by Nathan Empsall, Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 11:24:13 PM EST
In 2006, Rick Perry won re-election as Governor of Texas with just 39% of the vote in a four-way race. A February PPP poll found that almost four years later, his approval rating is just 33% and his disapproval 50%. With numbers like that, one wonders how he can possibly win re-election in 2010. And yet, Governor Good Hair will once again be the Republican nominee this fall. That's bad for Texas since it means the worst candidate has the best chance, but good for Democrats since it means his win isn't a lock.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, once the state's most popular Republican, has conceded to Gov. Perry in today's gubernatorial primary. With 51% of precincts reporting, Perry has 52.77% of the vote to Hutchison's 30.99%. In a surprising twist, tea party/truther candidate Deb Medina has a full 17.57% of the vote, not fading in the stretch the way most third party candidates (think New Jersey's Chris Daggett) do.
Perry's win is probably good news for Democrats, even though I was originally hoping Hutchison would win. She'd be a much better Governor than the power hungry Perry and would leave us with an open Senate seat. That may, however, still be the case, given that she said she would resign her seat win-or-lose. One wonders if she'll keep that promise, but either way, with numbers like Perry's this does create a chance to win the Texas Governorship. It's the Lt. Gov. with the real power in the state - at least, it is Constitutionally, and it was in reality before Perry - but a win would still carry huge symbolic value, especially coming in the political climate of 2010. And in the aforementioned February PPP poll, Perry only beat Democrat and former Houston Mayor Bill White 48-42. Bill White will be a very formidable candidate for us, probably the best we've had for state-wide office since the late Bob Bullock. Texas Monthly had a great article in December on White's heroic response to Hurricane Katrina and his standing in the state:
"He has instilled confidence, and he has gotten people to trust him to such a degree that people have this feeling that the city is in great shape because Bill White has been taking care of it for six years," says Nancy Sims,a long time observer of Houston politics who writes a popular political blog, texas-musings.com. "There is really not a group of people that you can find that, as a whole, hate Bill White, which is a rare thing to say about a mayor." Says Craig Varoga, a national political consultant who has worked extensively in Houston: "Even people who are unhappy or dissatisfied because of their particular issues will say that they think he has done a good job overall. A lot of that is rooted in Katrina, which was the perfect confluence of reality and politics."
He has done it with a complex and ambitious plan that few mayors anywhere would have attempted. Against the advice of his friend, former mayor Bob Lanier, White has not cherry-picked a few prominent urban problems to solve. He has instead taken on more than a dozen major issues, many of which carried considerable political risk. He banned, for all practical purposes, lobbyists from city hall and from any involvement in city contracts, thereby cleaning up what many had come to call "the trough." He took on the city's legendary traffic jams and, in a series of programs, untangled some of them and sped up commuting times. He reduced the city's property tax rate five years out of six; shored up the city's wobbly pension system; reduced the City of Houston's energy consumption by 6 percent, making Houston one of the greenest cities in the country; took on petrochemical companies over air pollution; added parks and libraries; cleaned up decaying neighborhoods and built affordable housing; revamped a badly managed police department, resulting in the city's lowest crime level in decades; and signed new contracts with firefighters giving them 38 percent raises, the first salary increase in six years.