One last look at tomorrow's runoffs
Mon April 12, 2010 3:58 pm

All of these runoffs except one involve Republicans. Please note that I am still adding to these reports.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 3
Former legislator Rick Green vs. Fort Worth district judge Debra Lehrmann

I want to be fair and balanced about this. Even though Green has no judicial experience and was an embarrassment as a legislator, and Lehrmann has served on the bench for more than 22 years, there is a good reason to vote for Rick Green: His election might awaken the public to the realization that electing judges is a bad idea, and the Legislature might be shamed into establishing a new method of selecting judges.

Now, to be fair and balanced, I offer a reason to vote against Rick Green. Here is his “Ten Worst Legislators” writeup from 2005:

I do not like thee, Mr. Green
Exactly why I cannot ween.
But this I say, although it’s mean:
I do not like thee, Mr. Green.

Something about Rick Green just drives his House colleagues nuts. Maybe it’s things like his bill to let parents opt out of required immunizations for their children (currently allowed only for religious reasons). Or, maybe it’s the way he introduced his bill in committee: “If you had told me a year ago I would spend this much time dealing with shots, I would have assumed it was a gun bill.” Maybe it’s things like his argument for his bill, that three times as many kids are injured by vaccinations as have gotten the disease the shot is intended to prevent. (Could it be that immunizations are the reason so few children get the disease?)

Still, one bad bill and an annoying style does not a Worst legislator make. No, Green had to go out and earn his notoriety. No problem. He spent the session embroiled in ethical pratfalls. First he sponsored a fundraiser for the Torch of Freedom Foundation, which he founded, and sold tickets to lobbyists, thus managing to avoid prohibitions against fundraising during a session; charitable solicitations are excepted. But the executive director of Common Cause told the Dallas Morning News that such activity smacks of a “lobbyist shakedown.” Next, published reports revealed that lawyer Green had worked successfully to secure a state parole for a family friend and associate of a Green family business who had been convicted of defrauding investors of $30 million (the Greens were not linked to the fraud). The man had loaned $400,000 to the Green family, most of which had been forgiven in various transactions. Finally, Green appeared in an infomercial, sitting in his Capitol office and walking through the halls of state, for Focus Factor, a company that sells nutritional supplements to “supercharge your brain.” When word of this inappropriate use of state property leaked out, he asked that he be edited out of the infomercial. Forget the ethical issues; the real scandal is, Who decided that Rick Green was the exemplar of a supercharged brain?

Green is probably the favorite to win this race. In races where candidates are totally unknown to most voters, the shorter and more common name usually prevails. The winner will face Democrat Jim Sharp in the general election.

House of Representatives, District 66 (Plano)
Former congressional candidate Van Taylor vs. Mabrie Jackson

The winner will succeed Brian McCall, who resigned to become chancellor of the Texas State University system. This has been a high-spending race, with Taylor outspending Jackson by at least 3 to 1, almost all of it loans to his campaign from his personal funds. Taylor and tea party candidate Wayne Richard together received 59% of the vote on March 2, but Jackson led the field on primary election day. Richard has endorsed Taylor. If the race comes down to money, Taylor should win. If it comes down to grass roots, Jackson should win; she has attacked Taylor for his relocations to other communities in search of an office he could win. The Jackson campaign, as I have mentioned in previous posts, has labeled their opponent “Moving Van” Taylor.

Update: The latest information that I have concerning this race is that the early vote in the primary was abound 7,500 and the early vote in the runoff was 4,600. The Jackson camp believes that a heavy turnout favors them, and this is a heavy turnout. The Jackson forces also believe that Taylor’s attacks on Jackson for getting the endorsement of Parent PAC have backfired and that the education community will come out in force. Plano is a community where people live because of the quality of the schools. I don’t think Taylor’s attacks will meet with success here.

House District 83 (Lubbock)
Delwin Jones (incumbent) vs. Charles Perry

The voters of this district cast more than 25,000 ballots in the primary, producing the biggest turnout in Texas. Jones had a narrow lead coming out of the primary, but Perry had the momentum. The length of the runoff has given Jones time to regroup, and he has effectively parried Perry’s attack that he voted to provide tuition scholarships to illegal aliens back in 2001. He has also taken the offensive against Perry for alleged ethics violations, including the acceptance of a direct corporate contribution, which is illegal in Texas. Most important, Jones has exploited his position as chairman of the House Redistricting Committee to suggest that if he is not in Austin to protect West Texas’s interests, the area will lose seats. Jones even sent out a mailer with photos of Sheila Jackson Lee and Ciro Rodriguez, both of whom are Democratic members of Congress from Texas, indicating that they might end up representing Lubbock but for him.

Perry has also had the distraction of accusations that his consultant is a former legislator and convicted felon, Ben Campbell. (Perry insists that his consultant is Jordan Berry, and it is Berry that I have always spoken with when I have contacted the Perry campaign.)

