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by Tom Pauken    Thu, Jan 5, 2006, 01:11 PM

Clayton Williams Jr.
Longtime Texas journalist Mike Cochran is writing an authorized biography of the colorful Texan Clayton Williams, Jr., which is expected to be completed this spring and published in the fall. The likely publisher is the Texas A&M Press.

Cochran was with the Associated Press for 39 years, opening its Ft. Worth bureau and covering West Texas throughout much of his career. He also was a senior reporter for the Ft. Worth Star Telegram for more than four years and is the author of a book on the Cullen Davis murder case entitled Texas v. Davis.

While Cochran’s biography will highlight Williams’ business career as one of Texas’ most successful entrepreneurs, it also will cover in detail Claytie Williams’ unsuccessful campaign for Governor in 1990.

I was working for a Dallas venture capital company at the time and volunteered to help in the Williams campaign. I liked Claytie Williams personally and thought that he would make a good governor for our State. He was a Goldwater/Reagan conservative and a man who was not afraid to make tough decisions as a businessman – a trait that I thought would serve him well as Governor.

I helped Claytie prepare for his debates with his Republican primary opponents in which he did well. He defeated Kent Hance who was the early favorite and whose campaign was managed by Karl Rove. (Yes, that’s the same Karl Rove.) Williams won the Republican primary without a runoff. He went into the general election campaign with a 20 point lead over Ann Richards.

Then, the professional handlers took over. Volunteer advisers were pushed aside by the highly paid, politically hired guns; and Clayton Williams’ attention to the race was diverted by a tragic private air crash which killed a number of the key executives in his energy business. Meanwhile, his "hired guns" were giving him bad advice in a campaign that he should have won easily.

First, they sent Williams off on a weekend camping trip at his ranch with capitol political reporters in a "getting to know one another" session designed to show off Claytie as a "working cowboy". The journalists got some great stories over the campfire as Claytie made some off the cuff remarks and jokes which would have been better left unsaid. The comments landed Williams in big trouble politically once they hit the front pages of Texas dailies. The weekend at the ranch "PR campaign" turned out to be a bad idea.

The advisors made some other bad calls during the course of the general election campaign. Yet, even with all of his problems, Williams maintained a narrow lead over Richards until the very end of the race. Williams’ handlers persuaded the candidate not to shake Ann Richards hand at a final debate the two had at the Lakewood Country Club in Dallas. I was in the back of the room at the time, and one of the campaign "hired guns" asked me what I thought. I told him that I thought they had just lost the election.

The campaign aide had a shocked look on his face and walked away from me. Unfortunately, I was right; and Claytie Williams lost narrowly to Ann Richards. The sad thing about the "handshake incident" is that it was so unlike Claytie Williams who is one of the most gracious and down-to-earth people you will ever meet. It is too bad he followed some bum advice from his political consultants on that occasion. Had he followed his instincts and been his usual gracious self with Ms. Richards, he probably would have been Governor of Texas.

Had Williams won, the history of Texas and American politics would have been very different over the past decade. Claytie Williams would have run for re-election as Governor of Texas in 1994. George W. Bush likely would never have been elected Governor of Texas or President of the United States. What a difference a failed handshake made.

Since his political defeat, Clayton Williams, Jr. has gone on to even greater success in the energy business. But, what I like about Claytie Williams is that he is a real Texan in the best sense of that word. Claytie is gracious to people of all walks of life; and, if he gives you his word, you can take it to the bank. I really look forward to reading Mike Cochran’s story of this Texas giant, -- a man I am proud to have known in my lifetime. Now, more Texans will get to know the real Clayton Williams, Jr.

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TOP TEN PREDICTIONS FOR 2006 by Tara Ross Print E-mail
by    Thu, Jan 5, 2006, 01:00 PM

2005 was a year full of surprises. A long-feared, levee-destroying storm overwhelmed New Orleans. Two Supreme Court vacancies confronted the President. A new pope was elected. Britain subways were attacked. Americans fought over the feeding tube of a lone, brain-damaged woman in Florida. Fires raged in Paris suburbs. Alabama began a boycott of Aruba.

A year from now, what will we say about 2006? We can’t know, of course, but here are a few guesses.

