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The Friday Line: GOP's Statehouse Challenge

After a brief break from pure campaign politics in last week's Friday Line, we're back with a vengeance to look at the most competitive gubernatorial races on the ballot in November.

While the Washington parlor game is debating whether Democrats can win back control of the House and/or Senate this fall, it's in the statehouses where the party is poised to make its biggest gains.  Republicans must defend eight open seats (including three of The Fix's top four in this week's line) and have a number of other vulnerable incumbents in Democrat-friendly states like Maryland and California.

The races are listed in reverse order, with the no. 1 race being the one most likely to switch parties in the fall. Feel free to add your thoughts, predictions and own rankings in the comments section below, and compare this list to my last ranking of governors races.

10. Alaska -- Frank Murkowski (R): Two huge unanswered questions earn the Last Frontier a spot on this week's Line. Does Murkowski seek a second term? And does former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) decide to make a return to politics? If Murkowski bows out -- a real possibility at the moment -- and Knowles gets in, this race could rise up the rankings since Alaska voters have shown their willingness to support Knowles in past state elections. Even if Murkowski runs again, his dismal job approval numbers make this a target for Democrats. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Florida -- OPEN, Jeb Bush (R) is retiring: While state CFO Tom Gallagher (R) and state Attorney General Charlie Crist (R) continue to lap their potential Democratic rivals in fundraising, a Republican poll released earlier this week showed a generic Democrat for governor leading a generic Republican by five points. The Democratic base in the state is ginned up to prove that Florida remains a swing state in spite of President Bush's surprisingly strong victory in 2004. With September primaries scheduled for both parties, this race isn't likely to truly come into focus until late in the game. (Previous ranking: 10)

8. Arkansas -- OPEN, Mike Huckabee (R) is retiring: On the one hand, state Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) ended 2005 with a whopping $1.7 million in the bank, compared to former Rep. Asa Hutchinson's (R) $565,000 bankroll. On the other hand, former Clinton Administration official Bill Halter (D) ended 2005 with $1.25 million on hand, a total that included a $600,000 personal donation. Halter is expected to decide whether to challenge Beebe in a primary by the end of this month, and with that amount of money waiting to be spent it seems likely he will run.  That complicates Democrats' effort to take back the seat after a decade of Republican rule under Huckabee.  (Previous ranking: 8)

7. Michigan -- Jennifer Granholm (D): This race flip-flops with California on the Line.  At the moment Granholm is still comfortably ahead of wealthy businessman Dick DeVos (R) in both public and private polling.  Granholm's biggest problem is that voters remain strongly dissatisfied about the direction of the state -- an unhappiness born out of a struggling economy.  Granholm must find a way to avert taking the blame for Michigan's economic woes and offer voters a way forward. DeVos's personal wealth (and the scads of television advertising it will buy) will complicate Granholm's efforts. (Previous ranking: 6)

6. California -- Arnold Schwarzenegger (R): For the time being this race moves up a slot, though recent developments in the Golden State gubernatorial race seem to benefit the Governator.  Schwarzenegger has brought on two top operatives from President Bush's 2004 reelection race -- Steve Schmidt and Matthew Dowd. Both are extremely well thought of in Republican circles and have significant seasoning from their work for Bush.  A recent independent poll conducted by San Jose University showed Schwarzenegger's job approval has made it into the 40s -- an improvement but far from ideal. That same poll showed Schwarzenegger with narrow leads over both Democratic candidates (Controller Steve Westly and Treasurer Phil Angelides), neither of whom are at all well-known by the California electorate. (Previous ranking: 7)

5. Maryland -- Bob Ehrlich (R): Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley continues to distance himself from his Democratic primary opponent, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan. O'Malley reported $4.2 million in the bank at the end of 2005 compared to $1.4 million for Duncan.  O'Malley's strength is a major problem for Ehrlich, who is hoping for a competitive (and nasty) Democratic primary to improve his chances at reelection. Ehrlich had better than $8 million on hand at the end of last year and is tough and savvy on the campaign trail. But the Democratic nature of the state coupled with a strong Democratic year could spell doom for him. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Massachusetts -- OPEN, Mitt Romney (R) is retiring: Chalk up last month's no. 2 ranking on the Line to a bit of irrational exuberance in the immediate aftermath of Romney's retirement announcement.  State Attorney General Thomas Reilly (D) has been slowed of late by allegations that he inserted himself into an investigation surrounding the deaths of the daughters of a campaign donor, a charge he has denied. Couple that negative press with the positive reviews former U.S. deputy Attorney General Deval Patrick has drawn for his candidacy and the Democratic primary could be more competitive than expected. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the likely Republican nominee, is seen as a strong candidate but without the star quality that helped Romney win this strongly Democratic state in 2002. (Previous ranking: 2)

