A Few Thoughts on Democrats & the Texas Governor's Race

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Today, 'leading' Democratic candidate Tom Schieffer launched his gubernatorial campaign in Forth Worth, a portion of which he used to represent as a state legislator in the 1970s. You can read more about that announcement and view his kickoff speech here. I say 'leading' in quotes only because of the current declared field (rounded out by humorist Kinky Friedman and Mark Thompson), Tom Shieffer is the most serious candidate, even as he trails Kinky in recent polling. Of course, that's polling without Mark Thompson being included, who as we should know, has an uncanny ability to beat better known and funded primary candidates with no rational explanation.

So what changed today? Not much. The real change in the Governor's race happened yesterday.

It's no accident that Sen. Van de Putte's letter declining a run for Governor and subsequent endorsement of fellow state senator Kirk Watson of Austin happened the day before Schieffer's announcement. Watson's going to be able to take the time to consider his options, see the reception to both that trial balloon as well as the response to Shieffer's official launch (and even step a little on his media, whether intended or not).

While I don't know what Watson will decide, at least the last 24 hours has seen people start taking affirmative actions to say “yes, no, or maybe” with greater confidence so the political calculus can become clearer for all interested parties. That's a good thing in my book. And for what it is worth, various BOR staff writers have been involved in both “draft” groups on facebook, which ended up with over 760 for Sen. Van de Putte this spring and now over 225 for Watson in the last 24 hours alone.

I watched Tom Schieffer's speech. I wasn't offended by anything in it but at the same time, wasn't particularly inspired by anything in it either. Talking to other activists, granted, on the more progressive side of things, it's mostly the same refrain. No one dislikes Tom (well, some do for his relationship with former President Bush), but there is a sense that this election should be more than just “not disliking” our nominees, especially at the top of the ticket.

And in what should have been a day focused around Schieffer's plan and policy ideas, two separate statements have generated needless “cringe” moments that could separate him from grassroots activists.

San Antonio Express News

“And also remind people that this is not going to be easy. It's going to be really hard. And if they want to do that, I get to be governor. And if they don't want ot do that, I can go make money, and I've done my civic duty of trying to lay it out.”

Austin American-Statesman

Responding to a reporter's query, Schieffer said today: “I think Sen. Watson is a very good candidate… He told me he was not going to run for governor. I hope nobody (else) runs for governor. I hope everybody will fall out on both sides, but I suspect that won't happen.”

Huh? I never knew that running for the Democratic Party's nomination for Governor was so much of a burden.

Of course, Mark Thompson and Kinky Friedman have been more obnoxious this past week in their own strategies.

Mark Thompson via Twitter on Shieffer's announcement:

Tom Schieffer Channeling Sam Rayburn now to run as a Democrat? Didn't he channel Benedict Arnold to sellout the TX Democrat Party with Bush?

Kinky Friedman seems to have no comment on Schieffer, but instead, gave a crass gift to Perry last week after the Governor injured himself while mountain biking.

NBC-DFW: Although Kinky Friedman promised fewer jokes this time around in his campaign for Texas governor, he did not resist the allure of a zinger last week.

The author-musician-humorist sent Gov. Rick Perry (his likely gubernatorial opponent) a special sympathy gift: a pair of training wheels.

The purpose of the gift was two-fold. Gov. Perry broke his collar bone last week as a result of a mountaing biking accident. However, Friedman included a note saying, “Sorry you got hurt. Too bad they don't make training wheels for a legislative session.

I thought Kinky was promising to be a more serious candidate in his conversations with Democratic County Chairs. Back to the jokes already… and bad ones at that. While Perry is easy to get a cheap laugh out of, his gift and accompanying note is in poor taste. It's unsettling when the only emotions I feel of any kind in the Governor's race are negative, and directed towards Kinky Friedman.

But I'm not sure that I should be entirely surprised, should I? For now, I'm going to blame it on the Texas heat.

For now.


About Author

Former Publisher & Owner of the Burnt Orange Report. Political Thinker, Digital Explorer, and Time Traveler.


  1. politicsforjim on

    Mark Thompson wants to be governor…
    …and he calls us the “Democrat” party? That's what Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich and other Republicans call us because they don't respect us.  

  2. ikoikoaustin on

    George W. Bush is a war criminal.
    He started an war of aggression on Iraq. Japanese and German people were hanged by the Allies after WWII for waging wars of aggression. Friends of George W. Bush should be hanging their heads in shame, not running for political office.

    • This is such an obtuse statement
      First, the President may not start a war, that is Congress' job, please see Article I section eight of the Constitution.  Second, how can you honestly compare the Iraq War with WWII?  The German and Japanese, who were hanged for this offense, were hell-bent on world domination and enslavement of the world.  If that describes President Bush, then why is he still not in office, ruling the world?  Before you make asinine comparisons, please take off your ultra-left wing hat, and cool down first.

    • Guilt by association
      I'm still undecided in all this but I'm sick to death of the Thompson people coloring Schieffer with Bush at every term. The President of the United States asked him to serve and he did.

      End of story.

