The Austin Chronicle

Schieffer's House

By Richard Whittaker, August 26, 2009, 5:11pm, Newsdesk

Sometimes a picture tells a thousand words: Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has posted a photo from this afternoon's presser for Tom Schieffer in the Speaker's office, and, even though it's a little blurry, it's a doozy.

The list of House folks that turned up to be pictured endorsing the Democratic gubernatorial candidate is quite impressive: Coleman, obviously, who currently serves as co-chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee: Democratic Caucus Chair Jessica Farrar, D-Houston; Democratic Caucus Leader Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, and Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, who has chaired every House Democratic body worth talking about. Also present was Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, the dean of the Democratic house and already named as head of Schieffer's campaign advisory committee

This is, to say the least, a tad surprising. There has been very little excitement amongst progressives and the party faithful about Schieffer, who some see as too much of a Bush pal to evade the DINO (Democrat in name only) tag. Seems some party power players think otherwise.

Full press release after the break.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer today won key endorsements from four Democratic leaders of the Texas House - Representatives Garnet Coleman of Houston, Jim Dunnam of Waco, Jessica Farrar of Houston and Pete Gallego of Alpine.

"I am gratified by this broad base of Democratic support," Schieffer said. "These leaders have long been in the forefront - often fighting against strong Republican opposition - of efforts to improve education, make quality health care available to more Texans, improve our transportation system and lower insurance rates and utility bills. Together, we can reverse this race to the bottom and improve the quality of life for Texas families."

The veteran lawmakers represent a wide range of expertise on critical issues, including education, health care, appropriations, criminal justice and economic development, and all have received numerous awards for their public service.

"We are proud to endorse Ambassador Tom Schieffer to serve as the next governor of Texas because he is addressing issues and concerns that are important to Texas families - public education, jobs, children's health insurance, rising college tuition, energy, protecting the environment and transportation," Coleman said. "Tom Schieffer is going to be the next governor of Texas because he cares about solving real problems for Texas families."

Coleman chairs the Legislative Study Group, a nonpartisan caucus dedicated to the development of sound public policy for Texas families. He is the immediate past chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and co-authored legislation creating the Children's Health Insurance Program in Texas and making it easier for low-income children to enroll in Medicaid.

"Democrats across Texas can be proud to support Tom Schieffer - a fellow, lifelong Democrat who has never missed voting in a Democratic primary since he was old enough to vote in 1968," said Dunnam, the House Democratic Leader.

"Tom's service to our country during the previous administration doesn't change that," Dunnam added. "Texans deserve better than one Republican who wants to be governor for life and another who thinks the governor's mansion is a retirement home. That is why Democrats across the state will unite behind Tom Schieffer."

Dunnam chairs the House Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, which played a key role in allocating federal stimulus dollars during the recent legislative session. He has sponsored numerous laws during his legislative career, including bills improving 911 service to rural areas, ensuring smaller class sizes for elementary students and cracking down on drunk driving.

Farrar, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Democratic legislators "are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work " electing Schieffer governor. "We will knock on doors, raise money and help spread his positive message of real solutions for Texas families," she said.

Farrar also is vice chair of the House Committee on Land and Resource Management, founder and vice chair of the Women's Health Caucus and founder and secretary of the House Environmental Caucus. She co-founded the Texas Women's Health Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit group aimed at depoliticizing women's health issues, and founded Latinas on the Rise, a non-profit mentoring program for Latina college students. She has worked extensively on legislation related to women's and children's health, the environment, domestic violence, sexual assault and reproductive rights.

"Tom Schieffer will be the next governor of Texas because he is a proven leader, not an ideologue," Gallego said. "His successful record as a lawyer, businessman and diplomat proves he will bring people together from across the political spectrum and put the needs of Texas and Texans ahead of narrow partisan and ideological interests."

Gallego, chair of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, added: "Tom is the kind of Democrat who can win statewide office. He is the kind of leader our state needs -- someone who can appeal to Democrats, independents and thoughtful Republicans."

Gallego is a former chair of the House Democratic Caucus and former chair of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus. He is the first Hispanic elected to represent his 39,000-square-mile West Texas district along the Mexican border.

Schieffer's growing support builds on a strong, diverse leadership team with deep roots in the Texas Democratic Party. His campaign co-chairs are former Judge Gilberto Hinojosa of Brownsville, a member of the Democratic National Committee and State Democratic Executive Committee, and veteran Democratic activist Susan Longley of Austin. Former House Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center and State Representative Senfronia Thompson of Houston, the Democratic dean of the House and member of the DNC, head his senior advisory committee. Schieffer's finance co-chairs are Lyndon L. Olson Jr. of Waco, a former Democratic legislator and former ambassador to Sweden under President Clinton, and Alann Sampson, longtime civic leader and philanthropist in Fort Worth.

Schieffer also has been endorsed by the Association of Hispanic County Judges and County Commissioners.

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