Friday, May 13, 2005

The Governor’s Race

Former Congressman Chris Bell had a conference call with a bunch of Democratic and progressive bloggers the other day. Charles Kuffner has the details and Sean-Paul live blogged the event at The Agonist.

While I’m glad to see there is still some life in the Party, I can’t say I am all that optimistic about the Democrats’ chances in the next governor’s race. Gov. Rick Perry would seem to be in bigger danger of being knocked off in the Republican primary than losing to a Democratic challenger next year. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would seem to be the biggest threat to Perry with Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn serving more as a minor irritant. The big question is whether Hutchison would really want to give up her Senate seat for the governor’s mansion unless she has aspirations of making a presidential bid at some point in the future.

Perry is not really a bad guy. Let’s just say he could be much worse. And he is the first Texas Aggie to take the top job in Austin which should count for something in my book. However, I’ve always felt that he was the wrong Aggie to take that job. It was a role that should have gone to John Sharp, the former Texas Comptroller who lost a close race to Perry for Lt. Gov. a few years ago. Partisanship aside, I don’t think there is any question that Sharp was the superior politician in that race and Texas lost a lot when it went the wrong way. Perry and Sharp were both in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M at the same time. Perry was a Yell Leader while Sharp was Student Body President.

I thought John Sharp should have ran against Perry the last time instead of Tony Sanchez, but the statewide appeal of a wealthy Hispanic candidate was too much for the Democrats to pass up. I don’t know if Sharp is seriously considering a race this time either. Chris Bell is apparently making the most noise about a potential candidacy but I just can’t see him winning the race in this political environment. As a one-term Congressman from Houston who lost his seat as a result of Tom DeLay’s re-redistricting coup, I think he will have a difficult time raising money and building name recognition. Sharp, at least, already has some name recognition and some established credentials as a statewide officeholder.

Of course I would love to see Chris Bell or any Democrat win the governor’s race this next time around, but I can’t help but feel a bit put off by the whole thing. After seeing Ann Richards, Garry Mauro and the hapless Tony Sanchez all go down to ignomious defeat in recent years, I am very tempted to just throw my support this time to Kinky Friedman. In fact, maybe the Democrats might consider cross-endorsing Kinky this time while they continue to rebuild the party at the grassroots level for the next few years.

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