Jones has the key endorsements of third-place finisher Zach Brady and state senator Robert Duncan. He has also won the endorsements of the major agricultural groups. The most effective issue against him is that he is 86 years old and it’s time for a change.

Perry’s closing run in the primary was chiefly due to first-time voters. They will have to turn out in force for the runoff if he is going to beat Jones.

District 84 (Lubbock)
Mark Griffin vs. John Frullo

Griffin is a former Texas Tech regent (deposed by Rick Perry) who owns a chain of truck stops. Frullo is a local businessman and political ally of retiring lawmaker Carl Isett. Griffin stood at 51% after the early vote on March 2 but slipped to 48.7% after all the votes were tallied, with Frullo a close second. The third-place finisher, Ysidrio Gutierrez, has endorsed Frullo. Neither Griffin nor Frullo has been an exceptional candidate. Griffin is not good on camera and has resorted to “testimonial” ads, with man-on-the-street types saying nice things about him.

Frullo sent out a mailer attacking Griffin that could affect the race. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal filed this report:

The day before last week’s primaries Texas House District 84 voters received a mailer critical of Lubbock businessman Mark Griffin, who’s seeking the Republican nomination for the seat incumbent Carl Isett is vacating in January.

The mailer said the local tax appraisal board valued Lubbock’s “Tara” mansion the Griffin family owned on Fourth Street at $670,000 – yet the city of Lubbock purchased it for $1.9 million.

“Did the appraisal board undervalue Griffin’s property so he didn’t have to pay his fair share of taxes or did Griffin get a sweetheart deal on the condemnation?” asked the mailer with an altered picture of Griffin holding two white bags with dollar signs.

District 127 (Kingwood/Humble)

Dan Huberty and Dr. Susan Curling are vying to succeed Joe Crabb. Huberty came very close to winning without a runoff.

Curling attacked Huberty over a vote taken by the Humble ISD trustee for a deal to put advertisements on the sides of the district’s school buses. The Curling campaign alleged that Huberty should have recused himself from the vote to award the contract to Steep Creek Media because of conflict of interest. A story written three months after the vote identified Huberty’s wife, Janet, as a manager for the company.

After issuing a release on the issue last week, the Curling campaign sent out a mailer repeating the allegations this week. Humble ISD Superintendent Guy Sconzo told the Kingwood News that there’s one main problem with the Curling attack pieces - they aren’t true. Huberty’s wife wasn’t tapped as a volunteer to provide outreach for the advertising program until six to eight weeks after the May 2008 vote.

When this attack fizzled, Curling attacked Huberty for accepting the endorsement of Parent PAC. This hasn’t gotten traction either. Huberty should win this race.

* * * *

As most readers know, Republican runoffs favor the more conservative candidate. Ideologically motivated voters are more likely to turn out than voters who are motivated by civic duty. Furthermore, conservative and religious organizations maintain voter lists that help turn out voters. One thing that makes this runoff unique is that the Republican primary had an unusually high percentage of first-time voters. It is crucial to candidates like Van Taylor and Charles Perry that these voters return to the polls. The conventional wisdom, however, says that they won’t.

If I were betting on these races, I would place my money on all the candidates who led going into the runoff: Green, Jackson, Jones, Griffin, Huberty.

I will comment only briefly on three other Republican runoffs.

Larry Gonzalez vs. John Gordon (District 52, Round Rock):

The winner will oppose Democratic incumbent Diana Maldonado. Gonzalez has a killer radio spot against Gordon, whom he calls a “ticking time bomb,” citing occasions on which Gordon has erupted with rage when dealing with police, traffic citations, and other incidents. The conventional wisdom here is that Maldonado would defeat Gordon but Gonzalez would defeat Maldonado. The Democrats are going to have trouble holding this seat.

Fred Brown vs. Buddy Winn (District 14, Bryan-College Station)

Brown is the incumbent, of course, and he led in the primary by a 43-25 margin. This is not a significant race, and I leave it to the wisdom of the voters of Brazos County to decide.

Paul Workman vs. Holly Turner (District 47, Austin)

Valinda Bolton is the Democratic incumbent. The Republicans think they can beat her. I don’t. Again, I leave this to the wisdom of the voters.

Norma Chavez vs. Naomi Gonzalez (District 76, El Paso)

This is the only Democratic runoff. Chavez trailed by a little over a hundred votes coming out of the primary. Since then she has run an undisciplined campaign and everything seems to be coming apart for her. She made a huge mistake by bringing up Gonzalez’s sexual orientation, and virtually the entire political community condemned her for doing so. Eliot Shapleigh has endorsed her opponent. So has former legislator Paul Moreno – not surprisingly, since Chavez recruited Marisa Marquez to run against him in 2008. Chavez has just made too many enemies, and although she will fight to the last ounce of energy, I think Gonzalez has the upper hand.

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