Monday, January 14, 2008

"In my district, it (Perry's help) would kill me. It would kill me,"

Can Perry work magic in primary?

Jan. 13, 2008

Clay Robison
The Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry's endorsement hasn't done much so far for Rudy Giuliani's bid for the Republican presidential nomination. But would the governor's blessing prove more magical in GOP primary races for the Texas Legislature?

Spokesman Robert Black said Perry hasn't ruled out the possibility of campaigning before March 4 for friendly incumbents and perhaps even a challenger or two, if invited to jump into legislative races.

The governor's help hasn't been requested yet, but it's still a little early.

Considering his 39 percent re-election victory over four opponents in 2006 and his fights last year with Republican legislators over the HPV vaccine and toll roads, he may not get many invitations.

"In my district, it (Perry's help) would kill me. It would kill me," said one Republican House member, who insisted upon not being identified.

Some welcome help

But some lawmakers may welcome Perry's assistance. He is a good campaigner, isn't afraid of controversy and is still the darling of many social conservatives, who comprise a significant GOP voting bloc.

And, Black indicated, the governor may be willing to campaign against a few Republican incumbents who have battled against him too many times.

"I wouldn't rule anything out at this point," Black said.

The spokesman insisted, nevertheless, that Perry won't get involved in the speaker's race. Since many House races, however, will affect the effort to unseat Speaker Tom Craddick, it will be difficult for the governor to avoid criticism that he is meddling in the speaker's race if he becomes involved in many House campaigns.

On the road

Perry will be in Baton Rouge, La., today to speak at the inaugural prayer breakfast for that state's new Republican governor, Bobby Jindal.

Also on his upcoming schedule is a more irreverent stop on Jan. 26 at the Alfalfa Club's annual dinner in Washington. This is an exclusive event at which the rich and powerful get to roast and amuse each other. Reporters aren't allowed to attend.

President Bush and his father have been frequent attenders, and Hillary Clinton broke the gender barrier in 1994 when the then-first lady attended with her husband, President Clinton.

The club exists only to stage the dinner and is named for the alfalfa plant because its roots will stretch to great lengths for liquid refreshment.

Dewhurst to the rescue

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had his low points with senators during the most recent legislative session, most notably during a near-meltdown over a voter identification bill. But he is marching to the rescue of several senators with re-election opponents.

Dewhurst, a Republican, said he will host fundraisers for Republican Sens. Tommy Williams of The Woodlands, Mike Jackson of Pasadena, Kim Brimer of Fort Worth and Craig Estes of Wichita Falls.

He said he also will support Democratic Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo against Republican challenger Louis Bruni, even though Zaffirini joined all the other Senate Democrats in killing the voter ID bill, a major GOP priority.

Dewhurst doesn't plan to host a fundraiser for Zaffirini but said, "I can go to somebody else's fundraiser."

Primary rumblings

Some Senate Republicans suspect that Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who already is trying to unseat GOP Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale of Houston, was behind energy executive Michael Galloway's surprise decision to challenge Sen. Tommy Williams in the Republican primary.

Patrick and Galloway, who served one term in the Senate from 1995-99, adamantly denied any collusion. Patrick said he will stay out of the race, which presumably means he won't be praising Galloway or bashing Williams on his radio program.

Another Republican senator, who asked not to be named, predicted all of Patrick's Republican colleagues will unite solidly behind Williams, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus.

If necessary, he joked, "We'll go to Mario (Gallegos), Rodney (Ellis) and Carlos (Uresti) and tell all the (Senate) Democrats they need to endorse Galloway," a kiss of death in a conservative Republican primary.

Campaign dispute

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, drew a last-minute challenger, LaRhonda Torry, in the Democratic primary, but a few days later Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg rejected Torry's application. Birnberg said he couldn't accept her filing fee because she had not yet designated a campaign treasurer.

The Texas Secretary of State's Office disagreed with Birnberg but couldn't order the party to put Torry on the ballot.

Torry then retained lawyer and former state Rep. Ron Wilson, who late last week filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court seeking an order to have Torry placed on the ballot.

Coleman contended that Wilson had recruited Torry, a legal secretary, to run against him because of Coleman's outspoken opposition to Speaker Tom Craddick. Wilson, you may recall, signed on as an assistant House parliamentarian to help Craddick beat back an assault on his speakership last spring.

Wilson denied recruiting Torry.

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