In his brief tenure as the new chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, Charles Soechting has quickly developed a reputation as a bit of a loose cannon. But if he said anything unseemly at last week's meeting of the Travis Co. Democratic Women's Committee, at least he had an excuse he arrived after flying from New Orleans to Houston and then driving to Austin, all on only four hours' sleep.
The meeting was held at Ground Zero of Tom DeLay's redistricting screwing of Travis Co. the Marimont Cafeteria on 38th, which sits in the new Congressional District 25, right across one street from CD 21 and across another from CD 10. That gave Soechting ammo for one cannon blast: Spotting this reporter taking notes in the crowd, he said, "Tom DeLay is probably as crooked a politician as ever. ... Are you recording? You can write that down, if you'll please write it just like, [now speaking slower for my benefit] 'Tom DeLay is as crooked a politician as ever served in the United States Congress.'"
And regarding TDP Communication Director Mike Lavigne's recent description of Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister as a "Nazi," Soechting sees no need for an apology: "Scott Brister is probably, arguably the worst judge that's ever sat on the bench. ... It's probably not the best choice of words, but it is accurate." (Brister faces David Van Os in the November election.)
Some attendees might have thought Soechting was truly addled for stating that the Texas House would return to Democratic hands in the next few years, but of course, saying things like that is his job. He also praised Democratic candidates for Congress, and lamented that write-in candidate Lorenzo Sadun did not decide to jump into the CD 10 race as the Dem standard-bearer until after no donkey filed for the seat in the primary. "We don't know what the [redistricting] backlash is going to be. Rick Perry's approval rating is the lowest of any sitting governor. And it didn't [just] happen. ... He worked hard to get there."
Soechting had a rather surprising bit of activism advice for the crowd. "How many of y'all get requests for money from the DNC [Democratic National Committee]? I'm gonna tell you something to do with that: Don't give them a penny!
"[DNC Chairman] Terry McAuliffe and I are friends, and he called me the other day and said, 'You didn't really tell people that?' I said I absolutely did I put it on the Internet: 'Don't give them any more money.' He said, 'Why?' I said 'Because y'all consider Texas unwinnable and you're not devoting a penny of resources to Texas.' I'm begging you, send us the money we need it a lot worse than they do."
Soechting encouraged the all-white, mostly elderly crowd to take advantage of the new trend of editorial pages to run mug shots of letter-writers. "Let some of these white Republicans see a picture of you, a senior citizen, if you're a senior, Anglo. ... What the Republicans have tried to do is define the Democratic Party as being nothing but Hispanic, African-American, whatever they can do. They're very good at distorting the truth. Let them know who you are, throw a picture in with it, and get that message across that the Democratic Party is a very diverse party."
Soechting also announced that his endorsee for John Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, would be the keynote speaker at the state Dem convention on June 18 in Houston. And he also strongly defended his practice of endorsing one Dem over another, an unorthodox practice for a party chair: "I think if you're going to be a Democrat you ought to act like a Democrat, you ought to vote like a Democrat, you ought to be a Democrat. That's not asking too much of a Democrat."
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