Texas Indians Enlist Powerful Lobby Teams for Possible Gambling Battle

Streusand Offered Job to Craddick Sister While Emerging as Key GOP Contributor

New Poll Shows Texans Not Up in Arms Over Property Taxes and Robin Hood

School Finance Panel Plan is Hybrid of Ideas Backed by Senate, Perry, Bush

GOP's Turnout Falls Off
While Minority Party Casts Most Votes

Republicans Point to Emails from Press
to DA Earle

Key Lawmakers Expect Special Session to Start March 29

Trial Lawyers Target Craddick Democrats with New PAC

Capitol Press Feels Burned by Handling of Story on Rumorsr

Governor May Call Special Session Even if There's No Consensus First

Perry Heads to Arizona
on Mission for the President

Democratic Chair Goes Against Grain with Support for Primary Candidates

Edwards Backed Foes of GOP Leaders, Seliger Gives to Perry's Rival in Feud

Governor Hopes to Get Last Laugh
on Cash Bonus Public School Plan

Mini-Rainbow Coalition Portrays DeLay as the Enemy Against Democrat Doggett

Perry Touts Excellence While Taking Pulses for Consensus on School Finance

Ogden, Duncan Get Key Assignments Amid Leadership Reshuffling

Eltife to Face Sadler in Runoff as Attacks Stagger Merritt

Edwards Wins
Runoff Spot Versus Seliger

Seliger, Sadler Appear to Be Leading
the Packs

GOP Fields Record Class for Congress with Final Surprise

State Prosecutor Starts Preliminary Inquiry into Attack Ad

Welcome to the Hotel Texarkana: SadlerGets Lawyers' Support

Congressman Might be Behind Move to Stop Doggett

South Texas Group Might Shift Support Away from Judge

Valley Powers Back State Judge in Flores' Place

Congressional Contest Gets
Devine Intervention

Dozens of Texas Republicans Line Up
to Run

Democrat Throws
Wrench into Hammer's Plans

Moore, Davis Seek East Texas House Seats

Candidates Jockey
for South Texas Seats

Novel Ex-Judge Throws Name in Race for CD 2

GOP Donor, Delegate Takes Candidate Role

Doggett's Bid Is A Bad Déjà Vu for Barrientos

Barrientos Gets Word Out He's Running

Christian Carries Conservative Mantle into CD 1 Race

 

REPUBLICANS
1
Bryan
Eppstein
The Eppstein Group
2
Kevin
Moomaw
Dewhurst Committee
3
Brian
Berry
The Strategy Group
4
Dave
Carney
Bashur, Carney and Sullivan
5
Lionel
Sosa
Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar
6
Mike
Baselice
Baselice & Associates
7
David
Weeks
Weeks & Associates
8
Todd
Olsen
Olsen & Shuvalov
9
Allen
Blakemore
Blakemore & Associates
10
Craig
Murphy
Murphy Turner & Associates

DEMOCRATS
1
Kelly
Fero
John Sharp,
TDP
2
Dave
Gold
Winning Directions
3
James
Aldrete
Message, Media & Presentation
4
Dan
McClung
Campaign Strategies
5
Jeff
Montgomery
Montgomery & Associates
6
Peck
Young
Emory Young & Associates
7
Craig
Varoga
Varoga Rice & Associates
8
Dean
Rindy
Rindy Miller Media
9
Ed
Martin
Congressional Delegation
10
Harold
Cook
Senate Democrat Caucus

March 25, 2004

Top Political Consultants Get the Credit
and the Blame in Texas Campaign Game

"They were like the last herd of dinosaurs, gathered around a waterhole, staring up at the incoming meteor that was about to render them extinct. The question is: Can higher forms of life evolve? The giants are dead, but many of the old hangers-on, advisers, consultants and apparatchiks are still around."

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

The Democrats still had that deer-in-the-headlights expression, stammering in post-election shock when those words were composed by one of their own near the end of 2002. The author of the dark and slightly surreal prose happened to be one of the top Democratic consultants in Texas - a veteran media man named Dean Rindy - who appeared to be venting frustration with the creative admonition that was distributed by email to Democrats, reporters and others across the virtual world. There were measures of truth in the metaphoric madness of the election analysis. Above all, it demonstrated that - even if you're a consultant - the first thing you do after getting obliterated in an election is blame the consultants. It happens every time.

That underscores how important political consultants must be to the candidates who hire them to provide direction, guidance, technical expertise, creative vision and hopefully a little good luck to their campaigns for public office. The same goes if you happen to be on the winning side where the Republicans have been in Texas in the statewide races and an increasing number of legislative battles as well over most of the past ten years. Would the president of the United States today have that same job if not for Karl Rove? When Bush was a governor still contemplating a White House bid, Rove was already being labeled a genius and he wasn't even a national celebrity by then. He was one of Austin's top Republican consultants who had the foresight to hitch his star to a candidate with the most extraordinary built-in advantages ever known to modern man. Could other GOP consultants have taken Bush to the top just as well? Did Rove make Bush presidential or simply get a ride on his coattails to the pinnacle of power? Genius or otherwise, Rove is there now and getting much of the credit.

