SD-5 and HD-20 After Gattis

Posted in 2010 Primary, Around The State, Commentary, Election 2010, HD-20, SD 5, Williamson County at 3:27 pm by wcnews

It’s fun to speculate as to why Dan Gattis really decided not to run for the Texas Senate, and why, (or if), Steve Ogden will run again, and there is quite a bit to speculate about.  From Burka alone today we learn that Gattis, who once aspired to the Presidency of these United States of America, has dropped out of the SD 5 race because a wing-nut scared him out of the race.

An amazing development. Gattis has spoken openly of his desire to be president of the United States some day. Now he is out of politics, not even running for reelection to the House. It’s a double whammy, a talented member gone and the dreadful Milton Rister as a possible successor.


Gattis had a very active opponent in Ben Bius, of Walker County (Huntsville). The Bius camp contends that the real reason Gattis dropped out was that the race was not going well for him, that they had knocked on 15,000 doors in Williamson County, that they had been running radio spots for several weeks, that Gattis was having trouble raising money from business interests that didn’t like his support for legislation backed by trial lawyers. They were getting ready to send out a mailer slamming Gattis for offering what they claim is a state “public option” for health insurance, HB 2470, which established the Texas Mutual Health Benefit Plan Company.

That this is all Kay Bailey Hutchison’s fault:

This is more fallout from Hutchison’s decision not to resign her Senate seat. It is safe to conclude that Ogden would not run for the Senate again if he were not confident of retaining the chairmanship of Senate Finance. He can have that confidence only he knows that Dewhurst will remain as light gov and not run for Hutchison’s seat if and when she were to resign. Indeed, the purveyors of the conventional wisdom around the Capitol believe that she will serve out her term to the bitter end, December 31, 2012.

And the rift between Williamson County, and the rest of SD 5 is a big issue, (see EOW’s SD 5 and ideological purity):

Did Ogden get pressure from Brazos County leaders to run? There were indications that the folks in Bryan were none too happy at the prospect that the district would be represented by someone from Williamson County. Brazos County would be unlikely to get the seat back anytime soon. It is not growing relative to the state’s growth. Williamson County is.

In the comments there was also this:

If Ogden does not run, Williamson County will find someone else to do so. Rumors are swirling around that former Round Rock Mayor Nyle Maxwell, who can self-finance, is being asked to consider it. Several other elected officials are also putting out feelers

Everyone in HD-20 should read the comments to the AAS blog post yesterday where some sniping between the Rister and Thomas “supporters” broke out.  Gattis’ move leaves many puzzled and rightfully so.  For such an up-and-coming politician to just quit is a surprise.  It’s equally surprising that Gattis won’t run in HD-20, and will be out of politics for now.  When I first saw that he was dropping out of the SD 5 race, I was almost certain he would go back to the HD-20 race.  No matter, it would be great to get a Democrat in this race,  to run against the winner of the ideological purity test/primary, on the GOP side in HD-20.

As far as Ogden goes, maybe he was looking to run for Lt. Gov., and once KBH didn’t resign he wanted his old office back? The AusChron calls Ogden’s so-called budget prowess into question.

The boildown is that Gattis regards Ogden as the only man with the financial know-how to fix the state budget with the anticipated 2011 deficit. Actually, there should probably be more probing of exactly how culpable the four-time Senate Finance chair is in creating that deficit. The Texas state budget is already in a structural deficit that Ogden et al papered over with federal stimulus money (thereby negating any stimulative effects). Ogden was Finance boss when the abortive business franchise tax reforms were passed in 2006. He’s also helped further institutionalize fund diversions (the legislative term for robbing Peter to pay Paul), which tax watchdogs like the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association oppose for disguising real need and real state spending, but that he has defended.

Ogden surely has some chinks in his armor and anyone running against him, in a primary or general election, can surely attack him as not wanting the job anymore.  It would take more than that to keep him from winning, but a good candidate with an adequate amount of money and who knows?  But what if Ogden doesn’t run?  It would then setup an interesting race without a clear front runner – a truly open seat.  While SD 5 is still a district that leans Republican, a Democrat in the mold of Hank Gilbert would have a fighting chance in SD-5.  Especially with the Texas GOP, and GOP throughout SD 5, looking more disorganized and disunited than it has in quite some time.

And that  disarray is one of the main problems facing the Texas GOP in the 2010 cycle.  Another issue they have, that’s not getting much notice, is that they will be running the same three candidates at the top of the ballot that for the third straight election cycle – Perry, Dewhurst, and Abbott.  When Texans ask themselves if they’re better off than they were 8 years ago, and come to the conclusion they aren’t, they won’t be comfortable voting for these three again.

[UPDATE]: There has still been no official word from Ogden that he will run again in SD 5.  Ben Bius has not dropped out.  So at this time, 5 PM Central, Bius is the only announced candidate in the SD 5 race.  Of course that can change very quickly.

1 Comment »

  1. remerson said,

    December 2, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Well, call me a cynic but I’ve observed the rise and (beginning of the) fall of the Republican Party in Wilco and it is rotting from within; I doubt that Gattis concerns about money and law practice are the deciding factor for his withdrawal, however. Milton Rister is of the Rove school and he knows how to corrupt and weild power. His current position was a set up for elective office locally, and that means the Godfather (Carter) was behind it. Either Rister’s gone rogue or Junior has been declared expendable. And a heavy hammer was weilded to insure his compliance. This place is starting to make Chicago politics look sissy.

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