Supporters Sticking With “Tough Grandma”

The Houston Chronicle reports that most of Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s major supporters are sticking with her even after she’s decided to run as an independent instead of a Republican…

As Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn traveled the state Tuesday seeking to establish her credentials as an independent gubernatorial candidate, several of her key supporters said they will continue to back her challenge to Gov. Rick Perry.

The supporters are both Democrats and Republicans who had been promoting Strayhorn’s campaign when her plan had been to challenge Perry in the Republican primary. They said they will continue to work for Strayhorn’s campaign and help finance it as she prepares to challenge Perry in the general election.

With stops at the San Jacinto Monument in La Porte and at airport news conferences in San Antonio and Dallas, Strayhorn repeatedly stressed that she pulled out of the Republican primary because nonpartisan leadership is needed to solve the state’s problems.

“Rick Perry has so fractured this state politically that the only way to get something done is to set partisan politics aside,” Strayhorn said. “We would have blown the barn doors off the Republican primary, but that’s not what this is about.”

Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black said Strayhorn decided to run as an independent because she knew she could not win the Republican primary.

“This is about nothing more than Carole Strayhorn trying to extend her political career,” Black said.

‘Ready for a change’

In San Antonio, Strayhorn was joined by former Bexar County Republican Chairman Roy Barrera Jr., who was the GOP nominee for attorney general in 1986. Barrera said he is supporting Strayhorn over Perry because she is a friend and because Perry has failed the test of leadership as governor.

“I’m one Republican who does not want four more years of what we’ve had,” Barrera said. “Texas is ready for a change.”

Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, a Republican, joined Strayhorn at her Dallas event. Mayfield said Perry has failed the citizens of Texas on transportation and education issues.

Mayfield said a long campaign to the general election will allow Strayhorn to draw Perry into a real debate on issues rather than a contest of “just trying to out-Republican somebody.”

Two major Strayhorn donors — trial lawyers Walter Umphrey of Beaumont and John Eddie Williams of Houston — applauded Strayhorn’s decision to run as an independent.

Umphrey said he advised the comptroller to abandon the Republican primary.

Both said Texans need an alternative to Perry.

Continuing to contribute

They each contributed $100,000 to Strayhorn in June, and Williams said he gave another $100,000 last month. Each said he plans to give Strayhorn more. Texas law doesn’t limit individual contributions to a candidate except for some restrictions in judicial races.

The two were among five plaintiffs’ lawyers hired by then-Attorney General Dan Morales in 1996 to handle a state lawsuit against tobacco companies over health care costs associated with smoking. The five firms shared $3.3 billion in legal fees after helping Morales negotiate a $17.3 billion settlement with cigarette manufacturers.

A third anti-tobacco lawyer, Wayne Reaud of Beaumont, gave Strayhorn $12,500, and his law firm contributed an equal amount last year.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers traditionally have been major contributors to Democratic candidates. Umphrey was a key financial backer of Democrat Ann Richards’ successful gubernatorial race in 1990.

But they have been giving money to selected Republican candidates in recent years because of the Democrats’ inability to win statewide races. No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994.

Another Strayhorn contributor, Tommy Whaley of Marshall, a former member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said he will continue to support her candidacy.

Austin criminal defense lawyer Roy Minton, a Democrat, said he also will continue to support Strayhorn. His law firm gave her $10,000 last year and $11,000 the year before.

“I’ve known Carole since I don’t know how long. She’s an old family friend. I’ve represented her through a divorce or two,” he said.

Umphrey predicted Strayhorn’s campaign will be adequately funded.

“She has quite a lot of money now she doesn’t have to spend on a primary and can save for the general election,” he said.

The major Democrats in the race are former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage of Llano. Satirist Kinky Friedman also is running as an independent.

3 Responses to “Supporters Sticking With “Tough Grandma””

  1. Ragnar Danashold Says:

    Isn’t Strayhorn more of a Moderate? If so, I prefer her over Perry. Kinky Friedman, though, has most of my backing.

  2. Indiepol Says:

    Strayhorn is fairly moderate and pragmatic, but is forced to pander to cultural conservatives. Or she has become more conservative since this state became bright Red. Kinky is the only true independent. I am campaigning for him to shake things up. Winner in Texas for Governor will be lucky to get 34-5%.

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