Thursday, March 09, 2006

Voters sent a clear message, PAC's official says

I know a lot of folks are headed out soon for spring break (including myself). Want to share with you some current news that illustrates the power that parents and grassroots communities have when they exercise it. -Angela

Thu, Mar. 09, 2006
Voters sent a clear message, PAC's official says

AUSTIN - Voters sent a clear message Tuesday that they expect their lawmakers' loyalties to remain with the people who placed them in office and not with the partisan leaders who control state government, said the head of a grassroots organization that helped topple one of the Texas Legislature's powerful incumbents.

"People back home expect results. And they want public servants who will listen to their concerns, not to the viewpoints of certain political leaders," said Carolyn Boyle on Wednesday. Boyle's Texas Parent PAC is credited with defeating state Rep. Kent Grusendorf, the Arlington Republican who is chairman of the House Public Education Committee.

Boyle's Austin-based organization targeted Grusendorf and a handful of other veteran lawmakers who its members believed had lost touch with their constituencies during last year's effort to overhaul the state school finance system and reshape public education.

Grusendorf and state Rep. Elvira Reyna, R-Mesquite, were defeated. San Angelo Republican Scott Campbell finished second to a Parent PAC-backed candidate in a three-person race but will advance to a runoff next month, as will Parent PAC candidates who ran in open seats in Lampasas and Denton counties.

Boyle said her organization was instrumental in helping many of the House Republicans, including Fort Worth's Charlie Geren, who were targeted for defeat by San Antonio millionaire James Leininger because they did not support his push for private-school vouchers.

Several political observers agreed that Parent PAC and other grassroots efforts managed to tap into voters' discontent over the failure by top state leaders to fix what the Texas Supreme Court has ruled an unconstitutional school finance system. Gov. Rick Perry has called three special legislative sessions but has been unable to reach an agreement with House Speaker Tom Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Texas Senate's president, on a plan to fix the problem.

All three are Republicans.

Political analyst Harvey Kronberg, who publishes the online Quorum Report, said the vote tallies in many key House districts spell bad news for Craddick.

"The speaker is weaker today than he was a week ago," Kronberg said. Grusendorf has been Craddick's point man on public education ever since the Republicans gained control of the House in 2002. "The speaker forced a lot of members to cast votes on school finance and other issues that were not always popular with the folks back home, and that's what a lot of members were having to defend themselves on during this campaign."

Not so, said Craddick spokesman Chris Cutrone.

"Elections are local matters, and there are a lot of factors that go in to determining their outcome," Cutrone said. "Overall, the speaker was very pleased with the outcomes in most of the races."

© 2006 Star-Telegram and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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