Sunday, April 25, 2010

May 8 School Board & City Council Elections For Collin Co.

Early voting begins Monday for Collin County city council and school board seats begins Monday and runs through May 4. Election day is May 8.
Allen City Council & ISD - League of Women Voters Collin County
  1. Allen City Council, Place 4 - DMN
  2. Allen City Council, Place 6 - DMN
  3. Allen ISD, Place 5 - DMN
Anna City Council & ISD - Anna Melissa Tribune
  1. Anna City Council, Place 2
  2. Anna City Council, Place 4
  3. Anna City Council, Place 6
  4. Anna ISD, Place 1
  5. Anna ISD, Place 3
  6. Anna ISD, Place 3
Celina City Council & ISD
  1. Celina City Council, Place 1
  2. Celina City Council, Place 5
  3. Celina City Council, Place 6
Voters who live in Celina will vote on six bond propositions
  1. $2,475,000 for Fire Safety Facilities
  2. $685,000 for Public Safety Information Technology and Communications Equipment
  3. $3,100,000 for Drainage Improvements
  4. $2,000,000 for Street Improvements
  5. $1,375,000 for Parks and Recreation Facilities
  6. $400,000 for Public Works Facilities
Frisco City Council & ISD - League of Women Voters Collin County
  1. Frisco City Council, Place 2 - DMN
  2. Frisco City Council, Place 4 - DMN
Voters who live in Frisco will also vote on 14 proposed amendments to the city charter.
  1. Correct non-substantive errors such as misspellings and grammar.
  2. Hold regular city elections on the second rather than first Saturday in May.
  3. Increase the term limits for mayor and council members from two terms to three terms.
  4. Allow the city manager rather than the city council to appoint or remove the city secretary.
  5. Allow the council, if desired, to hold only one regular monthly meeting for two months in a calendar year.
  6. Clarify the percentage of affirmative votes needed to pass a measure if the full council is not present.
  7. Require rules on giving and receiving of gifts by city employees.
  8. Require candidates for elective office to be at least 18 years old and a resident for at least one year immediately preceding filing.
  9. Increase the percentage of required signatures on a petition to 30 percent of the votes cast at the last mayoral election.
  10. Clarify the qualifications, structure and operations of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
  11. Prohibit package liquor sales in any zoning district that allows residential development.
  12. Delete an unnecessary section on officers and employees.
  13. Clarify city employees' ban on involvement in council and mayoral campaigns.
  14. Revise procedures related to the acceptance of gifts by city officials.
Lovejoy City Council & ISD
  1. Lovejoy ISD, Place 1
  2. Lovejoy ISD, Place 2
  3. Lovejoy ISD, Place 3
Lowry Crossing City
  1. Lowry Crossing City Council
McKinney ISD - League of Women Voters Collin County
  1. McKinney ISD, Place 3 - DMN
  2. McKinney ISD, Place 7 - DMN
Voters who live in McKinney will vote on six bond propositions that total to $51.35 million:
  1. $15.5 million for street and traffic-light improvements
  2. $12.5 million for park improvements, including trails and a skateboard park
  3. $11.35 million for a public safety building and land acquisition for future buildings
  4. $5 million to acquire land for a public works facility
  5. $4 million for lake, dam and creek rehabilitation
  6. $3 million for downtown parking improvements
Melissa City Council & ISD - Anna Melissa Tribune
  1. Melissa City Council, Place 1
  2. Murphy City Council, Place 3
  3. Murphy City Council, Place 5
Murphy City Council
  1. Murphy City Council, Place 1
  2. Murphy City Council, Place 2
  3. Murphy City Council, Place 4
  4. Murphy City Council, Place 6

Plano ISD
- League of Women Voters Collin County
  1. Plano ISD, Place 1 - DMN
  2. Plano ISD, Place 2 - DMN
  3. Plano ISD, Place 3 - DMN
Princeton ISD
  1. Princeton ISD
Prosper ISD
  1. Mayor
  2. Prosper City Council, Place 1
  3. Prosper City Council, Place 4
  4. Prosper City Council, Place 6
  5. Prosper ISD, Place 1
  6. Prosper ISD, Place 3
  7. Prosper ISD, Place 6
Wylie City Council & ISD
  1. Wylie City Council, Place 1
  2. Wylie City Council, Place 3
  3. Wylie ISD, Place 5
  4. Wylie ISD, Place 6
  5. Wylie ISD, Place 7
Collin College Board of Trustees - League of Women Voters Collin County
  1. Collin College Board of Trustees, Place 1
  2. Collin College Board of Trustees, Place 2
  3. Collin College Board of Trustees, Place 3

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Charges of Mail-In Ballot Fraud In Dallas Democratic Primary

Dallas Morning News:

Dallas County Judge Jim Foster (D) and Dallas County Justice of the Peace Luis Sepulveda (D) who lost in the March 2nd Democratic Primary have alleged the election was marred by fraud associated with mail-in ballots. The Dallas Morning News reports Judge Foster as saying the Texas Secretary of State has forwarded his complaint to Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) and that the AG has decided to investigate.

JP Luis Sepulveda recently filed suit to force a recount of his Primary Election race. Sepulveda, a Democrat in Precinct 5, had the largest number of "ballot box" votes in March 2nd Primary, but lost the election to rival Carlos Medrano, who received more than twice as many ( 606 vs. 245) mail-in ballot votes. Sepulveda says in the lawsuit that all of the 606 mail-in ballots cast for Medrano during early voting were collected with the help of "vote harvesters," people who assist the elderly and others who can't make it to the polls. The lawsuit alleges that mail-in ballots were cast by people who are not U.S. citizens, weren't registered or didn't live in Dallas JP Precinct.

Abbott spent $1.4 million from a federal crime-fighting grant to conduct a two year investigation attempting to locate what he had described as an epidemic of voter fraud in Texas. By the end of his two year investigation in 2008 Abbott had found only 26 cases of "fraud" where people forgot to properly sign and address the absentee ballot envelope. Abbott prosecuted all 26 cases – all against Democrats, and almost all involving blacks or Hispanics, a review by The Dallas Morning News showed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us

Pogo, for you youngsters, was a possum-like character created by Walt Kelly in 1941 that was eponymous name of a comic strip that ran in many newspapers from 1948 until two years after his death in 1975, as well as in a steady stream of paperbacks.

Pogo was set in the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia. It included the all-wise Pogo and a cast of bumbling characters, usually politicians. Walt Kelly first used the quote "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us" on this panel in 1970. I had a conversation with someone today that brought a vision of this panel to mind.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The U.S. Census

Friday was the deadline to mail 2010 census forms. The results of this census will have a profound effect on the American political landscape over the coming decade. The 2010 census will determine the apportionment of U.S. House of Representatives seats and Electoral College votes for each state, and much more.

