Naked City

Dems Play Musical Chairs

Although it's a volunteer job without a prestige address, the candidates for Texas Democratic Party chair are multiplying as quickly as the Dem presidential brood. As we go to press, there are at least eight names on the list, and as a ratio of candidates to voters -- the chair will be selected by roughly 5 dozen members of the State Democratic Executive Committee -- that's a considerable number. At the moment, the candidates, with varying degrees of seriousness, include:

Garry Mauro, former land commissioner and guv candidate;

Garnet Coleman, Houston state representative;

Charles Soechting, San Marcos attorney and TDP counsel;

Carl Parker, former state senator;

Sherry Boyles, former Railroad Commission candidate;

David Van Os, San Antonio labor attorney;

Jim Mattox, former attorney general; and

Mary Moore, of Bryan, a member of the SDEC.

(San Antonio fundraiser Lukin Gilliland has also been mentioned, but a party source says Gilliland is not running.)

Current Chair Molly Beth Malcolm steps down Oct. 25, when the SDEC will elect an interim chair to serve until the state convention next June, at which time delegates would either re-elect that person or select another for a full two-year term. Malcolm told Naked City that she had planned to serve until next summer, but the endless Legislature had begun to conflict with family obligations. "My daughter is getting married in January," she said, "and my stepson is 21 years old and in the 82nd Airborne, and he was just transferred from Afghanistan to Iraq the day after Labor Day. The chairmanship is a full-time job, in Austin, and I just thought, maybe it's time I start to spend more of my time in Texarkana." She says stepping down now might actually be better for the party, since her replacement would have the opportunity to serve for the whole presidential election cycle -- and she contrasted the long list of candidates to the situation in 1998, when then-Chair Bill White (now a candidate for Houston mayor) stepped down, and she was essentially the only person interested in the job.

Malcolm has been criticized by some Dems for the party's statewide defeats in recent years but says, "It was easy to find a scapegoat after the last election, but a state chair does not run election campaigns. ... I'm very proud of what I've accomplished, in erasing a party debt of over half a million dollars ... and in re-establishing the vitality of the state party." She noted that as long as Bush is on the ticket, the Democratic National Committee will not be putting money into Texas, so "we have to do it at the local level, on our own." While she's not picking a presidential favorite, Malcolm said she knows Wesley Clark and believes he "belongs on the ticket somewhere."

"I do believe Bush is beatable," she concluded. "The country can't take another four years."

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Texas Democratic Party, State Democratic Executive Committee, Molly Beth Malcolm

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