Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wendy or Greg? What Does History Say?

With the filing having concluded, we figured the good lot of you, like us, would find it interesting to know what steps our Governors took to become Governor. We looked at their political paths to see what road has been the most traveled to U-Haul it into the Governor’s Mansion.

In looking at the resumes under “Offices Held” for each governor before they won that seat, there was not one particular secret short-cut up the mountain to reach the summit, but there are some commonalities and patterns worth noting. (Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration other ginormous factors such as personal wealth and party affiliation.)

Most striking was the average number of elected positions held prior to their elections as governors. If you are advising your young protégé who you believe can become governor someday that they should run for a small local office first, then aim a little higher for Congress or the State Senate, then make a couple of pit-stops along the state-wide ballot, that path appears to be uncut—at least all the way to The Mansion. Take Carole-of-Many-Names, for instance, who served as President of the school board, Mayor of Austin, Railroad Commissioner and Comptroller—a successful career by all accounts, but not the trek to Governor.

Over Texas’s 166-year history, Texas Governors have held an average of only two elected posts (and we threw in Cabinet posts for good measure) before becoming Governor. With the advent of mass communications, that number has dwindled to 1.5 since John Connally. In fact, five governors never held a prior office. Too much time in the public eye may not be so helpful. Maybe a balance is needed. Voters and donors need to know your name, but you can out-stay your welcome with a slow ascent up the trail.

Which begs the question, which posts have these folks held? Predictably, Lt. Governor takes the cake with 11 governors moving from the number 2 slot on the ballot to number 1. Lite Gov is not so light with all that power to make and break laws, and when you run for office, you can practically say you have been Deputy Director of Vice Chair of the state—you’re ready.

In terms of the other non-lite-gov-offices that were the stepping stones right before the top we have a tie for second place: five men were Attorneys General and, to our surprise, five were state senators when they stepped up to the governor’s chair. After that, a couple held Cabinet posts, three were US Senators, a couple were members of Congress and a couple were Railroad Commissioners. Only one Mayor has ever been governor, John Ireland in 1883, and he served as a judge and in the State Legislature first. You are much more likely to be a governor if you have been a District Attorney—10 governors made that pit-stop along the way. 

In terms of professional backgrounds, 24 have been attorneys, 21 veterans and six ranchers, including Perry. After that, it’s a smattering.

Predictably, most (twenty-six to be exact) held a statewide office before they became Governor. But several statewide posts have never been a direct stepping stone to Governor: Agriculture Commissioner, Land Commissioner and Comptroller. While two have stepped up directly from Railroad Commissioner, it should be noted that the last was Beauford Jester in 1947 during the days that the Commission ultimately controlled worldwide oil production in the way OPEC does today.
In fact, nobody has ever held the positions of Land Commissioner nor Comptroller and been elected governor. The Railroad Commissioner position is a tricky one. Rick Perry is the only one who has been Agriculture Commissioner and, of course, he served as Lite Gov first.

But Good Hair may not be the last. There is something to be said about cutting a new path for others to follow. When you look at the governors’ histories, it’s interesting to note a possible pattern that we are coining as “consecutivity.” (Unlike Palin and Bush, we know we’re making this one up.)

While the paths do differ, there have been some whose paths have been identical or near-identical. There is the oh-so-popular Lt. Governor/Texas Senate path that four governors traversed. An equally popular and less predictable path that four more governors traveled is the Attorney General/District Attorney avenue. The fact that Jim Hogg and Charles Culberson both served in these positions before winning their races for governor is interesting. The fact they did it back-to-back as Governors #20 and #21 is even more interesting.

As new pathways are cut, “the group” may see only what is directly in front of them and decide this is the new path. With Big Hair in office right now, many may have decided that the path to the Mansion has several stops: a local office, the Legislature or Congress, then to a down-ballot office, to a higher statewide office then to Governor. An examination of history suggests, however, that this could be a tricky path.

What does not seem to matter is a lot of experience or “paying your dues.” If you’ve got what it takes, you’ve got what it takes. Of course, that could be a lot of things, such as money, charisma, luck, a little glamour, connections—but that’s a whole other recipe for us to cook up.