  3. Pretty irrelevant remarks
    It's going to be a long time until Election Day, with all the trivia you folks are focusing on.  It is entirely possible Schieffer is a much bigger man than you or I, and that is why he was able to work for Evil George.  A man who puts service ahead of ideology is a good man, perhaps even a great man.  Certainly a rare politician, perhaps one who should be savored.

    But what made me laugh was your dissatisfaction with him not being exciting enough.  When are you going to learn that almost all the exciting leaders are would-be dictators?  Given Texas' track record with governors, I would think “inoffensive” would be more than enough for a vote.  How many inoffensive candidates do we ever have running for governor or senator?  Precious few.

    • Texans like their candidates…
      to have a little sass and a little excitement. Like it or not, it's a necessity and one of the reasons we've had such lousy luck in recent years. We keep nominating boring people who know policy but not much else.

      Gotta know policy and how to win. This is the world.

      Man, if inoffensive could have done it, if quality of the person were enough, Richards never would have lost to Bush and Bell would be gearing up for re-elect:).

      • Richards did offend some people
        It's the reason she lost her re-election.  I worked long and hard for her in 1990 – she befriended me back in the 1970s while working for Sarah – but by 1994 she was so full of herself she practically forgot Texas existed.  She migrated to the national stage and made some big mistakes, like supporting the Brady Bill (numerous Democratic family members turned on her over this one, and I'm sure they were not alone).  And Ann's people were so arrogant that no one could stand to deal with her office.  I was sorry to see it happen, but it happens.  

        The moral of the story is, just because an elected official is good in office for a while does not mean that person will forever be a good elected official.  It's the reason I did not support Bell for governor:  he was the Peter Principle in action, rising beyond his level of competence.  Once he left the Houston City Council, he was over his head.  I was offended that he was too dumb to know his extremely severe limitations.

        • What good do you have to say
          about any Democrat? Slamming Bell and Richards in the same comment? I'm offended. So, does that mean you're dumb? Or maybe I'm dumb.

          • Nobody is Dumb
            Dale and I both knew Richards in the 1970's before she achieved political god status. She was one of the smartest people I ever drank a beer with, as was Bob Bullock. I listened a lot to what both had to say and followed their leadership.

            The fact of the matter is both Richards and Bullock were great progressive politicians with their own personal devils and faults. I do not know Chris Bell personally, but Dale and I went to UT at the same time, so I will take him as a credible source concerning Bell. He moved back to Houston and I stayed in Austin after graduation it appears.

            Bell was every bit as boring in his Governor's race in both the fall and general election as Sen. Bob Kruger was in losing to KBH in the 1993 special election for US Senate. I supported Bob Gammage in the Governor's race over Bell that spring.

            Richard's Austin centric agenda cost her dearly in the 1994 election with “W”. I was at the Capital press conference when she opposed concealed weapons permits, backing Ann up (cops in uniforms standing behind her during the press conference). I thought at the time this would cost Texas Democrats in the long run, and it did.

            Ann was a great person and politician, but one should be able to criticize her without being labeled as dumb or some kind of a heretic. That said, a strong progressive Democrat is needed to run for Governor in 2010. “R Lite” is not going to work.

          • So
            Ann Richards' loss to Bush had to do with her opposition to concealed weapons permits?

            Some of Rove's darker tactics cut even closer to the bone. One constant throughout his career is the prevalence of whisper campaigns against opponents. The 2000 primary campaign, for example, featured a widely disseminated rumor that John McCain, tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, had betrayed his country under interrogation and been rendered mentally unfit for office. More often a Rove campaign questions an opponent's sexual orientation. Bush's 1994 race against Ann Richards featured a rumor that she was a lesbian, along with a rare instance of such a tactic's making it into the public record-when a regional chairman of the Bush campaign allowed himself, perhaps inadvertently, to be quoted criticizing Richards for “appointing avowed homosexual activists” to state jobs. [emphasis mine.]

          • Thanks for that, Stacy
            Anyone in Austin progressive politics in the 1970s and 1980s knows there were big schisms.  Krueger, for instance, was the good guy against KBH, but before that he was the bad guy who sold out to the oil companies in 1978 (remember the first big deregulation bill he almost got passed as a first-term Congressman?) and who fought nasty against Doggett in the 1984 special U.S. Senate election.  One progressive buddy I knew voted for John Tower against Krueger in one Senate race because Tower never passed legislation and so was less dangerous — and would be easier to get rid of.

            See how complicated it gets?  When I moved to Austin in 1972, liberals voted for Republicans, sometimes, for state rep because liberals had no chance at getting the Democratic nomination – and practically anyone who wanted a Republican nomination could get one.  That changed when we elected Sarah Weddington and Ronnie Earle to the House.

            So Stacy is right about everyone having devils.  By the same token, our opponents are not 100% pure evil.  History helps put things into perspective.  When anyone gets too caught up in the politics of the moment, they lose all perspective.

            I'm keeping my perspective by waiting to see who the final candidates are, and by listening to what they have to say.  Is there something wrong with that?

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