BROWN – GENT (Kaufman and Henderson counties)

A story is making the rounds late this afternoon that Tom Craddick has asked Republican members who are unopposed or do not have serious opposition to contribute $10,000 to Betty Brown, who is in a tight primary race against Wade Gent. This is based on a report from a credible source in whom I have above-average confidence. The race is a rematch of their 2006 race that Brown won by a little more than 500 votes, and it is a critical battleground in the speaker’s race. Brown, of course, is for Craddick. Gent has said he will not support the speaker. The request has generated some grumbling from solicitees, since Craddick has $4 million socked away. Of course, he may not be eager to dip into the till, considering that his last disbursement resulted in an ethics complaint being filed against him. Craddick contributed $250,000 to an obscure and until rcently dormant PAC, which then doled out $50,000 to three Craddick D’s in competitive races; a fourth, Dawnna Dukes, turned down the money. I should point out here that anti-Craddick members have voluntarily contributed money from their campaign accounts to some of their allies (e.g., Pat Haggerty) who face difficult races.

What does this mean? I think we safely speculate about two circumstances: (1) Betty Brown is in trouble. (2) The ethics complaint may have frozen Craddick’s ability to hand out money — something that has been an essential part of his power as speaker.

In a previous post, I wrote about the race:

Gent is giving Brown fits with two issues. One is the Trans-Texas Corridor, which is unpopular in this district. The other, believe it or not, is illegal immigration. She voted for a bill that authorized free tuition for the children of illegal aliens. The bill passed in 2001 with just one dissenting vote (Hartnett). Brown has also aroused some resentment in Kaufman County for moving her district office to Henderson County.

Gent’s Web site elaborates on these two issues. He posted a link to a letter he had published in the Athens Review in the summer of 2006, just a few months after Brown defeated him in the Republican primary. The letter letter begins, “The Trans-Texas land grab must be stopped in its tracks. The $184 billion project is slated to cut a path through our region. In its way are nearly 600,000 acres of family farms, ranches and backyards owned by hardworking Texans.” He also notes that Brown admitted in the Tyler Morning Telegraph that she voted to give in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. (I’m with Betty on this one. Any child of illegal aliens who learns English well enough to graduate from high school at a time when Hispanic dropout rates are terrible deserves in-state tuition.)