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2014 Texas Governor's Race: Democratic Primary Preview

by: Ben Sherman

Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 00:00 PM CST

The Republican primary is already getting spicy as donors choose between Attorney General Abbott and Governor Perry.

But what's happening on the Democratic side? With Battleground Texas swooping in to give our state the Democratic voter push it needs, the Democratic effort will be one to watch. There are a number of good candidates who may run, but little besides speculation to go on for now. We can expect to see candidate announcements in June, when fundraising commences.

Who's On Deck for 2014?

State Representative Mike Villarreal: Representing San Antonio in the Texas House since 1999, Mike Villarreal has gained a name for himself as a serious legislator with an appealing personality. After growing up in San Antonio, Villarreal went to Texas A&M and then Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and is now pursuing a PhD in public affairs at UT's LBJ School while teaching as an adjunct professor at St. Mary's University. He has spent the last three years focusing on education (a perfect issue to bring statewide) and budget transparency. Villarreal is young, a strong campaigner, and would certainly appeal to Texas's growing Hispanic voting population. The 123rd House District is safely Democratic, making Villarreal an even more appealing potential candidate for Texas Democrats.

Former Houston Mayor Bill White: The Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, Bill White has spent couple of years laying low in Houston while working in investments. White ran an impressive campaign all over Texas in 2010 that garnered national attention, and his loss is blamed in large part on the year's difficulty for Democrats nationwide. A poll released a few weeks ago by Public Policy Polling shows White leading Perry in a 2014 matchup, making a strong case for White's electability. White was a hugely successful mayor, and has a down-to-earth persona appealing to a broad swath of Texans. Earlier in 2010, White sought Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate seat before she took back her promise to retire. So it's not impossible that White will seek Sen. John Cornyn's Senate seat in 2014. But no one knows what White will do yet - he hasn't said anything either way.

State Senator Kirk Watson: Austin's former mayor is a well-known, personable legislator who would appear to have the energy for a run at the governor's office. He ran for Attorney General in 2002, losing to Greg Abbott, but 2014 is a very different year. Watson might be able to capitalize on his ability to rev up Democrats, six years of experience in the Texas Senate, and plentiful ideas to make a serious run at the governor's office.

Longer shots include...

State Representative Rafael Anchia: Representing Dallas in the Texas House since 2004, Anchia is known as a likable, hard-working legislator. Anchia would certainly run a good campaign with his appeal to both Latinos and Texas's growing 18-35 year old Demographic. Any plans about future runs for office are not yet known.

State Senator Wendy Davis: An energetic and charismatic progressive who singlehandedly forced a special session in 2011 by filibustering the state's inadequate education funding, Davis would be a very good candidate for governor. She's been representing Fort Worth since 2009 and regularly makes lists of state legislators to watch. Even if she doesn't run in 2014, Democrats will be hoping she does soon. Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilbert Hinojosa recently said of Davis, "From the perspective of electability, she's one of our top superstars in Texas. Her sensibility and approach to politics will just automatically propel her as a top candidate for statewide office."

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: San Antonio's mayor is the top Democrat in Texas and arguably the brightest rising star of Democrats nationwide. From his celebrated keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention to his upcoming autobiography, it's only a matter of time before Castro runs for higher office. But which office will that be? Castro just announced his re-election campaign in the 2013 San Antonio mayor's race, and says he's "not running" for governor in 2014. That's probably true, but he certainly deserves his place on this list - if only for all the buzz you'll hear about him around this race and others.

Whoever the candidate is, expect 2014 to be a year of energetic Democratic campaigning as Texas comes closer and closer to voting blue statewide.

Update: Thrillingly, State Senator Wendy Davis appears ready to run for governor.

Discuss :: (18 Comments)

To The Left, To The Left: The Case for Governor Beyonce In 2014

by: Katherine Haenschen

Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 09:30 AM CST

Just hear me out on this, y'all.

Houston native and international superstar Beyonce Knowles is the best chance for Texas Democrats to recapture the Governor's mansion in 2014.

On a policy front, Beyonce presents a vastly more progressive and populist alternative to Rick Perry or any Republican currently being bandied about to replace him.

She'd be honest about our Medicaid and education bills, bills, bills, and engage in a real conversation about the need for added revenue in our cash-strapped state. She'd restore the $9-to-$1 federal matching Medicaid funds for family planning so all the single ladies (and the married ones too!) can get their annual exams, and allow Planned Parenthood to participate in the program again. And I bet she'd perform a pretty spectacular state of the state address -- and honestly if she lip-synched it I wouldn't really care.

