HD 48 Wrap-UPWas it low turnout? Was it voter disgust with R's? Was it liberal Travis County? Was it BB's ties to DeLay, etc? Was it just a blip on the radar screen? It's been said that elections are snapshot of the electorate at a certain point and time. Well I'm not sure if 14% voter turnout can be considered the electorate but I think this election tells us a few things.
Whatever you want to say about Todd Baxter the one thing he had that Ben Bentzin doesn't was a history as a candidate with these voters. Bentzin not having that, having run off the Republican competition, and having ties to certain people all work against him. I think Bill Miller has it about right, from the Austin Chronicle:
Lobbyist/political consultant Bill Miller, a Bentzin supporter who has close ties to House Speaker Tom Craddick and other GOP leaders, acknowledged there was "some kind of disconnect" in the Bentzin campaign. "You have to look at everything you did with a critical eye," he said. "You can't assume that anything you did was the right thing. That's where you start [with a run-off campaign]," he said, adding that a candidate's ability to connect with voters is crucial in small races such as this one. "Voters look at everything," he said. "You look at [a candidate's] associations, issues, presentation, demeanor... That counts for a ton in a special election. This is a small-turnout deal... there's no other wind blowing except what you create"That's pretty harsh. Bentzin's got 30 days to try and change the wind.
The Chronicle story is good and also brings up the point that many Republicans coming out in support of Bentzin might have hurt him instead of helping him:
Democratic strategist Kelly Fero, a consultant for Howard, took the message a step further, citing Gov. Rick Perry's ringing endorsement of Bentzin - while blasting Democrats - as a likely factor in his lackluster showing. "Voters are in a foul mood and highly frustrated with the inability or unwillingness of this crowd to get the job done," he said. "Rick Perry came in the day before the election to endorse Bentzin... and clearly cost him votes, since he won the early vote, but lost big on election day." Indeed, not even the endorsements of Republican leaders in Congress could bump Bentzin's numbers to a more respectable level. U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, along with U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, had all backed Bentzin in the race.But in the Statesman the Chair of the Travis County Republican Party had this to say, Democrats hopeful, Republicans vow to improve turnout:
"There were some turnout issues in this race, and some Republicans in the district thought that this was going to be an easy race, despite what we tried to tell them," said Alan Sager, chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. "That won't happen in the runoff."I think the results of this race hit him in the gut.
Bentzin was attacked for hiring political consultant John Colyandro when he ran for the Texas Senate in 2002 and paying Colyandro, who wrote campaign mail pieces, through a printer.
Colyandro, an associate of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, has been indicted on money-laundering charges for his role in helping Republicans win a majority of state House seats that year. Bentzin has not been accused of wrongdoing.
"The Democrats used their usual slander, smear and McCarthyite tactics trying to link him to their favorite whipping boys, and these lies may have taken a toll," Sager said. "Ben tried to run a positive campaign while they ran a nasty, negative campaign, and their misrepresentations will be adequately answered in the runoff."
One last thing on this race. Last night I saw the piece KEYE did on this race last ningt at 10 (I can't find it online yet). But when they interviewed Bentzin he tried to tie his campaign to the recent Texas football national championship by saying something like his campaign is like Vince Young at halftime of the Rose Bowl. I'm not sure he watched the game or not because the Longhorns were winning at halftime.