Perry vs. White

Gov. Rick Perry conducted a heck of a campaign against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison en route to winning the Republican nomination for governor. He has cleared a big hurdle in his quest for a third full term.

Now comes some more heavy lifting. His next opponent will be Bill White, the Democratic nominee and the former three-term mayor of Houston.

White is flush with money. He smoked a large field of contenders in his own primary, winning 75 percent of the vote. Granted, they weren’t of the quality of Hutchison, or even of Debra Medina, the conservative activist who also ran in the Republican primary.

None other than the great columnist and blogger Paul Burka has declared that Perry will be a formidable opponent for White. I cannot disagree. White will need his “A Game.” So, too, will Perry.

This is just anecdotal, but it’s telling nonetheless. White came to Amarillo a few weeks before the primary. He spoke to a Rotary club luncheon crowd gathered at the Amarillo Country Club. His speech wasn’t exactly political. Rotary rules prohibit political speeches, per se. But immediately after White spoke, I heard several Rotary club members say — some to me directly — that they are going to give White a serious look when it comes time to vote this fall. A few of them actually said they are leaning toward voting for him. I’ve heard much of the same in the weeks since then.

Why is this significant? Because I can guarantee that 90-plus percent of these testimonies are coming from lifelong Republicans.

OK, I haven’t polled them. I didn’t ask them directly. Suffice to say that I just know it.

Yes, the governor will be a tough campaigner. He’ll try to demonize White as he did Hutchison, although it’s a stretch to understand how he’ll lump the successful former mayor of a city of 2-plus million people with Washington, D.C.

The phrase of the moment is that this governor’s race will be the most significant since the Ann Richards-George W. Bush contest of 1994. If Perry wins, he positions himself for a possible run for higher office in, say, 2012. If White wins, he breaks a Republican chokehold on Texas government.

Hang on. This one’s going to be fun.

What now with the courthouse?

The scaffolding is down from the 1909 Courthouse in Canyon.

The exterior renovation is complete and the building looks pretty spiffy. But the question now, as always, is this: What happens now?

The inside of the structure is still a rat hole. It is unoccupied and it likely will stay that way for a good while. Yet many well-intentioned historical preservationists persuaded enough Randall County voters to pony up the public funds to fix up the exterior of the building.

I would agree that the building has a number of possibilities. It could become a museum; a private firm — such a law firm or an insurance agency — could move in; the Chamber of Commerce might consider using it.

But it’s quite clear that the county has no use for it.

The head-scratcher, though, is that the county had to pay a good bit for its exterior makeover.

As a Randall County resident, I’m truly glad the building looks so good — especially with the clock tower sitting atop it. I’m equally troubled, though, that the county is stuck with a pretty shell of a structure with a future that might be determined eventually, but likely will sit empty for a good, long while.

Are there any takers out there?

Too many lawyers, eh?

It’s becoming clear already, barely a day after the Republican primary vote for House District 87, that Rep. David Swinford didn’t do his chosen successor, Victor Leal, many favors with his endorsement.

Swinford, R-Dumas, announced his endorsement of Leal in January, declaring that the Legislature had too many lawyers among its members. So, he offered his backing to Leal, a well-known Amarillo restauranteur. Leal’s primary opponent was Walter “Four” Price, also of Amarillo — who happens to be a lawyer. The two men competed for the seat that Swinford is giving up after serving in the Legislature for the past two decades.

How did it work out? Price won the primary by more than 10 percentage points. By a common political standard, a 10-point margin constitutes a “landslide.” Granted, the number of votes cast in a regional primary might not signal a landslide-scale mandate, but it’s still a healthy margin.

How do I know that Leal was not well-served? A well-known Amarillo attorney called this morning to visit about the returns. He was truly miffed at the anti-lawyer rhetoric coming from the Leal camp. It made him work harder in support of his fellow lawyer, Price, the caller said. I asked, “Did your anger and extra hard work translate into votes?” He didn’t know precisely, except to say that it made him call more of his friends in and out of the law business and urge them to back Price for the GOP House nomination. The caller also informed me that many lawyers throughout the four-county House district were equally angered and that they, too, were motivated to work just a little harder to ensure a Price victory.

