew was in trouble who suddenly looks retired by 8:30 pm? Throw in your two cents.

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Need to get away?

It’s been a bad few weeks for Hutchison on the Republican side, and Shami on the Democratic side. They’re way behind in the polls, and can’t budge an inch of opposing candidates’ supporter. Even Perry looks a little stressed, what with Medina coming up in the polls and threatening to force an embarrassing run-off.

Frankly people, you could each use a vacation. Here’s one suggestion.

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