Whoo Hoo! I made it out of the house and to a political meeting! Nevermind that I’m dead tired today, it was very much worth it to see the new King Street Patriots headquarters, listen to most of the declared candidates to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and to catch up with a lot of friends that I’ve missed.
First off, the new headquarters building for KSP is awesome. Roughly a mile from the old space but a world of difference inside. Plenty of room to stretch out and get comfortable. I counted 320 chairs but there was room for a couple hundred more. They have an official sound booth, so no more straining to hear whomever is speaking. They even live stream all of their official meetings so that you can watch from the comfort of your couch. They also have more than one restroom, very important at this stage in my recovery! Well done.
As for the forum, it was very well attended. I tried to do a rough count, I’d guess there were between 215 and 240 in attendance. Lots of political types – Houston Mayoral candidate Fernando Herrera, Houston Council candidate Eric Dick, Harris County Sheriff candidate Carl Pittman, former Houston Council Member Toni Lawrence, and lots of campaign employees traveling with the candidates. It was awesome to see Court Koenning in attendance – his story is one for a movie someday. If you really, truly don’t believe in miracles, talk to his family.
Back to the forum, it was a standard format. Each candidate was given two minutes for an opening statement, then questions and answers, then three minutes for a closing statement. The questions ranged from judicial philosophy to the Fair Tax to the ground zero mosque to immigration and beyond. With six candidates participating, there was no time for bloviating, although a couple of candidates certainly tried. But as is typical with any KSP meeting, the timekeeper moved it forward and the forum finished up on time.
The biggest surprise happened when I walked through the door and saw Sen. Dan Patrick. I asked him what the heck he was doing here and he just smiled and said he was participating unofficially and was not on the straw poll ballot. Well, actually he was, but you were supposed to scratch his name off for legal reasons. He is still in the exploratory stage and must be very careful how he presents himself at these forums. If he gets in, he will certainly change the dynamics of the race. His natural opponent would seem to be Ted Cruz but he went after Tom Leppert instead. Interesting.
The second biggest surprise was the absence of candidate Roger Williams. Very surprising since he confirmed to me the day before that he would be attending. I’m guessing that those rumors of his dropping out of the Senate race to run for the new 33rd Congressional District against another former candidate for Senate, Michael Williams, have some legs to them.
Here are some quick thoughts on each candidate, in the order that they appeared on stage and opening/closing statements. I normally try to grade the candidates based on how they did compared to their goal for the evening but this race is so fluid, and will remain so until we hear from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and now Roger Williams that it would be a pointless exercise. I’ve also clipped the opening statements for each candidate – you should listen to them, they are only two minutes each and you’ll get a much better flavor for their candidacies.
First up was Glenn Addison. Mr. Addison is from Magnolia, just north of Houston and owns a funeral home. He came across very genuine, very modest, and is a funny guy. For instance, one of his quips was about addiction to spending and how he looks out across his cemetery and knows that a lot of people are in those graves because of addictions! Or, his quip about the federal government being like a bunch of piglets sucking on a sow’s teat – if you pull them off, they squeal.
He wasn’t just funny, he had some substance in his answers. Unfortunately, it will not be enough. You need money to survive in politics and Mr. Addison is not going to be able to raise the $5+ million it will take to be competitive. You can say that is unfortunate but it is reality. Here are his opening remarks:
Second on the podium was former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. For me and my tastes, Mr. Leppert would have “won” this if it were a debate. His answers were thoughtful, substantive, and to the point. I’ve thought for some time now that the race was really between him and Ted Cruz. Obviously that will change if Patrick or Dewhurst enter but if not, they are the clear frontrunners. Here is his opening statement:
Then it was wildcard time. If there ever was a wildcard in Texas politics, Dan Patrick fits the bill. Long on rhetoric and short on substance but he has that knack for saying what people want to hear regardless of the setting he is in. It looks to me that his campaign theme is going to be that of the outsider, the guy that isn’t afraid to attack the Republican Party, which he did repeatedly last night. Problem is, he is no longer that guy in reality. He is an Austin insider – don’t believe me? Just listen to the advertising for his radio station, KSEV – where you go to hear from insiders. But he got a lot of applause from the “streeters” and will be able to rally portions of the conservative base. Here are his opening remarks:
Next up was Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames-Jones. I’ve tried my best to like her campaign and I just can’t seem to do it. I don’t understand some of her rhetoric and frankly, RR Commish’s don’t do anything to have a record. She drew upon her days in the Texas House, claiming that she was Tea Party in 1999 because she defeated a four term incumbent. Maybe. I dunno, it just doesn’t play with me. And her claim to have passed tort reform just didn’t fly because to the best of my memory, she wasn’t a player in those talks. Again, maybe I’m wrong but I am going to ask Joe Nixon about that. She also said that she would have passed a 3% appraisal cap if she had stayed in the legislature. Coulda, woulda, shoulda – but didn’t. Here are her opening remarks:
Then it was time for Lela Pettinger. I’ve been watching Lela’s campaign for a couple of years via Facebook and love her positive message. And the fact that she is younger and could bring a fresh agenda to a stale US Senate. But it ain’t gonna happen. No money equals no win. She would do well to run for a local office and continue to build up her reputation and Rolodex. Look for good things from her if she continues in politics. Her opening statement:
Last but certainly not least, the endorsement machine known as Ted Cruz. Goodness that guy rakes in endorsements. And money. And more of each, each day. Just yesterday he scored with the home school crowd. Day before that it was with Peggy Venable with Americans for Prosperity – a force in Texas. And when George Will declares in the Washington Post that Cruz is as good as a candidate gets, you need to pay attention. And people certainly are. Like the Pondering Penguin in this post.
That said, this wasn’t his best night. His opening and closing were good – he used the story of his dad which never fails to get attention – but in the question and answer period, he went largely unnoticed. He did have some good answers but without some rhetoric, you tend to forget he said them. I’ll give you an example of that in a minute. He also has the appellate lawyer’s habit of sitting with his chin resting in his hand which is fine in court but in a forum or debate looks like he’d rather be anywhere but here, if you know what I mean. Here is his opening statement:
Now for a couple of direct comparisons – you’ll need to listen to the audio if you want to understand what I’m saying.
First up, listen to the differences between Elizabeth Ames-Jones and Tom Leppert on the subject of immigration. The questioner asks Ames-Jones to give three specific examples of what she would do about the problem of immigration if she were elected. She starts by saying there are way more than three and then talks and talks but does she ever mention even one? You tell me. Immediately after, Leppert gives a detailed answer and even reminds us that LEGAL immigration is a good thing – trust me, there are many people out there that want zero immigration, be it legal or illegal.
Now let me illustrate the difference between rhetoric (Patrick), substance (Cruz), and a balance of rhetoric/substance (Addison). The question is what are you going to do about entitlements. Listen to the back to back answers. Cruz could learn something from Addison here.
And last is another lesson for Cruz. The question was, do you support the Fair Tax? Cruz answered “I support it” and then went back to chin in hand. Leppert gave a lesson in reality and economics, stating that he supported it because it was consumption based but then addressed the reality that it is a fantasy and focused instead on reducing the current tax code.
And so ends my long winded recap. Cory Crow also recapped the forum over at Texas Iconoclast. There are probably other recaps out there, if I find them I’ll update this because the more you know about these guys and gal, the better chance you have of making the right choice for Texas. And at the end of the day, that is the important thing. There was a straw poll, when the results are released, I'll put a link to them.
UPDATE: As promised, results from the straw poll:
129 votes counted
1 vote undecided 1 vote Patrick
1 vote Sanchez
132 total votes