Friend and foe alert: Gov. Greg Abbott has $41 million, a campaign TV studio and plans to use it.

Good Monday Austin:

Late Friday afternoon I walked over to the Texas Association of Broadcasters Building on East 11th Street a few blocks from the Capitol, to interview Gov. Greg Abbott about the progress of the special session.

The third floor of the building was home to Abbott’s campaign for governor in 2014 and has remained his campaign office ever since.

Of late, the campaign has its own TV studio and I was going to be there to watch the governor do some interviews remotely with evening news shows in Abilene and Lubbock and with another outfit that serves a handful of TV stations across Texas.

I hadn’t been to the campaign office before, and I know that Texans for Greg Abbott raised $10 million in the last dozen days of June, and had nearly $41 million in the bank.

Pretty good.

And yet, I also knew that the Abbott campaign had apparently fallen on hard times, that the fundraising machine was sputtering.

I knew this because of a mournful, heavily underlined and highlighted email I had received only 24 hours earlier from Mary Ruegg with Texans for Greg Abbott.

Mary didn’t mince words:

I have some bad news—we missed our fundraising goal for July.

Because we weren’t able to meet our end-of-month goal, our ability to scale up our field operation will be dramatically impacted–meaning we will be giving serious ground to national Democrats and liberal activist groups like Battleground Texas. Will you contribute right now to make sure we have a strong start this month?

Unless we have a strong start in August, there will be a huge opening for liberal megadonors and their hand-picked candidates up and down the ballot. Make a contribution now to keep Texas red!

Your support for Governor Abbott is critical in making sure we can compete with the endless funds being poured into Texas by liberal megadonors!

Democrats are watching our every move. Not meeting our fundraising goals will only embolden them in their efforts to turn Texas blue. 

Right now, we’re vulnerable. And if we aren’t able to stop attacks from the Democrats, our Texas values will be replaced with a far-left liberal agenda. 

Every conservative principle we value – from our protecting our religious freedoms, to advancing our Second Amendment rights, to securing our border – will be threatened if Democrats win in 2018.

We need to push back and show the Democrats that Texas is not up for grabs. Show Governor Abbott you have his back in the fight to keep Texas red!

There’s too much at stake. We need every supporter to step up and make sure we start strong and don’t fall behind this month. Contribute right now to join Governor Abbott in fighting for Texas!

Sincerely, 

Mary Ruegg
Texans for Greg Abbott

It was not as if I  hadn’t been warned.

On Monday I had received another email from Texans from Greg Abbott, this time from the wonderfully named Hillary Bombard.

I am going to keep this brief: We need your help.

The last two weeks have been great for our campaign. Governor Abbott’s vision of low regulations, traditional values, and more economic liberty for all is striking a chord with voters all across Texas.

Governor Abbott has also been hard at work to ensure that his priorities for the special session, including property tax reform and preventing local government overreach, will be passed by lawmakers. 

But we aren’t the only ones who’ve been working hard. The Democrats are more determined than ever to turn Texas blue. Because of Governor Abbott’s conservative victories, he’s their number one target in Texas. 

Here’s the bad news: our fundraising is below what we anticipated AND not enough to compete with the millions being brought in by Democrats. Bottom line, we need your help.

Will you step up with a $20.18 contribution now?

If we do not raise an additional $23,235.50 by midnight tonight it will have a dramatic impact on our ability to defeat our Democrat opponents and keep Texas Red. We cannot let this happen. Please step up right now before it is too late.

Sincerely, 

Hilary Bombard
Texans for Greg Abbott

And now, apparently, it is too late. Texans for Greg Abbott apparently fell short of the $23,235.50 goal.

Such a precise number. I figured maybe it was the past-due balance for the electric bill.

I arrived at the Texas Association of Broadcasters Building not sure what I would find.

On the directory of the lobby, there was nothing listed for the third floor.

Maybe they were behind on the rent. Maybe eviction proceedings were already underway.

