The Austin Chronicle

Family Ties

What His Opponent Says

By Wesley Oliver, October 16, 1998, News

Hobby's Republican opponent, Carole Keeton Rylander, obviously has the most hay to make by ferreting out Hobby's shortcomings. So far the Rylander camp has charged that Hobby overstates the value of his business experience, and that his performance in public office does not match his political rhetoric. Rylander also claims that former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, Paul's father, gave his campaign $100,000 from a PAC funded with the remains of the elder Hobby's political war chest, and that the contribution flunks the smell test. Rylander argues that it's another example of the dead hand of the past reaching forth to influence the future. Hobby maintains that the contribution complies with the letter and spirit of the ethics laws, and the State Board of Ethics has confirmed that. Rylander also faults Hobby for failing to vote in two elections in 1995 -- a constitutional amendment election and a Houston city election. Hobby says he was unable to get to the polls that day, and was upset about it.

Because Hobby's record at the GSC is inconclusive at best, voters must focus on his record in the private sector and his campaign platform. His record in the private sector indicates that he started off with great family connections and unlimited opportunity, and hasn't messed any of them up. Though he's flown under the radar of public scrutiny thus far, Hobby has led a very visible and active life. No one who has worked or done business with Hobby in the past has risen to voice doubts about his mettle. His businesses have done well, and his work with the Department of Justice and the lieutenant governor's office has received praise.

Hobby's campaign battle cry is "Respect for Texas" -- not quite the pious "God Bless Texas," but a political slogan that evokes the Texas voter's inner godliness. As comptroller, Hobby would be responsible for collecting state taxes, advising Texas taxpayers, and managing several thousand state employees. The three main themes in his campaign platform are education, fiscal responsibility, and customer service. Hobby wants to improve the quality and quantity of Texas high school and college graduates by using the agency's expertise in school district performance audits to get more tax dollars to the instructional level. He also wants to continue to stress the use of the Texas Tomorrow Fund as a finance tool for college-bound Texans. On the issue of fiscal responsibility, Hobby wants to implement practices that will estimate a proposed legislation's fiscal impact on taxpayers, and also the cost of private sector compliance. Finally, Hobby wants to treat each taxpayer as a customer in all functions of the agency, thereby extending to taxpayers a level of service found only in the private sector.

Campaign promises are fine and good, but Texas voters seem to prefer a known quantity rather than pie in the sky. Unfortunately, Paul Hobby is not a known quantity outside of the rarified circles he's run in his whole life. But Texans seem to have a penchant for looking to bloodlines to assess the next generation -- especially for politicians, horses, and dogs -- and the Hobby family's record in business and public service is sterling. Even one of the major airports in Houston bears the Hobby name. Texas recently chose an unknown candidate with a famous last name and a stellar political legacy, but with absolutely no public record, for the top statewide elective office on the ballot. Oddsmakers suppose that the rest of the country will have a chance to choose the same man for president in 2000. The other major Houston airport bears the Bush name. The moral of the story: Paul Hobby will win or lose the race for comptroller based on his character and his ability to effectively communicate a vision for the future of Texas. Familial bonds from the past helped him get where he is today, but only Paul Hobby can take it from here.

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