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CARTER VS. KENT t -Aciu to the Buttuili The race between Republican lawyer Stefani Carter and Democratic educator Carol Kent to see who will represent northern Dallas County in the Texas Houseand earn the princely annual sum of $7,200 began as your typical, name-calling, mudslinging, gutterlevel campaign. Then it went downhill. Kent, the Democrat, is seeking a second term. Hard to say why, given how little she did with the first term. Kent’s website doesn’t bother with policy positions save for a list of six bullet-pointed threeword phrases such as “strengthening public education” and “lowering utility rates.” Carter at least has an “Issues” section on her site, though it reads like an eighth-grade term paper. The section on crime \(headline: “Tough on Crime reality is that most of the crimes we fear are committed by a very small group of very bad people. We need to find them, capture them and throw them in jail for good.” Without policies to debate, the campaigns resorted first to name-calling. A conservative group labeled Kent a “Dirty DoubleDippin’ Democrat” for supposedly double-billing state expenses A liberal group accused Carter of plagiarizing Obama because three phrases in her stump speech sounded vaguely like the president’s. Lately the race has grown downright weird. Each campaign accused the other of stalking, with Carter staffers twice calling 9-1-1 after spotting “suspect vehicles” near their cars, according to The Dallas Morning News. The accusations aren’t likely to subside. Both campaigns have hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s unfortunate news for the state of public discourse and Dallas County’s emergency dispatchers, not to mention the voters. DAVE MANN Read about other competitive races at texasobseiverorg D52 MONEY RAISED SINCE JAN, 1, 2010 REP. DIANA $340,017 $558,414 KRISTI THIBAUT we’re not going to have those kinds of debates at the Capitol during the 140 days we’re in session.” Maldonado was the first Latina elected as a state representative from Williamson County. If elected, Gonzales would make history of a sort, toohe’d be the only Hispanic GOP member in the Texas Legislature. And he could win. House District 52 tilts slightly Republican. Sen. John McCain got 49.5 percent of the vote to Obama’s 48.5 percent in 2008. Maldonado, a single mom of two and former Round Rock school board president, thinks she’s the underdog this time, a position she enjoys. “I’m the salmon swimming upstream,” she says. It’s likely that the northern Austin suburbs will sooner or later become solidly Democratic. In a year that conventional wisdom suggests is anti-Democratic and anti-incumbent, Maldonado is hoping for sooner. HOUSE DISTRICT 133 should already be solidly Democratic. The district includes the Houston suburb of Alief, which may be one of the most diverse areas in Texas. Alief sits between the western city limits of Houston and the exurb of Katy, and was once a white-flight suburb. “When I was growing up in Houston,” says Keir Murray, a campaign consultant to Democratic state Rep. Kristi Thibaut, “the Alief area was a bedrock middle-class suburb. All white, all Republican.” Not anymore. Diversity is evident nearly everywhere in Alief. In a single mini-mall, you can see business signs in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic. Murray estimates that 16 percent of Thibaut’s constituents are of Asian descent, mainly Vietnamese. There’s a monument to South Vietnam, which looks oddly out of place in an Alief strip mall. There are statues of two soldiers and a plaque commemorating the people of South Vietnam. “This is like a little microcosm of Houston here,” Murray says. If Thibaut’s district consisted of only Alief, it would be an easy Democratic win. Instead, to maximize Republican districts, map-drawers sliced Alief into several House districts during the last redistricting. Thibaut’s House District 133 is split into very different halves. Westheimer Roada main east-west artery through Harris Countysplits the district. North of Westheimer Road is a wealthier, largely Anglo, Republican area, consisting of larger homes in leafy subdivisions. There’s nary a mini-mall nor Vietnamese restaurant in sightwhat one observer describes as the “1950s suburbs.” If you travel south of Westheimer, you enter Alief and the landscape changes. “It looks like the U.N.,” as an organizer in Alief puts it. House District 133 is a bellwether of Democrats’ ability to seize on the state’s changing demographics. The changing face of Texas tends to favor the Democrats, but the party has had mixed success at getting these new voters to the polls. So much of it simply comes down to the ground game. There aren’t many undecided voters in politically divided House District 133. It’s base versus base. VISIT Thibaut’s campaign website at “In my district, there aren’t that many persuadables. It’s a very base-versus-base district.” OCTOBER 15, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 111