Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Davis's campaign in shambles?

Now we know what happened to Wendy Davis’s campaign for Texas governor.

She veered too far to the left, as if there’s really a “middle ground” among Texas voters.

The Texas Tribune is reporting that some internal memos within the Democratic nominee’s campaign for governor reveal a campaign in disarray. It was disorganized, not unified on the message it intended for the candidate to give. In general, it was doomed almost from the get-go.


This is news?

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott was the prohibitive favorite the moment he won the Republican primary in March.

Davis actually needed for Abbott to either drool on his shirt during a televised debate or launch into an f-bomb tirade against something his opponent said.

Well, none of that happened.

Davis’s campaign had the misfortune of running under the Democratic banner in a strong Republican year across the nation, let alone in GOP-heavy Texas. As the Tribune’s Jay Root reports: “Given the national wave that swamped Democrats around the country, including in governor races that Republicans won in traditionally blue states such as Maryland and Massachusetts, it’s highly unlikely that any political strategy would have ushered Davis into the Texas Governor’s Mansion.”

Still, the memos reveal some serious dysfunction among the Davis campaign’s brass. As Root reports: “The warnings are contained in two internal communications obtained by The Texas Tribune and written at the beginning of the year by longtime Democratic operatives Peter Cari and Maura Dougherty.

“’The campaign is in disarray and is in danger of being embarrassed,’ Cari and Dougherty wrote in a lengthy memorandum on Jan. 6. ‘The level of dysfunction was understandable in July and August, when we had no infrastructure in place — but it doesn’t seem to be getting better.’”

Meanwhile, the Abbott-Republican “ground game” kicked into high gear.

The lesson for future Democratic candidates? Try like the dickens to stake out some middle ground, plant yourself firmly on it and stick with a structured plan of attack.


GOP 'ground game' catches Democrats

Give credit where it most certainly is due.

The Texas Republican Party has developed what’s called a “ground game” that in this state more than rivals the Democratic efforts at getting voters to turn out.

The ground game has been credited with giving Greg Abbott an astounding victory in his campaign for governor over Wendy Davis.


Are you understanding all of this, Texas Democrats?

As the Texas Tribune reports: “The Abbott campaign’s stealthy ground game started with a huge paid field operation, spread out across Texas and costing $5 million to $6 million. The team, aimed largely at identifying and motivating voters who infrequently participate in state elections, was almost 10 times larger than the one Gov. Rick Perry put together in his 2010 re-election campaign.”

That’s what all the money Abbott raised was able to buy him. He managed to put a lot of players on the field all across the state and worked them hard to turn out the vote in places where Democrats used to stand tall.

The Tribune piece attached to this post lays out it quite clearly. Texas Republicans have gotten the message delivered by national Democrats, particularly those who helped elect Barack Obama president twice. The president’s ground game, and his campaign’s masterful use of social media to put his message forward has paid huge dividends.

My sense now is that the 2016 campaign — which now is more or less officially under way — is going to be a lot more competitive than some of us figured it might have been.

National Republican campaign strategists can look to Texas to see how this game is played and how it is won.

It matters a lot, because as the saying goes: Texas is “like a whole other country.”

That 'coercion' thing might stick to Perry

“It appears to those on the prosecutor’s side that his funding veto and the threat that preceded it were an attempt to intimidate and coerce the office that has the job of policing corruption and ethics cases in state government.

“The threat is the thing. Had the governor simply cut the funding without saying anything — especially in public, but even in private — this would just be a strange veto. That is not unprecedented.”

So writes Ross Ramsey, in an excellent analysis for the Texas Tribune.

The more I think about it, the more I’m beginning to believe that the coercion allegation might be the one that sticks to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.


A Travis County grand jury indictment of Perry issued this past week accuses the governor of coercion and of abuse of power. He threatened to veto funds for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office if DA Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign after she pleaded guilty to a drunk-driving charge. Lehmberg served her time in the slammer, but didn’t quit. Perry cut the money for the public integrity unit run out of Lehmberg’s office.

The grand jury thinks Perry abused his power.

I’m wondering, though, if the coercion matter isn’t the more damaging part of the indictment.

As Ramsey notes, Perry made a pretty big stink about all this stuff regarding Lehmberg. I agree with Perry that the DA should have quit. I also believe the grand jury may have something on the governor regarding the manner in which he sought to pressure the prosecutor to quit.

Perry vows to fight the indictment. He calls it a political farce. He even calls the indictment itself an “abuse of power.”

We’ll see about that.

