Doyal files for Montgomery County Judge in GOP primary

DOYAL CITES EXPERIENCE, CONSERVATIVE VALUES AS HE FILES FOR COUNTY JUDGE

 

For immediate release Dec. 2, 2013

For media follow up, please contact the Craig Doyal Campaign at (936) 520-6098. Want to join us? Go to www.craigdoyal.com.

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Craig Doyal filed for Montgomery County Judge in the GOP primary Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. He is joined by Dr. Walter Wilkerson, chairman of the Montgomery County GOP.

Craig Doyal filed for county judge in the Republican Primary Monday, Dec. 2, saying his conservative values, his years of service to Precinct 2 and his leadership on regional projects had prepared him to serve all of Montgomery County as county judge.

“I love Montgomery County, have lived here all my life, and I share the great values of conservative government and responsible leadership that have made this one of the greatest places to live in Texas,” Doyal said.

Educated in Conroe ISD schools and a proud “Aggie,” Craig is married to wife Amy and has three children, 30-year-old Brian, 27-year-old Lindsey, 20-year-old Jennifer, and 7-year-old granddaughter, Laylee.

A native Texan and 4th-generation Montgomery County resident, Craig Doyal has served as Precinct 2 County Commissioner since August 29, 2001. Prior to holding the office of CountyCommissioner, Craig served for 15 years as the Administrative Assistant to Commissioner Malcolm Purvis, where he handled the day to day operations of Precinct 2.

“I grew up here and have spent my career in Montgomery County learning how this county operates and taking the lead on key projects, like the construction of the Fish Creek Thoroughfare, the expansion of FM 1488 through the pass-thru program, and acquisition of right of way for future thoroughfares. Those experiences have prepared me to handle the diverse challenges our county faces as we prepare for rapid population growth that is headed our way.”

Craig said he will focus on four key areas as county judge:

Responsible economic growth and development

“The county needs to take a thoughtful, conservative and responsible approach to ensure its infrastructure is prepared to cope with its rapid population growth, and I am prepared to do that.” Doyal has taken a leadership role on projects like the 249 Tollway (the Aggie superhighway), which will ease congestion and promote economic growth, and the Camp Strake project, which will provide a quality commercial and residential development on Conroe’s doorstep that will add millions of dollars to the county’s tax base without requiring much, if any, of county services.

Open and transparent service

Craig is committed to maintaining an open-door policy for all county residents and will push for transparency at all levels of county government.

Conservative values on budget, social issues

Doyal has voted repeatedly to keep the county tax rate flat, allowing the county’s expanding tax base to take care of its growth needs. He has opposed wasteful spending, and has supported responsible approaches to county facilities such as the Joe Corley Detention Center, whose sale generated $22 million for the county along with approximately $3 million in operating revenue, and now is permanently on the county’s tax rolls, generating annual revenues.

Protecting natural resources

Doyal has consistently opposed threats to our groundwater from projects like the controversial proposed wastewater injection well east of Conroe. He also is concerned about the county’s sole surface water resource, Lake Conroe, and will work to ensure it is protected from depletion as the cities of Conroe and The Woodlands turn to it to end their longstanding reliance on groundwater for their water needs.

As County Commissioner, Craig’s role in meeting the many challenges of a rapidly growing county have dramatically changed.  Today he works closely with county department heads to manage the expenditures of a $279 million budget and establish policies and procedures for the operation of county government.  Along with these duties, Craig works closely with the Texas Department of Transportation and other county and state officials to make sure our mobility issues are addressed countywide.

Commissioner Doyal has served as past Chairman of Houston Galveston Area Council and the county representative to the Transportation Policy Council, and currently serves as chairman of the SB1420 Committee that will determine funding options for portions of the proposed Grand Parkway and is the Montgomery County representative to the Gulf Coast Rail District.

