Political Intelligence

Undercard Pitty Pat

Margo, Just in Time

State Rep. Pat Haggerty, El Paso’s only GOP representative, says his true opponent in the election for District 78 is House Speaker Tom Craddick, a fellow Republican. “It’s going to be a tough race. We are talking unlimited money,” says the gravel-voiced Haggerty of his Republican opponent, Dee Margo.

You may remember Margo, a wealthy El Paso businessman who ran unsuccessfully against state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh in a high-dollar campaign in 2006. “Now he’s decided he wants to be a representative,” Haggerty scoffs.

He sees Craddick behind Margo’s candidacy. A spokesperson for the speaker dismisses the idea, but Craddick, who is known to hold a grudge, has plenty of reasons to want revenge. Last year, Haggerty was the chief protagonist in a walkout during the legislative session to protest Craddick’s iron-fisted leadership style. He has also filed for speaker in a bid to unseat Craddick, whose rule Haggerty characterizes as “tyrannical.”

Last election cycle, Margo spared no expense during his Senate campaign, fielding donations from heavy-hitter donors such as Houston multimillionaire Bob Perry. First Lady Laura Bush even jetted in for a day to help with fundraising. Will she do the same for a mere House seat?

Most recently, Haggerty is questioning Margo’s residency in District 78. Back in October, while still a resident of District 77, Margo told the El Paso Times that he wanted to build a single-story home in Haggerty’s district because “the family’s longtime housekeeper is crippled, and it would be easier for her to get around in a one-level home than in the Margo’s current three-level home.”

To run in the March primary, Margo needed to be in the house by November 4 to meet the state’s one-year residency requirement for the general election. Haggerty says Margo hasn’t shown that he relocated in time. Margo counters in news reports that he moved into an apartment in the district just in time. Margo did not return calls from the Observer.

Clinton Sphinx Riddle Cartoon

Something to Cheer About?

Texas cheerleaders beware. Al Edwards wants another crack at the Lege. The former state representative from Houston-who gained national notoriety in 2005 for proposing a bill banning sexy cheerleading routines-is running for his old seat in the Texas House. Edwards is challenging Rep. Borris Miles in the District 146 Democratic primary. It’s a rematch of their 2006 race that Miles won in a runoff, ending Edwards’ 27-year tenure in the Legislature. In that campaign, Miles labeled Edwards a sellout for his enthusiastic support of the speaker, Midland Republican Tom Craddick.

Edwards’ legislative career may have peaked in his first session in 1979, when he authored the bill that created the Juneteenth holiday. He’s spent the past quarter-century reminding everyone about it. The Web site of Edwards’ Juneteenth USA nonprofit proclaims the holiday is “thanks to Texas state Representative Al Edwards.” He was named chairman in perpetuity of the Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission (that’s the TEJCHC), a state agency created in 1998 through a bill authored by you-know-who. The commission is charged with building the recently finished Juneteenth memorial, which contains a statue of a “lawmaker” figure with a face that happens to resemble a certain former state rep from Houston.

His face may be etched in stone, but it was the sexy-cheerleading bill two sessions ago that made Edwards nationally famous. The bill didn’t pass, but the resulting fiasco provided several horrifying moments we’ve tried hard to forget, including Edwards’ embarrassing turn on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show (he didn’t know it was a “fake” news program). We also have the cheerleading bill to thank for introducing the phrase “droppin’ it low” into the lexicon of Texas politics.

Why would Edwards come back? Not for those sexy cheerleaders, apparently. This time Edwards is aiming a tad higher. The press release announcing his candidacy reads: “I want to help save and preserve [Texas State University], Texas History more importantly Emancipation Juneteenth and all of Texas culture” [sic].

Miles is not without scandal himself. The Houston Chronicle reported in mid-January that the first-term rep recently crashed a party thrown by a rival insurance salesman in Houston. Miles reportedly burst in carrying a bottle of wine and a glass. He told his nemesis that the town wasn’t big enough for the two of them, and to get out of the insurance business. According to an eyewitness, Miles then said he was a “thug” and a “gangster” and brandished a gun in front of his rival before kissing the man’s wife. We’re thinking he’s watched Scarface one too many times.