I like Ramsey’s metaphor describing the indictment: “Meanwhile, the governor and others are already haunting Iowa, the home of the first presidential primaries almost two years from now. This indictment could be to the Perry presidential campaign what a sewer leak is to the opening of a new restaurant: The food might not be the diners’ strongest memory of the meal.”

Partisan divide develops in Perry case

It took barely an instant for the partisan divide to present itself in the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

A Travis County grand jury has indicted Perry on two felony counts involving abuse of power regarding the drunk-driving arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. As Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune reports, the politics of this matter plays more heavily perhaps than the actual alleged crime.


What’s fascinating to me, though, is how Perry supporters are linking what Perry is accused of doing to what Lehmberg actually did, and served time for doing it.

Perry is accused of coercing Lehmberg to quit after her DWI conviction. He threatened publicly to veto an appropriation for the public integrity unit she runs out of her office in Austin. He blustered and sought to bully the DA, which Ramsey notes is likely what got him into trouble with the grand jury.

Lehmberg did her time, 45 days in jail. She didn’t quit, although she should have left office. By my way of thinking, a prosecutor who sends drunk drivers to jail loses his or her moral authority when he or she is convicted of the very same crime. Lehmberg, though, isn’t running for re-election, so she’ll be gone too.

The two incidents, though, are not related. One relates to bad behavior off the clock; the other involves alleged criminal behavior in the performance of his public duties.

Will this indictment have an impact on Perry’s reported interest in running for president in 2016? Yeah, it will. No doubt about it. Take a gander at Ramsey’s analysis. My hunch is that Perry’s going to give serious thought to ending his political career when he leaves office at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, let’s not confuse the issue by suggesting that the DA’s decision to stay on the job has anything to do with what Perry is accused of doing.

Group hits Dewhurst where it hurts

The late, great U.S. senator, Lloyd Bentsen, was fond of calling politics “a contact sport.”

Granted, he didn’t create the description. He was accurate in describing it to those of us who follow politics and government.

David Dewhurst has just taken a body blow from a long-time ally, illustrating just how much contact can be delivered during a heated campaign season.


Texans for Lawsuit Reform has bailed on the Texas lieutenant governor. It has long backed him in previous campaigns, right up through this year’s Republican primary for the seat he’s seeking to hold. But as Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune, the group likely has redefined “political treachery.”

It’s looking more and more as though Dewhurst is toast.

Ramsey writes: “The standard for good old-fashioned treachery in politics is pretty low — in fact, many people think politics is a synonym for treachery. Even with that, the latest move by one of the state’s biggest business groups against the sitting lieutenant governor was breathtaking.”

Texans for Lawsuit Reform now is backing state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston in the May GOP runoff. Patrick finished far ahead of Dewhurst in the primary, but failed to reach the 50-percent-plus-one-vote threshold to avoid a runoff. Now it’s Patrick and Dewhurst going head to head in the May 27 runoff; the winner will face Democratic nominee state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte this fall.

Ramsey calls the reversal “jarring.” He continues: “This group has stood beside Dewhurst through one successful race for land commissioner and three for lieutenant governor. After he lost to Ted Cruz in the 2012 race for the United States Senate, many supporters urged him not to seek another term in his current post. He tuned that out, and TLR stuck with him through a March contest that included, along with Patrick, the state’s sitting land and agriculture commissioners. The other candidates saw a vulnerable incumbent, but the lawsuit reform group hung on.”

There are frontrunners and then there is this. Texans for Lawsuit Reform has hitched up behind Patrick, apparently believing he’ll win the runoff and then go on to become the state’s next lieutenant governor. Van de Putte is a lost cause in the eyes of the lawsuit reformers, given that she’s from that other party, the one that favors plaintiffs.

Dewhurst has been a friend of TLR for many years. He doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment, even in the rough-and-tumble world of Texas politics.

Panhandle trio makes senator jealous?

Texas state Sen. Tommy Williams came to Canyon to take part in an interesting event put on by the Texas Tribune, but offered a comparison that I cannot let pass without some comment.

Williams, a Republican from the Houston area, was on hand at West Texas A&M University to honor state Reps. Four Price and John Smithee and state Sen. Kel Seliger, all Amarillo Republicans. He joked about how jealous he is that the three of them get along so well, unlike his colleagues in Southeast Texas, who — according to Williams — don’t enjoy the same level of legislative collegiality.

The reference drew some laughs in the packed room at the Jack B. Kelley Student Center. The Tribune’s editor in chief and CEO Evan Smith moderated a discussion with the three legislators, grilling them with questions about the state of the state, water planning, infrastructure development, taxes, education … the whole range of issues.

Back to Williams’s brief expression of envy …

Of course Smithee, Price and Seliger get along. They’re all from the same party and they all represent constituencies that look virtually identical. They’re three peas in a pod, triplets, if you prefer.