As for the two likely nominees:

Wendy Davis
         Professional background: Attorney
         Political background: Fort Worth City Council, State Senate
Greg Abbott
         Professional background: Attorney
         Political background: State District Judge, State Supreme Court Justice, Attorney General

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Texas Democratic Congressional Recruitment Failure: Pete Sessions

What's funny is that most Texas Democrats probably don't even realize they had the opportunity to get a good recruit to run against Republican Pete Sessions.

How do we know this way down here in San Antonio?

A couple of months ago a friend of ours happened to be on a flight with a Dallas County Judge.  They got to talking about the district and Jane Doe seemed to have researched the district...talking about the demographics of the district...that redistricting had made it a little more competitive for a Democrat...the problems going on with the country...the bad job Sessions is doing, etc.

Our friend then made the suggestion, "Why don't you run?"

As it was told to us, Jane Doe seemed to give the idea serious consideration and didn't say no, she just hadn't been approached by any of the movers and shakers about it.

Who was Jane Doe?  Judge Sally Montgomery.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

2014 Prediction: Republicans keep Strong Majority in Texas House

How do we arrive at this prediction?

Of the 150 House seats, Democrats failed to field a candidate in 58 Districts.  Granted, a great number of these seats are horrible territory for Democrats and they'd likely be sacrificial lambs, but consider this: A working majority in the Texas House is 76 seats.  Republicans are already 76% of the way to a working majority.  All those unchallenged seats free up money to be spent to try and hold their Super Majority.

Republicans only need 18 more seats to maintain their majority.  Who doesn't think they'll make it?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

6 Texas Democratic Recruiting Failures

In 2012, Barack Obama won 41.38% of the vote in Texas.  In the races for the Texas State House there were 16 Republican-held seats where he scored at least 40% of the vote.  Of those 16, Democrats came up short in 6 of them and have given the Republicans a free ride to Austin.

What are those 6?

HD 54, Republican incumbent Jimmie Don Aycock

Obama managed to get nearly 46% (45.7) of the vote in this district.

HD 112, Republican incumbent Angie Chen Button
HD 114, Republican incumbent Jason Villalba

Obama scored 43.5% in both of these districts.

HD 45, Republican incumbent Jason Isaac

Obama scored 41.8% in this district.

HD 32, Republican incumbent Todd Hunter

Obama scored 41.1% in this district.

HD 96, Republican incumbent Bill Zedler

Obama scored 40.2% in this district.

Yes these are tough districts that are probably going to be tougher in a non-presidential year.

However, you can't just retreat every non-presidential election year.  You think giving these Republicans a free ride now makes them any easier to defeat?

And is that really a long-term solution?  Just challenge competitive districts in presidential years when turnout is better?  And then retreat every non-presidential year?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Off the Extinction list but still Critically Endangered

Once thought to be extinct, political scientists today spotted a rare breed that once roamed all over Texas: Democraticus statewidicis or more commonly know as a statewide Democrat.

Based on the age and location of the animal, political scientists have placed the species on the Critically Endangered list noting that, "unless circumstances change, the species may once again be placed on the extinction list as early as 2017."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Open Question: Has Greg Abbott admitted to being a lapdog?

Today State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) went after Greg Abbott (R) for defending the horrendous cuts to public education made by the Legislature.

Defending himself, Abbott made the claim that he is essentially handcuffed and must defend the laws passed by the Legislature.


There have been numerous instances when Attorneys General from across the country have declined to defend laws on the books in their states.  A recent example was from California.  Attorney General Kamala Harris refused to defend Prop 8.

Abbott is just trying to have his cake and eat it to.

In addition to playing Solomon, Abbott also admitted that he Rick Perry's lapdog. From the Dallas Morning News:
"If she were governor, would she ask her attorney general not to defend the laws passed by the Legislature?” Abbott asked. “That’s what Barack Obama asked Eric Holder to do. That’s the style of government she’s offering.”
I didn't realize that Abbott got his position through an appointment.  Oh wait...he didn't.  He was elected independent of Rick Perry.  He doesn't serve at the pleasure of the governor, he serves at the pleasure of Texans.

Question for Abbott: If Rick Perry and you were running for re-election and Perry lost to Wendy Davis, would you be her attorney general?

Followup: If she asked you to defend a law you didn't want to, would you?  And if she asked you not to defend a law you wanted to, would you?  I mean, in that scenario you would be her attorney general.  By your logic, you would have to do what she says.