But, on exiting the elevator on the third floor, all was well.

The floor was a warren of offices, modestly busy for an after-five Friday afternoon a long way from any election.

The TV studio includes a big photo of the Capitol by day as a backdrop, and another of the Capitol by night for those midnight oil shots, though they haven’t used that one yet.

The studio has also been used to cut Facebook videos, two dozen so far,  with 19 senators and representatives who authored legislation furthering his special session agenda. The format of all the videos is the same. The first half is the governor thanking the lawmaker for leading the charge on whatever the issues is, and talking about the issue a little, followed by the lawmaker thanking the governor for his leadership and talking about the issue a little bit.

(Suggestion: The campaign use the Capitol by night backdrop to produce a more casual series of Abbott After Dark videos in which, say, the governor mixes it up with  Joe Straus and Dan Patrick.)

What follows are the videos that have been posted so far.

Others have been made but not yet posted for Sens. Larry Taylor and Konni Burton, and two for Lois Kolkhorst, and for Reps. Phil King, Travis Clardy, Tan Parker, and two for Ron Simmons.

Following each are the couple of top comments, according to Facebook.

In other words, I didn’t choose them, and I was surprised at the number of Abbott critics who go to his Facebook page and offer negative comments.

So much for the internet segregating us in information silos.

We begin with Rep. Larry Gonzalez of Round Rock and the must-pass sunset legislation.

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As I noted at the outset, I was surprised at how much lip the governor was getting on his Facebook page, even spilling over into Trivia Tuesday.
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OK Lance, That would be …

From his campaign website:

Meet the Man who will Rise4Texas

A successful business man in Dallas since 2005, Jeffrey Payne is running for governor of Texas. He owns five diverse companies from a court reporting firm, a land holding company, a property management company, a retail clothing outlet, and a night club. His success in Texas business is exactly what he intends to bring to the political office. He wants to see the needs of all Texans being met and not just a select few.

Payne was born in Maine. At only three years old, his mom passed away and he was sent to an orphanage in Louisiana. He spent most of his childhood there, then entered the foster care system at age fifteen. He knows what it’s like to be a child in need. He also knows how effective supportive adults can be in a child’s life. He credits those in his life who helped him become the successful person he is today. He wants to make sure other children have those supportive adults in their lives, too. He also knows a state needs better policies in education, healthcare, environment, labor, and foster care as well as better financial policies and more responsible spending than Texas currently has in order to be successful again.

Jeffrey went through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The devastation of that natural disaster left him with the clothes he was wearing, his two dogs, and $2000 in the bank. Katrina took everything else, so he set out for Texas. Starting life over, Payne has rebuilt his life and not only has he been successful in business – he has helped to raise thousands of dollars for charity. His title as former International Mr. Leather was a great start to his philanthropic work for the LGBTQ community and for the greater Texas community, which he continues to this day. In 2010, he also founded Sharon St. Cyr – a non-profit organization that raises funds and provides hearing aids for hearing-impaired individuals and provides grants to organizations for ASL interpreting services.  This program is near and dear to Payne’s heart as it’s named after his mom and he is hard of hearing as well.

Payne is married to his husband, Sergio, and lives with him and their adopted puppies. He believes the current Texas government is short-changing Texans and he can make a positive difference. Texans deserve a governor who believes in real Texas values such as integrity, honesty, freedom, and independence. Now is the time for a change in Texas politics.

From James Russell writing at D Magazine:

He’s a nontraditional candidate. He is not a native Texan. He claims no political experience. And, should he win the primary, Payne would be the first openly gay gubernatorial nominee from either major party in Texas history. Becoming governor of Texas is hardly easy and it’s absolutely not cheap. He’s up against an incumbent governor seeking his second term in a blood-red statehouse with a war chest filled with $43 million. Abbott also currently faces no credible primary opponent.

For the past 20 years he has been involved primarily in the leather scene, a special interest subgroup, known best for raising money for local LGBT and HIV/AIDS groups.