Chuck Rosenthal, the Harris County district attorney-himself embroiled in a scandal involving relations with his secretary and the use of his office for electioneering-is investigating the incident. Miles didn’t return calls for comment from the Observer.

Bush Peacemaker Cartoon

Okely Dokely Darth

The first thing you might notice about Rep. Phil King is that he’s the spittin’ image of Simpsons character Ned Flanders. Like Flanders, he is pious as hell. Yet this Republican from Weatherford has none of the cartoon character’s compassion, neighborliness, or goofy humor. Instead, he exhibits a steely devotion to a corporate agenda unbent by shifting local concerns.

King, a hardline conservative and Craddick lieutenant from Weatherford, has for the first time drawn a formidable opponent in the GOP primary. Joe Tison, a longtime educator and former Weatherford mayor, is blasting King for being too cozy with industry and betraying the district’s public schools.

In keeping with this year’s political theme of “change,” Tison argues that King has become too entrenched in the “Austin power structure” and has grown distant from the district’s needs. Installed by Craddick in 2003 as the chair of the Regulated Industries Committee, King shepherded legislation deregulating the cable television industry – a boon for AT&T – and played defense for utilities worried about a consumer outcry over high electric rates.

“When you spend all your time working with the telecommunications and electric industry … my question is, why don’t you use that power to help the people back home who elected you?” Tison said.

A good question, but perhaps this is the answer: In January, the president of AT&T circulated a memo to employees and retirees asking them to hit the street in support of King’s reelection effort.

Tison is backed by Texas Parent PAC, a group of concerned parents in favor of public education, with a string of electoral successes against incumbents with voting records at odds with the group’s values.

“Phil King is not known for being responsive to the needs of his local public schools,” said Parent PAC head Carolyn Boyle. “He’s not been an advocate. He’s not been an active listener for people like parents and elected school board members.”

King’s animosity toward public education recently surfaced when he floated the discredited idea of funding schools with sales taxes instead of property taxes. Tison has attacked this plan as a “middle-class tax hike” that would give Austin unprecedented control over local school districts.

King is expected to greatly outspend Tison in this deep-red district west of Ft. Worth. The most recent campaign finance filings show that King has over $286,000 onhand. In a sign that King takes Tison seriously, some of that war chest is already financing push polls that ask voters leading questions about Tison’s (alleged) record as a tax-and-spend mayor who oversaw a rise in crime.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Chuck Randolph, a Democrat from Decatur, in the general election.

Blogger Bonanza

Austin’s cheap hotels, technological savvy, and bevy of liberal volunteers were enough to attract the organizers of the third annual Netroots Nation convention to the city. The convention, which will offer panels, presentations, and film screenings focused on using the Internet and Web logs as vehicles for progressive thought and collaboration, will be held at the Austin Convention Center July 17-20.

Netroots Nation, formerly known as the YearlyKos Convention, evolved from the liberal blog DailyKos in 2006. Organizers decided to change the name this year to “more accurately reflect the makeup of its audience,” according to the event’s Web site. In an e-mail to the Observer, Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, explained his take on the name change: “I was never affiliated with YearlyKos. I licensed out the name since the organizers emerged from the Daily Kos community. But it was never my project, no matter how many people wanted to give me credit for it. In fact, I was one of the people who pushed YearlyKos hardest to change their name.” So Netroots Nation was born.

Participants in Netroots Nation don’t have many distinguishing characteristics in common besides their liberal views and love for the Internet. Bloggers, activists, and politicians from all states and age groups flock to the event with one common goal: According to the Washington Post, attendees are “mostly interested in getting Democrats elected-and making sure Democrats stay in power.”

Moulitsas is looking forward to the convention, especially since he no longer bears the weight of having his name “plastered all over it.” As an attendee, he told us, “I can focus on sponsoring a kick-ass party … rather than spend all my time talking to media and working on a keynote address.”

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