As for the campaign itself, I don't think there's a Republican ready for this jelly.

If Rick Perry's past performance is any indicator, he probably can't even name every member of Destiny's Child if it comes up in a debate. As for Greg Abbott, even he would meet his match in campaign funding against one of the best-selling artists of all time. She could probably top even Dewhurst-level self-financing! And unlike most people Democrats might nominate statewide, her name ID is already sky-high, and I bet her approval rating is too (especially among the male voters after last night, am I right?).

Democrats have needed a fierce campaigner willing to go after every last voter. While the 2012 data isn't finished yet, females made up 52% of the vote in our urban counties, and if there's one voter who can convince these girls that they run the world, or at least can be the deciding factor in a gubernatorial election, it's Beyonce. She'll persuade the Independent women who have been shifting away from Democrats in recent cycles to come back to the party. And you know, if I were a boy voter, I know who I'd rather see on the news every night for 3 years.

Maybe I'm dangerously in love with this idea. But let's get real for a second here: Governor Beyonce Knowles could not possibly cause more harm to Texas than the trifling', good for nothing type of brother that currently holds the office. At this point, her vast media empire is better run than our state is, and that statement is first and foremost an indictment of how Rick Perry and the Republicans have refused to meet the needs of the present or invest in our future. This diva would be a vast improvement on Rick Perry on every measurable level -- she's even got better hair.

Texas Democrats could do a lot worse than Beyonce, while Texas can't do much worse than Rick Perry. Demographics are changing, national donors are looking at our state with renewed interest, and two of President Obama's top field gurus have launched an effort to make this state the next battleground. After last night's tremendous performance, Beyonce needs to capture this momentum and launch an exploratory committee.

Maybe it's... destiny.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Wealthy Republican Donors Clearly Favoring Greg Abbott Over Rick Perry

by: Ben Sherman

Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:00 AM CST

Unfortunately, wealthy private donors own "our" government. When you think about it, it's disgusting that we talk about private donations at all in an alleged republic, but we have to because that's the system we live under.

You wouldn't know it yet because ads aren't online or on TV, but the Republican primary between Attorney General Greg Abbott and Governor Rick Perry has already begun. Corporate masters are taking sides. And Abbott is ahead.

On Wednesday, Texans for Public Justice released a report about where wealthy donors and corporations are lining up in the primary. Bad news for Perry: in 2012, Abbott out-raised his $5,490,231 by $1,749,196 (for a total of $7,239,427). Even worse for Oops: Abbott has $18,032,304 in his bank account to Perry's $6,028,636.

Those numbers tell a clear story about where the momentum of the race lies. But the TPJ report also has some other interesting facts about 2012 donations.

  1. Massive Dallas donor Harold C. Simmons, one of Perry's top career supporters, has given $475,000 to Abbott and only $35,000 to Perry this year.
  2. Bob Perry, another classic supporter of Perry's, gave Abbott $210,000 and Perry $200,000.
  3. T. Boone Pickens has picked his side definitively, giving $110,000 to Abbott and nothing to Perry.

One naturally wonders why fatcats like Simmons and (Bob) Perry bother to give money to both candidates, even when clearly choosing a favorite. Both candidates will do anything to benefit the massively wealthy; it doesn't much matter who wins. Maybe it's crony state contracts they're concerned about.

But remember, the race for governor doesn't have to be just a Republican show in 2014. There is a clear opening for a strong Democrat to win the race. It's time for action, not depressed gazing at intra-GOP competition.  

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

White Leads Perry: Poll Shows Need for Strong Democrat in 2014

by: Michael Hurta

Tue Jan 29, 2013 at 05:25 PM CST

For the first time in over a decade, a Democrat leads a Republican statewide in a public opinion poll. Sure, it's within the margin of error. And sure, we aren't close to an election and Republicans poll better as we get closer. And sure, the polls that truly matter (in November) show that Texas actually has a very long way to go before electing a Democrat.

But a scientific survey of Texans has a Democrat winning the state.

"If the candidates for Governor next year were Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White, who would you vote for?" asked Public Policy Polling. 47% answered Bill White. 44% answered Rick Perry.

Before we go hootin' and hollerin' in excitement, let's remember that if Rick Perry wants to run for reelection to governor in 2014, Rick Perry is still the favorite. This is just one poll, and we don't even know if Bill White would want to run again. Rick Perry also leads other hypothetical match-ups against Democrats.

