Bill White

Rick Perry recently made the decision to skip some of the upcoming Republican presidential nominee debates and claims his past participation in debates was “a mistake.”

Perhaps he’s right: Before he did any debating, he was the frontrunner, and as soon as he jumped into the debating arena, he was battered, as he described, like “the pinata at the party,” according to PBS.

Plus, he’s bad at them. He motions around and sometimes pantomimes crazily. His rigid hair part is distracting. He stutters and says incoherent things such as, “Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of ... against ... the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment ... was it was ... before he was before these social programs, uh ...” Say what?

And this is a strategy that has been successful for him several times in the past as well. He did it against his long time frenemy John Sharp in the 1998 race for Lieutenant Governor and against Bill White in the 2010 gubernatorial race. So why would he not repeat this winning strategy during his most important race yet?

He’s inspired Romney to do the same. Now that his biggest competitor for the Most Dazzling Smile award is stepping back, Romney is thinking he might not do so many debates either. And why would he? It’s not like he’s likeable or anything.

Since he’s not a great debater, Perry has a lot to lose and little to gain from these debates, so he’s spending his time with personal visits in battleground states, a strategy that his campaign calculated is most worthwhile, according to the Austin American-Statesman. There, in situations where not only his hair but his every word is well-groomed and stroked into place, he shines (and for the record, so does his hair).

But this strategy is harmful to voters — not simply because of some naive theory about the importance of debating in successful democracies, though that’s a good point. It’s harmful because we let Perry off the hook. He doesn’t have to think quickly on his feet, describe complicated policy solutions or defend his views anymore at fundraisers he’ll attend. He won’t have to talk about anything difficult but will instead get to focus on rallying supporters, shaking hands and kissing babies.

So maybe he’ll seem better, do better and even win the nomination. But at what cost? When it comes down to it, I can’t help but think of Matt Damon’s reaction ­to Sarah Palin’s campaign ­— if elected president, Perry will have access to the nuclear codes! And if he has that access, I would like to know that he can think quickly, defend himself and persuade people.

I want to be confident that he will know how to conduct himself in foreign countries and won’t repeatedly run into locked doors like George W. Bush did in China. I want a president who I know is well-spoken, clear-headed and able to think on his feet — even if I disagree with the words coming out of his mouth. Debating is valuable because it forces candidates to learn all these skills and put them on display in front of the American people. When we elect a president who is a strong debater, we know we’re electing someone who is capable of representing us on the international stage without embarrassing us.

If we elect people who don’t debate, what are we basing our votes on? Certainly not policy, since he won’t be forced to defend any of them. Without debates, our votes are based on personality and likability. While some may argue that debates are based on those same two factors as well, at least we get to see candidates tested in some tangible way and watch them go at it on a mostly level playing ground. If nothing else, we get a great drinking game out of it, too (drink on 9-9-9, jobs and Obamacare for a good time).

So what is Perry’s campaign now? Think of it as the political version of a Ms. America pageant: I’m sure Perry spends just as much time on his appearance as any beauty queen, plus his answers are about as relevant.

Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior. 

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, speaks before the Senate on June 28.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

Consigned to the role of loyal opposition, Texas Democrats are poised to hand another victory to Republicans in next year’s U.S. Senate election. The lackluster potential and declared Democratic candidates are certain to be outraised, outpolled and outvoted. That’s a real shame. State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, offers a compelling personal background and political acumen that resonates with moderate and conservative Texas voters. A voice in the wilderness, Davis is the only Democrat capable of capturing retiring U.S. Senator Kay Hutchison’s seat.

Statewide elections are particularly difficult for any candidate with ambitions in the Lone Star State. The state’s expansive geography, high cost of advertising in multiple metropolitan areas, diversified blocs of constituencies and difficulty in establishing name recognition all conspire against would-be elected officials. Any serious candidate for Hutchison’s seat would need “a bare minimum of $5 million and preferably closer to $10 million,” said Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune.

Democrats face even more daunting barriers to victory, as Republicans have cemented their effective one-party rule status for most of the past two decades under the successive governorships of George W. Bush and Rick Perry. And with it, the Republicans have reinforced a formidable political machine capable of marshaling millions of Texas voters to the ballot box each November.