3. Iowa -- OPEN, Tom Vilsack (D) is retiring: This race moves up a slot on the Line because Rep. Jim Nussle (R) continues to run an extremely impressive campaign.  He raised $2.5 million in 2005 and ended the year with $1.5 million in the bank -- a record total for off-year fundraising in the Hawkeye State.  Nussle faces a primary challenge from 2002 candidate Bob Vander Plaats but seems likely to emerge victorious.  Democrats have four legitimate candidates, with Secretary of State Chet Culver the current frontrunner. Iowa is swing state but is likely to lean Democratic on Election Day if the current political environment continues. That might be enough to drag the Democratic nominee across the line, but make no mistake -- Nussle is a star in the making. (Previous ranking: 4)

2. Ohio -- OPEN, Bob Taft (R) is retiring: Rep. Ted Strickland (D) continues to rack up key party endorsements, a strategy that is sure to effectively marginalize the quixotic primary candidacy of state Sen. Eric Fingerhut.  Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is the apparent frontrunner on the Republican side. His closest challenger -- state Attorney General Jim Petro -- lost a bit of momentum when his running mate for lieutenant governor dropped off the ticket to run for a county office.  The political dynamics in the state -- colored by Taft's ongoing ethical problems -- make this a terrific opportunity for Democrats. (Previous ranking: 3)

1. New York -- OPEN, George Pataki (R) is retiring: State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) is as close to a sure thing to take this seat back for Democrats as you will find in big-time electoral politics.  He ended 2005 with $19 million in the bank, and a recent Siena College poll showed Spitzer with a whopping 72 percent to 8 percent lead over Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D) who appears -- inexplicably -- to be preparing for a primary challenge. A series of surveys has shown Spitzer crushing all Republican comers, including perennial candidate Tom Golisano, whose name ID and deep pockets make him a real threat to establishment favorite Bill Weld in the GOP primary. (Previous ranking: 1)

--Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 20, 2006; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Governors , The Line  
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Comments

New Ohio Zogby Poll

The Zogby International telephone survey showed a virtual dead heat among Democrats and Republicans running in the 2006 elections to succeed Mr. Taft as chief executive.

Zogby said its telephone interviews of 601 likely voters were conducted Feb. 2-3. The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

In this year's prospective gubernatorial races, Democrat Ted Strickland held a slight lead of 38% to 35% over Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell. The survey showed Mr. Strickland deadlocked with Republican Jim Petro at 36 percent. About 25% of those questioned in both match-ups were undecided.

Posted by: RMill | February 7, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Petro, Blackwell choose running mates
AG Jim Petro finally found a replacement running mate in State Sen. Joy Padgett after losing Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich.
http://www.senate.state.oh.us/senators/bios/sd_20.html

SOS Ken Blackwell chose State Rep. Tom Raga today.
http://www.house.state.oh.us/jsps/MemberDetails.jsp?DISTRICT=67

Both are from rural parts of Ohio.

Posted by: RMill | February 6, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

See "Governors" category for update on Ohio governors race and fund raising reports.

Posted by: RMill | February 1, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Congressman Ted Strickland chose former AG Lee Fisher, himself a one-time hopeful for governor as his running mate.

Fisher, who is jewish (as is Fingerhut)and from Cuyahoga County also sat in the Ohio Senate (the seat held by primary challenger Eric Fingerhut)and House.

This will tighten the flow of funds for Fingerhut who has been promising he has committments of $1 M. Strickland, at last report, had $1M on hand while Fingerhut had $14,000 in his last finance report. Annual reports are due soon to the Ohio Secretary of State's office.

Posted by: RMill | January 26, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Ohio State Auditor Betty Montgomery dropped out of the race for Governor and announced she would run for her old position as Attorney General, setting up another contentious GOP primary battle for that post (vs. State Sen. Grendell and Franklin Co. pros. O'Brien). Sec of State Blackwell and current AG Petro still slated to slug it out for GOP nomination for governor.

Posted by: RMill | January 25, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I guess it just goes to show that everyone has written Illinois politics off. Too much connection to Chicago corruption I suppose.

Posted by: MJ | January 24, 2006 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Where's Colorado? Incumbent Billy Boy Owens, now in the GOP doghouse, is term limited. Republicans have a doozie of a dogfight between Bob Beauprez (2 term congressperson) and gazillionare Mark Holtzman (who's beating Beauprez in the head over Beauprez' support of a budget-saving referendum last fall). Democrats have former Denver DA Bill Ritter and a little known state rep. The only issue among the Dems is that Ritter is pro-life. This state is a potential switcheroo.

Posted by: muleman | January 24, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Regards the item 'The Friday Line: GOP's Statehouse Challenge', and that part of it that comments on the Massachusetts race:

You write...

'State Attorney General Thomas Reilly (D) has been slowed of late by allegations that he inserted himself into an investigation surrounding the deaths of the daughters of a campaign donor, a charge he has denied. Couple that negative press...'

...which might sound to your national auditors as though something heinous were being implied.