Commissioner Doyal has served as a Montgomery ISD Board Trustee and a board member of the Montgomery County Committee on the Aging ‑ better known as “The Friendship Center”.  He was a “Meals on Wheels” volunteer for nine years, president of the Magnolia Parks Council and is a member of the South County, Magnolia, Magnolia Parkway and Conroe Chambers of Commerce. Craig is also a member of the Woodlands Rotary Club and a lifetime member of the Montgomery County Fair Association. Additionally, he is a longtime financial supporter of several area Republican groups.

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We’ve beat the last market peak! June sales jump 23 percent; in Houston, 13 percent

We’re back.

According to the latest figures compiled by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Montgomery County has officially climbed out of the pit from the national collapse of the housing market, with June sales this year exceeding sales during the peak of the market in 2006.

A total of 937 homes, townhomes and condos were sold in June of this year – the next-highest recorded sales for a June in Montgomery County was 929. Houston very nearly reached the June 2006 market peak, with 7,924 homes sold this June compared with 8,628 home sold in June 2006.

County monthly  median price since 2006 Median prices likewise have clearly eclipsed the last market peak. The June 2013 median price was $238,200, compared with the June 2008 median price of $196,300.

It is a trend that reflects full recovery of the housing market – and by all indications the market continues on an upward trajectory.

Houston-area home sales continued to surge in June, especially in the area’s hottest housing markets like The Woodlands and Montgomery County, according to the latest reports from the Houston Association of Realtors.

                    What’s my home worth?

The continued strong pace of sales has been accompanied by an increase in median prices for homes and a decrease in the Days on Market.

Closed sales June 2012-2013 Sales jumped by 22.5 percent in June in Montgomery County – a percentage increase nearly twice that of Houston, where sales increased 13.4 percent. It is a testament to the value of the Montgomery County market relative to the Houston region. A total of 894 homes were sold in June in Montgomery County, as opposed to 730 last June. Year-to-date sales in June jumped 24.6 percent, from 3,184 sold as of this point last year compared with 3,966 this year.

          The strength in home sales continues despite rising mortgage interest rates and a slight cooling in employment growth, according to the Houston Association of Realtors. The Texas Workforce Commission reported that the greater Houston area added 91,600 jobs in the 12 months ending May 2013, which is down from 106,000 jobs and a 4.0 percent annualized rate for the 12 months endin  Days on Market YTD June 2013 g April 2013.

Virtually all areas of the county are benefiting from a steadily strengthening housing market, although in Conroe and northeast Montgomery County sales for June were flat compared with last June – an anomaly compared with year-to-date sales, where all regions of the county have improved.

“The Houston housing market plowed full-steam ahead through another month and most REALTORS® I know have never been busier,” said HAR Chairman Danny Frank with Prudential Anderson Properties. “The fact that inventory has leveled off month-over-month suggests that we may finally be starting to see enough homes listed for sale to keep up with demand.”

The county and the Houston region continued to blow out previous home sales records as the area’s strong economy, job and population growth fuel continued demand for housing.

Jim Fredricks is a licensed Realtor® with The Chevaux Group PLLC – ReMax The Woodlands & Spring:

26113 Oakridge Drive, Suite D

The Woodlands, TX  77380

Phone: (936) 520-6098
Email: jfredricks@thefredricksgroup.com

http://www.har.com/JimFredricks

http://activerain.com/blogs/jfredricks

http://www.chevauxgroup.com

Being Strong

It is a sunny summer morning in The Woodlands, and attorney Bret Strong is looking relaxed in slacks and a dress shirt, his collar open and free of a tie as he talks about life, work and family in his office in Waterway One overlooking the  Waterway and its never-ending growth and development.

His office window affords a picture perfect view of The Woodlands, and it’s a view that Strong has rightly earned; after all, his business law firm, The Strong Firm P.C., has been a major player in many of the transactions and deals that have made the master-planned community the wonder of the Houston region.

With a brownstone located just down the Waterway, a growing business in the heart of The Woodlands’ “downtown,” and with a company whose name, as a sponsor, is associated with many of The Woodlands’ major endurance and fitness events, Strong should be feeling pretty comfortable these days –  and he is.