Yet in a fortuitous turn of events, the prime Republican contenders for their party’s nomination have splintered over personal finances and ideology. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the presumptive front-runner, has been described by Politico as “the wealthiest politician in Texas” — a fact rivals have used to tar him too close to establishment politics. Dewhurst has also been excoriated by conservative groups for being too moderate on Perry’s university education reform agenda.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, an ardent social conservative, is backed by some Tea Party groups despite lacking Dewhurst’s campaign coffers. Patrick may pull off an insurgent primary victory as Tea Party-backed Senate candidates Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell did in other states last year. Former solicitor general Ted Cruz is also competing against Dewhurst and Patrick for Tea Party support, presaging a bitter and costly intraparty struggle for the nomination.

That’s not to say the U.S. Senate election is the Democrats to lose. It isn’t. But the party has a narrow opportunity to offer a credible (and winnable) candidate if it can studiously amend for its past mistakes.

On paper, former Houston Mayor Bill White’s distinguished public service career should have put him toe-to-toe against Perry in last year’s governor race. After all, White handily won re-election for mayor in 2005 and 2007 with more than 85 percent each time and was generally well-liked by Houstonians across the political spectrum. However, White ran an uninspiring campaign against the gregarious and energetic Perry, failed to articulate his own policies effectively and remained a relative unknown outside his native Gulf Coast region.

The current Democratic candidates are risking a repeat of the same mistakes. John Sharp, who served as comptroller in the 1990s, has low name recognition among Texas voters today and even lacks a website for his candidacy. Former U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was commander of the military in Iraq, also has low name recognition among voters. Moreover, lingering questions about Sanchez’s role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal (he was in command at the time) do no favors to his candidacy. Neither man seems able to generate the millions of dollars necessary to win.

Davis, on the other hand, is the ace in the hole that Democrats desperately need. Articulate, telegenic and beautiful, Davis would be able to capitalize on the national attention she received at the end of May when she filibustered a GOP proposal to cut $4 billion from public schools. The issue of school budgets has significant national implications, and Davis’ criticisms of budget shortfalls leading to unacceptably large classrooms and teacher layoffs resonate nationally.

A combination of intangibles and extrinsic factors has already laid the ground for a Texas-bred grassroots movement in Davis’ favor. Internet forums and Twitter have been abuzz with calls for her to run for higher office. The New York Times recently published a glowing review of Davis’ biography and accomplishments. And in the male-dominated world of Texas politics, Davis serves as an inspiration of strength and conviction to all of the
state’s daughters.

Most crucially, Davis has proven she can thrive in the most seemingly inhospitable of environments. Her Senate district encompasses most of Tarrant County, one of the most Republican-friendly in America. A quintessential Texan, Davis can rejuvenate the state party more than anyone else.

The upcoming general elections could bring changes to the city government and a major bond package that would affect every area of city life, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said.

Leffingwell opened a discussion moderated by UT’s Director of Sustainability Jim Walker in KLRU’s Studio 6A. Four former mayors from large metropolitan areas in Texas gave advice based on their experiences for Austin’s transition into a major city, including developing a different form of government, adding and renovating infrastructure and transportation and improving public education.

Success is often lost in politics because elected officials tend to come up with a solution and market it before thinking critically about the problems, said former Houston Mayor Bill White. Austin should observe the problems that lead to solutions, including implementing single-member districts — a system in which each district elects one representative — and making communities less segregated, White said.

“Start the conversation by identifying what the problem is, rather than selling the solution,” he said. “You might find that even if the result is not what you thought it would be, you’ve brought to light an issue that needs to be dealt with. You need to look for the problem first and then work backwards.”

Dallas implemented a rail line with problems that stemmed from planning based on where the money was instead of where the people were, said former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. To improve transportation systems in Austin and avoid Dallas’ problems, Austin should plan beforehand on what centers to connect, she said.

“If Austin does rail, and some of our most vibrant communities like West Village in Dallas are on a rail line, you should plan what you want these rail stations to look like,” she said. “You need to make sure that the university is connected to the capitol and that’s connected to South Congress. The most important thing is in your mind, where do you want to connect the dots.”

The fate of cities rests on their public education systems, said former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros. Large cities are bridging public education and government, with Baltimore’s 24 poorest schools, as well as the city of Denver, successfully mandating that if a student makes a certain grade and has a certain level of attendance to show that they are achieving and trying, they will have the money to go to college, he said.

“That’s serious stuff that begins to provide incentive,” he said. “It’s the mayor and the leader of the city providing some financial assistance, but more importantly it’s the moral leadership for the business community and other people to rally around.”

Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation — already ranking 16th largest in the 2000 census — and conversation about the city’s future is necessary to continue growth, Cisneros said.

