Bell endorses Friedman

Texpatriate reports that Chris Bell, a former Congressman and the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2006, has endorsed Kinky Friedman’s bid for Agirculture Commissioner. Longtime followers of politics will see the significance in this, as Friedman got his start running as an independent in that same year’s election. Many ill-informed Democrats blame him for Bell’s defeat in the four way contest, wherein Rick Perry was re-elected to the second full-term with a plurality victory of 39%.

Friedman, after his unsuccessful bid for Governor, ran once before for Agriculture Commissioner, always in the Democratic primary. In 2010, in a two-way race, he was soundly defeated by Hank Gilbert. This year, he faced both Hugh Fitzsimons and Jim Hogan in the primary. Fitzsimons, an actual rancher, was the unanimous choice of the elite establishment; he came in dead last and carried one county out of 254. Friedman advanced into a runoff, but so did Hogan, who has no website, no campaign and no respect for the office. Accordingly, it was stupid, to say the least, when I heard of many in this town talking of supporting Hogan over Friedman. Reasonable people, those guided by facts –and not ideology, dogma or revenge– would surely support the actual candidate in this race, as the editorial board of this publication did last week.

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Everyone hates Kinky

The Houston Press wrote a five page cover story on the Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate everyone loves to hate, Kinky Friedman. A former independent candidate for Governor, Kinky Friedman garnered 12% of the vote in a year (2006) when the Democratic candidate lost to Rick Perry by less than 10%. Ever since, Democrats have unfairly bullied and criticized the man at every turn. Never mind that this irrational animosity ignores the fact that a huge chunk of Friedman’s supporters came from people who would have supported either Perry or the other independent in the race if he had not run.

Four years later, in 2010, he ran for Agriculture Commissioner, but as a Democrat this time. The Democrats were not quick to forgive, and he was later decisively defeated in the primary by Hank Gilbert. While I believe Gilbert was ultimately better qualified to serve, he was absolutely shellacked by the Republican in the general election because he offered nothing to stand out from the crowd. Kinky Friedman does stand out from the crowd.

Now he is running for the same post a second time, and he is running with a very interesting niche issue: pot legalization. Now, one may think that the legalization of cannabis is a dangerously extreme position to take in Texas, but this simply is not true. 58% of Texans support full legalization, the same percentage as medicinal legalization.

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Existent and non-existent Democrats

Texas Democrats are giddy at the prospect of Wendy Davis running for Governor. The astute will remember that I was very excited when she first announced, but with all due respect, that was nearly two weeks ago. Democrats might do worse than ever before –oh yes, mark my words– in the 2014 elections if something does not change quick.

Most importantly, the Democrats need to find candidates to run for the Statewide offices. As I have said before, even a State that is 80% non-White will not elect a single Democrat if they do not run. Buckpassing is perhaps Texas Democrats biggest problem, as everyone is so satiated with this abstract concept of a future victory that they are unwilling to do anything today. The reason why Wendy Davis’ candidacy is so extraordinary is that she put the good of the party and the State above her immediate political future. Rick Noriega did this in 2008, but it is a rare occurrence otherwise.

Democrats do have a serious candidate for Land Commissioner, John Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso. Serious candidates have also been suggested for Lieutenant Governor (State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte) and Attorney General (State Sen. Carlos Uresti) as well. However, the latter two individuals have been painfully silent recently, prompting some concern about the rigor of Democratic candidates.

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Kinky Friedman to run for Agriculture Commissioner

The Texas Tribune reports that Kinky Friedman, the satirist and comedian who (in)famously ran for Governor as an independent in 2006, will be running for Agriculture Commissioner this year as a Democrat.

Friedman also ran for Agriculture Commissioner in 2010 as a Democrat, but ultimately lost the primary to Hank Gilbert. Gilbert, of course, was a party loyalist who ran a very honorable campaign. Unfortunately, this honorable campaign received 35% of the vote, a full 7% below Bill White (the top Democratic vote-getter that year). I have always maintained that Friedman could have had a more decent showing, but the party base would surely never stand for it.

The Tribune’s article notes that Friedman, who admits he knows little about Agriculture, wants to focus on what he thinks is a big issue: Marijuana legalization. He wants Texas, much like Colorado or Washington, to legalize, regulate and tax the production and sale of cannabis. In previous comments this year about a possible gubernatorial run, Friedman talked up both marijuana legalization and gambling expansion (the normalization of casinos). It appears that Friedman decided against a gubernatorial run when Wendy Davis threw her pink sneakers into the ring.

