Campaign Notes

The special election gets weird; the governor's race stays so.

Poll Climbing

Chris Bell and Kinky Friedman moved up a couple of points in the August Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll of Texas voters eyeing the governor's race. Gov. Rick Perry still leads with 34.8% (down 3.5% since July), but Bell and Friedman are narrowing the gap – Bell with 23.1% and Friedman at 22.7%. Carole Keeton Strayhorn brings up the rear with a gloom-inducing 9.6%. Her only consolation on this front is Perry's sorry showing in public-opinion polls. Last week, the Strayhorn campaign trumpeted SurveyUSA's latest report card, which showed Perry with a 52% disapproval rating among Texas voters. Only 43% of those surveyed said they approved of the governor's job performance. – Amy Smith

Slots for Tots Returns

If Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn were governor, she'd give teachers a $4,000 pay raise and shift the state's standardized tests to the end of the school year. Those are just a couple of education proposals Strayhorn outlined Tuesday. How Strayhorn would pay for her ambitious package is another matter. One revenue stream could be created by legalizing video lottery terminals, or slot machines, at existing race tracks, she said. Her proposals drew immediate criticism from Gov. Rick Perry's campaign spokesman Robert Black, who said the plan "will turn back the clock in education, cost tens of billions of dollars, and result in our children learning less." – A.S.

Blogging. It's Fun!

We have some exciting news! Gov. Rick Perry's campaign blog isn't just for insiders any more. Outsiders can become insiders in a snap, just by registering on the members-only Perry Alliance Network site ( New to the world of blogs? Not to worry. The Web site provides an easy-to-understand explanation of this newfangled "communications medium." If you're still fuzzy, click on the helpful Wikipedia link to learn more. Once you've gotten the hang of it, read what the insiders are saying about Perry. Stuff like, "Gig 'em, Rick," and "Hook 'em, Perry." Over and over and over. Maybe you could add a football-themed quip of your own, something like, "Ya'll yell." Ha! That was pretty good. Also, check out those witty jabs at Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Chris Bell. You'll feel like you're in junior high all over again. That's how funny the Perry blog is. So funny we forgot to laugh. – A.S.

A Special Special Election

Add yet another special election to the Nov. 7 slate. And this might be a bit confusing, so pay attention: Even though former Rep. Tom DeLay's seat will eventually be filled by the results of the general election, his June 9 resignation left District 22 residents without representation, so Gov. Rick Perry has called a special election to fill the remainder of the unexpired term. The special-election winner will hold the seat from Election Day until the new Congress is seated in January, when the general-election winner will take over. Confused yet? Oh, it gets worse: Since the special election will be held the same day as the general, that means some District 22 candidates likely will be on the ballot twice. Democrat Nick Lampson has already said he plans to file for the special election. Of course, as previously reported, DeLay's name must appear on the general ballot because he didn't resign until after winning the GOP primary, so the special election offers the chance to create name ID for Houston Republican City Council Member Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who's mounting a write-in candidacy for the general election. (Interesting side note: The candidate listing on the Texas Secretary of State Web site,, does not list DeLay as a candidate.) – L.N. and Kimberly Reeves

(Re)Drawing Opponents

Of course, a special election was already to be held concurrent with the general election on Nov. 7 because the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that five Southwest Texas congressional districts be redrawn to redress violations of the Voting Rights Act committed by the 2003 redistricting that DeLay imposed upon us. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who currently represents a District 25 that stretches from East Austin to the Mexican border, will face no significant GOP challenger in his run for what will be a more Travis County-centric 25th. Computer programmer Grant Rostig of Dale (a small town outside of Lockhart) was a Libertarian less than a month ago but switched parties for the special election. Other challengers include Independent Brian Parrett, a systems analyst from Austin, and Libertarian Barbara Cunningham, a petroleum landman from Caldwell (a town that isn't actually in District 25, but members of Congress are only required to live in the state they represent, not the district). The other affected Austin seat is District 21, which still stretches to San Antonio but now encompasses more of the Hill Country; challenging incumbent Republican Lamar Smith are Democrats John Courage (who won the now-invalid March primary) and perennial candidate Gene Kelly, Libertarian James Arthur Strohm, and Independents Tommy Calvert, James Lyle Peterson, and Mark J. Rossano. Other Nov. 7 races include Rubén Hinojosa's District 15, Henry Bonilla's District 23, and Henry Cuellar's District 28. A full list of special-election candidates may be found at – K.R.

A Heritage of Intolerance

A right-wing group that smeared moderate Republican incumbents in the 2002 election is gearing up for another dirt-driven campaign. That's the warning from Kathy Miller, president of the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network. Miller points to a new candidate questionnaire that the Heritage Alliance political action committee has sent to political hopefuls, which asks if they believe in "traditional Judeo-Christian values" and whether the authority to be an officeholder comes from God. The questionnaire also asks candidates about their "religious affiliation," how often they attend church, what they think about gay and lesbian folks adopting kids, and if they agree that masturbation causes hair to grow on their palms (okay, we're kidding about that last one). Four years ago, Heritage Alliance, then known as the Free Enterprise PAC, or FreePAC, spent a ton of money on mailers and other literature attacking six moderate Republicans, including acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, accusing them of supporting the "radical homosexual agenda," as well as assisted suicide. Some of the attack mailers included photos of men kissing. Gross! "It's clear that the extremists at the Heritage Alliance once again want to use religion to divide Texans for political gain rather than address issues that families really care about, like strong public schools, health care, and good jobs," Miller said. – A.S.

A Hit Record? Why the Hell Not?

As noted in last week's "Gubernatorial Booty," if Kinky Friedman's Independent run for governor doesn't result in political success, it's at least proving to be a merchandising boon for the country singer/mystery novelist/hot-sauce entrepreneur/stray-dog guardian. Add one more item to the catalog: On Sept. 26, Sustain Records will release Why the Hell Not: The Songs of Kinky Friedman, a 10-track tribute album with some heavy hitters on it. Culled partly from a previous tribute, 1999's Pearls in the Snow, and supplemented with some newly recorded material, the album is (in the opinion of this former country-music critic) a hell of a reminder that, regardless of what you may think of his political abilities, Kinky is a damn fine songwriter. How's this for a collection of headliners singing in your honor? Kevin Fowler, Ray Benson, Reckless Kelly, Todd Snider, Charlie and Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis, Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Jason Boland & the Stragglers, and Delbert McClinton. – L.N.

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Elections, Chris Bell, Kinky Friedman, Wall Street Journal / Zogby, Rick Perry, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Perry Alliance Network, Tom DeLay, Nick Lampson, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, Lloyd Doggett, Grant Rostig, Brian Parrett, Barbara Cunningham, Lamar Smith, John Courage, Gene Kelly, James Arthur Strohm, Tommy Calvert, James Lyle Peterson

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