Political consultant Carol Reed answered questions about the battle for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Dallas mayor's race, the 2012 Republican presidential primary and an assortment of local and state issues last night at a meeting of the Dallas Log Cabin Republicans. However, she refused to address a recent tweet from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Leppert criticizing President Barack Obama's claim that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
Leppert, who participated in gay parades and hired a gay chief of staff when he was mayor, on Wednesday tweeted: "Another mistake from Obama on DOMA. We need leaders in Washington to stand for the principle of marriage between one man and one woman."
DLCR president Rob Schlein said he spoke to Leppert shortly before the meeting, and Leppert agreed to meet with Schlein to discuss his concerns. That didn't stop Schlein from opening the gathering by reading a lengthy letter he sent Leppert in which he wrote "nobody loves a flip-flopper or a political panderer." Schlein said Reed told him that the tweet may have been written by "an overzealous campaign worker." Regardless of who wrote it, Leppert's stance on gay marriage and civil unions is quite clear on his website. He's against them.
"Great damage has been done at the onset of your campaign from my view," Schlein told Leppert in the letter.
Reed stressed she's not Leppert's consultant or spokesperson and said her role in his campaign is as a senior adviser. She outlined a general path to Leppert's success in the March 2012 primary, suggesting his high name recognition and "favorables" in the largest media market in the state will help him emerge from a group of "unknowns."
"I think it's Leppert and [Lieutenant Governor David] Dewhurst in a runoff," she told about 35 folks at the Mattito's on Routh Street.
The announced candidates include former Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams. Dewhurst, U.S. House Rep. Ron Paul and former SMU running back Craig James have expressed interest. Reed said she often confuses "the two Williams guys," asking the audience at one point: "Which one's the car salesman?" (That would be Roger Williams.)
Reed said her client, council member Ron Natinsky, faces the challenge of raising "a lot of money" in his bid to succeed Leppert as mayor, but she expressed confidence that his base of support in North Dallas will be enough to secure a win over former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle and ex-Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings. Reed acknowledged that Natinsky's affiliation with the Republican Party will become an issue.
"Even though it's a nonpartisan race, people are going to look to see what your record has been," she said.
Natinsky, who appeared at last month's DLCR meeting, had a brief message for those in attendance.
"Send more money. Vote," he said. "Send more money. Vote again."
Although she's arguably the city's top political consultant, Reed downplayed the role consultants play in campaigns.
"I gotta tell ya, except in the area of discipline and knowing when to do things, consultants don't win these races," she said.
Reed also discussed the District 14 city council race, in which Angela Hunt faces four potential challengers. She said Hunt will be difficult to beat as an incumbent, and the other relatively unknown candidates are likely to split the anti-Hunt vote.
"I can't believe at least 51 percent in that district don't think she's done a good job," she said.
Reed's "not fired up" about any of the potential Republican presidential nominees and claimed Mitt Romney's campaign is the "most organized" at this point. When she asked for a show of hands for those prepared to vote for Sarah Palin, only three people expressed enthusiasm about Palin following a collective groan from the crowd.
While talking about political landscape statewide, Reed said she wasn't impressed with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White.
"The first time I saw him on TV, I said, 'He ain't got a chance,'" she said. "There was just not a gravitas about him. There just was something about him that wasn't very appealing."
Responding to a question about Democratic Commissioner John Wiley Price "controlling the city," Reed defended Price, citing his involvement with the Parkland Hospital bond program.
"I've worked with John for years and years and years, and when he is focused and he's not getting off on something, he's just a really good county commissioner," she said.
The Tea Party has caused the Republican Party to move away from social issues, Reed said, with the economy, jobs, the deficit, taxes and education polling as the top concerns among the GOP.
"The Republican primary voter is as conservative as I've ever seen it," she said.
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