Projections of reapportionment, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates and trends, indicate that 10 U.S. House of Representatives seats will shift among 17 states upon the completion of this census. If the census is accurately taken, the biggest reapportionment winner from the 2010 Census will be Texas with 4 additional U.S. House seats. If Texas does gain 4 seats, it would give the Lone Star state 36 U.S. House Representatives and 37 Electoral College Votes. Texas currently has 32 Congressional Districts and 34 Electoral College Votes.
AP News Wire - April 28, 2010: Five states - New York, California, Texas, Arizona and Florida - are perilously close to losing out on congressional seat gains because of lackluster participation in the U.S. census. The five were average or below average in mailing back 10-question census forms when compared to other states, trailing by as many as 5 percentage points, according to the final census mail-in tally released Wednesday.
A research study of likely 2011 reapportionment numbers published in December 2009 by Polidata projects:
  • States gaining House seats: Texas (+4), Arizona (+2), Florida (+1), Georgia (+1), Nevada (+1), Oregon (+1), South Carolina (+1), and Utah (+1). (States May Also Gain Electoral College Votes)
  • States losing House seats: Ohio (-2), Illinois (-1), Iowa (-1), Louisiana (-1), Massachusetts (-1), Michigan (-1), Minnesota (-1), Missouri (-1), New Jersey (-1), New York (-1), and Pennsylvania (-1). (States May Also Loose Electoral College Votes)
  • Minnesota and Rhode Island are also on the very edge of losing one seat each. (If Rhode Island does lose one House seat it would join Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming as states with only a single representative seat in the U.S. House.)
The 2011 redistricting of Texas Congressional, State Senate, State House and various other representational districts will also be based on the 2010 census count. Collin County should see changes in the number elected representatives it sends to the U.S. House, State Senate, State House and perhaps other local elected offices within the county.
For example: Using the Census Bureau's 2009 total state population estimate of 24,782,302 the ideal house district population number is 165,215. These numbers suggest a potential increase in the number of Texas House districts in Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Johnson, Tarrant, and Williamson Counties and a potential decrease in the number of house districts in Dallas, El Paso, and Nueces Counties. The actual number of Texas House districts added to or subtracted from each large county cannot be determined until the 2010 Census count has been processed.

From pages 9 and 11 of the Texas Legislative Council's 2010 Redistricting report.
Collin County ranks as one of the top growth areas in the state and the nation. In the ten years since the 2000 census, the county's population has grown more than 52 percent. With nearly 800,000 residents the county now has a population equal to or greater than the states of Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
The U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates that in just a single year (July 2008 - July 2009) the population of Texas increased by 231,539 people — more than Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, combined.
Right wing hullabaloo over the federal Census, particularly the improbable claim that the Census is unconstitutional, is reportedly leading a lot of the most conservative Republicans to refuse to fill out their Census forms. Without an accurate census count Texas residents risk under-representation over the next decade, not to mention a lower apportionment of money from the federal government to build and maintain Texas infrastructure.
The federal government relies on census results to divvy up about $400 billion annually to state and local governments. For every Texan who is not counted in the Census, the state will lose an estimated $12,000 over the next decade in federal infrastructure funding for transportation, agriculture, health and education.
The census return figures are lagging where they were 10 years ago, and Texas figures are lower than the national figures. Ten years ago the nation returned about 72% of the mailed out forms, but this year they have only returned about 69%. In Texas, about 64% of the forms have been mailed back, compared to 68% in 2000. For the North Texas Metro region the census form return rate is:
  • 62 percent of Dallas County,
  • 65 percent for Tarrant County,
  • 67 percent for Denton County,
  • 70 percent for Collin County and
  • 73 percent for Rockwall County.
Those households that did not mail in a Census form, or that only partially filled it out, can expect one of the 84,000 Texas census workers to visit their home to gather the census information. If there is no answer when a census worker rings the door bell, they will return to ring the door bell as many as eight more times to gather the census information. Whether you mailed in a Census form or not, whether you cooperate or not when a census worker comes to your home, your household will be counted and all questions will be answered. Those households that do not cooperate simply cause the government to waste more time and more money to complete the census.

If you mailed your census form by last Friday April 16th, then you cost the government only a few cents to count your household. If you did not mail in census form, or you only partially filled it out, then the government must spend about $57 dollars to count your household, and more, if you do not cooperate when the census worker visits your home. If you refuse to answer when they ring your door bell, they will talk to your neighbors, and if necessary, go and check on your household through public records. Your home, your household will be counted and all questions will be answered

Karl Rove
Republicans should be salivating at the prospects of taking four U.S. House seats away from Democrats in northern states to send four additional Texas Republicans to Congress. But, it seems, not so much.

Instead, Republican heavy wieghts are sweating over the prospect that the far-right faction of the GOP may disrupt their political calculations.

That is why even Karl Rove, Deputy Chief of Staff to former President George W. Bush, recorded a public service announcement encouraging national participation in the 2010 Census.

As an article in The Hill points out, "Ultimately, Polidata's findings confirms expectations that voters living in manufacturing states are beginning to retire and head south."
Have you noticed numerous and very large retirement communities springing up all over Collin County?

It is not likely that all those northerners moving to Texas are Republican. In fact, it is more likely that more of those northern transplants are Democrats rather than Republicans.
Latinos make up a very large percentage of the population growth in Texas, and as articles in TexasKaos and Waco Tribune-Herald point out, many conservatives, who now control the Republican party, do not welcome Latinos, or indeed any minority, into the party fold. Have you seen any Latinos at your local Texas Tea Party events lately?
According to an article in the Waco Tribune-Herald, conservative activists created the Hispanic Republican Club of McLennan County to reach out to Latino, African-American, and young voters. Part of the clubs stated mission would be to fill the vacancies in the 40 out of 92 precincts that lack precinct chairs. Many of the precincts that have vacancies are in predominately minority areas. However, the McLennan County Republican Party chairman M.A. Taylor does not consider it important to fill those vacancies, and apparently does not think that minorities hold conservative views.
America’s Voice Education Fund recently released the following analysis:
Latinos are not just settling in major cities, but diverse regions of the country. After the 2010 Census, new Members of Congress in states like Georgia and South Carolina as well as Arizona and Texas will owe their positions, in part, to the expanding Latino population.

