Could Mike Rawlings Win a Senate Seat Just by not Being Totally Nuts or Shiftless?
Toward the end of last week I reported that some kind of Democrats -- I wasn't sure which -- have been whispering in Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' ear about running for John Cornyn's Senate seat in 2014. Rawlings admitted he had spoken with them but discounted the whole deal, saying, "I'm way too fiscally conservative for the Democrats and way too progressive for the Republicans on the social issues."
20th Century Fox No disrespect to the late great Marty Feldman, but in the current atmosphere, if Mike Rawlings could run for the Senate and not look like this, voters might flock to him.
So I've been thinking. What is the window, really and truly? What kind of Democratic candidate will be right for statewide office in Texas in 2014?
At this moment Fort Worth State Senator Wendy Davis is sort of the Texas Democratic Everest. She's big here because she's there. She's there because she's big here. But, tell me again: What is she?
On her own website Davis brags she helped Houston state Senator Dan Patrick, a Tea Party guy, pass legislation reducing academic rigor and accountability for Texas high school students. When I wrote about it last month, some commenters complained I was taking Davis to task on a single issue in a whole big complicated political landscape before she even had time to thoughtfully craft a platform.
OK for that. I see the point. I still like looking at what people actually do once in a while as opposed to what they promise to do. And since then, Texas Democratic war-horse moneybags lawyer Lisa Blue has jumped into a school board race here in Dallas on the side of the anti-school reform camp, donating her otherwise completely unaffordable legal talents to a candidate supported by the teachers unions. The unions want to get Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles fired so they can stop school reform.
Blue, widow of the late Fred Baron, a major national Democratic moneybags, allies herself in this one with the same tired old political Democratic patronage machine in Dallas County that lined up locally for Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama in 2008. Blue is the same woman, of course, who took the Fifth recently in a nasty false prosecution case involving all the usual Democratic Party suspects in Dallas County, some of whom are now persons of interest in a years-long FBI corruption probe. By the way -- and I know this is about the hundredth time we've heard it -- rumors are rife again that indictments are imminent in that one.
So, wait. What do I want, instead? Teabaggers? It looks like 2014 will be a big year for "instead." Eric Nicholson reported here last week on the big "instead" issue we will face in North Texas in Senate District 16, where incumbent John Carona, who has grown rich off the homeowners association laws he has championed, confronts possible ouster by Don Huffhines, a Tea Party challenger whose formula for the future is based entirely on Obama hatred. Yeah, thanks for that one, too, political gods.
Ross Ramsey wrote last week in the Texas Tribune about the "instead" dilemma as a statewide theme in 2014: Establishment Republicans in Texas are worried their party will be sundered forever if Tea Party Robespierres try to put longtime Republican incumbents in the tumbrels and haul them all off to the chopper. Nobody likes going to the chopper.
And it's not as if Texas is the Lone Star Lone Ranger. Tomorrow, in fact, Alabama voters will decide a special election for Congress that's all about "instead." Big business interests have been sluicing money into the coffers of lawyer Bradley Byrne because he's not Dean Young, a Tea Party guy running on the anti-gay, anti-Obama, anti-abortion, anti-government platform that gave us the recent national government shut-down, a quantum peek at anti-reality.
So on the one hand we have the sheer raving pinwheel-eyed lunacy of the Teabaggers who want to take the whole country down. On the other hand, we have, instead, the dead-eyed Fifth-Amendment-takers who want to preserve the cradle-to-prison-pipeline we call urban public education.
That choice is not merely a turn-off. It's more like turn around and run away. To Belize. How bad can Belize be? They've got eBay, right?
In this larger scenario, then, what happens if someone like Rawlings steps into the game? He's a Democrat. He's a successful businessman and a pragmatist with a record of conciliation at Dallas City Hall. He has earned national moral cred for his don't-beat-up-your-wife-so-much campaign. He has been a stalwart defender of school reform in Dallas at some political expense with what might be viewed as his Democratic base, although I'm not sure he thinks of it that way. Yet.
There is still a tremendous amount we don't know about Rawlings because the office of Dallas mayor, non-partisan and mainly ceremonial, doesn't often strip its occupants down and make them show their stuff. For a long time half of conservative North Dallas thought former Mayor Laura Miller, ideologically one of the most liberal occupants ever in that office, was a Republican because they saw a campaign photo of her wearing couture and pearls.
But what if Rawlings did step out? What if he came forward as a sane, business-savvy moderate with an empathetic heart and an ability to keep the train on the damn tracks? Is that the kind of "instead" that Texans would go for? And you know what I'm really thinking? What if he could just run for office without scaring the shit out of people? How about that? Instead.