  1. The Texas gubernatorial race will be a spectacle. The incumbent, Rick Perry, will successfully fight off his challengers, but only after a tough contest. Other states will see similarly messy campaigns. In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell will be faced with bad press due to the many scandals of the outgoing Republican Governor, Bob Taft. Blackwell will nevertheless win election.
  2. A surprising number of conservatives will not back Republican incumbent Rick Santorum in this year’s Pennsylvania Senate race. They have never forgiven him for his rabid endorsement of liberal Republican Arlen Specter in 2004, when Specter narrowly defeated his challenger, the more conservative Pat Toomey. Conservatives will abstain from voting in 2006, or they will vote for the pro-life Democrat challenger, Bob Casey, Jr. Ultimately, the Senate race will conclude with a Democratic upset. In New York, Richard Nixon’s son-in-law, Ed Cox, will challenge Hillary Clinton. He will win a larger-than-expected percentage of the vote, but he will lose as Clinton collects an unending stream of money from Hollywood. Republicans will maintain control of the Senate—but barely.
  3. Samuel Alito will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, but the hearings will be much more vicious than expected. Another Supreme Court vacancy will arise. The President will once again fail to nominate Judge Michael Luttig or Judge Edith Jones, instead appointing Judge Karen Williams of the Fourth Circuit. The Senate hearings will be even more partisan and brutal than those for Alito.
  4. The charges against Tom Delay will not result in a conviction, but the case will not be resolved in time for him to maintain his status as majority leader. His re-election bid in November will be hampered not only by the ethics charges, but also by his recent failure to admit that federal spending is out-of-control. Nationally, Republicans will lose seats in the House, but they will maintain their majority status.
  5. The summer will feature several devastating Category Five hurricanes. New Orleans will be under water—again. Nevertheless, politicians will still lack the courage to admit that perhaps it is an irresponsible and wasteful use of federal tax dollars to rebuild some of the lower-lying portions of New Orleans. Republicans will be chastised endlessly for the actions of Mother Nature.
  6. Liberal Democrats will continue to harp on the warrantless search program implemented by the Bush administration. They will avoid the legitimate public policy debate that should be had about the balance between civil liberties and national security, instead castigating Republicans incessantly and hoping that they can lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings.
  7. Iraq’s new government will continue to organize itself. Matters in Iraq will continue to progress. The media will continue to ignore positive stories about improved life in Iraq, instead focusing on negative, sensational stories.
  8. Someone, somewhere will (unfortunately) disappear. Her disappearance will be covered for months on end on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox show.
  9. Texas legislators will not be able to agree on a permanent school finance solution. This commentator will be disappointed that no good solution was implemented, but will continue to be relieved that, at the very least, we have avoided the imposition of the terrible solutions that have so far been proposed.
  10. The Houston Astros will win the World Series.
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by Tom Pauken    Wed, Jan 4, 2006, 02:21 PM

Abbe Lowell
Jack Abramoff hired himself a good criminal defense lawyer in Abbe Lowell, a well-connected Washington insider. Indicted on three counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion, Abramoff could have faced up to 30 years of prison time. By cooperating with the Federal prosecutors in their ongoing investigation of improper activities by Washington lobbyists and politicians, Abramoff now faces a maximum sentence of 11 years with the opportunity to have that time reduced. Getting such a substantial reduction in the time his client will have to serve in prison is quite an achievement for Abbe Lowell, particularly since Abramoff is viewed as the central figure (and most culpable party) involved in this Washington-based scandal.

Lowell is a longtime Democrat who worked on Jimmy Carter’s Presidential campaign. According to Julia Campbell of Court TV, Lowell was Bill Clinton’s chief defender "as the chief investigator hired by the Democrats on the House Judicial Committee" when Congress was considering the impeachment of President Clinton. Abbe Lowell also represented Congressman Gary Condit who was under suspicion in the disappearance of Chandra Levy. Other politicians represented by Lowell include former House Speaker Jim Wright and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, according to Ms. Campbell.

The London Daily Telegraph today referred to Abramoff as "Casino Jack". Just the other day I named Jack Abramoff as "the bad guy of the year", in an article here at DallasBlog. Reading the allegations in his indictment will give you some idea of the level of corruption involving Abramoff.

Now that Abramoff’s lawyer has saved his client from having to spend the rest of his life in prison, we will soon see who Abramoff will take down with him. Understandably, a lot of folks who have been involved with Abramoff over the past decade are very nervous right now. Criminal defense attorneys in the D.C. area will be making a lot of money over the next couple of years, thanks to Jack Abramoff.

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by    Wed, Jan 4, 2006, 01:00 PM

In 2006 I will be closely following a few stories that are very significant to those of us South Of The Trinity. The ongoing saga of New Orleans is at the top of my list. I believe that what happens there will have an impact on race relations in Dallas. For example, the latest police shooting of a mentally ill Black man in New Orleans has already threatened to reactivate tensions between the police and the African-American community. However, this latest shooting has an interesting twist to it since the Black police chief of New Orleans has cleared his officers of any misconduct in the shooting. Maybe, we all watch too much television and, thus, we expect dozens of armed police officers to be able to subdue a mentally ill man without having to shoot him down in the streets in front of shocked innocent bystanders and the world. Those of us South of The Trinity wonder if having an African-American police chief makes any difference if the culture of the police department is to shoot to kill. And we wonder if the mentally ill man had been white, would he have been gunned down for merely waving a knife at police officers who are supposedly trained in methods other then violent force. I don’t know the answer to these questions but I will be attempting to find them in the coming year.

