Rick Perry vs. the World *
Tracking the 2006 Texas gubernatorial race.
* Now at the new Rick Perry vs World

Monday, February 28, 2005
Georgia Congressional districts
Eric Erickson posts a map of Georgia congressional districts.

Over the last few years, I spent hours poring over the proposed Texas redistricting maps, for state House, Senate and Congress. I saw some ugly districts.

I've never seen districts this ugly.

Thursday, February 24, 2005
Barnes and Hutchison rumor denied
Texas Weekly got both camps on the phone:
Both deny rumors, traded among mostly Democratic political blogs, that Barnes is working on a Democrats for Hutchison effort that would assist in her effort to knock off Gov. Rick Perry in next year's Republican primary.

But Barnes says the rumors aren't true and that he hasn't talked to Hutchison for a couple of months. We get the same feedback from her end of the phone line.
Barnes speculated that Perry might be behind the rumors.

Original post: Barnes to head Democrats for Hutchison?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
All politics is local
The Abitibi mill was one of several subjects tackled by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison Wednesday. The senator spent time in Lufkin talking to Rotary members about their priorities right now in congress.

She also gave her support for reopening the Lufkin mill.

"I want to weigh in to ask the people to keep the Lufkin paper mill open because that will be good jobs for Lufkin. Everything that I can do, I certainly will do."

The senator also talked about her ideas for making sure there's enough social security available for future generations.
Exhibit B: KTLV picks up the AP wire:
Plans are moving ahead for a memorial near downtown Nacogdoches where pieces of shuttle "Columbia" fell to Earth.

All seven astronauts died in the February first, 2003, accident.

U-S Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison today met with city and county officials in Nacogdoches who've selected an architect.

The memorial is expected to focus on the launch phase of Columbia's mission.

Hutchison has introduced a bill in the Senate to secure federal money for construction of memorials in Nacogdoches, Hemphill, Lufkin and San Augustine.

Architects have inspected the Nacogdoches site, where there's an existing small park.

Mayor Bob Dunn, who says pieces of wreckage are still being retrieved, hopes preliminary designs will be available for review in a few months.
Tending to local issues. That's smart politics.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Todd Gillman in the DMN on the Perry endorsement list
Todd Gillman writes in the Dallas Morning News about Perry's release of his Harris County Steering Committee just before KBH spoke at the Lincoln Day fundraising dinner.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison got star billing Tuesday night at the Harris County GOP's annual dinner. Gov. Rick Perry, who wasn't there, tried to upstage her.

Hours before she took the microphone at the Houston Intercontinental hotel, the Perry campaign released a list of endorsements from Houston-area party leaders, and if it sounded like the dinner's guest roster, it was no accident. Even county GOP chairman Jared Woodfill, who was master of ceremonies for the program, was on the list.

It was the latest in a series of subtle and not so subtle digs the Perry and Hutchison camps have traded lately, as she positions herself for a potential challenge in next year's gubernatorial primary and he tries to scare her off.

"The problem is, when you challenge an incumbent late in the process, you're going to run into the problem that most of the base is already committed," said Harris County tax assessor Paul Bettencourt, whose name also appeared on the "Harris County Steering Committee" list released by the Perry campaign. "Doesn't mean they won't vote for Kay for Senate."


One other sign that Mr. Perry will put up a fight emerged Tuesday: a letter to Texas GOP chairwoman Tina Benkiser from the leaders of the Republican Governors Association announcing their support for Mr. Perry's re-election, in the primary if necessary.

"By any measure," wrote Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the RGA chairman and vice chairman, Mr. Perry has been "immensely successful" and deserves re-election.

Perry campaign manager Luis Saenz said the governor didn't ask for the letter but welcomed it. "It's big," he said.

As Ms. Hutchison remains coy, others are positioning themselves in case she does leave the Senate.
The article notes that Henry Bonilla (running for Kay's seat) and Tom DeLay (the next speaker, if Chris Elam is right) shared the bill with KBH at the HCRP fundraiser.

The big 3 issues? Nope, not a campaign speech.
The Houston Chronicle doesn't pick up (at least in the online version) the AP story on KBH's talk to the Harris County Republicans, but KLTV in Tyler (and the Denton Record Chronicle, which records that Pam Easton wrote the article) does.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison talked taxes, Social Security and the war on terror at a Republican dinner tonight.

But mum remained the word on her political future.

The senator is widely believed to be considering a challenge to Republican Governor Rick Perry. But she avoided the topic in a speech to more than 450 people.

Instead, Hutchison focused on President Bush.

She told the crowd at the Harris County Republican Party 2005 Ronald Reagan Dinner that Bush has many of the same qualities that made Reagan a great leader.