Many people, particularly voters, may not understand the group’s kinks. But he is not ashamed.

“It’s a community I support and I will always support. It says no matter where you are on the spectrum I support you. Own who you are, be proud of who you are,” Payne said.

He also earned some pretty big titles, including Mr. Leather International 2009. He went across the world talking about LGBT equality and fundraising for HIV/AIDS funds. When the opportunity arose in 2011, he bought The Eagle, Dallas’ premiere leather bar­. He also founded the Sharon St. Cyr Fund, a non-profit providing hearing aids to LGBT people who cannot afford them. (Payne is hard of hearing.)

As the reigning champ, Payne was also a judge for the selection of his successor, which it turned out was truly history-making.

From Brett Anthony at ChicagoPride.com.

Transgender man who uses a wheelchair wins IML 2010 competition

Chicago, IL – Tyler McCormick, Mr. Rio Grande Leather of New Mexico, was named International Mr. Leather at the 32nd Anniversary IML Competition Sunday night in Chicago.

McCormick, a female-to-male transgender man who uses a wheelchair, bested a field of over 50 contestants, from across the U.S. and around the world. 

“When I first transitioned, I was told I would never be accepted and that I would never be able to take my shirt off in public,” McCormick said during Sunday’s competition. “Standing here as a strong, confident leatherman is proof to the contrary.”

Participants were judged on stage presence and personality (Pecs and Personality), leather image, presentation skills, and physical appearance.

Over 2,000 leather enthusiasts packed the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Chicago for Sunday’s competition. Colton Ford entertained the audience. 

First runner up was Lance Holman, Mr. San Francisco Leather, while Jack Andrew Duke, Mr. Texas Leather, was second runner-up.

The Mr. International Bootblack winner was Tim Starkey of the Boston Ramrod.

The judges for the 32nd International Mr. Leather competition are International Mr. Leather 2009 Jeffrey Payne (Dallas, TX), Laura Antoniou (Queens, NY), Shawn Carroll (Ottawa, Canada), Demetri Moshoyannis (San Francisco, CA), Chad Neal (Kansas City, MO), Gene Romaine (Seattle, WA), Daniel Ruester (Berlin, Germany), William “Rubberwilli” Schendel (Chicago), and Robert Valin (New York).

IML began in 1979 when about 400 gay leathermen gathered in Chicago. Today thousands gather in the Windy City over Memorial Day Weekend for what has become an annual tradition for the leather community. 

From a July 24 Payne interview with the Texas Tribune’s Alex Samuels:

When are you going to give your campaign the $2.5 million, and how will you sustain your campaign beyond that?

I’ll give it as soon as it’s needed. Right now, we’re building our campaign headquarters and the money that I have is something that we’ll fall back on when we need it. We already have a huge grassroots campaign out there. We already have donations coming in from all over the state [and] as we build momentum, more and more people will get on the bandwagon.

Abbott has a nearly $41 million war chest heading into his re-election campaign. How do you plan on competing with that?

I plan to be a lot smarter with the spending of money. This is a campaign where I’ll be going out all over Texas and speaking with people one-on-one to get our message out. We know that people want to hear alternative solutions to the issues facing our state, so I know they’re going to listen.

I’ve never believed that you have to compete dollar for dollar. I’m not worried about that. I have no doubt we’ll be able to raise quite a bit of money and we’ll use any donations we receive in a very smart and effective manner.

Why should Abbott see you as a threat?

I don’t think he expects me. I don’t know that he sees me as a threat right now, but we’re 16 months away from the election and that’ll change. 

Right now, I believe Abbott sees me as a single issue — meaning [he likely thinks], “Jeffrey is gay so there’s not much to worry about.” But that’s less of an issue to people than I believe he’s giving credit to. People want someone who’s going to shoot straight with them. They want to know that the person speaking with them is not just looking for the next vote whenever re-election comes up.

When people hear my story, they’ll see that for the last 49 years I’ve been a fighter. I don’t back down and I fight the good fight, but I’m also able to work with people.