And so for those who don't know, the 'deaths' were not of foul play, but tragically of two young women in a car crash in which alcohol appears a factor; and what Mr. Reilly is alleged to have done (I have no idea as to the truth of the matter) is to have perhaps suppressed the toxicology reports on the victims, so as to spare the families (of whom Mr. Reilly is said to be acquainted) the publicity of having their loved-one's tragic deaths characterized in the news as being alcohol-related.

Nothing so heinous being alleged; and even if true, nothing so horrible to do for the greiving loved ones of two young women tragically killed in an auto accident.

Especially if they are friends.

Posted by: Dem02020 | January 23, 2006 8:39 PM | Report abuse

We are going to Keep Doyle as Governer in WI.... Mr. Green has a way of twisting words as other R'S do that will be his undoing. Green is of no help to the fine State of Wisconsin!!!

Posted by: B.Paddock | January 23, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Viva-

Thanks for your heartfelt concern about the Democratic Party but I am sure we will have plenty of money to contend this year and you GOP'ers have plenty of cracks of your own to worry about.

How many millions have already been raised and spent before the official gun has even fired in the primary season on the right side of the Governor's race?

It will be an interesting year for sure in Ohio.

Posted by: RMill | January 23, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Currently, Republicans hold 28 governorships compared to Democrats' 22. Therefore, Dems need a Net gain of +4 to regain a majority.

Democrats Will Pick Up: New York and Ohio
Democrats Should/Could Pick Up: Massachussets and Maryland, and California.

If it's a good year for Democrats, they pick up: Nevada, Florida, and Alaska (Murkowski's Approval Rating is about 30%)

Republicans Will Pick Up: Iowa
Republicans Should/Could Pick Up: Michigan, Illinois, and Maine

If it becomes a good Republican Year watch: Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Wisconsin

Democrats and Republicans will probably have 25 each at year's end.

Posted by: Al | January 22, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

In Colorado both parties are deeply divided between their moderate and extreme wings. Bill Owens, who is term limited, angered his right wing by supporting Referendum C, which they claim raised taxes. His endorsement, yet to come, will still carry some weight in the primary, but is weakened. Of the two GOP candidates Bob Beauprez is the better known, but he is already under attack from his right.
No announced Democratic candidate has drawn much attention. Popular Denver mayor John Hickenlooper is said to be able to win if he enters, but he has been mum so far. Only he could carry both the Dean and DLC Dems.
Prediction? Democrats, if Hick goes for it; otherwise, GOP.

Posted by: dgndenver | January 21, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

The Massachusetts election has been turned upside down in the last 3 months. Deval Patrick has come on strong just before the Democratic party Caucuses (which select delegates to the nominating Convention). He may get enough "elected" delegates to get the nomination. Tom Reilly still has most of the "ex-officio" delegates to fall back on. But Deval Patrick has been winning internet polls sponsored by news websites, all over the state (Pittsfield, Lowell, Cape Cod) of late.

Posted by: CapePolitics | January 21, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

TOP 10 Projection:
Ohio: Strickland 52-48. Ohio remains GOP terriroty until Dems are united. Strickland has won, lost, and won again his congressional seat. He knows the game in Ohio and will pull it off. I say this not to intice racism, but much of Ohio is remain racist. Blackwell is an African-American and the Cincy area which is predominantly GOP will simply stay home. Dems in Cleveland-Akron, many of which are African American will support Strickland. Is was Blackwell who attempted to deny many African-American the right to vote in 2004. Forget the Rasmussen poll which is very erratic, this race will come down to that: race

California: Unless Dems put a better name candidate on the ticket, Auhnold wins by default. However, thats no big loss since Auhnold is now governing as a Democrat and as a Kennedy at that. Maria is now running the show. SO, the race is a RINO or a unknown Dem. Does is matter.

Texas: Rick Perry is in trouble but doesnt even know it. He is not like at all and a late entry by a decent Centrist Democrat will create the biggest upset in 2006

Florida: Bush fatigue has already set in. Dems win by default. GOP has mishandled every major issue in the state that brought the country the Terry Schiavo sad story. Rememberance of governments interference in Schiavo will emerge as dominant issue along with education which is poorly funded.

Maryland: First of all, Steele is toast. He is personally on the verge of bankruptcy and has major personal financial problems. He spends more than he makes. Steele is fools gold to the African-American community.

As for Governor. Erlich has turned out to be a Bush turd. He had opportunity to be a moderate Republican that worked with the Democratic legislature, just as Warner did in Va. Instead, he attempted to use Rove like tactics to govern. Marylanders dont respect this from their leaders and Ehrlich will pay the price. On the Dem side, O'Malley is the real deal. Personal, telegenic, rock band member, blue collar, popular with the predominantly African American community. Biggest mistake Ehrlich team made was the Rove tactic of whisper smear campaign that O'Malley was cheating on his wife. From that time forward, Ehrlich lost the the 2006 election and rightfully so as the whisper campaign was not true.