“The great opportunity I’ve been given, which I am blessed to have, is that I’ve been here since 1989 and I’ve been involved in this community,” Strong said. “I’ve been able to see this community grow through business transactions, and I’ve been involved in a lot of what you see going up around here.”

For Strong, being part of the team to bring a complex commercial real estate or oil and gas transactions to fruition is fulfilling. “You’re helping grow the economy and doing the things that need to be done to help this be the success it has become.” And unlike firms devoted to trial work and litigation, which Strong views as primarily “destructive” and a zero-sum process, his firm instead is devoted to handling transactions, trademarks, and other aspects of business law.

“It’s constructive. It’s progressive, it’s focusing on the future and growth and things that generally everybody’s pretty positive about.”

Strong was the first of his siblings to finish college, earning a degree in business from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Shell hired him straight from campus, starting him in its Traverse City, Michigan offices where he dealt with oil and gas contracts.

As he gained more experience in oil and gas production and exploration, Shell worked to continue his development, moving to positions with ever-increasing responsibility throughout the organization. He worked in Columbus, Texas, and New Orleans before coming to Houston in 1989.

It was at that point that Shell took another step in his career development, sending him to law school full time. He graduated from the South Texas College of Law in 1995.

Soon after, however, he was faced with a decision – to continue with Shell in its legal department, or strike out on his own in law.

Having made a number of contacts during his oil and gas work with Shell, Strong opted to launch a new career in business law, joining with Woodlands attorney Jack Stibbs and his firm, Stibbs & Burbach. Winstead acquired the firm in 2001, and in 2004 Strong decided it was time to begin his own firm.

Starting with just himself and a legal assistant, Strong has since seen his firm grow to five full-time attorneys and a total of 11 employees, “and we’re still growing,” Strong said. In fact, Strong recently exercised an option to expand his practice in Waterway One.

“When I moved into this space, I picked this space not only because of the view but because I knew I had expansion rights on both sides,” he said.

The first option, when that tenant moved out, enabled him to add on two or three offices and conference room; when the remaining space became available, he again exercised his option and then immediately subleased it to a client of the Strong firm.

That lease ended Sept. 1, and by October the Strong firm will “not quite double” its existing footprint, giving the firm, Strong said, “some elbow room and room for growth.”

And the growth prospects are strong. The Strong firm, as mentioned, has had a hand in a number of the major commercial transactions in The Woodlands over the last decade.

“We do a lot of work for the (Woodlands) township, and our energy related transaction work has been pretty busy.  And of course we work with a lot of developers in The Woodlands doing retail and office buildings, and we handle work for a lot of small- to medium-size businesses as well,” Strong said. “We’ll probably add another attorney at the beginning of next year.”

This would be enough to keep anyone busy, but Strong also finds time for his family: he is married to local CPA Angela Strong and they have an 9-month-old son, Luke, all the while maintaining a demanding fitness regime. (Bret also has two grown sons from a previous marriage.) Strong runs three times a week, swims two or three times a week, and heads out on the roads on Sundays for a long bike ride.

In January, this already demanding schedule will increase in intensity when he starts serious training for Ironman Texas – he has competed in three Ironmans already. Plus, he has run “four or five” marathons and numerous half-marathons and other events.

As crazy as this effort may sound, the truth is that his running, swimming and biking help keep him sane, he said.

Strong competes at the Kemah Olympic Triathlon

“When I get away from the office and go do a run or bike and think about stuff, that’s my clearing time, my decompression time; also, staying healthy is important in a high-stress position,” Strong says. “You gotta’ unplug and give your mind time to think.”

It is a demanding schedule, and not for the faint of heart. But growing up near South Bend, Indiana, Strong learned at a young age about the need for hard work. When he was just 4 years old his father was killed in a car accident, thrusting his mother into the role of sold breadwinner.

“My mother at the time had four kids all under the age of 10; my mom was a homemaker basically. She had no education past high school and had never had a steady job. She instantly became the main breadwinner of the family, and set a very good role model to show me you do what you need to do to provide for your family,” he said.