The most powerful consultants are the ones who are in position to catch the most blame or to bask in the glory once the contest is settled on election day. The most successful political leaders know where to find them and when to take their advice. Most of today's top political consultants in Texas have been around since the days when Democrats held most statewide offices and Bush's father was still the vice-president or dreaming of going that far someday. Some are involved in all aspects of the business as general consultants while others have developed niches in specialty areas such as polling, television and radio ad production and placement, direct mail, voter targeting, voter turnout and fundraising. They not only work for political candidates and parties but for professional associations, private interests and other clients who might be pushing or fighting a constitutional amendment or referendum or refining a message or strategy.

Some bounce back and forth between the private sector and the public payroll on an honor system that bars them from political activity during the time of the day or political season in which they're being compensated for government work. They rarely work both sides of the political aisle - and once they've crossed a partisan line the bridge behind them will likely be gone if they ever look back. The competition for business, therefore, is between consultants of the same partisan persuasion. That's why they remain segregated by party on Capitol Inside's first Texas Political Consultants Power Rankings of 2004.

The power rankings are as unscientific as the business itself. They are based partly on information gleaned from a small group of selective advisors who lobby, make law, report on lawmakers or work as consultants themselves. The rankings also rely on local knowledge gained in 20 years at the Texas Capitol as a journalist and consultant. If you disagree with some of these selections and feel perhaps that we've left somebody out, we will admit now that you are probably right about that.

The rankings reflect the fact that the consulting business in Texas is dominated by males who are white. The Republicans and Democrats each have one Hispanic among their top ten - and in both cases their primary jobs are bilingual media targeted to Hispanic audiences. There are no women in the top ten for either party - and the females in the category of special mention do not necessarily meet the standard definition of true political consultants.

Political consulting as a full-time profession has evolved rapidly over the past 30 years - and it's become an even bigger business in Austin since the partisan playing field began to level in the 1980s when professionals like Rove and John Weaver made their marks initially on the state Capital City. Consultants were instrumental in the evolution of the GOP into the state's majority party - and they were blamed when the fortunes of Democrats in Texas took a tumble.

How much do politicians depend on the people they're paying for guidance and advice? With all due respect to Rove, the president swears that he wouldn't have run for that particular job if Karen Hughes had not promised to accompany him to Washington in the event that he won. Tony Sanchez poured so much money into his army of consultants that the word on the street after the election was that he was thinking of conducting a full-scale investigation into what they did with all his cash. Rick Perry loans his consulting team out to candidates like Paul Green and Kevin Eltife when he wants them to win. State legislators Garnet Coleman, Yvonne Davis and Richard Raymond are all consultants themselves - and they still hire other consultants on whom they will depend significantly when faced with a challenge at the polls.

It's fair to assume that the consultants who work for Republicans have more power at this particular point in time. They certainly have more potential business with their side in command. But what doesn't kill the rival Democrats will presumably make them stronger and better at what they do if they hope to survive. Despite the advantages Republicans hold in the number of voters across the state and officeholders at the state level, the difference in talent and experience between the consultants for the D's and the R's is probably minimal at best.

And if that's true it shoots a hole in our initial hypothesis. It goes to show that political consultants who reap so much of the credit or blame for the outcomes of campaigns just might be a bit overrated in terms of the potential impact on the races they help run.

 

THE REPUBLICANS

1. Bryan Eppstein
The Eppstein Group

Bryan Eppstein is widely recognized as one of the best political minds on either side of the aisle in Texas. The Fort Worth consultant has concentrated on the Legislature and run hundreds of campaigns for House and Senate candidates, winning far more than he's lost. One of his most recent trophies came from his work in Kel Seliger's decisive victory in the special state Senate election in West Texas this year. He also managed State Rep. Kenny Marchant's winning primary bid for a new Congressional seat this year - and he helped State Senator Jeff Wentworth survive an assault from the right in his state Senate re-election campaign in 2002. He played a key role in the passage of Proposition 12 a year after he'd been forced to undergo surgery in the summer of 2002 to repair a blocked artery. His methods are sometimes controversial - and he's not shy about picking a fight. Some Republicans don't like the idea that he doesn't necessarily despise all Democrats as a matter of habit. But the free advice he's given the GOP is invaluable - recruit more women candidates, display a diversity of opinion and thought and demonstrate the ability to lead as well as to win elections. A mile lone list of successful candidates in the past few years includes State Senators Kip Averitt, Kim Brimer, Chris Harris, Jane Nelson, Todd Staples and Tommy Williams along with State Reps. Mary Denny, Dwayne Bohac, Gary Elkins, Charlie Geren, Bill Keffer, Jim Keffer, Lois Kolkhorst, Edmund Kuempel, Brian McCall, Tommy Merritt and Burt Solomons. And those are just a sample. The Eppstein Group's award-winning resume includes a second-place Pollie from the American Association of Political Consultants last year for a direct mail effort for Michael Burgess in his U.S. House race in 2002.

