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Dave McNeely
State Politics

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.
Governor’s Race: Charge, Counter-Charge and Adios.  

It’s pin the tail on someone else in the governor’s race. Carole Keeton Strayhorn slammed Gov. Rick Perry. Democrat Chris Bell slammed Strayhorn. Democrat Bob Gammage slammed Bell. Kinky Friedman slammed everybody. Gov. Perry left the country. On Monday, ((1/23/06)) Comptroller Strayhorn blasted a state agency created to mediate disputes between homebuilders and homebuyers.

Strayhorn, who passed up the Republican primary to run against Perry as an independent, didn’t mention the governor. She didn’t need to.

Houston builder Bob Perry wanted the separate commission. He’s not related to the governor, but has kicked in $3.7 million to his campaigns. And the governor signed the bill creating the agency, and named John Krugh, an executive of Bob Perry’s firm, to the commission.

It’s a “builder protection agency,” Strayhorn charged. “If it were up to me personally, I would blast this Texas Residential Construction Commission off the bureaucratic books.”

On Tuesday, ((1/24/06)) Democratic hopeful Bell, stung by the normally Democratic-leaning Texas State Teachers Association endorsing Strayhorn over himlast week, said Strayhorn’s blasting Perry last week for supporting vouchers was hypocritical.Bell noted that chief voucher supporter James Leininger of San Antonio had secured a $950,000 loan to Strayhorn’s 1998 campaign – when she was supporting vouchers. He gave her $100,000 through 2003.

But when she started running against Perry, Leininger quit giving to her. And Strayhorn switched her voucher position. “It’s not enough to be right about Rick Perry being completely wrong about vouchers,” said Bell, who said he has always opposed publicly funded private-school vouchers. “Texas needs to trust that its leaders will have the courage of their convictions.”

Meanwhile, Gammage, like Bell a former congressman from Houston, said he got in the race because Bell was lacking fire in his belly. There’s plenty of fire there, Bell shot back when asked about it.

While all this was going on, Gov. Perry took off on an unannounced trip to Iraq and other hotspots in the Middle East, ostensibly to entertain and converse with Texas National Guard troops deployed there. He and three other governors – one Republican and two Democrats – had flown over at taxpayer expense, at the invitation of the Department of Defense.

Meanwhile, independent comic Kinky Friedman, who has never held elective office, told CBS-TV’s “Sixty Minutes” that he should be elected for that reason. The more experience politicians have, the worse they do, Friedman charged.

* * *

And So On . . . . . Even while the various candidates questioned Perry’s leadership ability, another Democrat who isn’t running for governor got in the act. Former Mayor Kirk Watson, who has drawn only Libertarian opposition for the Austin state senate seat held by retiring Democrat Gonzalo Barrientos, said he questions Perry’s recent saturation TV ad. “I’m proud of Texas,” Perry says at the end, then turns, looks directly into the camera, and asks, “How about you?”

Watson pointed to Texas’ ranking among the states on a variety of issues (45th in public health spending, 49th in water quality, 50th in high school graduation rate, 1st in percentage of uninsured children), to a Democratic crowd Monday night in Austin.

For truth in advertising, Watson said, the ad instead should close with Perry saying, “I’m hard on Texas. And I’m hard on you.”

* * *

Serindipity . . . . . Felix Alvarado, the Fort Worth school administrator and only Hispanic who had paid his filing fee for governor, was knocked off the ballot when his check bounced.

That’s a gift to Gammage and Bell.With Hispanics comprising as much as half the Democratic primary vote, and Strayhorn and Friedman asking voters to pass up the primaries to sign their ballot petitions, Republican consultant Royal Masset had actually predicted Alvarado would win the Democratic primary.

Contact Dave McNeely at dmcneely@austin.rr.com or 512/458-2963.

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