“Austin is a big city, get over it,” he said. “There are hundreds of cities in America that would trade places with Austin in an instant for the momentum and the dynamic that it has. But you can’t stand still. You can’t plan for stasis. Failure to act denigrates the quality of the city over time.”

Smoke licks across the blackened top of the yellow school bus of Old School BBQ & Grill like it was a normal day for serving up barbecue. But inside owner Dan Parrott’s mind, he was fine-tuning the special menu for Bill White’s send-off party in Houston this weekend.

“They’re going to have their socks blown off,” he chuckles and says in his deep, slightly raspy Southern voice.
Parrott greets some customers out of the window from the driver’s seat before he steps out of the bus (aka “Big Mama”) and grabs his usual pack of Djarum cigarettes. Then he eases onto a bench before lighting one up.

“Andrea [White, Bill White’s wife,] heard about [Old School] after one of our staffers ate there until she said she couldn’t eat anymore,” explains Bill White spokeswoman Annalee Gulley. “She’s been wanting to get Dan to Houston ever since.”

Considering where Parrott, his son Danny and friend Trey Cook came from almost a year ago when they first opened near MLK and Airport boulevards in the freezing Austin winter, Bill White’s party for his closest friends and supporters is a massive stepping stone.

It was during those first few months, when he sometimes saw four customers a day, that Parrott said he met some of their first regulars, including three UT students who are joining Big Mama in Houston to help out at the party. White even delayed his return-home party for one week to accommodate Old School’s schedule.

Now Parrott says he gets disappointed calls when he’s off catering private parties and not as his usual location.
“[White’s party was rescheduled] partly because of the iconic nature of [Old School],” said Talib Abdullahi, a liberal arts junior and one of Old School’s fanatics who is going to Houston. “It takes a lot of time and preparation but it’s made in this shabby location. Another part is that people have come to know Dan’s humble entrepreneurship. He’s a very charismatic person who can connect with anyone.”

But before Parrott was serving up his “tasty brisket” and “killer mac and cheese,” as described by several Yelpers, he was deeply involved in the hospitality business for roughly 35 years — prior to when he says it became trendy. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris before coming back to the states to work at 56 restaurants and do numerous consultations for start-up restaurants.

“People forgot to be hospitable somewhere along the line,” says Parrott while letting the smoke billow through his thick mustache and beard. “When I started, customers were used to mom’s cooking, and when you went out it was really something. Throwing away $120 worth of potato salad that I don’t like doesn’t make me a hero; it makes me old school.”

It’s that kind of attitude, as well as his generosity of providing a free meal or two to regulars, that’s made him notable to many students on campus. Parrott adds that Anthony Bourdain, a well-known Travel Channel host, chef and author, first discovered Old School in late June after many students told the celebrity to visit the yellow school bus food trailer after he took a walk around campus.

“There’s something that’s much more important to me than money: time.” says Parrott before he finally sets down the cigarette. “You can always make more money but time is something that you can’t replace. I could give a rat’s ass if they spend $30 or $40. We want to make [their time at Old School] valuable. That’s why we’re going to make this party extra special and bring some of our biggest fans along.”

After Gov. Rick Perry’s successful bid for re-election was announced Tuesday, some students across campus were disappointed, but felt the outcome was expected.

Many students who lined up to vote outside the Flawn Academic Center expressed support for Democratic candidates. Out of 853 total votes cast at Precinct 148, the FAC, 570 votes went to Bill White, while 240 went to Perry, 23 to Green Party candidate Deb Shafto and 20 to Libertarian Kathie Glass.

Plan II freshman Arsalan Eftekhar said although the campus may have gone to Democratic candidate Bill White, Perry won because Texas as a whole is a conservative state.

“But here on campus, students are overly Democratic,” he said. “If White won, I think kids would be taught to think critically and analytically versus just being taught what’s on the test. Perry’s main focus is teaching what’s on the test, White’s more in it for education.”

Incumbent Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst also defeated challenger Linda Chavez-Thompson handily, but students were more focused on the gubernatorial race.

They felt that Democratic candidates offered more helpful suggestions for issues that relate directly to them, such as education.

“I expected the election to go mostly in the Republican direction,” said math freshman Gabe Earle. “I voted for White because the issue that I was well-informed on was making college affordable, and that might lead to increased grants or loans, and I thought that would be helpful.”

Students said educational assistance was a big concern as they cast their votes.

