Campaigns in the Arse 

... and we thought the elections were over. Once we’d swept up the confetti and deflated the balloons, we thought we could safely expel the campaign-finance reports, sitting heavy and semi-digested in our computers’ bellies like aged fruitcakes, and post our campaign swag on eBay. And then, after a long tryptophan sleep-in, we would saunter back to the office to start watching how politicians wield the power they’ve won.

We deluded ourselves. Now, we baboons have to hold up, from the top of the media mountain, all the new hairless Simbas: the Hilaries and Obamas and Edwardses (and Vilsacks?). We inflate our lungs, and through gritted teeth cry out the chorus to the “Circle of Life.” One election cycle ends, the next one begins. Hakuna fucking matata.

Included in the local cat litter (kittens or deodorized midden pile, you decide):

First we heard Mary Alice Cisneros was in for the City Council District 1 race, a seat formerly warmed by her husband and brother. (Note: San Antonio politics is incestuous, but we’re pretty sure they’re not the same guy.) Then we heard Cisneros was out, deferring to the reverse inheritance of the seat by current Councilman Roger Flores’s mom, Vangie. Then Cisneros was in again, and now we have confirmation that invitations to her official announcement party (Saturday, at her house) are in the mail. It’s a family affair.

James Myart (Answer to 10 down on last week’s crossword, “Civil-rights attorney who rolled down City Hall steps”) told us a few weeks back that if he was called to service, he’d run for Sheila McNeil’s District 2 City Council seat. Knowing Myart, the implication was that he’d run if no one else from the black community stepped up. Well, Myart — and the community — were let off the hook: Fort Sam Houston ISD School Board of Trustees president Keith Toney is running. Race aside, we’re interested in Toney’s service: he was a member of the Keep San Antonio Beautiful committee, and a Child and Youth Services Division school-liaison officer.

The debris has yet to settle on the Congressional snow-globe shake-up, and Jim McGrody, publisher of, has already launched a website to avenge Henry Bonilla by challenging Representative Ciro Rodriguez. C’mon, must just be for clicks ’n’ giggles.

Meanwhile, there’s still the lingering issue of Ricardo Martinez, who won the Democratic primary for the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 2 seat in March. He faced no general-election challengers, so he’d pretty much sealed it. Then his post was downsized by the County Commissioners. This week, Martinez filed suit and threw a press conference at the County Courthouse. The event quickly spiraled into a “Viva  la Raza” protest — odd because the two Hispanic members, commissioners Paul Elizondo and Chico Rodriguez, were the ones who voted with Lyle Larson for the elimination. Still, Martinez, his constituents, the 6,564 people who voted for him, and his supporters (who raised about $9,000 for his campaign) are demanding accountability, and we’re looking forward to the dirt in the county budget that’ll be dug up during discovery.


As dull as the Texas legislature can be — for instance, the epic sub-committee meetings that many lawmakers would chew their leg off to escape if only their teeth were sharp enough — the last-minute political scuffles have us eating TV dinners with our eyes glued to our blog browsers.

The hot pocket of the moment is at the House, where representatives are deciding which kind of Republican-pork filling they want in the Speaker’s chair: Canadian-style bacon Brian McCall, or ass ’n’ lips sausages: incumbent Speaker Tom Craddick or his buddy Jim Pitts (you decide who’s the ass, and who’s the lips).

Basically, here’s how it broke down before New Year’s. On Wednesday you had two main candidates: right-wing megalomaniac Craddick and the more moderate Republican McCall, the latter of whom benefitted the next day when the two other potentials, Democrat Senfronia Thompson and Republican Robert Talton, dropped out and subsequently endorsed him. The voice on the other end of our secret-source hotline said McCall was only five votes short. The voice also said the Democratic leadership was playing gatekeeper, obstructing McCall’s people from courting other Dems.

Then, thud. Out rolls a new candidate, Robert Pitts, who could be a genuine contender (the ABC — “Anyone But Craddick” Movement — would settle for him), but might also be a Craddickal feint to siphon votes from McCall. After all, Craddick pulled out the Appropriations Committee chair for Pitts in 2004.

In backrooms and hallways, or standing splay-legged at the urinals, agreements, negotiations, and trades will be made in nods and winks (explicity trading precious committee seats for votes is illegal). Lobbyists, many of whom are former legislators, will pass along “advice” based on grapevine mutterings. You might recall that Representative Jessica Farrar interpreted this “advice” as threats and asked for a ruling from the Ethics Commission. They just shrugged. Her naivete had even other Dems rolling their eyes.

This week longtime Austin activist and political fundraiser Alfred Stanley may trip the fight electronic. His forthcoming website,, might also get him indicted. The first time we spoke to him, Stanley said the site “will out any Democrats who stick with Craddick when we have an opportunity to overthrow him for Brian McCall.” Under ethics law, organizations — such as his PAC, Too Close to Craddick — are barred from contributing to speaker campaigns. Even if he builds the site independently, our calculations, based on info from his web registrar, has him awfully close to the $100 cap. In the second call we questioned him on the legality, and he said it’s actually designed to influence the 2008 Democratic primary.

Nevertheless, its launch will coincide with the Speaker’s race, and Democrats planning to strike a plea bargain with Craddick will either have to push for an injunction (a self-indictment if there ever was one) or have a change of heart. Stanley says he will indeed accept “deathbed conversions.”


More by Dave Maass



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