Williams, however, represents a part of the state where residents — let alone officeholders — cannot agree on the time of day.

I lived for 11 years in Beaumont, which comprises part of Williams’s Senate District 4. I know the region pretty well. It’s contentious, hot-headed, racially and ethnically mixed and politically diverse with a healthy portion of Democrats and Republicans finding reasons to disagree with each other.

For all I know, there might even be some Cajun influence at work there, with typically opinionated Cajuns named Boudreau, Thibideaux and Guidry preferring to disagree rather than work together.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Williams would draw such a comparison between his region of the state and this one. It’s also why I found the upper Texas Gulf Coast such a fascinating place to live and work for more than a decade.

It is a journalist’s version of Heaven on Earth, made that way by the contentiousness that is inbred in the good and colorful folks who live there.

Tea party Ted makes no apologies

This might be the least surprising development of the year-end review of all things political.

It is that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, makes no apologies for his first year in office.

Imagine that. The guy who stormed into the Senate at the start of the year and began immediately to hog the limelight and TV time from virtually all his more senior colleagues, men and women who’ve worked hard to earn the respect of their colleagues.


Cruz sat down with the Texas Tribune and said, in effect, he’d do it all over again if given the chance.

Why in the name of all that is holy am I not surprised at that?

Cruz’s brashness preceded him to the Senate. He had knocked off the presumptive Republican favorite for the Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. They were vying to win the seat occupied for nearly 20 years by Kay Bailey Hutchison, who retired from public life.

Cruz polled enough votes in the primary to force a runoff, and then beat Dewhurst to win his party’s nomination. He then swamped Democratic nominee Paul Sadler in November 2012.

It took him no time at all to make a name for himself in the Senate. He flouted tradition by spouting off about this and that. He impugned the integrity of two Vietnam War heroes — Chuck Hagel and John Kerry. He led a fake filibuster on the Senate floor to try to derail the Affordable Care Act. He has been virtually everywhere — seemingly at once. Turn on TV lights and there he has been.

This is my favorite: He has blamed all that he believes is wrong with the country on — get ready — his fellow Republicans who he has suggested don’t have the courage to join him in his fierce objections to virtually all legislation.

Cruz probably will run for the presidency in 2016. Heck, someone who stormed to the front row in the Senate so quickly likely feels it is his destiny to go for the next big prize. That’s his shtick.

This Texan is tired of him already.

Soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Perry reintroduces himself

Here he comes again, the man formerly known as Gov. Goodhair is returning to the national stage.

Rick Perry is about one year away from the end of his interminable tenure as Texas governor. He is not about to disappear. He won’t be heading back to Paint Creek to write poetry or learn how to paint. He’s coming back to the national stage … or so it seems.

Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey has written a fabulous analysis of Perry’s latest effort to rebrand himself, possibly setting himself up for another run for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.


Ramsey cautions skeptics — such as myself — to avoid dismissing Perry’s effort at rebranding. Ramsey writes: “Joke all you want, but watch: The governor is pretty good at this sort of maneuver. He was a Democrat who loaned his time to Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign, when the Republican nominee was a Texan named George H.W. Bush. Two years later, as a Republican, Perry ambushed the state’s popular agriculture commissioner, Jim Hightower, a Democrat, in a statewide race that set him on his current political trajectory.”

Ramsey is a smart fellow who’s covered Texas politics like a blanket perhaps since The Flood. He knows Perry better than most journalists.

I still have trouble buying into the notion, though, that the governor who flamed out so miserably before the 2012 GOP presidential primary campaign really go started can re-tool himself sufficiently to make voters forget all the gaffes, goofs and guffaws he produced.

His “oops” moment will go down in history as a classic. Perry’s loose talk of secession in 2009 won’t play well in Yankee territory, which as a national candidate for president he will need. Remember when he accused of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke of committing a “treasonous act” by printing all that money?

This is just a sample of the kinds of issues his foes — even those within his own Republican Party — will be more than happy to throw back at him.

I’ve long thought of Perry as more than a guy with good hair. He has tremendous instincts when it comes to Texas politics. He knows his native state well and knows the people who live here.

Still, the late columnist Molly Ivins’s apt Gov. Goodhair moniker does seem to fit, which explains, according to Ross Ramsey, why Perry has donned black-framed eyeglasses in recent public appearances.

Get ready, America. You’re about to get a lot more of Rick Perry than ever before.

I’ll paraphrase comments I heard during Perry’s first run for president in 2012 that came from devoted Texas Panhandle Republicans. They were pulling for Perry to win the White House “just to get him out of Texas.”