Latinos represent 51% of population growth in the United States as a whole since 2000. They have driven growth in the states poised to gain House seats following the 2010 Census, especially in those projected to gain more than one seat.

Texas, the state projected to gain the most from reapportionment, has seen the highest percentage of Latino population growth. Latinos comprise 63% of the population growth in Texas since 2000 and are the single largest reason that the state is projected to gain four seats in the U.S. House—the greatest change, positive or negative, among any state in the nation.

In Texas, the Latino share of the voter population grew between 2000 and 2008 to encompass over one-fifth of the electorate. Although Texas has had a large Latino population throughout its history, Latino voting registration and turnout jumped by approximately 30% from 2000 to 2008, and the Latino share of the overall electorate increased to over 20%.
Some Latinos are progressives and some are conservatives, but whatever their political leanings Latinos seek political representation just like every other American. If Latinos and members of any minority community can't find representation and political voice in the Republican party, they will find it in the Democratic party.

U.S. Census and Representational Redistricting

The founding fathers wanted to establish a truly representative government and linking state population totals to the number of members in the House of Representatives would serve this purpose.

Article One of the United States Constitution describes the legislative branch of the federal government - the Congress - and establishes the manner of election and qualifications of legislative branch members. Specifically, Article 1 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States ... Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers ... The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct...
The first U.S. Census of 1790 authorized by Congress specified that the enumeration that year would not only count “inhabitants” but would also record information about age, sex, race, status, and so forth, in order to assess the country’s military and industrial potential.
Subsequent Census Acts enacted by congress over the past two centuries expanded the number of questions asked during the census so that Congress could obtain the information it deemed it needed to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." (The Necessary and Proper Clause Article I, Section 8, Clause 18 of the U.S. Constitution)
Originally, there were only 65 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because the U.S. Constitution links the number of House representatives to population count, House membership grew to 106 members after the 1790 census determined there were 4 million people living in the U.S. The number of representatives continued to grow along with the nation's population until 1911 when Congress "apportioned" House membership to a maximum of 435.
Apportionment, the process of distributing the 435 Congressional seats among the states, depends on population counts, but simple division generates fractions -- you cannot send a third of an elected official to Congress. Mathematicians, statisticians and politicians debated the problem until 1941 when Congress adopted the mathematical formula known today as Equal Proportions under Title 2, Section 2a of the U. S. Code. (For further information on how "Equal Proportions" determines the number of Congressional seats in each state - click here)
The apportionment of Congressional seats is only part of the process of distributing political power. The individual states rely on U.S. census data for redrawing (redistricting) their own state and county level political districts. After the 1970 census, state officials complained that the results did not include summary data for local areas such as election precincts and wards. These areas are the essential building blocks for creating new districts and meeting the "one-person-one-vote" requirements mandate by Supreme Court of the United States case findings.
During the 1960s, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a series of cases that congressional and state legislative districts must consist of relatively equal populations. Specifically, the Court's decision in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) mandated that states apportion congressional district boundaries based strictly according to population.
In 1975, Congress enacted P.L. 94-171 requiring the U.S. Census Bureau to coordinate with officials in the individual states before each census. Together the U.S. Census Bureau and state officials define a geographic plan that produces the "small-area population data" needed by state state and local level governments to equally represent the people and to redraw Congressional, State Legislative and other local representational districts.

Republicans To Raise Taxes In Texas

A month ago, just after beating back Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s GOP Primary challenge, Perry led White 49% to 43%. Now, seven weeks after incumbent Rick Perry and former Houston Mayor Bill White won their respective primaries, a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Texas voters finds Perry has dropped a point to 48% while Bill White has gained a point to 44% of the vote, his best showing to date:
Fifty-nine percent (40%) of voters in Texas currently disapprove of the job Perry is doing as governor, including 22% who strongly disapprove. Perry has a slight lead among male voters and breaks roughly even among women. Voters not affiliated with either party give Perry a modest five-point edge over White.

Perry has a very favorable rating among 20% of voters and a very unfavorable rating of 22%. White has a very favorable rating among 21% of Texas voters and very unfavorably rating of 16%.

Perry picks up 75% of the votes among Texans who strongly favor repeal of health reform legislation. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Texas voters favor repeal of the health care plan, including 58% who strongly favor repeal while just 28% are oppose repeal, including 23% who strongly oppose repeal. White gets 89% of the votes among the group who oppose repeal.

Ten percent (10%) of Texas voters rate the economy as good or excellent. Forty percent (40%) think it's in poor shape.

Thirty-two percent (32%) say the economy is getting better, while 46% believe it's getting worse. [In January 35% believed the economy was getting worse.] Eighteen percent (18%) say it's staying about the same.

Read the full Rasmussen Report.
"Houston Chronicle: Ailing economy worries Texans, could hurt Perry:"
Vacant car lots, shuttered businesses and the grind of bad economic news is wearing down Texans' belief in a better tomorrow, according to a new survey of state voters, and that could be even worse news for Gov. Rick Perry.

While Perry touts that his strong conservative leadership has created a robust Texas economy, his 48% against White's 44% showing in the Rasmussen poll shows that a lot of Texans are starting to notice that Perry's strong conservative leadership has wrought some real problems for Texas: Originally posted at Jobsanger blog:
Texas is in financial trouble. The state will have a deficit of at least $8 billion in the next biennium, and that deficit could be as large as $11 or $12 billion. Part of the problem has been caused by the recession. But another part of the problem is due to Republican playing politics, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

About a year ago, Governor Perry turned down more than a half-billion dollars in funds to help the unemployed in Texas. Playing to his right-wing base, Perry said Texas didn't need the money and accepting it would force Texas to abide by federal government rules (to extend unemployment benefits).

More recently, He has refused to sign on to national standards for education, even though Texas should be exceeding those standards instead of refusing to come up to them. This is costing the state another $700 million dollars (at least). In addition, this refusal to meet federal education standards could cost Texas it's share of Title I education funds.

Texas has also cut property taxes, while creating a multi-million dollar fund for huge giveaways to corporate interests willing to move to Texas. Now the lower taxes, corporate giveaways and refusal to accept federal funds have combined with the recession to put the state in dire financial straits. The state will have a deficit of at least $8 billion in the next biennium, and that deficit could be as large as $11 or $12 billion.

Perry has already told all state agencies to cut their operations by 5% -- this on top of other cuts forced on these agencies in recent years. Many of these vital state agencies are now operating on a bare-bones budget, and are struggling to meet their obligations. More cuts are simply out of the question if they are to successfully complete their missions.

