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Texas Governor’s Race – The Democrats

As we close out 2009 and get ready to enter the 2010 state election cycle I thought it would be good to provide my readers with my perspective of some of the statewide races starting with the governor’s race, one that will most likely provide fireworks even as far back as the primaries. This will turn into a series of postings covering the various facets of the race – the Democrats, the Republicans, the Primary, the General Election, and the Spoilers. I’d do it in a single entry but each facet is becoming larger than I expected. From there I hope to dig into the rest of the election cycle, looking at down ballot races such as the Lieutenant Governor’s race and other statewide elections. For some that follow politics it will seem repetitive. For those who casually follow the series should provide a good understanding to get up to speed as we enter 2010. I encourage commentary to help expand perspective on each facet. This will make the series that much more engaging. So let’s get started.

On the Democratic side of the primary the race was shaping to be interesting but not promising. Tom Schieffer, brother of CBS analyst Bob Schieffer, filed as what appeared to be the moderate of the race. The problem was his past history with the Bush administration left many Democrats suspicious of his motives. As such, it became tough for him to raise funds for his primary, much less the general election. Eventually Schieffer dropped out right before Thanksgiving and endorsed Houston Mayor Bill White as a possible candidate. The trouble was that White was over in the U.S. Senate race.

Houston billionaire Farouk Shami decided to enter the race on the Democratic side, planning to fund a good portion of his campaign with some of his fortune. Shami made his fortunes from hair care products but is a relative unknown in the political realm. That’s what made his campaign interesting, especially after reports came out about a less than stellar voting record in Texas and national elections as reported by the Texas Tribune. You can find more information on Farouk Shami at the Texas Tribune. Recently Shami started building his campaign team by hiring Vince Leibowitz, a noted progressive political consultant, and several other experts in campaign politics.

In a recent interview with Brad Watson of WFAA’s Inside Politics the candidate seemed to demonstrate a true lack of understanding of the real issues facing Texans, falling back mostly to campaign rhetoric such as “creating jobs” and “fixing government.” When pressed for specifics Shami couldn’t provide any and returned to the generalities. As Todd Hill of the Burnt Orange Report pointed out “Mr. Shami, you lack substance and what substance you toss out as a platform isn’t logical.  As much money as you are willing to spend on your race, and enough consultants you have aiding your candidacy, I’m certain you can do better than this.”

Returning to Bill White, after Schieffer bowed out of the race and publicly endorsed White for the governor’s race the mayor of Houston took the Thanksgiving holiday to consult with family and friends about a possible run. The following week White entered the race and created a buzz in the Texas Democratic Party. Personally I also endorse White as the Democratic nominee and laid out my reasons in a blog entry here. White is not without controversy but it’s mostly about policy with the biggest being the installation of red light cameras throughout Houston at the recommendation of the Houston police chief. The Texas Tribune provides more information on Mayor White and some of his other issues.

Two other candidates, Kinky Friedman and Hank Gilbert, had been in the race but dropped out after White’s announcement. Gilbert, a progressive Democrat, exited the race and entered the Ag Commissioner race. On his exit he publicly endorsed Shami, citing a trust issue with White. Friedman exited a week or so later after speaking with White and also entered the Ag Commissioner race. In a future entry I’ll cover that and other down ballot races.

So that’s what the Democratic side of the race looks like at this point. In the next entry I’ll dig into the Republican side which is turning out to be more exciting than we would have ever expected.

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