Meanwhile, Perry attended an private fund-raiser for the Republican Party of Texas in Austin.
Taxes, war on terror, Social Security, and W? Doesn't sound like a campaign speech at all, does it?

Today's news
Byron beat me to it, as he has the post I was just about to put up. I'm tempted to quote his post in full, but I suppose that'd be bad ettiquette.

Dem gubernatorial hopeful Chris Bell criticizes Perry:
STATEMENT BY CHRIS BELL ON HB 23 Offered as testimony before the Insurance Committee, 2/21/05

There is no logical basis to link insurance rates to credit ratings. If someone is late on his credit card bill, that does not mean that a tornado is going to hit his barn. Economic redlining only serves to protect the profits of insurance companies, and we have a moral mandate to stop this now and to lower the barriers to home ownership.

This is not a partisan issue. The sponsors of HB 23 are Republicans, and in 2002, Rick Perry promised to end credit scoring in Texas. He was right to take that election-year stand back then, and though his appointee at the Texas Department of Insurance is protecting economic redlining, the Governor would do well to keep his earlier promise."

Meanwhile, Texans for Rick Perry released his Harris County Steering and Finance Committee. It included:
State Representative Peggy Hamric, State Representative Beverly Woolley, County Attorney Michael Stafford, District Clerk Charles Bacarisse, County Treasurer Jack Cato, Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, Sheriff Tommy Thomas, County Commissioner Steve Radack, County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, Constable Ron Hickman, Constable Glen Cheek, Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill, Chair of the Black Republican Council of Texas Bill Calhoun and State Chair of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Texas Marissa Rummell.
Full press release here. From my count, that includes 7 current SD chairman or SREC members. It also includes George Strake (former RPT chair), Jim and Elizabeth Graham (TX Right to Life), and big donors Richard Weekley, Ned Holmes, John Nau, and Bill and Nancy McGinn.

Monday, February 21, 2005
Ben Barnes to head Democrats for Hutchison?

Via Greg, I see that Save Texas Reps is reporting:
Word out of the nation's capital this weekend is that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has asked former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes to head up a "Democrats for Hutchison," sparking renewed speculation that Texas' senior solon has made her decision to take on Rick Perry in what promises to be a bruising GOP primary.

Barnes, a longtime Hutchison supporter, was at the center of last fall's CBS controversy over reports that George W. Bush was AWOL from much of his National Guard duties in the early Seventies. For Hutchison to call on him now has raised eyebrows among her supporters who wonder whether aligning herself this closely to the Bush-bashing Barnes makes sense in a GOP primary.

It certainly seems odd in a Republican primary to take a player in the Rathergate scandal and ask him to join your campaign.

UPDATE: Perhaps it seemed odd because it was? Someone who has been emailing to complain about my coverage of KBH claims that:
The Ben Barnes story is totally phony. KBH hasn't talked to Barnes in months. He will not be doing any fundraising for her. This is a completely phony story, probably put out by Perry people to cast doubt on her Republican credentials.

UPDATE 2: More from STR:
A longtime political powerbroker and friend of Hutchison's in Laredo is telling folks that Ben Barnes is indeed on board with her and has pledged to raise at least $1 million through a "Democrats for Hutchison" front group.

Update 3: Both camps deny the rumor.

Sunday, February 20, 2005
Travels with Hutch
While Perry is locked down in Austin dealing with school finance, KBH is travelling the state, according to Wayne Slater in the Dallas Morning News.
Looking ever more like a candidate for governor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison embarks this week on a flurry of appearances among the GOP faithful as speculation grows that she will challenge Gov. Rick Perry.

Ms. Hutchison recently hired a new political team with national credentials, touted a hefty campaign treasury and sent signals she may run against a fellow Republican in what would be a free-wheeling and expensive party primary next spring.

Saturday, she was in Laredo, accepting the "Mr. South Texas" award given by local officials. Upcoming: a full schedule before Republican crowds in Dallas, Houston, Lufkin and the suburbs north of Austin. Ms. Hutchison and Mr. Perry will both be at the Collin County GOP dinner on Saturday at Southfork Ranch.

"She's testing the waters ... so if she chooses to run for governor, she'll have the option to do so successfully," said James Riddlesperger, a political scientist at Texas Christian University.

Both Ms. Hutchison and Mr. Perry are up for re-election in 2006, and Hutchison backers have been bullish about promoting the idea she leave Washington to try to unseat the governor.

Also considering the contest is Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Hutchison aides say she has not yet decided a course of action.

