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Notes on the Texas primary elections

Texas politicos waited so long to have a primary election that it seems completely anti-climatic now that it’s over. But at least for the truly-addicted like me (wipe that smug look off your face – like you too), we now begin the 9-week primary run-off period.

Some interesting doings from last night:

— while I’m not yet convinced that House Speaker Joe Straus is in trouble, last night’s results at the least put some air under the wings of those who hope to cause him trouble. Several of his House BFFs were defeated, and several more got the bejesus scared out of ’em.

— it will never be enough for the right-wing conservatives. Do you see the pattern emerging? Here it is: conservative Republican defeats incumbent Democrat. In the following election, second way-conservative Republican beats first conservative Republican, since the first conservative now has an actual voting record. Will it soon be that the new-and-improved definition of “conservative” is “non-incumbent nobody”?

— wow, what a bad night for Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Yep, they won some. But they themselves staked out the marque race they wanted as the latest proxy war with their enemies, the challenge to Senate district 25 incumbent Jeff Wentworth, they picked their candidate, and they gave her bajillions. She didn’t make the run-off.

— Party switching is SO 2008.  Four formerly-Democratic state House members had switched parties over the last couple of years. As of today, only one is sure to survive. Aaron Pena wasn’t even on the ballot. Chuck Hopson, who looked like a goner most of the night, is on life support in a run-off election. Same situation with J.M. Lozano. Only Allan Ritter seems to have survived quite nicely from his ordeal. In the case of Hopson and Ritter, had they not switched parties, they almost surely would have been defeated as Democrats anyway. But in future elections, I’m guessing incumbents will think longer and harder when the other Party comes knocking, because the switcharoo has proven to be a tough deal as well.

— Good news: the AFL-CIO endorsement is still powerful medicine around these parts, as witnessed by the Democratic primary for US Senate. Bad news: so it mistaken identity. There were four candidates in the Senate race, and none of them raised any money to speak of. That means virtually no meaningful communications with voters happened. Thus, in the run-up to last night, there were only two things that happened in that race in which any of them had any hope of getting voters’ attention: the televised debate in which all the credible candidates of both parties were invited to participate, and the AFL-CIO endorsement. Of the four Democrats, only Sean Hubbard and Paul Sadler were invited to debate. When the smoke cleared last night, it was clear that not only did the debate mean nothing, it meant less-than-nothing, and Sean Hubbard (who had impressed me so much in the debate that I voted for him) came up a little short was dead last. In the good news department, Paul Sadler, the one with the AFL-CIO endorsement, led voting, and it wasn’t even close. In the bad news department, Democrats have apparently now traded in their long-standing habit of voting for a guy mistaken for dead dancer Gene Kelly, in favor of voting for a guy mistaken for legendary dead Senator Ralph Yarborough – Sadler will face Grady Yarbrough in the run-off. Meanwhile, when was the last time a candidate whom media didn’t even invite to a debate end up placing in the money? Congratulations to Paul Sadler, and congratulations to the AFL-CIO, in a clear demonstration that the good guys’ support still means a lot.

— Speaking of celebrity mistaken identities, things must not be that bad, since a guy named Daniel Boone running in a Democratic Congressional primary lost handily.

— God help the guy who told David Dewhurst that if he just pulled that extra few million out of his pocket, he’d win without a runoff. Similarly, God help Dewhurst if, after his peeps telling him that a few more million would be necessary, he replied that he thought he already had it in the bag. I bet the U.S. Senate run-off between The Dew and Ted Cruz ends up being a $15 million investment for Dewhurst, at least. Also, since neither one of these guys has uttered a true word about the other one in at least two weeks, how bad will the lies get over the next nine? I’m sure both were on the phone with Tom Leppert late last night, trying to get Leppert’s endorsement, and presumably his 13-ish percent of the vote. Also, big congrats to Craig James for becoming the Republican Sean Hubbard – lots of motion, ultimately little progress.

— Go look at the current membership of the House Public Education Committee. Between retirements and defeats last night, things sure are getting lonesome.

What tidbits did I miss?