“She held all sorts of jobs.  She was a bartender, she worked at a jewelers, she did the census; I remember she was always working two jobs at a time.”

And as a result, there were no excuses for inactivity around the Strong home as a boy. His mother made certain he was constantly involved in productive activities at school, and throughout high school Strong competed in three sports, football, wrestling, and baseball.

“She taught me you are going to learn to be self –sufficient. There was no time for whining at all,” Strong said.

But it’s clear that all that focus and discipline has paid off, as Strong appears to be successfully managing the demands of family, work and community service.

With a Brownstone apartment just down the Waterway from his office, and owning his own practice, Strong enjoys the freedom and flexibility he has found.

“I may this afternoon go for a run at 4 o’clock, but I may be back on the computer either here or at home tonight;” he said. “There are times I’ll spend the whole night here to make sure things are on focus; and there are days I show up at 10 because I want to go for a run or do something with the family,” Strong said.

“I really love it, I feel I get the right level of leisure time and family time; I feel very blessed with what I’ve been able to do. When you can drive around and be involved in the community and see a little bit of your fingerprint in a lot of what’s going on, that’s very satisfying.”

The Market: positive job numbers, home sales

The fundamentals keep looking good for the Houston area and Montgomery County, which augurs well for home sales as well, now and in the coming year.

No matter where you look – consumer spending as measured by sales tax revenue; home sales; unemployment data; or building permits issued – economic activity is on the rise. Over time, this should all help contribute to a healthy real estate market in our area and specifically Montgomery County.

I addressed the rise in sales tax activity recently in this blog post.

Today, I want to hit on positive job growth and other measures.

Job Growth

On job growth, the Texas Workforce Commission recently released its jobs report. According to the commission, Houston area employers created 79,500 jobs over the past year, including robust gains in the oil and gas industry, manufacturing and health care. The Houston Chronicle has a report here.

From the commission report, overall in Texas, the private sector continued to grow in October, adding 13,500 jobs. Texas’ total nonfarm employment has expanded by 231,600 jobs over the year to reach an estimated 10,616,500 positions in October. Overall, Texas added 2,500 jobs over the month. Texas has experienced positive annual job growth in the past 18 months with annual growth rates above 2.0 percent for the last five consecutive months.

Unemployment overall also is headed the right direction; Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in October, down slightly from 8.5 percent in September, and remains below the national unemployment rate of 9.0 percent.

In Montgomery County, the picture is even better, as this graph indicates:

Home sales

Meanwhile, home sales and construction activity is on the rise, with the Houston real estate market logging a fifth straight month of positive home sales in October, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.

According to the latest monthly data prepared by HAR, October sales of single-family homes rose 9.1 percent versus one year earlier. And the growth is broad-based. Again, according to HAR, all segments of the housing market, from the sub-$80,000 to the $500,000 and above, experienced growth. On a year-to-date basis, sales were up 3.4 percent.

“The further we distance ourselves from last year’s tax credit as we analyze the local housing data, the clearer an indication we get of market performance, and the latest numbers show a healthy sales climate for an autumn in Houston,” said Carlos P. Bujosa, HAR chairman and VP at Transwestern, in an HAR press release.

“As long as the Houston economy continues to strengthen with additional job growth, we can be cautiously optimistic about the state of the housing market going into the new year.”

In terms of overall sales, the same news, generally speaking, applies to Montgomery County home sales year-to-date, as the chart below indicates:

And builders seem to be betting on continued growth in home sales, with steady growth in permits issued in Montgomery County for the last few months, according to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.

In short, we are seeing numerous signs of a healthy, recovering economy. Overall, and over time, that should support healthy home sales.

It’s Election Day today folks. Are you ready to vote?

Voters will be going to the polls around the state today to
cast ballots on the state constitutional amendments; they’ll also be casting
ballots on numerous local issues, including a $200 million Montgomery County
road bond referendum.