Arkansas: Asa Hutchison has name recognition. I cant see Dems winning this one.

Michigan: Can't be bought. DeVoes has no ideas or imagination. ALl he has is money. Michigan can not be bought that easily. Outsourcing of jobs in major issue. Granholm will rightfully pin the tail on George Bush's ass.

PA: Lynn Swann is not going to win in a democratic state. He stand for what? What ideas does he have. Last seen as sideline reporter for ABC football. Swann should keep his TV job as he will remain on the sidelines.

NY: Pataki gone, Any DEm wins.

Iowa: Dems win with Visalks coattails. Virginia de ja vu.

Posted by: DB | January 21, 2006 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Nice to see Ohio moved back up the list again. It's hard to see how the Republicans come out of this year's elections holding a majority of the Governorships. It's not even that big a stretch to imagine 30 Dems and 20 Republican Govs next year.

Rendell is safe. DeWine and Blackwell are toast.

True political junkies out there should follow Canada's federal election Monday at http://www.cbc.ca/canadavotes. I predict a Conservative minority government with a significantly larger NDP caucus.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | January 20, 2006 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Suozzi v Spitzer?

Weld v Golisano v Faso v Daniels v Manning?

It looks like NYS will see a little competition this fall.

Don't underestimate Weld. Or Suozzi for that matter. Spitzer's luster will fade the closer he is probed by the media and opposition researchers.

Posted by: Albany Pol | January 20, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey Crater:
A few weeks ago you Dims were talking big about how Strickland, Brown/Hackett would beat the OHGOP Tix to which my reply was "a long ways until November." Now that Blackwell is 5 points ahead of Strickland well...

Keep in mind that the Rasmussen poll you cite is nearly 3 weeks old versus the latest Zogby.

Rmill: "Competition for the Dims is good?"
Right. You get to spend money against a fellow Dim that could be better spent against your general opponent.

Let's not forget there are cracks throughout the state Dim Party, what with the fight over the state chairmanship, the UAW backing Hackett over Brown, and now a primary for governor.

Will be interesting to see how much money the Dim senate and governor candidates spend in this primary.

Posted by: VIVABUSH04OH | January 20, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I was so happy to hear Eliot Spitzer will run for governor of New York! Finally, we will have a strong and popular leader that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the centrist part of the Democrat Party. He is truly a knight in shining armor that successfully battled corrupt corporate chieftains as Attorney General of New York.
I would like to end my comments by inviting my fellow Americans to look up in the dictionary the meanings of conservatism, liberalism, populist, and elitist. By learing the true meanings of those words, I believe Americans will steer away from the extremist sides of both ideologies. Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote "The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do." I hope that quotation inspires Americans to not only be more productive in their daily lives, but also to apply it in a way that reconciles moderate views of conservatism, and liberalism.

Posted by: Jose M. Valdez | January 20, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Dueling Polls: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/2006/State%20Polls/January%202006/Ohio%20Governor%20January%204.htm

And if you think that a couple of weeks at this point in the campaigns makes a big difference: is to laugh.

Posted by: Judge Crater | January 20, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Living in the state of Massachusetts, I can tell you that Reilly will take the nomination over Patrick rather handily, which is sad as I'd rather see Patrick take it. However, Healey won't come close to Reilly in the election, there is too little that is known about her and the dramatic about faceof Romney from moderate to conservative has left a great amount of un-ease about Romney's running mate.

Posted by: Rob | January 20, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Adding competition in Ohio will only benefit the Democratic nominee. At the moment, Congressman Strickland enjoys big advantages in money, organization and support. More than two dozen local parties, major unions, over half the democratic legislative members (Eric's collegues), the Ohio Black caucus, and over $1 M on hand (as opposed to "pledged support" yet to materialize). And of course, time- this is late in the game. Plus major countywide players Commissioners Hagan and Jones and Prosecutor Mason will deflect from the Senators base of support.

Having said all that, Senator Fingerhut is intelligent and has resources and experience that will make him formidable opponent. For myself, I don't believe it will be enough to make up for lost time. There is not a lot of air left in the room before the May primary.

Posted by: RMill | January 20, 2006 12:24 PM | Report abuse

The numbers for John here in the State of Maine appear grim. Right now, the smart money is on a challenger and that Maine will change parties in November 06.

Posted by: Sean | January 20, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

And of course Steele has a good shot to take a senate seat as well :)

Posted by: Bryan | January 20, 2006 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Of course, this is the problem when you've only got ten slots: I could make a case for Colorado, Alabama, Minnesota and even Texas (given the Strayhorn candidacy) being competitive - Pennsylvania looks dodgy on the Rasmussen poll, Nevada's by no way locked down - could indeed be big changes...

Posted by: Adam | January 20, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Hey Chris. Did you know that Rasmussen has Lynn Swann (R) up over Ed Rendell (D) 45-43%
Any incumbent below 50% has to be up for grabs.

