Friday, October 11, 2013
Wild Card in Gov.'s Race | Casey's Last Word
While most pundits and nearly all Republicans are saying Democrat Wendy Davis doesn’t have a chance in her gubernatorial race against Republican Greg Abbott, all bets may be off if a certain wild card comes into play.
Political junkies will remember Debra Medina from four years ago.
She was the darling of the then-new Tea Party movement who ran for governor in the Republican primary.
She’s also the one who, by most accounts, beat both Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in two televised debates.
She also ended up, with very little funding, getting 19 percent of the primary vote, nearly pushing Perry into a run-off as he managed only 51 percent against Hutchison’s 30 percent.
Now Medina is running in the Republican primary for state comptroller.
She really, really wants to be comptroller, she says. But she also notes that she isn’t getting any love from major Republican donors.
She told the Texas Tribune, though, that she was getting millions of dollars in pledges from other donors should she decide to run for governor as an independent.
“If it comes to November and the money still hasn’t come in,” she told the Tribune, “I’ll have to pull my team in and say, ‘Okay, are these other offers real, and if they are, is this the path I should move down?’ “
It appears these other offers are real.
I trust you won’t be surprised to learn that they come from Democratic moneymen.
One of them reportedly is Houston superlawyer Steve Mostyn, who in recent years has given millions to Democratic candidates and causes.
A well-placed Democratic source, however, tells me Mostyn is hardly alone.
This is a nasty business by the Democrats, but it’s hardly without precedent.
Just four years ago, a Republican consultant from Arizona spent an estimated $200,000 to gather 92,000 signatures, tie a ribbon around them and hand them to the Texas Green Party.
The Greens were thus able to put a gubernatorial candidate on the Texas ballot who predictably would draw votes from Democratic candidate Bill White.
The consultant refused to disclose where the money came from, but suffice it to say some Republicans didn’t want to take any chances.
Could Medina running as an independent have an impact on the governor’s race?
Democratic insiders are salivating at the possibilities.
One told me early polling shows she could win a minimum of 8 percent running as an independent, Tea Party-oriented candidate.
These votes would come almost entirely from Greg Abbott’s column.
What’s more, having Medina in the race would deny Abbott an advantage Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general and several other offices don’t have.
With no major opponent in the primary, Abbott doesn’t have to worry about slipping up and saying anything that might make him seem moderate.
He would have to play heavily to the Republican base all the way to November, hurting his standing with many independent voters.
What’s more, Medina is reportedly being assured that Democrat Wendy Davis will agree to debate her from Houston to El Paso.
Abbott would face the choice of, in effect, refusing to shake hands with the ladies, or sharing the stage and the attention with opponents he would otherwise safely give one or two debates.
Medina would have to gather about 50,000 signatures to get on the ballot as an independent, but both Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman did it in 2006 in a race against Rick Perry.
The result was that Perry was elected governor with 39 percent of the vote.
To quote Kinky’s bumper sticker at the time: “How hard can it be?”