2. Kevin Moomaw
David Dewhurst Committee

No one including Karl Rove can take more credit than Kevin Moomaw for the transformation of the Texas GOP into the state's majority party. Moomaw got started in the business under U.S. Senator John Tower before going to work at the state Republican Party in the early 1980s. Republicans picked up an astonishing 16 seats in the Texas House in one year alone under his leadership. He went on to serve as the Texas coordinator for the Bush-Quayle ticket in 1988 and again in 1992 - and he managed statewide campaigns as well before taking the call of the west and heading to New Mexico to build the state GOP there like he had here as its executive director. Moomaw's successful tenure in New Mexico ended amid a dispute with the party chair over the Republican governor's support for the legalization of drugs. The chair agreed with the governor and Moomaw did not. He joined David Dewhurst's political committee after heading back to Texas in early 2001 - and he's had an instrumental role in the blossoming of the lieutenant governor into one of the most respected and effective leaders in the state.

3. Brian Berry
The Strategy Group

Brian Berry has been a force up and down the ballot as one of the premier Republican political consultants in Texas for more than a decade. He demonstrated with Kirk Edwards in the special West Texas state Senate election that a good consultant's stock can go up even if a candidate goes down. Getting Edwards into a runoff - considering the intensity of the competition - was tantamount to victory for Berry and his firm The Strategy Group. But Berry has a history of doing well in crowded fields. He managed Kay Bailey Hutchison's special election campaign when she won a U.S. Senate seat from Texas for the first time in 1993 - and he's represented George W. Bush, Bob Dole, Attorney General Greg Abbott, U.S. Rep. John Culberson and others throughout his career in media consulting. The Strategy Group helped Bob Deuell win a state Senate seat in a rematch against incumbent Democrat David Cain in 2002 - and it's worked for State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth in her bid for Congress this year. The firm also produced radio spots that helped Sam Walls make a runoff in the primary contest for Wohlgemuth's state House seat. State Reps. Sid Miller and Wayne Christian and State Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson have been clients in recent years - and the Texans for a Republican Majority, the Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Republican Party have all turned to The Strategy Group for media work in the past two years.

4. Dave Carney
Bashur, Carney and Sullivan

Dave Carney lives in New Hampshire but finds time to travel the country and to make and break careers of political leaders whose paths he happens to cross. He spends considerable time in Texas as Governor Rick Perry's top general political consultant - a job that requires him to travel even more to places such as the Bahamas - where he joined the Texas governor for a recent weekend summit on public school finance. While he might not be an authority on weighted pupils, he's become a master at the bare-knuckle politics that put former associates like Lee Attwater and Roger Ailes on the map. He directs an outfit based in Virginia called the Americans for Job Security that offers hit-and-run stealth attacks to GOP candidates who are cast against Democrats and moderate Republicans. The group is believed to be a front for big insurance and pharmaceutical interests, but nobody really knows because it doesn't have to disclose the source of its support. It was last seen scorching the earth of Northeast Texas in the special election for Senate District 1. His slash-and-burn tactics have drawn criticism from other Republicans, but he does more than just attack. He was a top aid to former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu - and he rallied to the aid of Sununu's son in the U.S. Senate race last year. His firm at home is called Norway Hill Associates - and he's a partner in a year-old Austin practice with Reggie Bashur and Ray Sullivan, two well-respected lobbyists and veterans of major campaign battles. The firm is working on campaigns for Perry's favored statewide candidates, Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo and Supreme Court hopeful Paul Green, after playing key roles in the Proposition 12 campaign last year. Carney worked on Bob Dole's campaign for president in 1996 after serving as national field director for Bush-Quayle in 1992. He's had the audacity lately to criticize the Bush campaign for a lack of aggression that he thinks will be needed to beat the Democrats this year.

5. Lionel Sosa
Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates

The founder of the largest Hispanic advertising agency in the country has been a star for the Republican Party ever since he began helping John Tower compete for the Hispanic vote. Republicans had come to expect less than 10 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas until Tower defied tradition with more than 30 percent once Sosa was on board. Tower introduced the San Antonio ad company executive to Ronald Reagan, who also did relatively well with Hispanic voters with Sosa's help. Now he's in charge of minority outreach for the Bush-Cheney campaign - a task he handled during George W. Bush's first run for the White House four years ago. The president had turned to Soso for help when he was still governor before bringing him into the national campaigns. The Republicans have spent enormous sums of money trying to increase their share of the ever-critical support of Hispanics - and Sosa has tailored a message that essentially shuns government assistance while focusing on traditional values that members of the GOP and Hispanics often share. His importance will continue grow with the Hispanic population, which is expected to be a majority in Texas in the next 10 to 15 years.