The 2006 bond package promises to be the largest and the most needed in our city’s history. South of The Trinity voters stand ready to vote against any portion of a new bond package that attempts to turn Executive Airport into a busy, noise-producing airport that negatively impacts the quality of life in the surrounding community. Yet, we stand ready to wholeheartedly support the rebuilding of Dallas’ national icon, the Cotton Bowl. I suspect much will be written about the cost of the new bond package. Hopefully, enough will be written about the need for the continued redevelopment of downtown, sensible development of the southern sector, continued improvement of our mass transit system, and the building of our world famous Performing Arts Center. The point must be made that all of these much needed developments can only be financed through a large bond package. None of us is willing to finance these developments with taxes so high we could not enjoy a prosperous and growing Dallas.

Finally, I will be monitoring how Mayor Laura Miller will impact the bond election. It is my sincere hope that Mayor Miller is a positive force in the debate regarding the bond package. But I recognize our mercurial mayor has shown time and time again a divisive political style that appears racially insensitive and thus she becomes a liability to the political welfare of a city as diverse as we are. Maybe she will use her considerable charm to unite us instead of dividing us. I do not intend to give her a pass as others in the mass media have done. I am still very interested in the Mayor’s relationship with Southwest Housing and the FBI City Hall investigation. I still wonder why the mass media refuses to follow this story to its logical conclusion. The mass media’s refusal to investigate Mayor Miller as the media has investigated Black city leaders has caused those of us South Of The Trinity to link the FBI, the white mass media here, and Mayor Miller together in a relationship that threatens the very foundation of race relations in Dallas, Texas. Of course, the truth will help solve this problem. I hope along with the efforts of others to help find the truth. That’s how we see it in the beginning of 2006 from South Of The Trinity.

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by Tom Pauken    Tue, Jan 3, 2006, 07:15 PM

Carole Strayhorn
She was a Democrat. Then, she was a Republican. Now, she’s an Independent. Carole Strayhorn announced Monday that she is a candidate for Governor of Texas in 2006 as an independent. By the time of the filing deadline, running as an independent was the only avenue for her to take to achieving her long standing ambition of becoming Governor of Texas.

In a December 8th article for DallasBlog, I laid out the reasons why it made sense for Mrs. Strayhorn to run as an independent. (Link here to read that story.) Clearly, she faced a very difficult task in overcoming Perry’s huge lead among likely Republican voters in a March primary. Her other alternative was to run on the Democratic ticket, but that meant persuading Chris Bell and Bob Gammage to drop out of the race. Strayhorn’s political guru, Mark Sanders, along with some of her trial lawyer supporters tried to persuade Bell and Gammage to get out of the race, so that she could run as a Democrat, but it was to no avail.

A source close to the Strayhorn camp tells DallasBlog that a principal concern of her campaign team about running as an independent was the difficulty of getting on the ballot in Texas. It takes more than 45,000 signatures to be certified as a statewide, independent candidate for office. While Kinky Friedman has been laying the groundwork to get on the ballot as an independent for much of 2005, Strayhorn does not have the grassroots organization in place to help get her on the ballot. Thus, it will be a more difficult task for her to put together a team of volunteers and paid workers to get signatures so that she can meet the Texas requirements.

It is no sure thing as Ralph Nader found out in the last Presidential election when he was unable to get enough signatures to qualify as an independent candidate for President. Only registered voters who do not vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries are eligible to sign a petition for either Strayhorn or Friedman.

The lack of professionalism exhibited by the Strayhorn campaign in their press conference announcing her candidacy yesterday was surprising given her reputation for detailed preparation for such event. That is not a good sign about the state of the organization of her campaign.

Assuming that Carole Strayhorn gets on the ballot, what is the political fallout from her decision to run as an independent? Notice how she called herself a Republican even while announcing her candidacy as an independent. Strayhorn will take Republican and independent votes in November that otherwise would have gone to Rick Perry were his only opponents the Democratic nominee (Gammage or Bell) and Kinky Friedman. While Friedman draws votes from likely Democratic voters, Strayhorn will take many or more Republican votes away from Perry. That’s why the Republican State Chairman was quick to bash Strayhorn. Here is what Tina Benkiser had to say about Strayhorn: "Carole Strayhorn has lied, deceived and now abandoned the very people who put her in office all for her own selfish ambition."

Pundits like Gromer Jeffers, Jr. shouldn’t be so quick to write off the Democrats prospects in the Governor’s race, as he does in his front page story Tuesday in the Dallas Morning News, particularly if Bob Gammage turns out to be the Democratic nominee.

Overnight, Carole Strayhorn has changed the dynamics of the race for Governor of Texas in 2006. The final outcome is much less certain than it was two days ago.

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