"She believes in being prepared for any election," said spokesman Dave Beckwith. "As anybody who knows her travel schedule will attest, she is always active in going around the state. What's different this time is that when she travels, people are coming up to her and urging her to run for governor."

Moving to head off a primary challenge, the Perry camp has gathered endorsements from Republican statewide officeholders and showcased a list of social-conservative supporters.

A Perry spokesman said Ms. Hutchison might just be preparing for another term in the Senate.

"It's not surprising she's hiring staff. She's got a re-election race, and she's the only one with an announced Democrat in the race," said Luis Saenz, the governor's campaign manager.


At the Fort Bend County Lincoln Day dinner a week ago in suburban Houston, both Ms. Hutchison and Mr. Perry were in attendance, along with Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, who has been building a larger statewide organization.

In a recent letter to backers, Mr. Bonilla said Ms. Hutchison has given tacit approval for him to run if the Senate job opens.

"If she decides to vacate her seat for whatever reason, I will run," Mr. Bonilla said in the letter. "I have kept Kay aware of this and she believes I'm doing the right thing in preparing."

Meanwhile, Perry operatives are poring over Ms. Hutchison's Senate record in search of votes that could be used against her with primary voters, including her more moderate position on abortion rights.

A Perry associate said Ms. Hutchison has never been seriously challenged and noted Mr. Perry is a veteran of bruising campaigns – such as the 2002 gubernatorial race in which the governor accused Democratic rival Tony Sanchez of laundering drug money through his South Texas bank. Mr. Sanchez denied any wrongdoing.

Jerry Polinard, political scientist with the University of Texas-Pan American, said Ms. Hutchison might have problems winning over conservative voters who often dominate the GOP primary.
KBH's travels reminds me of Hillary Clinton's 2000 "Listening Tour" before announcing her Senate candidacy in New York. Hillary ran a brilliant campaign.

[And before the KBH supporters email: I'm not comparing Hutchison to Clinton in any way.]

Dewhurst drops by Amarillo Globe News after rodeo
Ralph Routon in the Amarillo Globe News:
After all, it's not every day that the lieutenant governor of Texas comes sauntering into the newspaper office wearing a jet-black cowboy hat and, no kidding, real spurs.

David Dewhurst didn't dress that way just to visit the Globe-News, of course. He was here to participate in the National Cutting Horse Association World Finals, and he came downtown straight from competition at the Amarillo National Center.

As long as he was in the vicinity, Dewhurst had asked whether he could chat with the Globe-News editorial board. We didn't mind a bit. Outside of election campaigns, it's not often that our state-level elected officials come calling.

The conversation lasted more than an hour, mainly because there was a lot of ground to cover. Not just regarding the 79th Legislature's ongoing session, but all the early speculation regarding the 2006 state election.

Fortunately, Dewhurst talks and thinks at a mile-a-minute pace, so our session was as productive as it was interesting.

Dewhurst freely called the Texas Senate's public-education plan "the boldest bill I've ever seen in the Legislature," because it adds money for improving teacher salaries, raising standards and forcing even more accountability on schools and districts.

But he stopped well short of saying the Senate bill should sail to Gov. Rick Perry's desk unscathed. That's because Dewhurst is fully aware any such legislation has to be a gourmet casserole, mixing the Senate and House versions. At this point, the two groups agree on some points but differ on others, starting with how to come up with much of the needed money.

Everyone also realizes that the school-finance outcome in all likelihood will set the stage for the 2006 election season, starting with the Republican primary just 13 months from now.

When our discussion turned that way, Dewhurst acted more like a guy holding a full house in a high-stakes card game. Given how he was dressed, especially those spurs, the description seemed to fit even more.

On one hand, Dewhurst talks candidly about a timetable of going for a second term in 2006, then perhaps a run for governor in 2010, followed by a possible shot at the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Then again, what if Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decides to join the 2006 governor race against Perry and, from all indications, State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn? That would open up an opportunity to pursue Hutchison's Senate seat - and, perhaps, radically change Dewhurst's timetable.

He says he has always told family members that his fondest ambition is someday to serve as a U.S. Senator from Texas. He also recalls pondering that option five years ago, as the state's land commissioner, after Phil Gramm's unexpected decision to leave the Senate. Dewhurst wound up running instead for lieutenant governor, but even now he insists polls at the time indicated he could have won the race that eventually went to John Cornyn.

Dewhurst didn't want to talk much about it, but the ongoing school-finance issue looks to be the crucial factor for all concerned. If the Legislature can produce an acceptable bill, preferably without resorting to a special session, that will strengthen Perry's chances of remaining governor - and might convince Hutchison to stay in the Senate a while longer.