6. Mike Baselice
Baselice & Associates

It's pronounced Bass-a-lease - in case you're wondering. But no matter how you pronounce this Republican pollster and research professional's name, you know the odds are against you if he's on the other side. Baselice started his own business in the late 1990s after stints with the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Tarrance Group - and he's been Governor Rick Perry's chief pollster ever since. His clients include Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson and most recently Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo and Supreme Court contestant Paul Green in the March 9 primary this year. He was part of the million-dollar machine that steamrolled into Northeast Texas to pave the way for Kevin Eltife's victory in the special election for state Senate this year. He's done survey research for the Texas Association of Business, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the state Republican Party, the Associated Republicans of Texas and Congressional and legislative candidates in Texas and other states. His clients have included advocates for professional sports facilities in San Antonio and Houston - and he had a role in the successful push for a California constitutional amendment to allow private contracting by public entities while helping defeat a second measure for campaign finance limits in the Golden State. He wrote the book on the system that Texas Republicans cooked up in the 1980s for targeting winnable races - and it's been a valuable guide for GOP strategists and decision-makers in several key states. Simply put, he's the best political pollster in the state.

7. David Weeks
Weeks & Associates

Governor Rick Perry was still a Democrat representing a small rural town when this Abilene native helped persuade him to switch parties and run for agriculture commissioner. Weeks worked with Karl Rove to produce Perry's prophetic ads that warned of impending indictments in incumbent Democrat Jim Hightower's shop at the Department of Agriculture - and he's been a fixture on Team Perry ever since. He compiled a perfect record two years ago while directing media for Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams. This year he's doing the radio and TV for candidates that Perry endorsed over other Republicans - Supreme Court candidate Paul Green, Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo and newly-elected State Senator Kevin Eltife. The 2004 list also includes Austin lawyer Michael McCaul, who's in an April primary runoff for a new Congressional district in the nation's most expensive U.S. House race so far this year. Weeks' company did research for the Texans for a Republican Majority in 2002 as well. He's also involved in politics in other states such as Nevada, where all of his clients including Governor Kenny Guinn won their elections two years ago. He handled the media for Las Vegas veterinarian John Ensign's first Congressional race and his winning U.S. Senate campaign in 2000. He hasn't had as much success on the more liberal local political scene, working for several Austin council candidates before winning one when Bruce Todd prevailed in a nail-biter for mayor in the mid-1990s. Weeks' firm won first-place honors for a Susan Combs television ad in the 2003 Pollie Awards from the American Association of Political Consultants. He brought home another Pollie for honorable mention for his company's work on a Dewhurst commercial that year as well.

8. Todd Olsen
Olsen & Shuvalov

Todd Olsen had been an executive vice-president at Karl Rove + Company until entering the lobby - and then he bought the firm when George W. Bush told his ace political director that he needed to unload it so he could concentrate full-time on the presidential campaign. Rove had started the business in the early 1980s and built it into the most successful GOP direct mail outfit in town. He sold it to Olsen and Ted Delisi, who had also worked for Rove. Olsen is now partners with Heather Shuvalov, who worked at the firm for 10 years when Rove still owned it. Olsen & Shuvalov is still number one with Republicans in Texas for direct mail and it provides the same service for GOP candidates in other states as well. The firm has handled the mail chores for U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, ex-State Senator Bill Ratliff and others in the past few years. Direct mail is the centerpiece service, but it also works the phones for some campaigns. The firm worked for the Bush-Cheney recount effort in Florida in 2000. Its clients this year include Congressional contender Dot Snyder, who's in an April runoff for a new seat in north Central Texas. The firm made news in another state last year when the Federal Election Commission cited the Arkansas Republican Party for a number of violations including a charge that it failed to properly document more than $500,000 in spending on services provided by Olsen's firm in 2002. The company participated in 15 campaigns across the country that year and came out on top 93 percent time. Olsen & Shuvalov won a second-place Pollie award last year from the American Association of Political Consultants for its work on an absentee mail order ballot project for the Iowa Republican Party.

9. Allen Blakemore
Blakemore & Associates

If you're the right hand man for the governor and you need a consultant to find a private eye to dig up the goods on the enemy, you only want the best. In Houston, that's Allen Blakemore if you're a Republican. That's who Mike Toomey turned to in 2002 for background investigations on some Democratic candidates. One of Blakemore's top clients, Texans for a Republican Majority, picked up part of the bill. The GOP's most powerful political consultant in Houston has teamed with Dr. Steve Hotze to run the conservative faction of the Harris County GOP. His statewide clients have included Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott - and he expects to have another with Harris County Judge Robert Eckels in 2006. State Senator Kyle Janek and State Rep. Joe Nixon are among the Houston Republicans who've depended on his guidance. He's also represented the Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Blakemore & Associates handles the general consulting chores for some clients and does specialty work for others when needed. The firm ran Orlando Sanchez's mayoral campaign in 2001 and switched to Michael Berry in last year's race. After coming up short two times in a row in mayors' races, Blakemore displayed a cool reflective consultant's savvy by predicting good things for new Mayor Bill White. His top teammate is probably his wife, Elizabeth Blakemore.