Posted by: VIVABUSH04OH | January 20, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

REFORMER VS. REFORMER IN THE EMPIRE STATE: ELIOT SPITZER VS. THOMAS SUOZZI

Read more about the pending primary contest in New York between Spitzer and Suozi in today's posting of the *Intrepid Liberal Journal*.

http://www.intrepidliberal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | January 20, 2006 9:59 AM | Report abuse

An observation about the Florida race...Florida runs closed primaries, which typically tends to favor the extremes of both parties. What's different this year, is that while you've got 2 Republicans tripping over themselves to run to the right (Both were moderates in a previous life...one has even gone so far as to get married, pop out a kid, and get "saved."), the Dems seem to be actually thinking this one through and running 2 centrists. So, whoever wins the Dem primary will come into the general election with a distinct advantage over the GOP candidate. (GOP Primary voters in Florida tend to fall very heavily in the Christian conservative camp.)

Posted by: AR | January 20, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

TEXAS DEMOCRATS DEFEND THEIR PLANTATION

It is my position and the evidence tends to support my position that the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas is economically underdeveloped in part because the Democratic Party of Texas has turned a blind eye to decades of unrelenting corruption, by a group Latino politicians who care not one iota about the LRGV, in exchange for these same politicians keeping Latino voters in the pockets of the Democratic Party. If the LRGV is ever to be economically developed the Latino community must stand together against these interests in Austin by demanding they denounce these DINOS (Democrats in Name Only) for what they are, self-hating Latinos who care only about their own power and money.

I ask the readers, would any responsible business want to do business in a community where corruption and money-grubbing politicians can be found at every turn? The answer is no. This is why major corporations refuse to do business in Brownsville. Even the last company to relocate to Brownsville, a company in the manufacture of busses, did same in spite of the obstructionist policies of our city leaders.

The deal cut with the DINOS such as State Senator Eddie Lucio (final vote needed to put anti-gay marriage issue on Texas ballot - also tied to the theft of over 21 million dollars from the Brownsville Navigation district through his business ties which he referred over to the BND) and State Representative Rene Oliviera (Bill banning lawsuits against HMO's defeated 120-21) http://texnews.com/texas97/hmo050897.html) is simple, deliver the Latino vote to the Democrats and we the Anglo Democratic Party leadership in that bastion of liberalism known as Austin will ignore the corruption and the fact you are DINOS.

So people understand the plight of Brownsville I am compelled to give several additional examples of the unrelenting corruption. Our new esteemed District Attorney Villalobos who was a supporter of our now convicted former sheriff, Conrado Cantu, dropped criminal charges against Cantu as one of his first official acts as our new DA. This same DA found that the random firing of a hand gun near a golf course was not a violent crime thereby effectively dismissing criminal charges against Cantu's attorney for randomly firing his hand gun near a golf course. Had it not been for the Office of the United States Attorney, Cantu would still be running his drug ring right under the eyes of our esteemed District Attorney Villalobos.

In one county over, judges have been forced to resign for corruption, the District Clerk died pending her federal criminal trial, another judge killed himself after being indicted under federal charges rather then expose his compadres in crime - all of these people are Democrats. Democrat and Clinton appointee federal judge Hilda Tagle actively used the federal bench to protect these corrupt judges and public officials - the same can be said for Linda Yanez of the 13th Court of Appeals and Former Administrative Judge Darryl Hester who used his position to silence and destroy any attorney who tried to speak out on the issue. All Democrats.

Next, there is the case of Eddie Lucio III, running for office to be a State Representative from the Brownsville-Harlingen area. He is able to run for this office because the law-firm he works for in Austin which specializes in land development opened a special office in Brownsville so that Eddie Lucio III would have a residence in Brownsville. http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/ts_more.php?id=67973_0_10_0_C -

Does anyone believe Eddie Lucio III is running to represent the people of the district? No, everyone knows he is running to be an elected lobbyist for land developers - just look to his campaign finance disclosure forms. A land grabbing carpetbagger running as a Democrat in South Texas - boy have things changed. I ask Mr. Lucio who is going to look out for the families of South Texas as Mr. Lucio and his compadres grab land at discounted rates for Mr. Eddie Lucio III's clientele - Have we already forgotten how the creation of Brownsville was the result of a theft of the land from Latinos by wealthy land developers? Have we already forgotten how wealthy land developers cheated Latinos out of their land on South Padre?

And finally there is that three-ring circus known as Brownsville City Commission. At this point no one challenges the notion that our Latino Mayor is a marinero (cabinboy) for white builders because he lacks the self-esteem to be a capitán. Unlike every other city in the LRGV and almost all of Texas our City Commission opposes these white builders having to pay the same community impact fees they would have to pay in any other city in the State of Texas. While the taxpayers of Brownsville are being charged these impact fees as a form of corporate welfare for these white builders, our marinero City Commissioners and inept leadership on the Brownsville, Public Utilities Board (Oscar Garcia a contractor himself - this is the same Oscar Garcia who claimed he did not pay property taxes on his rental properties because he understood it was the responsibility of the renters to pay the property taxes- yes, is this the IQ we want in a man running the Brownsville Public Utilities Board.?) call for yet another study as to whether Brownsville should charge these white builders the same impact fees they pay every place else in Texas.