The Courier has a nice breakdown of the issues and its
editorial stances here.

I’m headed to the polls, and here’s how I’m going to vote:

County road bond
election – YES

There is no doubt the county needs to fund road improvements
to keep up with its continued growth. Typically, the county has done this
through road bond elections, with the last being 2005. On average, the county
has a road bond election about every three to four years.

This referendum contains numerous projects for all parts of
the county, such as improving and widening Walden Road near Lake Conroe,
widening Honea-Egypt Road and McCaleb Road, widening Budde Road and Nursery
Road in south Montgomery County, and extending League Line road to the Lone
Star Executive Airport.

PROPOSITION 1 – YES

Proposition 1 authorizes the Texas Legislature to provide an
exemption from property taxation of all or part of the market value of the
residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally
disabled veteran. The burden of defending this country falls on a small number
of military personnel and their families who endure great hardship in the call
of duty. They earned this exemption.

PROPOSITION 2 – YES

Proposition 2 provides for the issuance of additional
general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board up to $6 billion
at any time without having to go before voters for approval. The state would be
able to continue issuing new bonds to fund water projects as previous bonds are
retired without having to go back to voters. Water is a critical issue for the
state, especially in the midst of a severe drought; the bonds would fund a wide
variety of projects, including water resource development, water quality and
flood control. The state is protected because the debt is paid back by the
local entity that receives the loan.

PROPOSITION 3 – NO

Proposition 3 would provide for the issuance of general
obligation bonds of the State of Texas to finance educational loans to
students. It would authorize The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to
issue and sell more general obligation bonds as needed to pay for more
financial loans to students. Unlike Proposition 2 – where at least voters at
the local level can question the use of state loans for water infrastructure,
Proposition 3 gives a blank check to the coordinating board. In addition, I
believe the easy availability of student loans has contributed to soaring
enrollments and tuition inflation. This is a power that should be reserved to
voters.

PROPOSITION 4 – NO

This proposition would give the legislature the power to
permit a county to “issue bonds or notes to finance the development or
redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to
pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes
imposed by the county on property in the area.” In short, the state proposes
giving counties the same power that cities have. However, counties already have
economic development tools, such as tax abatements, that should suffice. Also,
groups such as Texans for Fiscal Responsibility fear that this proposition
could open the door for “Kelo”-style property seizures for the purposes of
economic development. Certainly, we don’t need to encourage any movement toward
such policies.

PROPOSITION 5 – YES

Proposition 5 would allow cities and counties to enter into interlocal
contracts with other cities or counties without the imposition of a tax or the
provision of a sinking fund. In short, this would make it easier for cities and
counties to consolidate projects or services and reduce duplication, which
would save tax dollars. Cutting a little red tape to encourage greater
efficiency is a worthwhile move.

PROPOSITION 6 — NO

Proposition 6 would allow the General Land Office to
distribute revenue from permanent school fund land or other properties to the
available school fund to provide additional funding for public education, and
providing for an increase in the market value of the permanent school fund for
the purpose of allowing increased distributions from the available school fund.

This is a bad idea; it opens the door to eroding the
principal of the permanent school fund. The state needs to find other ways to
fund public education rather than weakening a permanent source of funding.

PROPOSITION 7 — NO

The constitutional amendment would allow for the creation of
more taxing districts in West Texas. It would authorize the Legislature to
permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County; those
districts would levy property taxes to issue bonds to fund development and
maintenance of parks and recreational facilities. These responsibilities
already fall under county government and should be supported by existing county
property taxes; it is up to counties to manage their budgets wisely to
accommodate these needs.

PROPOSITION 8 – YES

Proposition 8 would allow land currently used for farming,
ranching, wildlife management or logging to be developed for water conservation
without changing its tax status. The exemption would not apply to land that is
not already eligible under existing uses. Water conservation is an appropriate
state policy goal; it makes sense to permit exemptions to encourage it.