10. Craig Murphy
Murphy Turner & Associates

Arlington consultant Craig Murphy spent eight years working as the chief campaign strategist and communications director for Joe Barton - the second most influential Republican U.S. House member from Texas. In the late 1990s he started his own firm, which now claims to be one of the fastest growing political consulting firms in the nation. A former consultant for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Murphy still counts Barton as a top client along with a long list of Republicans from Texas and other states. This year he's worked on the statewide campaigns of Supreme Court candidate Paul Green and Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo along with Kirk Edwards in his bid in the special election for Texas Senate and Sam Walls in his race for an open state House seat in Central Texas. His firm did general consulting, direct mail and polling for more than 60 candidates in 2002 and boasts a 94 percent success rate for its efforts that year. He's played a key role in the Congressional redistricting effort that culminated in the new U.S. House map for Texas that's in place for the elections this year.

 

THE DEMOCRATS

1. Kelly Fero
John Sharp, Texas Democratic Party

The ever-gregarious true crime author from Argentina has emerged from the rubble of the 2002 election as the Democrat who the Democratic Party's controlling powers turn to most often in Texas when mapping strategy for the comeback they envision after years of drought and defeat. A former newspaper reporter, Kelly Fero's primary expertise is media relations and message development. He was a key operative for former Attorney General Jim Mattox before joining John Sharp in the Comptroller's office and on the campaign trail for two runs at lieutenant governor. He initiated the coordinated campaign effort that led to the 2002 statewide ticket known far and wide as the dream team until it crashed and burned in every Democrat's worst nightmare. He was one of Tony Sanchez's earliest advisors - and the Sanchez campaign was never the same without him after Sharp summoned him back home. Democratic governors from other states including Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Janet Napoilitano of Arizona, Puerto Rico's Sila Calderon have enlisted his help for a variety of needs. He's also a consultant for the governors of several states in Mexico. Democrats from Ron Kirk to Lloyd Doggett have all depended on his creative counsel - and the new state chair Charles Soechting calls him for guidance daily. He scored a nationwide publicity coup when Republican lawyers threatened to take him to court over the spoof web site enronownsthegop.com. While they didn't like the web site, the Republicans who've done battle with Fero consider him to be one of the toughest and most talented adversaries in town. As Texas Democrats look to the future and try to bury the failures of the recent past, Fero has become the go-to guy who party leaders are hoping can point the way back to the promised land.

2. Dave Gold
Winning Directions

Dave Gold is viewed by many as the premier direct mail man in the country - maybe the world. The pieces he produced and put in the mail for Ann Richards were dynamite and one of the reasons she defied the odds and won the Mansion in her first try. He was a pioneer of the "television in the mailbox" approach that relies on powerful graphics to deliver targeted messages to selective groups. His direct mail campaigns have been in demand by an array of Democrats from around the nation including Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Missouri Governor Bob Holden and U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. He's also handled the mail efforts on various initiative and referendum drives in other states. His creations for Tony Sanchez and the Texas Democratic Party were some of the brighter spots in a 2002 gubernatorial campaign that ended in disaster. He was on the team that almost pulled off an upset for former legislator Paul Sadler in the special election for state Senate in Northeast Texas this year. He used to be in charge of the targeted communications division at Public Strategies Inc. in the Austin office - and he's developed successful campaigns for corporations as well as political candidates. He used to have his own company but now runs the Austin office for the powerful San Francisco-based firm Winning Directions. While mail is Gold's specialty, he offers strategic vision that top party leaders consider valuable to their hopes for a comeback. Winning Directions won a first-place Pollie award from the American Association of Political Consultants last year for Gold's work on a mail piece for Sanchez titled "The Sum of All Vetoes."

3. James Aldrete
Message Audience & Presentation

It's been a good year for James Aldrete and his firm Message Audience & Presentation. The leading expert on Hispanic media among the Democratic consultants in the state, Aldrete has helped lift three South Texas state House challengers into primary runoffs in districts that incumbents were defending at the outset of the campaigns. He helped Abel Herrero into a Corpus Christi-area runoff that State Rep. Jaime Capelo failed to make. A Rio Grande Valley client - Veronica Gonzales - almost eliminated incumbent Roberto Gutierrez in round one of the primary and will be favored to take him out once and for all in the April runoff. In yet another race to the south, Aldrete gave Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles the advice she would need to finish first in the March 9 primary voting and be in position to knock off State Rep. Gabi Canales in an April runoff. He went north and helped Marc Veasey lock up a state House seat from Fort Worth with a resounding win over a longtime incumbent, State Rep. Glenn Lewis, in the March primary competition. The list of winning Aldrete clients in recent years is a long one that includes State Senator Juan Hinojosa along State Reps. Richard Raymond, Aaron Peña, Dora Olivo and more. The Texas Democratic Party depends on his services and statewide candidates such as former Comptroller John Sharp have turned to him as well. Aldrete is versatile - and targeting messages to Hispanic and women voters is one of the things he probably does best. Message Audience & Presentation cleaned up at the American Association of Political Consultants' awards last year, winning 10 Pollies for work related to bilingual advertising and mail for clients including Tony Sanchez, several candidates in local races and the coordinated Democratic campaigns in Texas and Colorado.

