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2010 Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Debate

George Nassar's picture

I hope you guys are watching this -- you're not going to get to see another one.

The two presumptive frontrunners for the Democratic spot in this year's governor race, Farouk Shami and former Houston mayor Bill White, are debating in Fort Worth tonight. The debate is hosted by KERA, the local public access station, and can be caught on TV, radio, and on the Texas Debates website.

My opinions after the jump.


I am restraining myself from saying that the line of the evening is Farouk Shami saying that "a day without Mexicans is like a day without sunshine in our state." Oops, there I went and did it, didn't I?

I wasn't kidding when I said you're not going to see another Democratic gubernatorial debate in this primary season. After this one, I don't think anyone will see a need -- and even if someone tried, the White campaign would probably turn it down.

The reason for this is that, of the seven (!) Democratic candidates for governor, the two that appeared on the stage were the only ones with any sort of potential for credibility. I don't say that with any disrespect for the other five candidates -- I'm reporting, not judging. There was a reason that only two were invited to this debate, and though that reason is based on KERA's judgment, there are many that would share it. Bill White clears the bar because of his many years of experience and his popularity in the largest city in the state, and Shami clears it because... well, because he can drop millions of dollars at the drop of a hat. Again, I'm reporting, not judging.

The problem with running with lots of money but no political history is that people will question your qualifications for the position. Shami, for better or worse, entered this debate with Damocles' microscope above his head with regard to knowledge of the Texas political system. He needed to walk in and knock any knowledge-based questions out of the ballpark. And by this measure, he pretty demonstrably failed. He was clearly given some messaging drilling for this debate, and stayed on message -- but it was the wrong message. He effectively turned questions to attacks on Bill White, which would normally be the Politics 101 underdog strategy, and he had a few standard campaign messages he repeated often, which would also normally be good execution out of the standard playbook. But in my estimation, the emphasis on these grossly missed the mark as to what Farouk Shami needed to get out of this debate. Promising 100,000 jobs in the next two years and no electric bills for Texans within ten years sound wonderful, but if no one believes you know how to govern in the first place, those promises end up looking pie-in-the-sky.

By comparison, Mayor White could play straight out of the playbook. He's the traditional frontrunner, and he's not burdened by the assumptions of not being ready for prime time. He recognized that his opponent was the Republican party, and he refused to engage Shami on the attacks on his record. This was clearly intentional, as his closing statement noted how the tone of the debate was very different from the Republican debate with candidates "shouting over each other" -- pretty sure that line wouldn't be in there if that hadn't been the plan. He has always had a talent for being detailed with policy without getting overly wonky, so he could simply walk up to the podium and do what he has done for years knowing that his typical approach to these things would also have the convenient side effect of highlighting Shami's lack of detail on any questions on specific subject matters. Shami was able to present the details on various plans he had presented previously in his press releases, but when asked questions requiring detail as to substance or implementation, he very obviously would redirect back to a broader talking point. Bill White just as obviously was able to address them head-on.

So when the dust settles, it is clear that Bill White won this debate -- but it can equally be said that Farouk Shami lost the debate.

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Farouk Shami

Farouk Shami vs. Bill White

It was very obvious that Farouk did not know or did not listen and/or understand the questions about
• Same Sex Marriage
• Voter ID
• E-Verify (it appeared that he had no clue what e-verify is, and even when explained, he did not answer the question)
• Governor’s Powers and how the state government works

He continued his claim about being a CEO for State of Texas, i.e. in a total charge of operations
Farouk’s management philosophy includes
• “I conceived it, thus it’s done”, i.e. making a decision tonight and fully expecting it to be implemented before he even talks to anyone – it works in a small entrepreneurial organization where he has the total control and it is his own money – However, how would it work in our democratic form of government?
• In his culture (and business practice) – “cousins” (anyone with Middle Eastern heritage) make no mistakes and family “walks on water” , i.e. the actual professional qualifications are secondary in his mind

Since we have a Black President, we need to have a Brown Governor – Farouk is claiming to be “BROWN” in order to pander to his Hispanic workforce (80-90%) and other minority groups; however according to the US Census criteria as a Palestinian he is WHITE, not a member of any minority group.

Farouk is touting of generating jobs for everyone - Farouk in San Antonio (10/21/09): “I manage business in 106 countries, I have tens of thousands of employees, and we've brought billions of dollars to the state of Texas,” Shami said.

Fact Check:
• Farouk manufacturers the products and sells them to independent distributors/importers (in US and overseas), who in return sell to the salons. He DOES NOT manage these companies. They are his customers.
• Likewise the employees of these distributors or the salons which use his products are NOT Farouk’s employees.
• Farouk has always claimed that he sells only to the professional hairdressers, yet his products can be found in Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, HEB, as well as discount stores.

Farouk claimed to have a CLEAN RECORD

1) Farouk Shami's business has landed in court often
http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/farouk-shami-s-business-has......

Austin American-Statesman Feb 1, 2010
The company had hired Coral Olsen as human resources manager, according to court records. Olsen, a 15-year human resources professional, declined to be interviewed for this story but said in court documents that she was the company's first human resources director. At the time, the company had more than 300 workers and 1,500 part-time stylists. (Educators teaching classes)

Olsen said in court documents that she discovered several sexual harassment complaints and then met resistance — from Shami and company President Shauky Gulamani — when she tried to implement the company's first written policy on the issue.

"Farouk Systems' arrogance, degradation, treating female employees as inferior and generally talking down to females is simply a matter of course and an established and accepted pattern at Farouk Systems," Olsen said in court documents. "This behavior was persistently defended as the way of their normally accepted Middle Eastern culture."

Court documents show Olsen was fired three weeks after being hired. Farouk Systems denied the claims, and the case was dismissed in 2005.

2) Farouk claims to be Quaker?
Having attended Quaker School does not make Farouk a Quaker – maybe that is all what was available at the time (or even today) for quality education in Ramallah.
• Wikipedia: “The Friends School currently serves as the School for the best and the brightest. It is well known to educate the children of Palestinian elites.”
• MilitantIslamMonitor: “Guilford College controversy Being Manipulated By CAIR -Quaker school tied to pro terrorist Friends school in Ramallah”
• Farouk said that he is Quaker - his family told a reporter that he is Muslim - Farouk then clarified that he is Muslim-Quaker
• King of Jordan had sent his personal message to Farouk Shami (to a Quaker?) during the last two company conferences – Amman, Jordan (2006) and Cancun, Mexico (2008)
• Farouk is a member of, guest speaker to, and honored by many Muslim organizations - He is a member of the Board of the American Task Force on Palestine, as was Tareq Salahi, the Whitehouse party crasher
• Shami : Muslim Media Network Sep 24, 2009 ... Houston hair executive Farouk Shami says his focus is .... At his Annual Ramadan Dinner (Quaker?) at the Arab Cultural Center (ACC) Houston, ...
http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?tag=shami

Who is Farouk Shami? The real issue is not necessarily his religion or national origin but his credibility. Are his Public Statements factual or just Beauty Show hype?

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