But Payne is not alone.

From San Antonio we have …

From Wakely’s website.

 
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But Wakely, who appears to be in the Bernie Sander mold. seems weakly affiliated with the Democratic Party
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So what exactly is Abbott worried about?
Soros. George Soros.

This Op-Ed originally appeared in Washington Examiner on July 31, 2017

Liberals are trying to mess with Texas. And they don’t plan on stopping there.
 
Still reeling from nearly a decade of devastating losses in statehouses across the nation as well as in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats in Washington, D.C. are plotting to pour hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local elections across the country.
 
With the help of hedge fund billionaire George Soros, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee hopes to wrest control from voters of congressional re-districting in 2021 when booming conservative states such as Texas will gain seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. All for the benefit of their special-interest donors.
 
That the first fundraisers for this self-described “super group” were held in San Francisco and Los Angeles reveals one of their goals: to reinstate Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. But they aren’t stopping there.
 
Headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, the tax-exempt 527 political action committee plans a three-pronged attack to flood state-level races with outside money, to leverage activist courts to wrest control of state redistricting plans, and finally, with the formidable community organizing prowess of former President Barack Obama, to fund astroturfed ballot initiatives in the guise of “fairness.”
 
During Obama’s eight years, Democrats lost 12 governorships, nine Senate seats, 62 House seats, and more than 900 state legislative seats.
 
Republican legislators are now the majority in both chambers in 32 states, and an amazing 33 states, including Texas, are led by Republican governors.
 
Resoundingly rejected by voters, Democrats’ last hope is to pervert congressional district maps to subvert the will of the people…
Soros also made it into the peroration of the  governor’s July 14 speech in San Antonio announcing his candidacy for governor.
Liberals think they’ve found cracks in our armor.
In 2014, I won Harris County and Bexar Country. In 2016, Hillary won them both.
 
What happened?
 
George Soros for one.
 
He poured big money into Harris County and they won every county-wide race.
 
Liberals are messing with Texas.
 
Every far-left liberal you can think of from George Soros to Nancy Pelosi is trying to undo the Texas brand of liberty and prosperity.
 
But I have news for the liberals. Texas values are not up for grabs.
 
I’m a fighter and I know that you are too.
 
With your help, we’re building the largest grass roots army in Texas history right here in Bexar County and across the state.
 
I’m committed to preserving your Texas Liberty.
 
I’ve proven that I’m willing to fight Washington D.C. but I’m counting on you to have my back.
 
Texas is the Lone Star State for a reason. We stand apart as a model for the rest of the nation.
 
Our exceptionalism is rooted in our very beginning. Courageous heroes died so Texas could be free.
 
Since that time, Texas has charted a course that has elevated it to the premier state in the greatest nation in the history of the world.
 
Now I need your help to write the next chapter in our extraordinary history.
 
Together, we will keep Texas the most exceptional state in America.
 

In the meantime, with more than $40 million in the bank, the governor will be using his campaign TV studio to cut ads both supporting his allies in the House, and, very possible, opposing those in his own party who crossed him and his agenda.

From my Sunday story in the Statesman based on my Friday evening interview with the governor:

Abbott warned before the session started that he would be keeping track of who was with him and who was against him on his agenda, a delineation that might continue right into the March Republican primaries.

“I think as governor I need to strongly consider getting involved in primaries to make sure we continue to elect the type of officials who are going to be reflective of conservative governance,” Abbott said.

“Texas, as you know, has been known to have its own brand, its own model,” he said. “It’s essential that that model not erode, so I will be doing all that I can in this next election cycle to ensure that we will have representatives and senators who stand for Texas values, that will keep Texas exceptional.”

Could that include working to defeat a Republican incumbent?

“We’ll see. It’s premature,” said Abbott, who has nearly $41 million in his campaign account and, so far, no serious opponent. But, he predicted, “I will be involved in primaries in the upcoming election cycle.”

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