4. Dan McClung
Campaign Strategies

Dan McClung has been a powerful force on the Houston political scene ever since he helped design the coordinated campaign for the Democratic ticket that swept all of the statewide offices in Texas in 1982. He had a big hand in the elections of Bob Lanier and Lee Brown to the mayor's office - and he's represented a long list of candidates including U.S. Reps. Chris Bell and Ken Bentsen, State Senator Rodney Ellis, and State Reps. Dan Ellis, Jessica Farrar, Patty Gray, Scott Hochberg, Joe Moreno and Tom Uher as well. The Texas Democratic Party has depended on his firm, Campaign Strategies, for a multitude of services as a key point person in the state's largest city. The trial lawyers signed him on to help battle Proposition 12 - and he had a pivotal role in the pro-rail push in the state's largest city. He's won plenty - and lost some, too - and one of the sweetest victories of all might have come on March 9 when a current client, State Board of Education member Alma Allen, shocked a former McClung client, State Rep. Ron Wilson, in one of the most expensive Democratic primary battles ever waged in Texas.

5. Jeff Montgomery
Montgomery & Associates

Jeff Montgomery has been in the middle of the bitter infighting among state House Democrats in the primary elections this year - but he's not a typical Texas Democratic Party in crowd member - and he marches more often to his own beat than he does to the party line. That might make him have to work a little harder than the state party's consulting establishment for the business he gets doing media and research for political candidates. But it might also force him to try to be a little better at the job than some state party insiders who take their share of the pie more for granted - and he has as many or more awards to show for his work than most consultants in town. He helped State Rep. Aaron Peña defend his Rio Grande Valley state House seat this year against a well-armed primary opponent with strong business support - and he handled the consulting duties for former Rep. Tracy King as he prevailed in a rematch against State Rep. Timoteo Garza for the Southwest Texas seat that changed hands two years ago. Montgomery produced former House Education Chairman Paul Sadler's media in the special state Senate election in Northeast Texas - and the Democrats came close to an upset despite unprecedented GOP firepower for a legislative campaign. In addition to his work in politics, Montgomery has conducted public opinion surveys for a diverse range of corporate and public clients including Mikal Watts' law firm and the University of Texas System. He's made some Republicans - and some Democrats - mad with polls that he initiated on his own. Despite the relatively independent nature, he's handled some direct mail and phone banks for the state Democratic Party in recent years. His firm, Montgomery & Associates, last year added several Pollie awards from the American Association of Political Consultants to its collection of honors including first-place in bilingual television advertising for a spot on the Cameron County judge race and third place in the same category for a Barbara Canales Black ad in her state Senate campaign.

6. Peck Young
Emory Young

Peck Young has an institutional memory that gives him the power to rattle off the voting histories of most every precinct in the state. His partner, Bill Emory, has long been one of the best at interpreting political data and polling statistics and finding the meaning beyond them. The political lore of the Capital City is filled with stories about Young being the real brains behind the state Democratic chairs while he runs the state party and controls the conventions from some back room. To some degree, they are true. He's been the mastermind behind the party's get-out-the-vote strategist for years - and his strong suit has been to the south where his firm, Emory Young, has clients who've ranged from State Rep. Vilma Luna to ex-State Senator Carlos Truan and most recently Nelda Martinez, who finished ahead of incumbent State Rep. Jaime Capelo to claim a spot in a runoff for the party's nomination for his state House seat in Corpus Christi. Young headed east earlier this year to help former state House member Paul Sadler do battle and make it close against a Republican machine of awesome firepower in the special election for state Senate. He's worked on a long list of statewide races - including Tony Sanchez's failed bid for governor two years ago. The good news on election night that year came when a top client, State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, won re-election in the face of a high-dollar GOP challenge. In late 2003 Young helped Charles Soechting win the state chair's race after arranging the timing and circumstances that made him the favorite. Because Young's been so visible for so long, he was a natural target for some of the criticism and blame that Democrats were dishing out among themselves in the days and weeks following the fall election of 2002. Some say his days of glory belong to the past. But he's still getting some of the best business the D's have to offer.

7. Craig Varoga
Varoga Rice

Craig Varoga is one of the few consultants on the planet who's beaten the Bushes - not when any of them were on the ballot of course - but when the elder George and members of his famous family rallied behind the Hispanic Republican that almost knocked off Lee Brown in the Houston mayor's race of 2001. Almost doesn't count for much in the political business - and when the national Republican Party began pouring the money into Orlando Sanchez's race for a massive aerial assault - Varoga rolled up his sleeves and helped organize one of the most energized ground wars ever in Texas to make sure Brown survived. Before running the mayor's re-election bid that year he'd been summoned from his home base of Houston to Al Gore's headquarters in Nashville in 2000 for opposition research help in the race for president. The Texas Democratic Party has counted heavily on his services and he's worked for the campaigns of ex-Comptroller John Sharp as well. A former communications director for U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Varoga's run campaigns for statewide offices, Congress and mayors' jobs across the nation - and he's worked as an advisor to the League of Women Voters and State Department as well. If you need some good advice, he prescribes it a monthly column for Campaigns & Elections magazine called Campaign Doctor.

