BAK Barks at Big Doggett

A horrible candidate, or very expensive cannon fodder?

It has become conventional wisdom this season that, since we don't really need this woman in Congress, the former Rebecca Klein is not really running for Congress. Rather, today's Becky "Armendariz!" Klein is auditioning for her next GOP patronage job in the unfortunate event of a Bush victory – say, chair of the Federal Communications Commission. That's consistent with her unique and curious campaign in the new CD 25 – if the GOP brain trust thought they could actually bump off Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, then A-Klein's been a horrible candidate, and if they didn't, she's been very expensive cannon fodder.

Though not as expensive as she appeared back in the spring, when she confidently expected to raise $2 million to fling at Doggett and his hefty war chest (depleted a bit by his primary race against McAllen Judge Leticia Hinojosa). As of last week, A-Klein's campaign has taken in less than $700,000 and spent nearly every dime, compared to $1.4 million raised and $1.6 million spent by Doggett, who's still sitting on nearly $2 million. If, as has been suggested, A-Klein's job here has been to chip away at Doggett's cash reserves to weaken him in future contests, she has failed. But $700,000 is still a lot of change – more than has been raised by any challenger (of either party) in any race other than those of the Texas Five. (A-Klein has also outraised and outspent seven Texas incumbents in this cycle.)

All to fly the GOP flag in a district that in 2002 went Dem by a more than 3-to-1 margin. So far, A-Klein's campaign has boiled down to two talking points: that Doggett is "a gringo," and that she has better access to the House GOP leadership than Doggett can ever have. Of course, both of these themes were also used (if implicitly) by Hinojosa, and she got waxed, and she actually had a political base in the district, which A-Klein does not. (A-Klein touts her "bipartisan support," having picked up a tiny handful of Dems – like the El Concilio leaders here in Austin – who had backed Hinojosa in the primary.) While being Anglo is certainly not to Doggett's advantage, being actively disliked by Tom DeLay is a real plus in this district.

On issues – where a real run-to-win GOP campaign would play toward the middle – A-Klein has instead stuck with the party line, touting not just talking points like tort reform and repealing the estate tax (which actually have some local resonance in South Texas), but stuff like school vouchers, for which CD 25 is about the least fertile ground one can imagine. And, of course, jabs at Doggett for voting to Kill Innocent Babies and Advance the Homosexual Agenda – "values"-driven mating calls to spur the great Hispanic migration to the GOP that Karl Rove has been expecting to happen any day now for about 20 years.

The race is mostly being fought down south, since – except for the votes of a few of her Wilshire Woods neighbors – A-Klein should get roundly trounced in the Travis Co. end of CD 25. Indeed, up here at the north end, Doggett supporters have at times encouraged friends and allies (and reporters) to check out A-Klein's media events – figuring the more people see of her, the more they'll like the incumbent.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Redistricting, Lloyd Doggett, Rebecca Armendariz Klein, Federal Communications Commission, Leticia Hinojosa, El Concilio

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