“I’m disappointed that Texans stuck with the same governor,” said mechanical engineering freshman Vineet Raman. “Perry has been governor for the past 10 years and we don’t have much to show for it. I think White was a better candidate because he was willing to tackle the deficit and focus on education because Texas is falling behind other states.”

John Chapman, advertising senior and spokesman of College Republicans, said that job creation and the economy are the issues voters have focused on lately.

“For students especially, we’re about to graduate and want to be certain that we have secure and stable jobs waiting for us,” Chapman said. “People are seeing that Texas is a great place to work, do business and raise a family. Four out of five private sector jobs in the nation have been created in Texas since 2005, and we are the number one state to do business. A lot of that has to do with both leadership of governor Perry and the state of Texas as a whole.”

Even for students who support White, some feel that Perry’s victory was inevitable.

“Even if a stronger Democratic candidate would come in, Perry would still beat him,” said Leilani Kelley, a government and political communications junior. “People love his policies and what they perceive as his character. He has a very strong base and I think he will continue to win until he stops running.”

BUDA — Former Houston Mayor Bill White was supposed to offer the Democrats their best chance to beat the GOP in 15 years. Partial voting returns from across the state show he lost to Perry by 13 percent in a midterm election that turned into a Republican landslide.

“The citizens of our state have sent a very clear message with their votes — they’re optimistic about the future of our country and they believe that Texas is headed in the right direction,” said Perry, in a speech marking his re-election to a historic third term as governor. “Things are better here than they are almost anywhere else in the country.”

With a budget shortfall that has been reported to be as high as $25 billion, which is proportionally larger than the budget deficit California faced, Perry promised to veto any tax increase aimed at helping to close the gap.

He said those who thought the budget crisis was so bad that tax increases needed to be considered were “doom and gloomers.”
Perry plugged his new book titled “Fed Up!,” saying that Texans were “fed up” with Washington, but never acknowledged his Democratic opponent in his victory speech.

In the end, the White campaign couldn’t keep up with increased turnout for Republican candidates across the state, especially in suburban and rural counties.

“We challenge Texas to support Gov. Perry and others moving our state forward,” White said in his concession speech.

White urged his supporters to remain active in politics, likening them to “a pendulum that swings politics.”

Cheers erupted throughout the room when White conceded the election to Perry, but the cheering stopped when White said that every public official, including federal officials, deserves respect. The only cheering that could be heard at Perry’s party for that line was from the speakers broadcasting the audio from White’s party.

When the event organizers at the Republican election party turned off the live feed from the White campaign, the crowd that had gathered to watch White’s concession speech started chanting “Nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”

The last few days of the gubernatorial campaign had centered on a controversial advertisement released by the Perry campaign that revived previously disproved claims that Houston is a sanctuary city, arguing that immigration policies led to the death of a Houston police officer.

In the ad, the officer’s widow Joslyn Johnson said, “In the past, Bill White supported sanctuary city policies that made it difficult for officers to safely do their jobs.”

The assertion that Houston was a sanctuary city or that White supported such policies isn’t true, according to the Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas, who rated the claim as false in February.

However, the ad was effective in setting off a media firestorm and the White campaign quickly countered with its own ad attacking Perry on border security issues.

“It’s effective if the press is obsessed by it,” said radio-television-film professor Paul Stelker. “Negative advertising works because it gets your attention.”

Still, Stekler said he didn’t think the ad would be the dominant focus on the election and warned that most of advertisements like this are only effective on the margins.

The race between Perry and White appeared to be closing during the summer months — White had managed to cut Perry’s lead to an average of about 6 percent, with a Public Policy Polling poll even showing the race tied.

However, the lead began to expand in the fall, even as The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press published stories highlighting connections between companies that received investments and grants from state organizations and key Perry donors.

The attacks didn’t stick because Perry’s actions haven’t been all that different from the actions of past administrations, and people see it as part of the political game, said Andrew Wheat, research director at Citizens for Public Justice.

“People think this is business as usual and they might be right,” Wheat said. “People have a dim view of politicians, and it’s usually richly deserved.”

Instead, voters focused their attention and anger on Washington, D.C., said long-time state Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Trinity County, a conservative Democrat from East Texas who lost by more than 15 percent.

“Washington is beating us. It’s a tide,” McReynolds said.

Editor's Note: All precincts have reported their vote tallies. This data can be considered "final." - 11/3 11:45 a.m.

Governor Rick Perry extended his record setting control of the governor's mansion to an unprecedented third four-year term by defeating Bill White in an election that appeared to be a lot closer than it panned out to be.