8. Dean Rindy
Rindy Miller Media

Texas Democrats were still in a state of shock when Dean Rindy sent out an email describing their 2002 campaign effort as the "greatest fiasco in the history of Texas politics." Failing to assess due blame, he declared, would be a "recipe for more disaster." The angry analysis revealed one of the reasons Rindy is one of the most successful and powerful Democratic consultants working in Texas today. He's got passion for his work - and he hates to lose as a result. Rindy's specialty is media, but he performs other tasks as well. He handled some of the Texas Democratic Party's direct mail efforts during the year of the fiasco in question - and despite his frustration with the statewide effort - he was on the winning side of campaigns for clients such as State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos and State Reps. Scott Hochberg and Eddie Rodriguez. He's had a couple of key victories so far this year while helping State Reps. Allan Ritter and Dan Ellis overcome formidable primary challenges. Rindy has also represented Congressional candidates from Texas and other states - and he's been a player in Austin city politics and worked for Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle as well. He'd worked as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and came up short in a race for state representative before helping launch the the environmental political movement in Austin that led to the Save our Springs ordinance in the early 1990s. His former partner is Mark McKinnon, who broke party ranks to become the media director for the Bush campaign for president in 2000.

9. Ed Martin
Congressional Delegation

Ed Martin stepped down from his old job as the Texas Democratic Party's executive director about 10 years ago so. But that was just a formality. Ever since that time he's had the ear of the state party chairs who followed in the foot prints of his longtime boss Bob Slage - and he's been in on all the major decisions, helped craft the message, handled paid and earned media, organized, sermonized and done just about everything else you can think of in his second life as private consultant sharing a mutually-beneficial co-dependence with the TDP. His primary duties in recent years have been taking care of the home state needs of the Democrats in the Texas Congressional delegation. His redistricting expertise and campaign talents are key reasons the D's have maintained a majority in the delegation for as long as they have while seeing their advantages go up in the smoke of change that appeared inevitable in the state Senate and the House. He's worked most closely with Martin Frost, but that association could be in its twilight stages as the former House Democratic Caucus chair competes against a Republican incumbent in a district that leans toward the GOP. As one of the state party's top two or three independent contractors, he works with every competitive Democratic candidate as well the members of the State Democratic Executive Committee, the county parties and the DNC.

10. Harold Cook
Senate Democratic Caucus

Harold Cook graduated from the Garry Mauro wing of the state Democratic Party while others who might fit the profile of political hire were dropping like tenpins in or near the vicinity of the General Land Office once the Democrat who'd run the shop since 1983 was no longer there. A former marketing division director under Mauro, Cook became the first of several executive directors to enter and exit the revolving door at the Texas Democratic Party under the state chairwoman and former Republican who was in charge of that operation for several years. He signed on with the state Senate Democratic Caucus five years ago and he's been providing consultation to the senators in the minority party ever since. He had a key role as a strategist for the Democrats in the Congressional redistricting battle and the escape of the Texas 11 to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a 45-day boycott of the unprecedented midstream remap process. The quorum-breaking tactic failed to kill the redistricting bill but it stalled it long enough to trip the national Democrats' fundraising switch and bring some needed cash into Texas for the outmanned crew here. As one of the many Democratic consultants who signed on at some point to help Tony Sanchez's gubernatorial bid, Cook's job was to help prevent top Democrats from locking horns with each other as the liaison between the state Democratic Party and the campaign.

 

Special Mention

REPUBLICANS

John Colyandro - Texas Conservative Coalition
Longtime political operative directed the Texans for a Republican Majority when it played a major role in the 2002 election that gave the GOP control of the Texas House for the first time in 130 years. Worked as chief of staff for Carole Keeton Strayhorn at the Comptroller's office during her first tem before signing on as executive director of the Texas Conservative Coalition. Helped Attorney General Greg Abbott win that post two years ago. Spent a significant amount of time in the past year answering questions about his role in TRMPAC's activities and the grand jury investigation that has focused on them.

Jim Ellis - Americans for a Republican Majority
Former political director for U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and executive director of the national organization after which the Texans for a Republican Majority was patterned. Major force behind the election of the GOP's first state House majority in more than a century and the Congressional redistricting effort that followed in 2003. Grand jury is looking at campaign activities in which he was involved in Texas. Lives in Washington D.C.

Royal Masset - Royal Masset Political Consulting
Austin consultant, columnist, lawyer and visionary political director for the state Republican Party when it determined that a selective election strategy for the Legislature would be more effective than throwing equal amounts of resources across the board. Implemented the Optimal Republican Voting Strength system that helped the GOP pick up a record 16 state House seats in 1984. Despite success of ORVS, which is now used across the nation, he's still not afraid to take on a longshot candidate as a client. Led training schools that produced many winning candidates and campaign managers for the GOP. Honored as a Rising Star of Politics by Campaigns & Elections magazine.

Mark McKinnon - Bush-Cheney Campaign, Public Strategies
Former consultant to Mark White, Ann Richards and the late Bob Bullock before giving up his Democratic credentials for a ride on the Bush juggernaut as the media director with a $150 million ad budget in the 2000 White House campaign. Working in same capacity with the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004. Former partner with Democrat Dean Rindy in media firm Rindy and McKinnon and also worked as a consultant with Sawyer/Miller Group. Former songwriter for Kris Kristofferson and served as editor of the Daily Texans while attending the University of Texas. President of Maverick Media and a managing director of Public Strategies Inc. in Austin.

