White gets closer scrutiny with senate race

Houston Chronicle:

It is an eye-catching campaign ad: Spliced between photos of President Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. is one of Mayor Bill White, intended to salute the accomplishments of the other two. The ad appeared last week as downtown businesses got White’s letter promoting a campaign supporter’s luxury apartment building.

The pair of oddities might merit zero mention in any description of White’s legacy as Houston mayor.

But as a freshly declared candidate for U.S. Senate, experts said, White is subject to a Texas-sized political version of the Miranda warning: Anything he says and does as mayor can and will be used against him in Midland/Odessa, Wichita Falls and Vidor.

“If you’re riding two horses, you have got to be a lot more careful than if you are riding one,” said Austin-based political consultant Bill Miller. “You always have to pay attention, and little things make big things happen.”

For the next 11 months, Miller and others said, White’s moves for Houston could be sliced and diced into fodder for the campaign. For example, Miller said, White’s Jan. 16 letter exhorting Houstonians to rent an apartment in the new One Park Place tower downtown “has been clipped, it’s been filed and it will be used again.”

Dallas-based political consultant Chris Homan, who has engineered several Republican congressional campaigns and did public relations work for Internet giant Yahoo, suggested White, a former Texas Democratic Party chairman, may need some time to acclimate to the magnifying glass that will be trained on all major candidates for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat.

“To the extent that he has had carte blanche as mayor of Houston, maybe he wasn’t as mindful of things he was doing, people he was working with and what policies or spending he was doing for the city,” Homan said. “For example, if he was spending money to maintain work sites for illegal immigrants in Houston, there’s going to be a lot of people across Texas who won’t appreciate that.”

The latest ripple in local political circles occurred last week after a half-page advertisement ran in a special edition of The Houston Defender newspaper, featuring King and Obama as agents of social change.

White said Wednesday that he had not seen the ad and that he had no intention of suggesting he should be considered alongside the pair.

...

The ad struck an off-key chord with some community activists, who said they were surprised to see White featured with King and Obama and the words “THE HOPE” above the mayor’s head. King’s picture had “THE DREAM” above it and Obama’s had “THE CHANGE.”

“Mayor White is running for Senate, and I hope that he wins. But he should not identify himself with two major leaders that way,” said the Rev. Bill Lawson, who participated in marches with King. “This was just a campaign blunder.”

Deric Muhammad, a community organizer affiliated with the Millions More Movement Ministry of Justice, announced a press conference to be held today to denounce the ad.

...

I think these guys are just show boating. They are not going to vote for a Republican no matter who he is. At worst they might make some Democrats stay home. I don't see Republicans using the ad either. I also don't see anything wrong with the mayor encouraging people to live in Houston even if it is in an expensive apartment.

I think there will be some real issues on the ballot when the senate race gets under way, but these do not strike me as being among them. In 2010 the Democrats are going to be on the defensive and Obama is screwing up enough already to give the Republicans plenty of things to run against.

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