Election Notes

• Is Larry Joe Doherty running a push poll against Dan Grant, his Democratic primary opponent for Congressional District 10? That's the charge made by Austin blogger Trey McAtee (www.mcblogger.com) and echoed by Grant campaign manager Kelly Fero. "Many of us have been subjected in recent days to a telephone push poll paid for by Doherty in which he spreads personal smears about his primary opponent," McAtee wrote Tuesday. "This sleazy tactic is straight out of Karl Rove's playbook for negative campaigns." Asked about such a poll, Fero replied via e-mail, "[I] am aware that Larry Joe has paid for one in his race. We have heard from numerous voters who have called the Dan Grant campaign to express their anger at the calls and their support of Grant as a result." But Doherty campaign manager James Aldrete denied that the survey commissioned from pollster Donna Victoria constituted a push poll. "It was a 400-person survey," he said. "Forty questions, and it was a live call. And most surveys will test positives and negatives. But when you're doing 400, as opposed to what push polls really [do], which is 10,000 or 20,000 calls, they're often automated, and they're never longer than two or three minutes to get the volume. ... They're out to spread the negative information as opposed to doing a random sample." Aldrete declined to provide the Chronicle with a copy of the questions, saying the polling was done for strategic purposes and internal planning. – Lee Nichols

• We're not sure how much value there is in having the endorsements of unsuccessful political candidates, but the CD 10 Democrats have lined up a few. Dan Grant has the support of the Democrats who took on incumbent Republican Michael McCaul in the previous two general elections: Lorenzo Sadun, who ran as a write-in in 2004, wrote on the Burnt Orange Report blog, "I prefer Grant to Doherty, but the main thing is beating McCaul." And on Tuesday, 2006 standard-bearer Ted Ankrum declared: "Dan is the only Democrat in the race who can beat Mike McCaul. He is uniquely qualified to redirect the tax dollars being squandered in Baghdad to our own communities in Brenham, Bastrop, and beyond." Back in November, Larry Joe Doherty racked up praise from Richard Morrison, who tried in 2004 to unseat Tom DeLay, and Barbara Radnofsky, the 2006 challenger to U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. "Larry Joe can go the distance with Mike McCaul," Radnofsky wrote in an endorsement letter, adding that they've been friends for more than 30 years. And in a letter of his own, Morrison wrote: "Make no mistake; despite the arrogance of Bush, Tom DeLay and Mike McCaul, this race is winnable. In 2006, my friend Ted Ankrum held McCaul to just 55% of the vote. Larry Joe has already raised four times as much money as Ted." – L.N.

• Among the national names filing in Texas for the Republican presidential nomination are a couple of lesser-known figures, even lesser than twice-failed presidential candidate and three-time Senate also-ran Alan Keyes. Houston-based practitioner of Oriental medicine Hoa Tran was the first Republican hopeful to file, but he's been joined by physician Hugh Cort, a Christian conservative from Alabama who proposes bombing Iran and dismantling the Internal Revenue Service and, in his role as self-proclaimed counterterrorism expert, claims Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. Cort said he is running for president because "the Lord has given me a very important message." – Richard Whittaker

• Last week, with Central Labor Council endorsements looming, former state Rep. Glen Maxey again went on the offensive against 16-year incumbent Travis Co. Tax Assessor-Collector Nelda Wells Spears, whom he is trying to unseat in the March 4 Democratic primary. "For the past 16 years, Nelda Spears has operated the Tax Assessor-Collectors office as an At-Will employer," Maxey wrote in a Jan. 10 campaign e-mail, labeling her a "Johnny-come-lately" on employee protections. "Every time [the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] has asked Spears to change to a Just-Cause employee policy, she has refused. While Ms. Spears has kept the power to fire her staff at-will, she herself has failed to show up for the taxpayers. Now that she is facing a stiff challenge for re-election, she's suddenly now promising to 'consider' changing her attitude toward employees and changing the policy." The charge fell on deaf ears: Last weekend, the CLC endorsed Spears. "Glen Maxey has been a great friend of labor," said Louis Malfaro of Education Austin, a CLC member organization. "But the sense was that we tend to support incumbents who have supported our issues. It's hard to argue that Nelda has not done a good job. ... If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Said Spears spokesman and former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire, who was also Spears' predecessor as tax assessor: "Maxey, not the county workers, tried to create this as an issue, and it failed. It shows how desperate Maxey is to come up with some excuse for him running against Nelda." – L.N.

• Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucin­­ich is out of the Texas Democratic primary after his legal challenge against Texas Democratic Party rules failed. On Jan. 11, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel rejected his request to be placed on the ballot after the party had rejected his paperwork as incomplete. Kucinich had scratched out a section pledging to support the eventual winner, which his press secretary, Andy Juniewicz, called "a blind loyalty oath" to a potentially pro-war candidate. Yeakel backed the party's contention that it had to enforce the rules as adopted by its convention. "The chairman doesn't have the authority to change the rules," said party spokesman Hector Nieto. "We would have loved to have [Kucinich] on the ballot, but he decided not to follow the rules." Kucinich has announced he will challenge the ruling, but this isn't his only battle over how the primary race is run. After losing on appeal his suit demanding access to MSNBC's presidential debate in Nevada, he has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against ABC for refusing to let him take part in the New Hampshire debate, and he requested a hand re-count of the Granite State's Democratic primary ballot. – R.W.

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