Mike Toomey - Governor's Chief of Staff
Ex-Texas legislator on leave from lobby practice to work as the governor's top aide. Expert tactician and strategist who's not known as a consultant but is sought out more for political advice and guidance than most anyone in town. Represented Houston in the Texas House before signing on as chief of staff to state's first Republican chief executive, Bill Clements. Rumored as possible state comptroller candidate in 2006. Wields enormous power in current position. Excellent lobbying instincts and skills. But his first love is politics - and he might be best at that.

Ellen Williams - Texas Lobby Group
Lobbyist, lawyer, journalist - and when it's campaign season - a key advisor to Republican candidates on major issues like education and school finance. Stepped into that key role after Margaret LaMontagne followed the previous governor to Washington for a White House job. Former general counsel to Bill Ratliff and lead staff expert on the education code reform effort in 1995. Works with Bill Messer in Austin lobby practice that Mike Toomey belonged to before signing on with the current governor.

Best of the Rest - Republicans: Reggie Bashur, Kevin Brannon, Deirdre Delisi, Ted Delisi, Rob Johnson, Bill Miller, Jeff Norwood, Rossanna Salazar, Mark Sanders, Todd Smith, Ray Sullivan, Bill Tryon

 

DEMOCRATS

Matt Angle - U.S. Rep. Martin Frost's Chief of Staff
Chief of staff for Congressman Martin Frost. Former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee while Frost was chairman. Led DCCC staff during the revolt against Newt Gingrich when Democrats wrestled away five U.S. House seats from Republicans in 1998 despite GOP's 3-1 advantage in fundraising. Served as executive director of House Democratic Caucus during Frost's tenure as chair. Played key role in battleground plan that helped Democrats keep Texas House majority in 1998 and 2000 and was point man in Austin for Congressional Democrats during redistricting fight in 2003. Named as one of the Rising Stars of Politics by Campaigns & Elections magazine. Fort Worth native who has lived for years in Washington D.C.

Christian Archer - Archer Nathan
Up and coming star who team with partner Mark Nathan to manage Will Wynn's winning campaign for Austin mayor last year after working on GOTV as political director for the ill-fated but well-paying Tony Sanchez campaign for governor in 2002. Their firm claimed a huge victory managing U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's primary campaign this year for a Congressional seat in a new district that Republicans had drawn for a Hispanic. The Archer Nathan stock is at an all-time high and rising.

Yvonne Davis - State Representative
Democratic legislator from Dallas since 1993. Democratic National Committee member. Consulting work is low-key but the advice she gives when its sought and offered cannot be ignored. Directs candidates to the African-American vote in Dallas and tells them how to get it. The Tony Sanchez campaign paid her $90,000 for such advice in the governor's race of 2002. The previous state Democratic Party chair got on her bad side and failed to complete her term - a mistake the current state chairman does not plan to make.

Jason Stanford - Stanford Research
Former reporter who covered Moscow for the Los Angeles Times. Deputy press secretary for the Ann Richards campaign committee in 1994. Founded firm that specializes in opposition research for Democratic candidates and groups and claims experience in more than 100 campaigns. Long list of clients includes U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio and other Congressional Democrats across the country as well as state legislators such as Pete Gallego, Juan Hinojosa and Richard Raymond. Chosen as one of the Rising Stars of Politics by Campaigns & Elections magazine in 2002.

George Shipley - Shipley & Associates
Legendary Democratic consultant known as Doctor Dirt. Versatile consultant whose chief claim to fame has been opposition research. Represents the private attorneys who won the state a record judgment and drew the wrath of Republicans in the lawsuit against the tobacco industry in the mid-1990s. Former consultant for Dan Morales who switched to Tony Sanchez when the two clashed in the Democratic primary in 2002. Works with Judy Zaffirini and signed on to help the Senate Democrats during the 2003 redistricting fight. Long list of past clients and campaigns includes Ann Richards' winning race for governor in 1990.

Randy Thompson - The Thompson Group
Owner of communications firm with offices in Austin, Washington D.C., Denver and Little Rock and clients across the United States. Handles advertising and public relations for both political and corporate clients. The Texas Democratic Party paid the company a significant sum for media, mail and phone work in 2002 - and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association has turned to Thompson's firm in recent years as well. Clients have included former House Speaker Pete Laney and State Reps. Jim McReynolds, Allan Ritter and Patrick Rose, who was a bright spot in 2002 when many of the firm's other candidates were buried under the GOP avalanche. Helped Stephen Frost to a primary victory for an open Northeast Texas House seat this year. Kate Hannah provides experience and expertise in Austin.

Best of the Rest - Democrats: Jeff Crosby, Bill Emory, Glen Maxey, Mark Nathan, Glenn Smith, Jeff Smith, Chris Turner, Gerry Tyson

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