This is the Democratic Party of South Texas. This is the Democratic Party of Texas which turns a blind eye to the corruption because it is only Latinos who are being victimized. Is this not the same argument Democrats used against the Bush Administration to explain the lack of timely response to black New Orleans? In the words of Hillary Clinton - we are tired of Texas Democrats treating the LRGV as their own little plantation to be overseen by their marinero house servants such as Eddie Lucio, Rene Oliviera, and Oscar Garcia. We will not be house servants or marineros anymore - somos capitanes no somos marineros. I will make clear, this does not mean we will only elect Latinos - it means we will only elect people regardless of their race or ethnic background who have the well being of the LRGV at heart and who have the courage of their convictions..

If all of this reflects the Democratic Party of the LRGV how would any self-respecting Latino vote Democrat? Because we have been taught that things would actually be worse under the Republicans. I will note, Brownsville overwhelmingly voted for George W. Bush, I believe because the people of Brownsville are at their limits with the unrelenting corruption in the Democratic Party and open and direct contempt the Democratic Party of Texas has for Latino voters. For the record I abstained from voting in the presidential race - I refused to vote for an arrogant politician who viewed the White House as his personal entitlement rather than as a privilege to be earned on the content of his character and ideas.

There is an alternative - we as Latinos refuse to turn out for the Democrats until they clean up their act and the leadership in Austin actually stands for something and demand accountability. Without the votes of the LRGV the Democrats cannot win a statewide office. We cannot, as Latinos, demand that others respect us until we respect ourselves by demanding accountability from our own leaders within the Latino community. We as Latinos must make clear to these self-anointed leaders within our community we will vote for an imaginary Martian before we vote for a corrupt Latino or corrupt Democrat.

The message is simple, so long as the Anglo Democratic Party in Austin gets what it wants from these DINOs then let the residents of the LRGV go hungry. To the Anglo leadership in Austin Latinos are nothing more than their meal ticket to power - we are not a constituency to be taken seriously. We are to be happy on the failed welfare programs put forward by the Democrats - the motto of the Austin Democrats is - give them Lone Star Cards and medicaid and they will stay in line. My suggested motto for the New Latino Leadership in the Democratic Party is - "Give us respect or Democrats will never again hold statewide office."

To Chris Bell and Bob Gammage - the writing is on the wall - The two of you are the two most viable candidates for the governor's race. I personally believe a Democrat can take the governor's house in November if the Democrats clean up their act.

Remember two things Mr. Bell and Mr. Gammage - in 2004 Brownsville Democrats openly defied the Democratic party and voted for George W. Bush. In 2002 the LRGV did not turn out in large numbers for Democrat Tony Sanchez. In Tony Sanchez we knew he was a DINO. We knew he turned a blind eye while his bank was being used to launder drug money which was used to destroy our communities and families. We are no longer slaves on the plantation of the Texas Democratic Party - we no longer take orders from the masters in Austin or the marineros/ house servants doing the dirty work for the masters in Austin - Somos capitanes.

The Texas Democratic Party can rise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix and not only take the governor's house in 2006 but deliver Texas in 2008 to the Democratic candidate for President. This will only happen under new leadership which can invigorate the Latino vote in the LRGV and West Texas. This will not happen under the tutelage of Charles Soechting current chair of the Democratic Party nor under the back door dealing antics of Barbara Radnofsky.

Now I have hit a sore spot. Both Barbara Radnofsky and a Democratic Party consultant, André Piñeda, have gone out of their way to discredit me because I called for a boycott against her election based on the fact she cut a back door deal with Charles Soechting to get his early endorsement of her for the US Senate race in violation of Party rules in exchange for her renomination of him as Party Chair. My views were published in a letter to the editor in the Brownsville Herald http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/opinions_more.php?id=68695_0_11_0_C.

My concern with Ms. Radnofsky's back door dealing was and remains that this will be the fourth US Senate race in a row wherein the Austin leadership openly supports the white candidate in clear violation of Party rules. We all know how they went after Victor Morales for the crime of seeking office without their permission. For the fourth time in a row Latino candidates do not have a fighting chance. This is not about electing Latinos, it is about giving us a fair shot at election in the primaries. In the LRGV we know all too well being Latino by name does not make you honest or a true Democrat.

So I say to Chris Bell and Bob Gammage - speak out now about what has happened to the Democratic Party - denounce the antics of Soechting and Radnofksy (she cannot win anyway she does not even have 1/10th the money of Hutchinson) and demand the Democratic party stand with the good people of the LRGV against the DINO's who have used us for their own personal gain.