He also knows his way around the Panhandle. He has been to Amarillo several times in the past few years, much more often than Perry, who hasn't made it here since June 2003.
Sounds like the Amarillo Globe News ed board is a little peeved that the Guv never drops by for a chat.

As the article notes -- if Dewhurst really wants to be Senator, he has a perverse incentive to drag his feet on school finance. Then KBH is more likely to run for guv, leaving Dewhurst to face Bonilla for Senate.

A look at the Texas Enterprise Fund
Mike Ward of the Austin American-Statesman takes a look at the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Perry will no doubt try to play up the TEF on the campaign trail. Meanwhile, Perry critics see the program as indicative of Perry's failures.

My instincts are against things like the TEF, but any governor loves the ability to get headlines about "bringing jobs to Texas."

Friday, February 18, 2005
USAToday on Perry, KBH, and stem cells
Hutchison is a possible Perry rival in next year's Republican
gubernatorial primary. If she runs, Perry likely will attack her stem
cell support "because he's going to have to polarize that primary as a
conservative vs. a liberal," says Stuart Rothenberg of the
non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Perry proposes $300 million for biotech and other emerging industries.
But he opposes embryonic stem cell research. At an anti-abortion rally
last month in Austin, he reaffirmed opposition to "any taxpayer
dollars being used and spent on research that ends a human life."

Perry believes research on stem cells from adults and from umbilical
cords -- which doesn't destroy embryos — is equally promising. "Those
are certainly the areas he wants to focus on," says Robert Black, a
Perry spokesman.

Whether that will satisfy the biotech industry and its powerful
venture-capital investors is unclear. History may be a guide. The
railroads got their way, spreading across the USA. Gambling now
flourishes everywhere.

In the end, Sicilia says, "Business wins."

Life with lots of money...
...I wouldn't know. Maybe someday. But Republican political funders have to sort out which horse they want to pick. Wayne Slater in the DMN:
A Republican family feud in the next governor's race could leave Bobby Ray with a big dilemma.

The Plano home builder is a contributor to Gov. Rick Perry. But he's also given to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who might challenge the GOP incumbent.

And Mr. Ray has backed Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, another potential contender in the spring 2006 party primary.

He's not alone. Scores of high-dollar Perry donors – Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, Houston developer Bob Perry, Dallas County GOP chairman Nate Crain and San Antonio highway contractor H.B. Zachry – also have helped Ms. Hutchison or Mrs. Strayhorn or both, according to finance reports.

The prospect of having to take sides in a fractious GOP contest could put loyal donors in an uncomfortable position, especially those who contributed freely when their favored picks ran for different offices.

Now, some with issues before government may fear retribution if they go with one of the challengers against the governor, analysts say. Backing the wrong candidate could make a political enemy, jeopardize business with the state or jettison chances of getting a coveted appointment from the governor.


About 40 percent of Mr. Perry's major donors in his latest report – those who have given at least $25,000 – also supported the Republican senator.

Mrs. Strayhorn, criticized by state GOP officials for attacks on Mr. Perry, has sought help outside usual Republican sources. She pulled in more than $160,000 from trial lawyers, who traditionally back Democrats, and at least $195,000 from executives of the Dallas tax-accounting firm Ryan & Co., whose partners include former lieutenant governor candidate John Sharp, a Democrat.

newest Texas Poll is out
Remember Perry's pre-session media blitz? It appears to have paid off, according to the newest Texas Poll.

I couldn't find the poll report online, so I can only pass along what Ratcliffe wrote in the HoustonChron.

According to the Chronicle, Perry's approval rating is at 51%, Strayhorn's is 53%, and Hutchison's in 72%.

Among Republicans, Perry's approval rating is 73%, while Hutchison's is 85%. Strayhorn's are only 53%, but that's with 31% who didn't know whether they approved or not (similar to Senator Cornyn). Only 16% disapproved. Moreover, according to R.G. Ratcliffe, Strayhorn's numbers are identical among Republicans, Dems, and Independents.

Fudge factors:
** "The job-approval ratings may have been affected by a change in wording in the poll. In prior polls, respondents were asked whether an officeholder was doing an excellent/good job or a fair/poor job. This time they were asked to approve or disapprove of job performance."

** 3% margin of error (presumably more for the Republican subsamples)

** If I recall correctly, the Texas Poll doesn't screen very closely for likely Republican primary voters. They just ask one question about partisan self-identification and go from there.

1. Strayhorn's numbers are impressive, since she's never been on the ballot as Strayhorn. This probably reflects the major newspapers' willingness to print Strayhorn's attacks on Perry. She gets her name in the news quite a bit for a comptroller.