So how is the state going to meet their constitutional mandate of a balanced budget in the next biennium? That's simple. The state Republican leadership has painted themselves into a corner, and the only way out is to raise taxes. Of course, they won't raise any taxes on corporations. That would be unthinkable for these corporate-owned Republicans.

No, it is far more likely they will raise only the most regressive taxes, so that the new tax burden will fall most heavily on workers and the poor. And that is exactly what they are considering -- more sales taxes (the most regressive of all taxes, since it means that those making the least will pay the largest percentage of their income in the new taxes).

The sales tax in Texas is not applicable to everything sold in the state. There are many exemption including food, haircuts, children's day care, bottled water, dental work, tattoos, pedicures, gasoline and a host of other products and services. According to the Texas Comptroller, these exemptions total about $30 billion a year.

The Republican legislature has already begun hearings on cutting out some of these exemptions, and lobbyists are already gearing up to make sure their product or service remains exempt. It will be an interesting and messy fight when the new legislature meets in early 2011, but two things are clear right now. Taxes will be raised, and most of the burden for those new taxes will be borne by those who can least afford it.

I'm sure the Republicans will try to claim they didn't raise taxes, since they will be extending the sales tax to new products and/or services instead of raising the sales tax rate. But don't let them fool you. Texans will pay new and higher taxes, and it will be the Republicans who impose those higher taxes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Conservative Political Theater

Rachel Maddow highlights how the GOP fakes outrage on everything from fake pimp James O'Keefe who helped take ACORN down, to Climate-gate, to recess appointments, to the individual mandate in the health care plan, to Miranda rights, to trials for terrorists, to the birthers to you name it.
Echoing the recent report of the Kings County, NY, District Attorney who completed a five-month probe of fake pimp James O'Keefe's ACORN "pimp-gate" videos, California's Attorney General has now reached a similar conclusion regarding videos recorded in three different California cities last year.

"In his actual [unedited full length] taped sessions with ACORN workers, [O'Keefe] was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp," says the AG's report.

The videos were highly edited by rightwing activists James O'Keefe III and Hannah Giles, who posed as a prostitute and her law school boyfriend in the videos and played extensively on Fox News, as well as other non-partisan media outlets.

In a press release announcing his 28-page report [PDF] (and accompanying 55 pages of attachments and exhibits [PDF] with it), the AG's office says the publicly released videos taken in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino were "severely edited." The unedited California videos have now been posted on the CA Attorney General's website.

"The evidence illustrates that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality," says Brown in the statement. "Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor."

The description of the videos as "severely edited" also echoes the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, which was quoted as describing them as a "heavily edited splice job" when his report was released earlier this year. Brown's report also echoes an independent investigation [PDF] released by former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger early last December, but largely unreported in the national media.

Brown's report details that, "Although O’Keefe is dressed in stereotypical 1970s pimp garb in the opening and closing scenes of the videos released on the internet, when O’Keefe visited each of the ACORN offices, ACORN employees reported that he was actually dressed in a shirt and tie. Also, contrary to the suggestion in the edited videos, O’Keefe never stated he was a pimp. While speaking with the various ACORN workers, Brown's report notes:

Giles portrays herself as an abused prostitute desperate for help and pushed for any advice. She said she wanted to save the El Salvadoran girls from being preyed upon and raped. She claimed the pimp put a hit out on her and injured her by pushing her down the stairs.

Brown goes on to explain that O'Keefe's edited video tapes from the Los Angeles ACORN office, "did not include all Giles statements regarding the abusive pimp, her tragic life, and fear for the underage girls, or [ACORN worker Lavelle] Stewart's statements that ACORN could not help."

O’Keefe's purpose was to damage ACORN and not to objectively report a story. The video releases were heavily edited to feature only out of context statements of various ACORN employees, and to omit salient statements by O’Keefe and Giles. Each ACORN employee recorded by O’Keefe in California was a low level employee whose job was to help the needy individuals who walked in the door seeking assistance. Giles and O’Keefe lied to ACORN employees engender compassion, but then edited their statements into the released videos.
ACORN was an anti-poverty organization of 400,000 low and middle income members in 75 cities that helped the needy. The organization had been long targeted by Republicans because it legally registered hundreds of thousands of voters who tended to vote Democratic.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The 2006 Dallas County Coordinated Campaign

In the November 2006 election, Dallas lawyer Fred Baron was instrumental in establishing the Dallas County Coordinated Campaign which helped Democrats sweep all of the Dallas County courthouse races as well as make remarkable gains in Texas House races.

The 2006 Dallas County Coordinated Campaign targeted a get-out-the-base operation driven by direct mail, automated and live phone calls, and neighborhood canvassing efforts. The strategy was to pool money and effort into one coordinated campaign that asked voters to vote Democratic rather than for any particular candidate. This was a classic "Identify and Get Out The Base" campaign strategy.

As part of the 2006 Coordinated Campaign effort the Texas Democratic Trust and House Democratic Campaign Committee polled key legislative districts to identify what issues would motivate voters to actually get out and vote for Democratic candidates.

Toward the 2006 coordinated get-out-the-vote effort the Dallas County Democratic Party created a coordinated campaign committee with the Texas Democratic Trust and Texas Values in Action Coalition, a progressive North Texas PAC, contributing money to the effort, and the TDP, with support from the House Democratic Campaign Committee, generating most of the direct mail pieces targeting voters likely to vote for the Democratic candidates. This coordinated "get-out-the-base" campaign strategy run by Democratic organizations left individual candidates free to focus on their own individual races and individually target segments of the electorate with their own GOTV strategies. Harris County very successfully executed basically the same program in 2008.

The following article, which tells the story of Fred Baron and the 2006 Dallas County Coordinated Campaign, appeared in the December 2006 issue of the Texas Lawyer magazine:

Impact Player of the Year: Fred Baron
By Mark Donald
Texas Lawyer
December 25, 2006
As casual in appearance as he is in manner, Fred Baron props his legs on the coffee table of his spacious corner office on the 16th floor of a North Dallas high rise. He may not be practicing asbestos litigation anymore, may not lay claim to the title, "King of Toxic Torts" and the infamy that goes with it, may not be running a stable of 480 employees as the founding partner of the highly successful Baron & Budd, but he clearly is in his element. Exuding his trademark optimism, he draws you into his confidence, telling you exactly what he wants you to know, while making you feel it's exactly what you want to hear.

He has just returned from a luncheon for Craig Watkins, the freshly elected Democrat who surprised many politicos and pundits on Nov. 7 by upsetting alleged Republican shoo-in Toby Shook in the race for Dallas County district attorney.