Some of the reaction to Swinford’s lawyer jab has been a bit overdone, to be sure, such as the statement that “saying the Legislature has too many lawyers is like saying a hospital has too many doctors.” Come on.

But the veteran legislator should have figured that his comments would draw that kind of response from what is still an influential special interest group. And, as Price said during the campaign, there are times when you need a lawyer to figure out the nuances and legal ramifications of often-complicated legislation.

I’ll bet that Democratic nominee Abel Bosquez and Libertarian candidate James Hudspeth — the two men competing against Price in the fall campaign — won’t venture into the anti-lawyer minefield.

GOP plays the name game

Those wacky Texas Republicans were at it again Tuesday. There’s so much to say about the election, but we’ll start with this: What in the world produced the Railroad Commission upset of incumbent Victor Carrillo in the Republican primary?

Carrillo is a one-time Taylor County judge, geologist and lawyer. He has served a stint as chairman of the three-member Railroad Commission. He’s smart, savvy and well-versed on the energy issues for which the RRC is responsible.

But he lost the renomination battle to a guy from Giddings, accountant David Porter, who spent next to zero money and almost as little time campaigning for the office.

Does that remind you of anything? Oh yes. How about the 2002 state Supreme Court Republican primary race between Justice Xavier Rodriguez and challenger Steven Wayne Smith? Rodriguez was appointed to the seat by Gov. Rick Perry. He was supremely qualified. He, too, lost to a no-name upstart who barely campaigned for the office.

The prevailing feeling then was that Smith won because Rodriguez’s surname worked against him. Carrillo predicted something like that would might occur now, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Well, did it?

One can draw only that conclusion, given that Porter lacks the qualifications and knowledge that the incumbent possesses.

If so, it is a sad testimony to prejudice.

That would be some moonwalk

I just heard about the new cast of “Dancing With the Stars,” but one name just jumps out at me.

Buzz Aldrin.

Forget about the rest of them. The second man to walk on the moon is going to cut a rug on national TV, trying his best not to make a fool of himself.

I give him a good shot at winning. I don’t know why. Although I don’t watch the show regularly, I have to pull for the guy. He’s 80 years old. He has stayed in great shape. Among the three men who made that historic flight in July 1969, Aldrin has maintained by far the most public profile. Neil Armstrong, Man on the Moon No. 1, and Mike Collins, who flew above the moon in the command ship, have maintained their privacy since their monumental mission. Good for them, too.

But ol’ Buzz has this need to stay in the public eye.

Good going, Buzz. Break a leg.

And here’s just one request: Will you please do a Michael Jackson-style moonwalk during one of your routines?

Learning something new

Don’t tell my sons this, but I learned something this morning: Length of years doesn’t equate to depth of knowledge.

My MP3 music player, which I strap onto my arm when I work out in the morning at the Amarillo Town Club, began acting up. It wouldn’t change songs. It was in “Repeat” mode. It was driving me nuts.

I looked around the gym and saw mostly more mature individuals. I probably was the oldest one in the room. But then it came to me: I’ll ask a young woman who works at the Town Club. Her name is Amanda, who — I learned not long ago — is just 23 years of age. She’ll know how to fix it, I thought.

Hey, Amanda, do you know much about these gadgets? I asked her, pointing to my maddening MP3. Sure, she said.

She took all of about, oh, three minutes to navigate her way around the various displays, finding the menu. She fixed it. Presto! Voila!

There you go, she said.

The moral of this little tale? Despite what I told my sons when they were growing up — that old folks know everything — I learned a lesson I knew intuitively already: When it comes to these techno-gizmos, the younger you are the more apt you are to know how to fix them.