As expected, White was able to claim the heavily populated metro areas of Dallas and Travis County in addition to many of the southern Texan counties, but it was not enough to overcome Perry's heavy support throughout the rest of the state.

Below you will find an embedded Google Map that outlines each one of Texas' 254 counties and shades them in based on which candidate acquired the most votes in that area (red for Perry, blue for White; Kathie Glass and Deb Shafto both failed to claim a single county). Click on a county for detailed information on how the votes played out.

Map not loading for you? It can also be found here. Click on "Visualize" and then "Map" to view.

Republicans and Democrats are both certain that record-high early voting totals in Travis County indicate support for their respective party’s candidates, and both are fighting to get voters out to the polls today.

According to Travis County records, about 134,000 people voted early this year, up from 99,000 in the last midterm election in 2006. Usually, about 50 percent of the electorate votes early, so the county is expecting vote totals to reach at least 250,000, said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Statewide, early voting totals are up 61 percent from 2006, according to records from the Secretary of State.

“We’ve got a hot ticket this year,” DeBeauvoir said. “There are races that are competitive starting right there at the top, and you can mark your way down the ballot with tight races.”

The Travis County Democratic and Republican parties will both have volunteers working at the county’s 211 voter precincts, as well as phone banking and reaching out to Election Day voters with signs and personal interactions. Polls show incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry ahead of Democrat Bill White by about 12 points, according to a statewide newspaper poll, but Democratic Party representatives said they are confident the results will favor them.

“Bill White is still within spitting distance, and if folks get out there and vote, Bill White can win. If you want a new governor, go vote for one,” said Katherine Haenschen, the coordinated campaign director for the Travis County Democratic Party.

However, Travis County Republican Party chairman Rosemary Edwards said that the high voter turnout indicates a state-wide frustration with federal politics.

“There has been so much pent-up anxiety about the overreach of the federal government,” Edwards said. “This is clearly a referendum on the Obama administration and his failed policies.”

To handle the higher-than-usual turnout expected at the polls tomorrow, DeBeauvoir said county precincts have ramped up tech support and will have 1,500 paid workers at the polls after meeting a projected 100-person worker shortfall this week.

“We gear up for election day.,” she said. “We’ll send extra troubleshooters to make sure judges have their supplies and everything is running smoothly.”

With 51 percent of precincts reporting, CNN projects incumbent Republican Rick Perry as winner of the Texas gubernatorial race over Democrat Bill White.

Perry has received 1,385,194 or 57 percent of votes reported so far.

Perry, White campaigns visit partisan strongholds to encourage supporters

Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White barnstormed around Texas on the last weekend before Election Day in a last push to get voters to the polls.

Perry spent Friday in West Texas and Sunday in the traditionally Republican Houston suburbs drumming up votes, while White traveled to traditionally Democratic areas of the state, including Austin, in an effort to get more Democrats to the polls on Tuesday.

“The excitement is palpable in this state,” White told a group of campaign volunteers working a Democratic phone bank in Austin on Friday. “We need a real leader and not a yell leader.”

White then went on to list many of his campaign’s standard attacks against Perry, such as how Perry appointees directed investment dollars from the Teacher Retirement System to investment funds run by Perry donors against the advice of TRS staff, who thought the investments were unsound.

He also spent time attacking the new poll by Texas newspapers that shows Perry leading by 12 percent.

“The assumptions used in the poll, compared to reality of who’s actually showed up to vote are way off,” White said.

He said the poll results had been skewed because younger voters and Hispanic voters in the Rio Grande Valley, a Democratic stronghold, use cell phones instead of landlines, which are the numbers pollsters predominately call.

White just hasn’t been able to win over enough Republicans to carry Texas during a year when the GOP is favored, said Tom Jensen, who helped conduct the poll by Public Policy Polling released Friday that showed White down 9 percent.

“For White, it may be a classic case of the right candidate running in the wrong cycle,” he said.

Perry, meanwhile, stumped in his home turf of West Texas, confidently urging supporters to drive up turnout so they can send a message to the target of his populist ire: President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Washington.

At Roasters Coffee & Tea Company in Amarillo, Perry never mentioned his opponent or that he even had one.

“Are we going keep Texas on the track its been on?” Perry said. “Or are we going make the decision to go more in the Obama direction?”

Predictable boos and shouts of “No!” rose from the crowd.

— Additional reporting by The Associated Press.