"I thought the luncheon was a very unifying event," says Baron during an interview on Nov. 29. "Craig gave a great speech. He got a standing ovation."

Baron is keenly aware that Watkins presents a unique opportunity for Democrats ¿ one that should be handled with care. If Watkins missteps while growing into the job, the Dallas County electorate might rethink its decision to vote Democratic.

"Craig, though extremely energetic, is tremendously underfunded and needs a lot of professional help quickly," Baron says. "So we [his PAC] have been helping him since the election. . . . He has a lot of people who are helping him now."

Watkins is only one of the latest Democratic beneficiaries of Baron's largesse. A prolific fundraiser, Baron has used his considerable contacts within the trial lawyer bar and political donor community to raise mega-bucks on behalf of Democratic candidates.

In the November election, Baron was instrumental in the Democratic sweep of all Dallas County courthouse races as well as in the remarkable gains the Democrats made in Texas House races. This surprising Democratic shift may mark the beginning of a sea change in Texas politics, one that halts the momentum of a tort reform movement that in recent years has dominated the Texas Legislature and influenced the philosophical leanings of judges throughout the state.

Perhaps that is why Baron is still a lightning rod who sparks the ire of so-called tort reformers and Wall Street Journal editorial writers.

After the 2004 election cycle, Baron altered his focus somewhat, turning his attention to rebuilding the Texas Democratic Party, which was flat broke after more than a dozen blistering years at the ballot box. With an able assist from a hired Democratic operative, he formed the Texas Democratic Trust, a state political action committee through which Baron would pump money to prime the party's political machinery.

Baron dedicated funds to initiate the kinds of infrastructure changes that could make the party more competitive, beefing up voter files and hiring new senior political staff. The trust breathed new life into the House Democratic Campaign Committee, contributing nearly $450,000 to the PAC, which in turn helped fund the campaigns of competitive state House races. HDCC funding and contributions from trial lawyer PACs helped Democrats successfully defend all their House incumbents and gain an additional six seats in the House, narrowing the Republican majority and possibly moderating its pro-tort reform influence.

The Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC claimed 96 wins and 15 losses statewide for the candidates it endorsed in the 2006 general election. But the tort reform group, which declines comment for this article, came up wanting in five of six key state House races, despite pouring money into GOP coffers and branding Democrats "pawns of trial lawyers," says Harvey Kronberg, editor of the The Quorum Report. "For the first time in a while, waving the bloody shirt of being a trial lawyer didn't work for Republicans," he says. In fact, two of the six new House Democrats are trial lawyers ¿ and one of them, Allen Vaught, is a former Baron & Budd associate.

The trust also lent its resources to the Dallas County Democratic Party and its 47 Democratic courthouse candidates. Together, they orchestrated a coordinated campaign that would help turn the tide of the 2006 election.

In their campaign ads, the incumbent Dallas County Republican judges adopted the rhetoric of tort reformers, claiming they did not legislate from the bench and stopped "frivolous lawsuits." The ads must not have worked. Before election night was over, every Republican incumbent ¿ judicial and otherwise ¿ who ran in this election cycle had been swept from office.

With most of the newly elected criminal court judges coming from the criminal-defense bar and several newly elected civil judges coming from plaintiffs firms, Baron may have helped the Dallas County judiciary shake loose of its conservative moorings. "At least five of the new civil judges are Dallas Trial Lawyers Association members," says Susan Hays, a Dallas solo and former Dallas County Democratic Party chairwoman. "Several more have done plaintiffs work and think philosophically like Fred Baron." Ken Tapscott, the newly elected judge of County Court-at-Law No. 4, is a senior associate with Baron & Budd, working in its asbestos litigation practice.

Republicans seemed to be caught off guard by the impact Baron had on the election. "Fred ran a bit of a stealth campaign, helping with the get-out-the-vote drive," says attorney Tom Pauken, former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. "I don't think Republicans realized how much money he was putting into Dallas County."

Say what you will about Baron ¿ and his critics certainly have ¿ he has committed his resources and himself to this crusade. Though he still remains a player on the national stage, intending to help former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards realize his presidential ambitions in 2008, his trust has spent more than $1.7 million in the 2006 election cycle alone. Ask tort reformers why he is doing this, and they might say he is acting out of the same self-interest that fed his asbestos litigation machine.

That argument seems less persuasive now that he has stopped trying suits, although Baron remains a Baron & Budd employee until December 2009, according to the terms of the personal services contract he signed upon selling his equity interest in the firm. The contract is at the center of a suit Baron and his wife Lisa Blue filed this year against Baron & Budd and others alleging they're owed money.

Baron says his motives are still the same as when he represented asbestos victims, only grander: To elect Democrats to help regulate corporate misconduct and to protect the civil justice system from being dismantled by conservative, pro-business Republicans.

Back in the Day

Baron possesses an odd mixture of take-no-prisoners bravado and aw-shucks humility that often comes out in the same thought. "I think I am the luckiest human being that ever walked on the face of the earth. I get to do exactly what I want to do," he says. "I really had a great law practice, but as a consequence ¿ and I don't exactly know how it happened ¿ I made a lot of money."

It might have happened because Baron is a relentless ¿ some would say ruthless ¿ mass tort visionary with the entrepreneurial instincts of a Rupert Murdoch, only for the left.

While a student at the University of Texas School of Law, Baron says he was "proselytized" by a speech given by Ralph Nader about using "the law as an instrument of social change to regulate corporate conduct," he says. "Afterward, Ralph invited a bunch of us on the law review to come to Washington for the summer. It turned into a project investigating the Atomic Energy Commission."

Nader continued to mentor Baron, even after Baron graduated from law school in 1971. "Fred was bent on becoming a tax lawyer," recalls Nader. "After he heard me speak, he decided to become a tort lawyer."

His first job was with a Dallas labor law firm, Mullinax, Wells, Mauzy & Collins, and he remembers the day when a partner asked him to look into the complaint of one of its clients, the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union, about conditions at the Pittsburgh Corning Plant near Tyler where workers were turning raw asbestos into fiber. No one in the firm wanted to handle the case, but Baron drove to the plant. "People were walking around with shovels of asbestos and putting it into bins. It was in the air, and no one was wearing a respirator." he says.

The rest is the stuff of legal legend: Tenacious baby lawyer sues Fortune 500 company for $100 million. Baron wasn't the first lawyer to file an asbestos case, but he was certainly there in the litigation's embryonic stages.

