Political People and their Moves

Angela Hale, press secretary for House Speaker Joe Straus, is leaving that job for the private sector.

She'll join Red Media Group, a public relations firm made up of former TV folk like Hale herself, who worked at KXAS-TV in Fort Worth before going to work for Attorney General Greg Abbott. She came to Straus' office from Abbott's at the beginning of this year. No replacement has been named.

Greg Noschese resigned as mayor pro tem of Mesquite and will run for the Texas House against Rep. Robert Miklos, D-Mesquite, in next year's election. Both men are attorneys. Miklos, a freshman lawmaker, beat former Mesquite Mayor Mike Anderson in last year's election.

Department of Corrections: George Clayton of Richardson has opened a campaign account to run against State Board of Education member Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, R-Dallas. We mixed him up with his treasurer, James Southward, in last week's edition... One more: We put Billy Briscoe, who's running for the Texas House, on Bill Hobby's staff. He worked for Paul Hobby, son of the former lite guv. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Michael Williams picked up an out-of-state endorsement from Newt Gingrich in his bid to become the next U.S. Senator from Texas.Williams broke the news in an Austin American-Statesman blog, and then on Facebook and Twitter, directing his supporters to a fundraising and endorsement letter from the former U.S. House Speaker. Gingrich can't vote in Texas, but the endorsement could help raise Williams' profile in a pack of Republican and Democratic candidates who'd like to take over when Kay Bailey Hutchison leaves that seat. Hutchison, who's running for governor against fellow Republican Rick Perry, has told supporters and reporters she'll resign later this fall. She's not required to do that, but if she does, Perry would appoint someone to the seat and also call a special election to pick a permanent replacement. Williams, who's on the Texas Railroad Commission, is one of several pols expressing an interest. The pack includes Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, state Sen. Florence Shapiro, and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams — all Republicans — and Alma Aguado, former Comptroller John Sharp and Houston Mayor Bill White — all Democrats.
Tom Schieffer won endorsements from four of the Texas House's leading Democrats, picking up some support and giving an answer to the biggest question about him in one stop.Reps. Garnet Coleman and Jessica Farrar of Houston, Jim Dunnam of Waco, and Pete Gallego of Alpine all endorsed Schieffer and said they'll try to convince their colleagues to join in. Schieffer was a partner with George W. Bush in the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, was a Bush-appointed ambassador to Australia and Japan. More importantly, to some potential Democratic supporters, he says he voted for Bush every time his friend was on the ballot, and against Democrats Ann Richards, Garry Mauro, Al Gore, and John Kerry. That's opened the possibility that another Democrat — more attuned to the party's primary voters — would step in and split the electorate with Schieffer. For instance, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, looked at the race for several weeks this summer, and while he was looking, Democratic donors were frozen, holding their money while waiting to see who all might run. Here's the audio.

Hank Gilbert was going to run for agriculture commissioner until a couple of weeks ago, when he went to Tyler and heard Tom Schieffer speak.

"I just didn't get goosebumps," he says.

Gilbert, a rancher and Democrat from Whitehouse who ran for the ag job in 2006, says he decided a few days later to join the race for governor. He'll face Schieffer, Kinky Friedman, Mark Thompson and anybody else who shows up; the winner will probably face either Rick Perry or Kay Bailey Hutchison in the general election a year from November.

Gilbert said a call from former gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell sealed the deal. He says Bell tried to encourage him to support Schieffer and to stay in the agriculture race. The candidate says he'll promote education and insurance reform, term limits (no more than two terms for each statewide executive office), and tighter control of transportation planning and state spending. He retooled his website for the venture and will announce officially on September 21.

Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, will seek a tenth term in the Texas House, in HD-67. He's probably going to be in a rematch with Republican Jon Cole of Plano, who ran against him in 2008 and came within 265 votes of knocking him off.

Darlene Brugnoli, who did tax policy for Gov. Rick Perry and, before that, for then-House Speaker Tom Craddick, left the Pink Building to work as a special tax counsel for the attorney general's office.

Mike Barnett is the new director of political affairs for the Texas Association of Realtors. He's a former House staffer who's been working for the Realtors on local campaigns and policy issues in North Texas.

Stephanie Gibson is the new executive director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

Ruben Gonzalez Jr. of Fort Worth to the 432nd District Court. He's an attorney with his own practice and a former Tarrant County assistant district attorney. He'll serve until the next elections (and after that if he runs and wins).

• Dallas accountant and recent city council candidate George "Brint" Ryan, Midland County Judge Michael Bradford, and Steve Mitchell, a business systems analyst from Richardson, to the board of regents at the University of North Texas. Ryan backed Carole Keeton Strayhorn in the last governor's race and took some shots from Perry's camp. Now he's a Perry supporter and contributor. And a regent. Ryan and Mitchell are NT alums.

Carlos Rubenstein of Austin to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and picked Bryan Shaw, who's already on that board, to chair it. Rubenstein was deputy executive director at TCEQ.

Kinky Friedman will announce his candidacy for governor — as a Democrat — in a swing through a dozen cities next week.Friedman (the real first name is Richard) will announce on Tuesday that he's joining the Democratic primary against Hank Gilbert, Tom Schieffer, and Mark Thompson. He ran in 2006 as an Independent, finishing fourth (with 12.4 percent) in a race with Republican Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell, and Republican-turned-Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Friedman, a musician, writer and comedian, has been hinting at this for months and already has a campaign committee and has a couple of fundraisers with Willie Nelson and Three Dog Night on the calendar. In addition to setting a date for the announcement, Friedman has hired veteran Democratic consultant Colin Strother to run his campaign.
Tom Suehs will be the state's new executive commissioner of Health and Human Services, Gov. Rick Perry announced Friday.Suehs (pronounced SEES) will head HHSC, which in turn oversees five health and human service agencies with more than 50,000 employees and annual budgets totaling more than $30 billion. He's replacing Albert Hawkins, who handled the consolidation of all of those agencies in 2003 and has been in the driver's seat ever since. Hawkins announced his retirement earlier this year. Suehs has been Hawkins' deputy executive commissioner for financial services since 2003. Before that, he was executive director at the Texas Health Care Association, a deputy commissioner at what was then the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, and president of the American Society of State Health Care Executives. The appointment got approving nods from some key lawmakers. Sen. Jane Nelson, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee in the upper chamber, called Suehs "an excellent choice" and said naming an insider means there won't be a long learning curve. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, had the hometown senator's unwritten privilege of first approval, said he'll help the new appointee if he can: "I'm confident that Tom Suehs understands the mission before him, and I'm hopeful that he has the courage, creativity, and experience he'll need to fulfill it."