If Radnofksy truly cared about the people of Texas, as opposed to her own demand for power through her back door dealings with Soechting, she would abandon her race for the US Senate and help the winner in the primary for governor (Bell or Gammage) raise the money to beat Perry - this is not the time or place to discuss the issue but someone needs to ask Strayhorn if she is governor who is going to protect us from her son Scott McClellan? - the apple does not fall far from the tree.

A US Senate win does nothing for Texas. A Democrat in the Governor's house changes the dynamics of Texas politics in such a way that Texas may vote Democrat in the presidential race of 2008. There is only so much money. We all know Radnofky will put her own ego and obsession for fake power ahead of the people and the best interests of the Democratic Party. In the end none of this will matter if Chris Bell and Bob Gammage refuse to step up to the plate and denounce the antics of Soechting and demand a new Democratic Party Latinos feel which will embrace them as equals and speak out against the DINO's in the LRGV.

While some will call that which follows unnecessary, it is unfortunately necessary because Radnosky and a Democratic Political consultant by the name of André Piñeda have gone on the attack against me calling me a Republican plant. Radnofky and Piñeda cannot attack me on the merits so they attack me with lies and half truths - so now I will set the record straight.Ms. Radnofsky's misleading and disrespectful response to my original letter and my subsequent reply can be found at http://forums.chron.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?nav=display&tsn=1&tid=108&webtag=hc-politics.

Not only does she disrespect the entire Latino community by refusing to recognize my legal name, Bobby Wightman-Cervantes, and instead refers to me as Bobby Wightman - she deliberately misleads the Latino community into believing I am a Republican trying to disenfranchise the Latino voter. Ms Radnofsky's argument is simple, Latinos should accept the disrespect of the Democratic Party and vote Democrat because if they do not they will end up helping Republicans. This is insulting and typical of the plantation mentality pushed upon the slaves by their masters.

Ms. Radnofsky's information about my one time run as a Republican for judge came from Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting, Mr. Soechting is fully aware that I made public that I ran as a Republican because the Democrats had abandoned Dallas County and I was running only for the experience of running and not because I believed I could defeat two sitting judges who where already competing for the seat. In fact the Republican Party Chair had requested I run for a County Court at Law seat which would have been a shoe in for me, but I did not want the job as a Republican.

My work for the Latino community is well documented. Prior to moving to Brownsville in 2004, I worked on a case for free wherein a white judge ignored Texas law and allowed for a jury trial wherein a white couple were seeking custody of two Latino children who happened to be the couple's neighbors. The father of these Latino children had stabbed the mother to death. The issue for the trial court was, was it in the best interest of these children to be given to the maternal aunt and grandmother or to these white neighbors? Texas law does not give legal authority to neighbors claiming a right to custody of neighbors' children.

Unfortunately for the children the attorney hired by the aunt did not know he was to file a motion challenging the authority of this white couple to seek custody of the children. At the 11th hour under my advice the attorney filed the motion to bar the white couple from seeking custody of the children. The white judge ignored black and white Texas law and allowed the trial to go forward. A white jury gave custody to the white couple.

With no money left to pay attorneys I agreed to work for free to clean up the mess created by the lawyer hired by the children's aunt and grandmother. At the end of the day, with a new judge the white couple were found to have no legal authority to seek custody of the children and the children went to go live with their aunt and grandmother. The white couple had actually argued that it was not in the best interest of the children to be in a home where people speak Spanish.

We won and the children now live in Kansas with their aunt, uncle and grandmother. Shortly thereafter, it turned out that the white couple were really after the life insurance money. A legal battle ensued between the father of the children and the children as to who was entitled to the money - Texas law was clear and the money went to the children - although the attorney to whom I donated my services now made a pretty penny on his fee for recovering the insurance money he stiffed me for the 20 hours of pro bono work I did when we believed there was no money. I am proud of my work for these children.

In 1993, after every national gay organization made clear I was out of line for representing a Latina who was being discharged from the military as a lesbian, because her skin color was not what they believed was in the best interest of the gay community at the time, I held my position and ignored the threats. A local representative from the Lambda Legal Defense Fund in New York took me to lunch at 8.0 in Dallas to twist my arm and I said no - I do not discriminate. Ed Bradley then with Street Stories profiled my work on this issue.

In 1992 when several mothers came to me to help them incorporate the Dallas Chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Families and Lesbians and Gays) and to obtain their tax except status I did the work for free, which included training the treasurer in how to prepare the annual 501c3 report to maintain their tax exempt status. I can assure you these mothers did not have the money to pay for these legal services.

In 1996, when Dallas County Community College Trustee Diana Flores came to me for free legal representation in an election contest wherein it was alleged that the election results should be voided because senior citizens who live in nursing homes are mentally ill and their votes should not count, I said yes I will fight this battle for you. The case finally closed out after 6 years of nearly free legal representation - (maybe 10% of the bill was paid) Rather than have the election stolen by a corrupt white discredit judge from Paris, Texas, I sat in jail for contempt. The Texas Supreme Court agreed that at the time, this corrupt white discredited judge from Paris, Texas had no legal authority to act in the case. I held, went to jail, and this Latina won her right to be an elected official in Dallas County.