2. A skilled political consultant can probably drive up the negatives on Hutchison. Still it's always nice to start campaigns with more folks liking your job performance than your opponent's.

3. Perry's media blitz seemed to pay off. He hopes this will help him wrangle with lawmakers, because he knows that current poll numbers aren't very relevant to the coming race...but what happens over school finance is very relevant to the coming race.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Bonilla can read the tea leaves
While I was on hiatus for the past few weeks, Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla announced that he would run for the Senate if Hutchison didn't.

Today, Roll Call reported that Bonilla is meeting with lobbyists in DC to prepare for a possible (probable?) Senate run in 06.

Bonilla let his interest be known in 2002, but only quietly. He never committed himself to the race to let potential opponents know that they'd have a race. Thus, he backed down when then-Attorney General John Cornyn entered the race. The White House then let it be known that challenging Cornyn would be a faux pas.

Bonilla has obviously learned from his political mistake. He can read the tea leaves. He knows KBH is running for governor, so he's jumping in the race now.

Gas tax
Clay Robison in the Chron:
House Speaker Tom Craddick said Tuesday that he wants to squeeze more money out of the state gasoline tax by allowing the tax rate, now set at 20 cents per gallon, to rise in step with some type of inflation index.

The tax, last increased in 1991, is a major revenue-raiser for highways and the public schools, but the state hasn't cashed in on the high gasoline prices of recent years because tax revenue — which is based on quantity, not price — has been relatively flat.

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst indicated they were open to the idea.

"We haven't increased our gas tax in years," Dewhurst said. "We've got continuing challenges to put more money into our highways. We'll take a look at it over here in the Senate."

Spokeswoman Kathy Walt said Perry believes the proposal is an "interesting concept that ... the Legislature ought to explore."

[Side note: it's rather odd to include the italicized phrases, when the article doesn't mention anything about the state trying to profit from rising gas prices.]

We'll see how politically palatable any raise in the gas tax is. Indexing the gas tax to inflation may or may not be good public policy (I reserve comment, though I note that capital gains are NOT indexed to inflation, which is presumably much more distortionary), but any hikes in the gas tax are tough sells politically.

Perry had his spokeswoman issue a tepid ok, but I'm sure he's treading gingerly.

It's certainly a potential campaign issue for KBH or Strayhorn. They can criticize Perry from the right (raising taxes) and from the left (the gas tax is presumably regressive).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Meeting in Dallas
Gromer Jeffers on Dallas:
More than 150 people met in Dallas on Saturday to discuss the political options for the Republican senator.

She's considering returning to Texas and running for governor against incumbent Rick Perry.

The meeting included Ms. Hutchison's longtime grass-roots supporters from throughout the state.

"There were both written and oral comments," said Dave Beckwith, a spokesman for Ms. Hutchison. "It was very encouraging."

KBH fighting for her chair(wo)manship
The AP wire carries a report that Senator Hutchison is fighting to keep her appropriations subcommittee chairmanship.
The House reorganized its Appropriations Committee structure, reducing its subcommittees to 10. The Senate still has 13 subcommittees and is trying to determine how it can marry its structure with the House's without pushing some of its senators out of their chairmanships.

Hutchison has less seniority than other senators holding chairmanships so she could end up squeezed out if the Senate follows the House, which it has not seemed eager to do.
This is interesting for two reasons:
1. A fight over her own power may make Hutchison more appreciative of her 10 years seniority and power. It's unlikely, but it's possible that it could make her want to stick around DC for another term to enjoy the power she's worked for.

2. Inasmuch as KBH can be efficacious on her own behalf (the case appears to be more of a Senate-House institutional power struggle, with each bodies leaders fighting just because), Hutchison's own power diminishes somewhat as she eyes the governor's mansion.

Saturday, February 12, 2005
When is the announcement?
Given the recent hirings of Kay Bailey Hutchison, there isn't much doubt that she's running for governor. The question is when she'll announce.


Terry Sullivan, who guided Jim DeMint through a very tough SC Sen primary and general election, is Kay Bailey Hutchison's new campaign manager.

Meanwhile, KBH picked Scott Howell to do her media work, replacing David Weeks. Weeks has been her ad czar in the past, but he does ads for Rick Perry.

Weeks wouldn't have needed replacing by KBH unless she was planning to challenge Perry. Nor would Sullivan have signed on to manage her campaign unless there was a promise of a more challenging race than Senate re-election (in golf terms, that'd be a "gimme.")

The writing is on the wall. As clear as it has been for so long, I still didn't quite believe we'd really have the 800 pound gorillas fighting to the political death. But at this point, it's a sure thing.

Let's play ball.

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