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Reality Check

Immediately following Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster, the dominant buzz throughout the State revolved around her gubernatorial intentions. Unfortunately, she will probably do just as poorly as every other Democrat. Public Policy Polling, which is affiliated with Democratic groups but usually is somewhat accurate, has put out a sobering poll for the Democrats’ prospects, irrespective of if Rick Perry will choose to run for re-election. The results were as follows:

1. Rick Perry approval
45% Approve
50% Disapprove

7. Perry v. Julian Castro
50% Perry
43% Castro

8. Perry v. Wendy Davis
53% Perry
39% Davis

9. Perry v. Annise Parker
52% Perry
35% Parker

10. Perry v. Bill White
50% Perry
40% White

11. Greg Abbott v. Castro
48% Abbott

34% Castro

12. Abbott v. Davis
48% Abbott
40% Davis

13. Abbott v. Parker
50% Abbott
31% Parker

14. Abbott v. White
48% Abbott
36% White

15. Second Special Session approval
43% Approve
44% Disapprove

16. Filibuster approval
45% Approve
40% Disapprove

17. SB5/HB2/SB1 approval
20% Approve
28% Disapprove

The poll does not include a question about a Republican Primary or a Democratic Primary. That bugs me to no end, though in the past Perry has outdone Abbott in these polls. When it comes to these eight races, they are the identical candidates that PPP discussed in a January poll. In that poll, White had a 3 point lead over Perry. Now he has a 10 point deficit. In fact, in all eight races, the margins shifted heavily to the Republicans.

Perry v. Castro, January +5% R
Perry v. Castro, July +7% R
Abbott v. Castro, January +10% R
Abbott v. Castro, July +14% R

Perry v. Davis, January +6% R
Perry v. Davis, July +14% R
Abbott v. Davis, January +12% R
Abbott v. Davis, July +8% R
Perry v. Parker, January +7% R
Perry v. Parker, July +17% R
Abbott v. Parker, January +12% R
Abbott v. Parker, July +19% R
Perry v. White, January +3% D
Perry v. White, July +10% R
Abbott v. White, January +7% R
Abbott v. White, July +12%

The Democrats did worse in all of these polls except one: the Abbott/Davis campaign. Davis actually does 4 points better in July. Interestingly, Davis is also the only candidate who does better against the Attorney General than the incumbent Governor. Bill White suffered the biggest drop, by far, in his race against Perry.

One excuse that I immediately thought of in an attempt to spin the poll results was that it was started before the filibuster took place. Sadly, this is not the case. Polling did not begin until last Friday. Accordingly, when one digs deeper into the number, it becomes apparently obvious what has happened. Because of all this SB5 stuff, Perry has revitalized his base. The Religious Right, which rode him back into office in 2010, is coming to the rescue again.

Off the Kuff and Texas Leftist both have more on the poll itself, and what not. This is making me a little bit to upset to write coherently, but I would like to discuss some of the implications of Wendy Davis’ candidacy that still exist. Bear with me, I might get a little bogged down in the minutia.

At a certain point in the 1960s, the Republican Party realized that they could not keep nominating liberals in the style of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt for President. You see, while the traditional liberal who would fight for the marginalized was originally a Republican, at some point following the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt convinced the American people that the Democratic Party was the party of liberals. Following the Great Depression and World War II, most Americans were liberals, so the Democrats won most Presidential elections and had a lockjaw on Congress. The GOP, wanting to get in on this, would nominate liberals like Thomas Dewey. Nelson Rockefeller also ran a painful number of times. But here’s the thing, when the American people wanted to vote for a liberal, they would vote for a Democratic liberal. Accordingly, the Republican Party was stuck in a rut until they started trying to change peoples’ opinions. Enter Barry Goldwater. Goldwater lost in a landslide, but he changed the conversation and ultimately set the stage for this ugly right-turn the country has been on since 1980. Simply put, the Texas Democratic Party needs their Goldwater.

Once upon a time, the Texas Democratic Party was the party of the average, rural Texan would identify with. John Tower, Bill Clements and George Bush changed all of that. However, much like the Deweys and Rockefellers of the past, the Texas Democratic Party continues to nominate people like Bill White, Paul Sadler and Hank Gilbert. Don’t get me wrong, I liked all of these politicians personally and believe they would have been great officeholders. But, simply put, they did not have the chutzpah to run for office as open Democrats. When Sadler had a chance to correct this, he ran away like a scared little poodle. If we concede that the Texas electorate wants conservatives, they will vote for the conservative candidate.

Wendy Davis could be our Goldwater. Even if she doesn’t win, she shifts the conversation. That way, two or three elections down the road, we win. The great landslide of 2026 or what not will look back at 2014 the way the Reaganphiles look at Goldwater. But I digress.

The other upside to Wendy Davis running for Governor would be what I call the “Obama effect.” Having Davis at the top of the ticket, even if she can’t win Statewide, will be sure to help the downballot Democrats in Bexar and Harris counties, respectively, in what will be sure to be competitive county elections.