I can go on and on and on. I will put my record up against Barbara Radnofksy's any day. I am not a Democrat in name or a Latino in name - I am a Democrat by my actions and a Latino in my heart - I defy anyone to argue my home is not that of a Latino. If Ms. Radnofsky is so desperate to win this election that she will seek to discredit her opponents with lies what does that tell us about how she will be when she reaches Washington. The DINOs in the LRGV who have kept the LRGV underdeveloped have taught us as Latinos to look out for people of low character such as Ms. Radnofksy.

To those who would say I am just settling a score over a failed run for the US Senate in 2000 - I will set the record straight. From the time I announced my candidacy I was the only candidate telling people no Democrat could win and that no US Senate candidate should accept money for their campaigns. The money needed to go to the tight State Senate and State House races. I in fact repeatedly told people to give any money they had for me to David Cain, a Democrat and State Senator in East, Texas in a very difficult race.

So why run if you could not win? Simple, as a gay male and Latino I knew that I could draw national attention to the campaign. My campaign was to be against George W. Bush. Everyone new this including then Democratic Party Chair Molly Beth Malcolm. Even in the last election I begged Charles Soechting, Democratic Party Chair, to make a big issue over the fact Governor Perry, at the National Republican Party Convention, publically blamed Bush for the lose of federal money to be used for health insurance for poor children. Soechting's response was "what? what? I do not understand."

In the end of the day there was no effective dissent from Texas about George W. Bush - the Democrats ran into their closets and remained silent as the nation slowly crept into the Bush regime of silencing the opposition and sending our innocent children to die in a made up war. Molly Beth Malcolm for her conduct in changing my name on the ballot from Bobby Wightman-Cervantes to Bobby Wightman at the eleventh hour has the blood of over 2000 Americans on her hands.

Then Democratic Party Chair Molly Beth Malcolm did what she did because I had gone public about Democrat Travis County DA Ronnie Earle using more than 100 thousand dollars in aid of the Ann Richards campaign against Clayton Williams. The full depth of this corruption allowed Ray Hutchinson, husband to Kay Bailey Hutchinson, to black mail Ronnie Earle into forcing Judge Onion to dismiss the criminal charges against Kay Bailey Hutchinson - Ronnie Earle had to be protected even at the expense of delivering the White House to George W. Bush. The supporting documents to this claim can be found at my web page www.balancingtheissues.com My life has been a living hell since that day, but I have not been deterred I still speak up for the people.

At the end of the day the Latino community does not need my words to convince them to boycott the Democrats - my words are only bringing the issue forward while encouraging more Latinos to join the bandwagon which began before I penned one word on this issue. Without a word from me the LRGV failed to turn out in large numbers for Tony Sanchez in 2002, and without a word from me Brownsville voted for George W. Bush.

In that bastion of liberalism known as Austin the Democratic Party continues to assume Latinos will blindly follow them unless some agitator like me comes along to direct them against the Democrats. The Democrats give far too much weight to my rambling. The evidence proves without a word from me the Latino community in the LRGV have already started to go in a different direction from the Democrats. My words are merely a reflection of the tens of thousands of Latinos who have concluded when it comes to the Texas Democratic Party real Latino Democrats need not apply - only DINO's who will be good little marineros/house servants to the Austin establishment are welcome to apply.

Finally, if Ms. Radnofsky's sole defense against a no body like me is name calling and lies while failing to address the substance of the debate just exactly how is she going to stand up for Texas in the United States Senate. I say we put all of our energy into the governors race, assuming the Democratic Party nominee is willing to demand real reform in the Democratic Party and the immediate resignation of Charles Soechting.

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes
www.balancingtheissues.com

Posted by: Bobby Wightman-Cervantes | January 20, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday the WSJ Zogby poll showed that Blackwell is up 5 points over Strickland in a one-on-one match-up, 46 to 41 points.

It's true that Petro's campaign is in a free-fall. This week the OHGOP is doing a poll of this race with results out next Monday. It is expected that Blackwell have widened the gap over both Petro and Montgomery. The hope is that the bottom-feeders agree to drop out and avoid a primary blood bath.

Does any Dim out there think that Strickland has it nailed down and that Eric Fingurehut won't be a problem?

Posted by: VIVABUSH04OH | January 20, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for your great column. Do you ever cover Securities fraud. My web site is a resource for seniors.
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Posted by: Joanne Tweed | January 20, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Apparently, Suozzi is being approached by Republicans to either run for them or to mount a primary challenge against Spitzer in order to try and wound him. Good luck, because it ain't gonna happen, cap'n.

Posted by: Glenn Gervasio | January 20, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

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