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FINALLY. The Houston Chronicle reports – you decide.

I’m irritating. Well, duh.

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Buzz from the TV show: Sadler vs. Hubbard for U.S. Senate

Recently I endorsed Sean Hubbard in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, and was happy to vote for him on the first day of early voting.

But that doesn’t mean I think he’s got the inside track to win the primary. In fact, while nobody knows who has the edge in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, I’m guessing Hubbard’s opponent Paul Sadler does.

I explain why in this week’s edition of YNN’s Capital Tonight:

Also discussed on this week’s show: the public school finance mess, what to make of Ron Paul’s latest moves, the latest comedy stylings of David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz, and more.

You can watch this episode of Capital Tonight in its entirety this Sunday morning at 11 on YNN Austin, or at any time on the interwebz.

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My U.S. Senate endorsement

Did you see the U.S. Senate debate last week on Houston public TV, which featured Democrats Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard, as well as the four Republican horsemen of the apocalypse? If so, congratulations – you’re one of a handful of Texans who tuned in.

Debates like that are usually only important if they create a subsequent buzz. Since few people watch the actual debate, it is only if somebody seizes the moment, royally screws up, or otherwise makes a strong impression one way or another, the public discussion afterward can sometimes swing enough votes to affect outcomes.

So here’s my own personal buzz, for what it’s worth: while it might surprise and maybe upset a few people for whom I have a lot of respect, after watching the debate I’ve decided I’m voting for Sean Hubbard in the Democratic primary.

Sean Hubbard

Both Hubbard and Sadler comported themselves very well. Both articulated values with which I, as well as most other Texas Democratic primary voters, wholeheartedly agree. I believe either would make a fine U.S. Senator.

But here’s the deal: both Democrats in the race are under-funded. And unless one of ’em wins the lottery, there’s no particular reason to believe that each won’t remain underfunded, especially compared to the Republican nominee, who intends to buy this Senate seat.

To be sure, lightning does occasionally strike in politics, but it usually doesn’t. So barring some unforeseen circumstance which changes the financial game, the reality is that Texas is one of the most expensive states in the nation to get out a message, the Republican nominee will have the funding necessary to saturate that message, and the Democratic nominee won’t. And while that’s a terrible shame, it also makes it more likely that the Democrat won’t prevail this November.

This, in my view, makes who Democrats nominate no less important. We have a Party to build. It cannot be built without growing enthusiasm, and it cannot be grown without attracting new voters to us, while retaining the support we’ve maintained.

Paul Sadler

There’s no doubt Paul Sadler is a rock-solid guy, and always was. He has a deep understanding of policy details which I deeply admire. And the likelihood that he would attract few new voters to the Democratic column is more a reflection on the electorate than it is on him. During the debate, he was the quintessential policy wonk, explaining government to people, with deep knowledge and much wisdom. I’m the kind of dork who likes that stuff. Most voters’ eyes glaze over.

Sean Hubbard surprised me at the debate. He is no less articulate than Sadler. He demonstrates an open-mindedness about new ideas, while simultaneously making clear that he would not turn his back on Democratic values. And mostly, he oozes enthusiasm and positive energy from every pore.

At 31, he looks younger than that, and he pointed out that he’s already older than Joe Biden was when Biden was elected to the Senate. Hubbard would be more likely to garner an excitement in a general election which is greater than the sum of its parts – not just because of his age, but because of his infectious enthusiasm and unapologetic zeal for the race. Isn’t that the kind of Democratic candidate that grows more voters than the “smartest guy in the room” types Democrats have already tried?

Here’s hoping lightning strikes. But even if it doesn’t, Sean Hubbard would be the kind of Democratic nominee more capable of attracting new folks to the Democratic column. It’s potentially important in that U.S. Senate race, it’s important in down ballot contests, and it’s important in future Party-building and elections.

To help you make your own decision, you can watch the Senate debate here. Also, while you’re listening to the Democrats, it’s also fun to watch the Republicans as they each explain why they’re totally for women’s freedom, even as they document why they’re not in favor of supporting any of those freedoms.

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