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Dems DustUp Over Donors

Texas Democrats have made it no secret that they plan to target Republicans in the 2008 elections over cash they took in 2006 from right-wing political action committees: groups like the HillCo Partners PAC, a right-wing lobbying body famous for its close connection to House Speaker Tom Craddick, and heavy donations from Republican sugar daddy Bob "Swift Boat" Perry. HillCo dropped $1,015,704 into the 2006 elections, and Dems have already said they'll use that against Republican candidates next November by linking them to the conservative cash machine. But several high-ranking Dems also received HillCo donations, and now that's coming back to haunt them in the primaries.

One recipient of HillCo's largesse was Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Mission, who got $3,500. Now primary challenger Sandra Rodriguez is using that against him, saying in an Oct. 30 press release that the incumbent "needs to stop the shell game and tell the voters where he is getting his money and what he is providing in exchange for these contributions."

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, is also defending his HillCo connections. In 2004, he fought off primary challenger Eddie Sáenz. Now Sáenz is back, saying that Peña "lined his pockets with thousands of dollars from a political action committee funded by Republican politicians' top money man." Peña fired back that he should be judged on his voting record but squeezed in that, next session, he promises to vote for a Democratic House speaker.

This schism could still hit closer to home. According to Texans for Public Justice, in 2006 Austin's own Dawnna Dukes took $3,000 from HillCo and another $10,000 this September. (For Dukes' response, see www.austinchronicle.com/chronic.) She faces no primary challenger yet, but with filing not ending until Jan. 2, it's not impossible one could appear.

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 13

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HillCo Partners PAC, Ismael Kino Flores, Sandra Rodriguez, Aaron Peña, Eddie Sáenz, Texans for Public Justice, Dawnna Dukes

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