In 1975, Baron started his own firm, leaving the Tyler case behind, only to rejoin it again when one of his Nader contacts referred him another group of plaintiffs. With other pioneering trial lawyers, he says he dug up evidence that showed a history of corporate misconduct on the part of asbestos manufacturers, who knowingly exposed workers to asbestos while hiding its lethal danger from them. He says he saw his mission as going beyond seeking compensation for his client's injuries. "I really wanted to stop this kind of corporate misconduct, which could be done through high-profile lawsuits." The $20 million settlement he brokered for his clients in 1977 also might have served as a deterrent.

Baron took to the lecture circuit, convincing trial lawyers to file asbestos suits where appropriate or at least refer them to him for a healthy fee. In 1979, he gained further legal renown as the author of a textbook titled "Handling Occupational Diseases."

That same year, he hired one of his first associates, Russell Budd, a recent UT law graduate who would become his partner in 1986. Budd was a great counterpoint to Baron, says former Baron & Budd shareholder Lisa Kivett. "Fred is more outgoing, more risk-taking," says Kivett. "Russell is more introverted and contemplative ¿ a great negotiator. Together they were a good yin and yang."

These were the glory days of the plaintiffs bar, when trial lawyers were still perceived as good guy populists who reined in greedy corporate giants, because the government failed to do so. Hefty contingent fees weren't a sign of attorney avarice but a means of ensuring that wage earners had access to the courthouse. Texas became a more hospitable place for those seeking to prove personal injuries; the Legislature abolished contributory negligence, and even nonresident asbestos victims could find a convenient forum here as the state's asbestos caseload exploded.

Many of the lawyers joining Baron's growing firm became almost devotional in their praise for him. "One of the things that impressed me about Fred was his unflinching confidence in the correctness of what we were doing," Kivett says. "Fred made you feel like you were part of a larger mission. . . . People think it was about becoming rich, but he was doing what he loved, and the money just came."

Baron treated his firm as his family, says Kivett, a feeling that was only enhanced when his wife, Blue, joined Baron & Budd in 1985, becoming a top Baron & Budd asbestos trial lawyer.

As Baron made his millions, investing wisely, he became generous with those who were philosophically aligned with his mission. Most of these were Democrats.

Baron was an ardent fundraiser for Bill Clinton in his successful 1992 presidential run. Baron says Clinton offered him a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Baron decided to turn the appointment down after speaking to friends, including Nader, who talked him out of it.

"Some people like being the great dissenter, but Fred would have become very frustrated in a large group of circuit judges," says Nader. "He wants to win. He also wants maximum elbow room, so he can use all the tools of persuasion toward his goal."

With the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and its Contract With America seeking to make tort reform a front-burner issue, the good-guys persona of the trial lawyers began to fade. In the ensuing debate, some plaintiffs lawyers didn't help themselves, taking heat for flooding courthouses with hundreds of thousands of asbestos suits, using the same handful of doctors to diagnose a staggering number of questionable asbestos-related illnesses, and refusing to give priority to the claims of plaintiffs whose asbestos exposure had deadly health effects over the claims of plaintiffs who were as yet unimpaired from their exposure. And with many asbestos manufacturers seeking bankruptcy protection, there was a dwindling reservoir of resources to pay for plaintiffs claims.

Plaintiffs lawyers began to fractionalize over how to allocate these scarce resources, and some worried that if they didn't give priority to more serious cases, the courts, which were buckling under the weight of asbestos caseloads ¿ or Congress, which was making loud noises about creating a trust fund to bail out asbestos manufacturers ¿ would do it for them. Baron, with his fierce access-to-the-courthouse ethic, believed that impaired and unimpaired plaintiffs were entitled to their day in court. He also had a boatload of unimpaired clients.

Baron felt that it was wrong to lump asbestos cases together in global class actions, preferring to litigate each case one at a time. So wedded was Baron to his position, he was willing to go to war over it.

In 1992, he turned against some of the same pioneer asbestos litigators with whom he had once fought in the trenches. They had cobbled together a class action settlement of all federal asbestos cases, which would have created a fund to pay current and future asbestos claimants. But Baron filed an objection to this settlement and the class certification in Amchem Products v. Windsor and later objected to a similar class action in Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp.

Baron argued that class actions were an inappropriate procedural vehicle for mass torts; the cases were so unique and diverse they ought to be handled individually. It took him seven years, $4.5 million and an able U.S. Supreme Court assist from Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe to prove his point.

"Fred could have made a lot of money if he would have signed onto the class instead of objecting to it," says Marc Stanley, a partner in Stanley Iola & Mandel and the president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. "But he saw something that he was convinced wasn't fair. It was probably one of his biggest accomplishments."

Although Baron says he has "never had a bad day practicing law," around the time of the Amchem decision, he needed a big win.

In 1997, he began fending off accusations that his firm was a litigation mill that manufactured testimony from plaintiffs who had been coached by Baron & Budd staffers on what to say and how to say it in depositions. The allegations stemmed from a 20-page internal document benignly titled "Preparing for Your Deposition," which had been inadvertently turned over to an asbestos defense attorney by a Baron & Budd associate.

Among its litany of instructions, the memo appeared to suggest many answers that clients should provide opposing counsel ¿ independent of the facts. "You will be asked if you ever saw any WARNING labels on containers of the asbestos products that said WARNING or DANGER," the memo said. "It is important to maintain that you NEVER saw any labels on asbestos products that said WARNING or DANGER."

Three asbestos defendants sought stays in suits brought by Baron & Budd clients, claiming the use of the memo perpetuated fraudulent claims by teaching plaintiffs to lie. A Dallas County district judge referred the issue to a State Bar of Texas grievance committee as well as to a Dallas County grand jury. The U.S. Attorney's Office also looked into the matter. A heated ethics debate ensued among members of the bar.

Baron, who wasn't even trying asbestos cases anymore, because he was focusing on pollution suits, managed the crisis. He contends that the memo was drafted by an unsupervised paralegal who had shown it to fewer than 20 people out of the 15,000 that his firm represented. "I think there were folks out there that believed that we must be doing something wrong to be that successful," he says. "But we were successful, because we did things the right way."

Rather than circle the wagons, Baron went on the offensive, countering with a scorched-earth attack directed at those who attacked him. In the media and in court, Baron maintained that the memo was work product and that attorney-client privilege prevented its use in evidence ¿ and even protected his clients from being questioned about it by opposing counsel. With Baron & Budd claiming privilege for its clients, it was difficult for defense attorneys to prove through a plaintiff that the firm had used the memo to perpetuate a fraud.

Baron & Budd threatened to sue those who attempted to use the memo in court or otherwise interfered with the firm's client relationships. At the time, Baron told Texas Lawyer that his firm intended to disqualify any defense attorney who tried to introduce the memo, because it was unethical to use the privileged documents of another party.