But Battleground Texas is getting Democrats excited to compete sooner rather than later and to aggressively campaign instead of simply waiting for demographics. If we're ready to bring the fight to a new level, we need a candidate, too. So, we only hear Greg Abbott's name when people speak of potential challengers to Rick Perry? We can't make Texas a battleground without strong candidates. And if nothing else, this poll shows that even as soon as 2014, a strong Democratic candidate can win Texas.

If you're still unsure; the reasoning is a two-step process. First, Rick Perry is the favorite if he runs again in the Republican Primary. Second, Rick Perry can be beat. But he clearly can't be beat by anybody, so we need someone to step up. Read on below the fold about these two steps.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 491 words in story)

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Tells Donors He'll Run for Governor

by: Ben Sherman

Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:49 AM CST

Greg Abbott, our terrible Attorney General who has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on frivolous lawsuits against health insurance and environmental protection, has told donors he will run for governor, according to a Republican source.

Due to the legislative moratorium on fundraising, Abbott (and Perry) stopped accepting campaign donations on December 8th of last year, and can begin raising money again on June 17. The Republican source told News 8 that Abbott has told big donors looking to support him in a run for governor that he will run so they can expect to fund him at the end of the year.

This is big news for the 2014 governor's race in two ways. First, Abbott said as recently as six months ago that he'd wait to hear from Perry. In September, Perry said he'd announce whether he's running for re-election in June of 2013. The second reason this is such big news is because Greg Abbott and Rick Perry have the same donor pool. If Abbott is taking away many of Perry's donors, that weakens Perry significantly.

And Perry is already in a bad position against Abbott. "At the midpoint of 2012, Abbott already had $14.5 million on hand, according to the finance records he's filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. Perry has just $3.4 million," WFAA explains. Additionally, Perry is looking very wobbly in the polls after his hilarious run for president and failed backing of David Dewhurst for Senate. BOR's own poll this May showed Perry leading Abbott by only 7 percentage points, 42-35, with 16 percent undecided and 7 percent supporting someone else.

Those are very bad numbers for an incumbent, especially because Perry is so far below 50 percent. If Abbott can run convincingly to the right of Perry, he'll enjoy much, more more success than the completely unknown Debra Medina did when she significantly destabilized the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. And he probably won't make the mistake of insinuating that 9/11 may have been an inside job like Medina did.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 10 words in story)

Tribune Perry Poll Explains Uphill Climb for Democrats

by: Michael Hurta

Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 03:28 PM CST

On Rick Perry, Texas Tribune pollster Daron Shaw stated, "the notion that he's invulnerable is dead." Such was the reaction to this past week's poll which asked, "If Rick Perry were to run for reelection in the 2014 Gubernatorial election, how likely would you be to vote for him?"

39% answered "somewhat likely" or "very likely." So, it is true that the governor is no longer invulnerable. But it is also true that immediately after a national blunder that embarrassed the entire state, a full 39% of likely voters still would vote for the governor.

As Ben pointed out, that 39% is the same he received in the 2006 general election. So, while a majority stated themselves unlikely to vote for the governor, it is imaginable that many of those are Republicans who simply expect to vote for a different Republican or an independent. So, we must remember that the typical base of Republicans is even larger than 39%.

Even at rock bottom, 39% of the Texas electorate will vote for the crazy Republican.

That's striking, and it shows how hard it will be to ever elect a Democrat. Even if Democrats run the perfect campaign with the perfect candidate against a disaster of a Republican candidate and a campaign, the Republican will still likely receive 39%. But this isn't a fantasy world. Democrats are incapable of such perfections and we can't count on such Republican blundering at any time.

Texas Democrats must get working, because a stroke of luck simply won't ever cut it. We need higher turnout to change the game, and we need to improve our ability to churn out campaigns that can succeed at all levels statewide.

A great day for Democrats simply based on luck -- let's say 45%, slightly higher than Sam Houston's 2008 statewide percentage -- still spells less than a majority. And in the Tribune's poll, not even that many said they were very unlikely to vote for a despicable Rick Perry if he runs in 2014.

39% is a pretty good worst-case scenario. That's where Republicans are at, and I bet you that we won't be facing a worst-case scenario come a November. Instead, Democrats will have to turn it up a notch to win anything at any point. The current state of play simply won't cut it.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

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