PROPOSITION 9 – YES

This constitutional amendment would authorize the governor
to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred
adjudication community supervision and against whom charges are then dropped.
Currently, the governor can extend pardons only to those who have been found
guilty of a crime; the amendment would extend the power to pardon to cover deferred
adjudications.  It is a reasonable
extension of the governor’s pardon power.

PROPOSITION 10 – YES

This constitutional amendment would change the length of the
unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain elected county
or district officeholders. Currently they must resign if they announce their
intention to run for another post with more than a year left in their current
term. The amendment would permit them to remain in their post if they announce
with less than one year and 30 days remaining in their term. It is designed to
adjust for new federal filing dates enacted to permit more time for the
delivery of ballots to the military and others overseas.

About that commute, Houston: it’s going to get harder

Took this awesome pic of i-10 and i-45 right a...

Image via Wikipedia

After hearing the same disturbing point twice in one week – in two completely unrelated meetings – I’m getting the message: Houston, we have a problem.

The problem is transportation funding. Do you like your current drive to work? Just give it a few years; unless something is done to augment or change the current sources of transportation funding, you’ll learn to hate it.

State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, was the first to drive home that point during a recent Tuesday meeting with local leaders in Conroe. His newly redrawn Senate district now incorporates more of north Montgomery County, including Conroe, and he was meeting with Conroe residents to update them on legislative issues.

As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Williams is deeply aware of the state’s transportation funding. Basically, he said, we’re broke.

The main source of funding – the state’s gasoline tax – currently provides only enough money to fund ongoing maintenance. Any construction activity taking place along
state roadways in the Houston region is the result of funding that has already been approved. Once those projects are completed, there will be no new projects in the pipeline. “Most people don’t realize this,” Williams said.

The very next day, I was at a meeting in Houston of a newly formed organization known as the Transportation Advisory Group. The speaker that afternoon was John Barton, at the time serving as interim director for the Texas Department of Transportation.

“We don’t have enough state money to do everything we need to do,” Barton told the assembled group of engineers, consultants, and public policy advocates. With the state’s population expected to swell to 50 million by 2040, “There is no longterm solution in sight.”

Even worse, one of the current main sources of funding – the state’s gasoline tax – is not going to be a stable source of revenue heading into the future, as more and more drivers shift to electric vehicles or hybrids. It already cannot keep up with demand, and that problem will only grow in scope over time.

They are not the only people looking at the issue. Many of the points raised by both Barton and Williams are dealt with in-depth in a recently updated report of the Texas Department of Transportation’s 2030 Committee – appointed by Texas Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi in 2008. The updated report, which can be found here, stressed the same points in great detail – the state’s current system of road funding is broken.

Two things are needed.

First, Houston needs a voice. Barton pointed out that Houston in particular was hamstrung because of its lack of any regional advocacy in Austin to press Houston’s concerns. So when the fighting starts over money in coming legislative sessions, Houston will be at a disadvantage to other metropolitan areas like Dallas and Fort Worth.

“Your brothers and sisters a little north of you are united, they’re vocal, and a lot
of attention is being paid to those communities,” he said. As a result, legislators from those areas can speak more convincingly about their local needs. Houston legislators need that, he said.

“It really would be helpful when they want to talk to these people, that there was a force behind them from the largest Metro area of the states. Today, that just doesn’t
exist.”

The Houston Transportation Advisory Group, or TAG, was formed for that very reason, said Jack Drake, president of the Greenspoint
District in Houston.

“Other regions are innovative, politically involved and have strong, active Metropolitan Planning Organizations,” Drake said. Houston needs the same.

The other main point is that Houston, and the state, need more transportation dollars. TAG’s goal for the coming legislative session is to press the Legislature to either “more
adequately fund transportation in our region or give us the power to do it ourselves.”

That could come in a variety of forms – including possible increases in vehicle
registration fees or increased authority from the Legislature for local funding
options and tax improvement districts.

But it won’t happen on its own. And, for Houston, failure is not an option. As Drake points out: “The government is out of regional transportation dollars.”