Baron says he hired four ethics experts who opined that the memo was ethical and confidential, and he convinced two Texas intermediate courts of appeals that the memo was shielded from disclosure. Neither the State Bar of Texas, the Dallas County grand jury nor the U.S. attorney took any action against him.

Baron felt vindicated, but to tort reformers who were gathering steam and political clout, he became the personification of the trial lawyer they loved to hate. "I was outspoken, and they needed a target," Baron says. "I became the poster boy of a trial lawyer" working for his own self-interest.

Tort reformers were making dramatic headway in changing the civil justice system on the state level with their well financed campaign that vilified "greedy" trial lawyers for their litigation tactics that drove up prices, premiums and unemployment.

And trial lawyers were slow to respond. "We didn't think it would have the impact that it did," Baron says. "But if the other guy is spending $100 million on press and lobbyists every year, they can sell soap that doesn't wash."

Budd recalls that Baron led the firm's efforts in the Texas Legislature during the early attempts to restrict nonresidents from filing asbestos suits in Texas courts. Baron says he focused on the national scene, involving himself in lawyer politics, partly to help slow the rising tide of tort reform.

Despite the PR nightmare the memo caused, Baron became president-elect of ATLA in 1999, moving to Washington the same year then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush began his presidential bid, running on a platform that included tort reform.

Baron did what he could to get then-Vice President Gore elected. Besides being part of Gore's national fundraising team, Baron sent e-mails to all ATLA members asking them not to support Nader, whose third-party candidacy, many believe, hurt Gore in Florida and resulted in Bush's election.

"Ralph went completely nuts when I did that," Baron says. "Our relationship deteriorated after that."

"It is one thing to go Democratic," says Nader. "But then he went rejectionist on me. He had lawyers calling lawyers telling them not to vote for me."

Baron became ATLA president the same year Bush became U.S. president. "The entire government was controlled by ardent individuals that wanted to put trial lawyers out of business," says Linda Lipsen, ATLA's vice president for public affairs. "People around here were really feeling defeated. But Fred's leadership style is so optimistic under pressure, he was just what we needed. He helped our organization regroup, raise money and fight the initiatives we needed to fight.

Baron says The Wall Street Journal accused him of taking ATLA's top job only to protect his asbestos business, but he says he played a much larger role. Congress was proposing legislation for national caps on punitive damages, tort immunity for gun manufacturers, federal caps on medical malpractice cases, and he worked on softening or killing each bill. "We held the line in the Senate," he says, helping block legislation that would have taken asbestos cases out of the judicial system and put them into a government-administered trust fund.

Tort reformers at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, accused trial lawyers of trying to buy Congress with fierce lobbying efforts and hefty political contributions. Few seemed as effective at raising those contributions as Baron.

"It's a lot easier to raise money when you write the same size check as the one you are asking for," says Democratic activist Hays.

By 2002, Baron returned to Dallas, turned 55 and decided to change his life. "I had the opportunity to become involved in the Edwards presidential campaign, but I knew I would have to give up my law practice," he says.

In December 2002, he did just that: Baron and Blue sold all their Baron & Budd stock to Budd, and, but for a few major cases they still agreed to handle, he quit the practice of law, he says. "I didn't want to be 75 years old and still trying cases."

It wasn't hard to rally the trial lawyer troops for Edwards, since Edwards was one of them.

Baron had met Edwards through bar work, he says, and contributed to Edwards' campaign in 1998 when he ran for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina. When Edwards announced his run for president in January 2003, Baron joined his staff. The conservative National Review referred to Baron as "John Edwards' Evil Twin," but that didn't concern Edwards.

"I know Fred Baron," Edwards says. "He is a good man, and he is honest. There will always be criticism coming from the media ¿ that is the way the world works."

As national finance director for the campaign, Baron was in charge of all financial issues. But with Edwards' popularity among trial lawyers, money wasn't a problem. "We raised more money in 90 days than any Democrat ever. We still hold the record at $7.4 million."

Edwards' populist message seemed to resonate with voters, but it wasn't enough for him to catch U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who won the Democratic nomination.

But the campaign was far from over for Baron, who joined the senior staff of the Kerry campaign and lobbied for Kerry to choose Edwards as his running mate, which Kerry did. "Kerry made the decision for his own reasons," Baron says. "But I hope I had influence in the selection."

During the general election campaign, Baron served as chairman of the coordinated campaign between the Kerry-Edwards camp and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The Kerry campaign sent him to Florida during the last 30 days to work on the Democratic get-out-the-vote drive.

When the Democrats lost, Baron grew angry. "There was no lack of money, but there was the lack of a party organization," he says. "When we left Florida this time, there was no infrastructure left, and we were back in the same boat."

In February 2005, Baron expressed those sentiments to former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, who had become DNC chairman. "Dean said that in over 40 states, the party was just a hollowed-out log, and what we needed to do was rebuild the state parties," Baron says.

Focus on Texas

Baron thought rebuilding the Texas Democratic Party would be "a great project" for him, since he was retired and the state party only had two or three full-time employees.

To examine its feasibility, Baron hired Matt Angle, who had served as chief of staff for former Democratic U.S. Rep. Martin Frost before Frost's defeat in 2004. In the late spring of 2005, Angle presented Baron with his findings, recommending, among other things, the hiring of new senior staff to run the state party machinery. "We didn't have a single staff person who had worked in a senior paid capacity in a competitive campaign," says Angle, who also suggested upgrading the party's antiquated voter file to enable the sophisticated targeting of Democratic voters; beefing up staff for an oppositional research group (the Texas Progress Council); and revitalizing the state House Democratic Campaign Committee, so it could help plan and manage campaign activities in targeted House races. "We knew Democrats could not yet be competitive for statewide office," Baron says. "But there might be some House seats we could pick up."

Baron decided to create a state PAC, the Texas Democratic Trust, which would be independent of the party but could give unlimited funds to it. Baron figured with an investment of around $100,000 to $150,000 a month "we could create this thing," and he began pitching the project to wealthy Democratic donors around the state. His only taker was Budd, who says he kicked in $100,000 early in the trust's formation. Later in the election cycle, Budd gave another $80,000, and Waco businessman Bernard Rapoport contributed $25,000. But Baron, experienced fundraiser that he was, found no other takers. So he decided to plant most of the seed money himself.

