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.CLEAN Why Ronnie Earle wants to be lieutenant governor In his 32 years as Travis County district attorney, Ronnie Earle earned a national reputation as a prosecutor unafraid to take on Texas’ most powerful elected officials. He brought charges against 18 politicians, including the current Republican candidate for governor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, andmost notablyformer U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Earle once famously filed charges against himself for missing a campaign-finance report deadline. He paid a $212 fine. In December, 11 months after he left his district attorney post, Earle filed to run for lieutenant governor. The 67-year-old has been running a maverick campaign, raising his own money, and working without a full-time campaign manager. On March 2, READ THE INDICTMENT Earle brought against Kay Bailey Hutchison at tx1o.corn/rekbh Latina that can resonate with the growing Hispanic population in Texas, and she’s someone who is driven by public service.” She’s still getting used to being a politician. In a back room in her campaign headquarters, which doubles as a storage area, she answers questions while sitting on a folding chair behind a card table. On the wall next to her, she’s taped up a picture of her chihuahua-terrier mix, Piquin, to personalize the space. She’s fielding calls on three cell phones. These days she spends a majority of her time on the phone, she says, trying to raise money so that she can get out her message statewide. “It’s always been easy to raise money for people and causes that I believe in,” she says. “But I have a really hard time calling people to raise money for myself. It’s still a work in progress for me to tell people what a wonderful person I think I am and, by the way, can they send me money.” A FEW NIGHTS after our interview, I catch up with Chavez-Thompson at the first forum where all three Democratic lieutenant governor hopefuls would be speaking. The setting is not much fancier than her office: a roller rink in East Austin where several Travis County Democratic clubs have gathered. While other candidates and their staffers mill around the lobby, shaking hands and passing out fliers, ChavezThompson stands by herself in a holding area with a few other candidates, awaiting her turn at the podiumlocated near a “skate at your own risk” sign. Chances are, she knows, many of the Democrats in Austin have never heard of her, while her two opponents both live here. Marc Katz is the first candidate to speak, drawing some laughs when he trots out his oft-repeated joke about creating a deli sandwich modeled on Lt. Gov. Dewhurst: “It’s baloney on white bread.” Up next, Ronnie Earle begins with a lengthy parable about pulling children from a river, which eventually morphs into a metaphor for the state’s failed social policies. Chavez-Thompson doesn’t open with a homespun homily or a crowd-pleasing joke. After briefly introducing herself, she cuts to the chase, chiding Dewhurst. “He’s taking care of the fat-cat lobbyists while driving down wages for all of us,” she says. “My name is Linda Chavez-Thompson, and I am not a dime-store cowboy, and I don’t have the support of all the fat-cat lobbyists…. I plan to be a different kind of lieutenant governor.” Then she outlines her platform, emphasizing higher education, better skilled workers and lower homeowners’ insurance rates. In the question period, a woman asks ChavezThompson how she’ll make the transition from labor leader to lieutenant governor. “You’ve got 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, so you better know how to negotiate,” she says. “I would say, let’s set an agenda. Let’s try and build and pass good legislation for the benefit of all Texans. And if you want to have a catfight, then let’s leave it until the end.” The audience applauds as Chavez-Thompson steps off the plastic crate she has used to reach the microphone. Within minutes, she’s out the door and headed back to South Texas, where she hopes to convince more skeptical Democrats that there’s one more surprising chapter yet to be written in her unlikely life story. El FEBRUARY 19, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15