Cain, Perry, and race-baiting

Herman Cain

Image via Wikipedia

I still remember the first time I heard the “N” word in casual use.

It was in Irving, Texas back in the 1980s — about the same time Gov. Rick Perry’s parents, according to his telling, were painting over a rock by their hunting lease that bore a similar slur.

The fact that I as a young, ex-Air Force brat could encounter that phrase in common conversation says something about certain aspects of Texas’ culture at the time, as does that now famous rock outside a hunting camp — but it says next-to-nothing about Gov. Perry himself.

The fact that it even has become an issue in the GOP primary race is race-baiting at its worst, and it is even more disappointing that someone who should know better — Herman Cain — would so readily jump on the bandwagon of the ever race-conscious left.

The first encounter with racist language was while I was a young man in college visiting my wife’s parents. I happened to be out in the front yard, and struck up a conversation with the lawn guy who handled my soon-to-be father-in-laws’ yard. His yard man was a crusty, old white guy who fortunately was one of a vanishing breed.

Standing out under the hot sun, the word just popped out of his mouth — I can’t even remember the context. It was my first shocking encounter with the reality of a southern culture I barely understood at the time. I grew up on or near military bases, mostly in the north and in California. The military in many ways was the vanguard of the civil rights movement, with integration being fully entrenched in the services well before much of the rest of the country, especially the South.

Texas’ racist past is well-documented; one of the most disturbing stories I have ever heard regarding the once dominant racism in my area of Texas is that of a young black man lynched on the courthouse steps here in Conroe in the early 1900s. He was burned alive by a white mob.

It is one thing to decry clear examples of racism that once were common in Texas. It is another thing entirely to paint a presidential candidate with that brush with virtually no evidence to support that accusation — and plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

Everyone now is familiar with the gist of the story. The Washington Post reported recently earlier this week that the entrance to the property that Perry’s family had leased for hunting was marked by a rock painted with a name — “Niggerhead” — that had been associated with the area for as long as anyone could remember, and well before his family began leasing the property.

And according to Perry’s telling, his father ended up painting over the rock in the very first year he leased the property. Others questioned that timeline in the story, but their memories are vague as to dates and most of the sources are anonymous. And most importantly, Perry’s name wasn’t added to the lease until 1997. This is a nearly 30-year-old incident.

And armed with those scant facts, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain apparently felt entirely comfortable weighing in on the issue and ascribing racist motives to one of his chief rivals for the GOP nomination.

“There isn’t a more vile, negative word than the N-word,” Cain said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And for him to leave it there as long as he did before he painted over it, it’s just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”

If Gov. Perry is a closet racist, he’s done an incredible job hiding it, somehow burying that deep secret under a number of high-profile minority political appointments, as is described in these excellent stories by Kelly Shannon and the Texas Tribune.

Baseless accusations of racism are a tired form of attack employed almost exclusively against Republicans, conservatives and conservative organizations such as the Tea Party. Meanwhile, Democratic politicians like the late Sen. Robert Byrd, who once was a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, are forgiven their sins.

All the more reason for a presidential candidate in the GOP primary to resist the urge to play that game. Cain clearly is emerging in the polls, and his skills and background deserve attention. He’ll be in The Woodlands, Texas on Thursday to sign copies of his new book.

But his ham-handed handling of this issue reflects a profound lack of judgment and a lack of awareness of the unique power his words hold as a black candidate for the presidency. Already Monday, Cain was working to step back from his earlier attack, telling reporters “I really don’t care about that word. They painted over it,” he said, referring to a sign painted on a rock at the property the Texas Governor once leased. He continued to add that the matter “doesn’t bother me at all,” and that he was satisfied with Gov. Perry’s explanation.

Well, that’s nice. First play the race card, and wait for the explanation later.

Gov. Perry certainly has some troubles of his own making and has a lot of ground to make up after stumbling in recent debates. And Cain is a candidate who deserves a broader audience. But he needs to leave the race-baiting to the experts. Besides — they don’t need any help.