To gain the support of the state party, he met with members of its executive committee, some of whom were concerned that he wanted to take over the party, says Baron. To allay their fears, he said he would not take sides in party politics or primaries, and he would remove himself from the project as soon as it became self-sustaining. Until then, he wanted to hire roughly 15 staffers, and every 30 days the trust would write a check to the Texas Democratic Party to pay for them. "But there is one catch," he recalls telling them. "They are going to report to Matt Angle . . . and if I find out you are interfering with the work of these 15 people, that is the last check I will write."

The executive committee agreed, says Baron, and Angle got to work. With trust money, Angle was able to attract top talent ¿ new executive, political, finance and communications directors ¿ who, in turn, possessed the political acumen to raise funds for such things as a statewide mail ballot program that targeted seniors who were likely to vote Democratic. Two newly hired party staffers were charged with upgrading the voter files, with additional funds for the project provided by the trust, the state party and organized labor. "We put these files online so our county and legislative candidates would have access," Angle says.

To beef up the HDCC, the trust helped hire new staff and paid their salaries, says Baron. In previous election cycles the HDCC had been a small PAC for state House Democratic leaders to dole out campaign funds. In 2006, it provided funding and campaign planning for 17 House races that the Democrats felt were in play. HDCC was also funded by other political donors.

The trust and the HDCC polled 10 key legislative districts to determine which issues would motivate Democrats to actually vote. Certainly national issues such as the war in Iraq would drive voters to the polls, but their research revealed that issues with populist themes resonated strongly, says Angle. "People felt one-party control in Texas was failing them and we needed a change." The polling corroborated earlier research conducted by the Texas Values in Action Coalition, a progressive North Texas PAC that was working with the Dallas County Democratic Party. TEXVAC and the trust had sponsored focus groups of Democrats, Independents and Republicans, says Angle, who felt that Republicans in Austin were more interested in representing special interest groups than everyday people. The seeds of change ¿ particularly in Dallas County ¿ seemed evident.

Baron says the trust wanted to target one Texas county to see if it could "grow a real meat-and-potatoes coordinated campaign." He and Angle looked at Dallas and Harris counties but chose Dallas because it was further along organizationally and demographically. Although Republicans had dominated county courthouse races for decades, the county had been trending Democratic since 1998. Angle felt the tipping point had been reached in 2002, but with the Republicans' efficient get-out-the-vote machine, Democrats had won only a handful of county races. Even that modest success was enough to help incite a flood of Democratic judicial candidates ¿ 42 in all ¿ to run in the 2006 election.

For the past 10 years, "Democratic down-ballot office seekers ran their own campaigns," Baron says. "You might see a yard sign that would say, "Vote Joe Blow for Judge," but no one knows who the judges are, and the only way to win these races is through a coordinated campaign that gets more straight-party ticket voters on your side than theirs."

Also in the summer of 2005, Baron approached Dallas County Democratic Party Chairwoman Darlene Ewing about running all Dallas County Democratic candidates as a slate. Money, sweat and strategy would be pooled into one coordinated campaign that asked voters to vote Democratic rather than for any particular candidate.

Ewing says she needed no convincing. "There was already a synergy around the idea; everyone understood that is what we needed to do," says Ewing, a Dallas solo. "We just couldn't rely on the trend. We had to come up with a plan to take advantage of the trend."

Part of the plan included convincing Democratic candidates to part with their campaign funds and not go it alone. "I had only been party chair for a year and a half, and I was asking 47 county candidates to allow us to spend their money," Ewing says. "Fred and Russell gave us credibility; my candidates agreed to stick together and run a campaign of "Vote Democratic.'"

Toward this coordinated effort, the candidates would put up more than $200,000, the trust kicked in $100,000 and TEXVAC contributed $50,000, says Angle. The state party and the HDCC generated most of the direct mail pieces to target Democratic voters, which raised the price tag of the Dallas project another $150,000, he says.

To kick off the coordinated campaign, Baron & Budd provided $30,000 in seed money, says Budd, for a fundraising event in April 2006 that featured Edwards as its keynote speaker. "I hadn't been to an event where 800 Democrats showed up in 20 years," Ewing says. "It got everybody excited and made us feel we could pull this off. It also raised money, and that was good."

The coordinated campaign envisioned a targeted get-out-the-vote operation driven by direct mail, automated and live phone calls, and neighborhood canvassing efforts. Angle brought in Jane Hamilton, a seasoned political operative, to run the countywide ground campaign. Budd also had an active role as one of the primary coordinators, and his firm helped with fundraisers, giving office space for candidate meetings. State Sen. Royce West, a partner in Dallas' West & Gooden, came on board early, dedicating himself and members of his Senate staff to the coordinated effort. His radio spots, paid for by Budd, urged voters to get out and vote Democratic. His predominately minority 23rd senatorial district was considered pivotal to Democratic turnout. But the get-out-the-vote drive was by no means limited to the southern sector of Dallas County. Activists, with the help of the sophisticated voter file, sought out Democrats wherever they could find them.

"You want to target your time and energy and message to those folks who are going to vote your way," Baron says. "This was not a persuasion exercise for independent voters. It was an exercise in getting out the Democratic vote."

And it worked.

The Democrats swept every election in Dallas County, electing 42 district and county judges, a district attorney, a district and county clerk, a county treasurer and a county judge to preside over the commissioner's court. "The Democrats outvoted the Republicans in Dallas County by 16,000 straight-ticket pulls," Angle says. "Coming together the way we did gave us success beyond what we thought possible. The strategy to win some of the races was the strategy to win them all."

As expected, all the statewide races remained in the GOP column, but the Democrats picked up five new House seats to go along with one they had picked up in a special election. "We thought we might get two," says Baron. No Democratic incumbent lost his or her state legislative or congressional seat. And the Democratic delegation to the U.S. House increased by two.

"I think this election enhanced [Baron's] reputation as the political strategist and tactical leader of the Democratic establishment," says Bill Miller, an Austin lobbyist with strong ties to the Republican Party. "If I were a Democrat he would be one of the first people I would call ¿ even if he didn't give me any money."

Budd says that despite his firm's current litigation with Baron he has no qualms continuing his contributions to the trust. "This is more than just about us. This is about the goals of the Democratic Party. . . . This is a lot bigger than any bad blood we might have at the current time."

"In just over a year with a fairly nominal investment of less than a couple of million dollars, we have accomplished a lot," says Baron. "The real marker is 2010 when we redistrict again. In order to have a say in redistricting, we need to win the state House or the Senate or statewide office. And I think that is doable."

But isn't he leaving again? Hasn't he just bought a house in North Carolina to help Edwards make a run at the presidency?

"I am a bit nomadic," he says. "But I can write checks from anywhere."