> The Say-Town Lowdown
Montford: Itching for career no. 9
Does John T. Montford have ADD?
Former State Senator John T. Montford has been restless for many years. “John T. Montford has had eight careers,” reads his bio. “A Marine officer, practicing attorney, small-business owner, elected District Attorney, member of the Texas Senate for 14 years, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, President Pro Tem of the 73rd Legislative Session, tenured professor, Chancellor of the Texas Tech University system, and currently the Senior Vice President-Western Region Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for AT&T.”
Leaks started last year about his potential mayoral candidacy: Montford could be the mayor who follows El Grand Capitan Phil Hardberger. The establishment media is already saying nice things about Montford. (The whisper campaign is obvious: “Will someone please tell former Councilman Julian Castro the establishment is not going to back him?”) Who is John T. Montford and why is his victory almost guaranteed? This short article is a quick snapshot of the terrain.
Let’s cover the political bases the Senator has in the bag, starting with the business community. In his bio, Mr. Montford describes his recent leadership position as the “2005 Chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, a catalyst for economic development in San Antonio for the past 108 years with over 3,000 members.” The man was a rock star at the Chamber. I sat on the board of this antique organization that year and I can confirm the man was adored. You want toll roads? You got it!! Need support for the gross margin tax? Done!
Montford has also been a prince to numerous charities, educational institutions, and non-profits in this city. He and his wife, Debbie, have been amazing fundraisers for the San Antonio Symphony, theFund, and UTSA. Over four years ago, he approached UTSA President Dr. Ricardo Romo about launching a grand Presidents Dinner to raise big money for scholarships. In the first year, the event raised $1 million. In 2007, the dinner raised a mindboggling $4.6 million — a staggering sum for a commuter university. It was Montford who pushed them mentally to the next level. Recent fundraising forays include the presidency of the San Antonio Independent School District Foundation for Excellence in Education Board of Trustees. The South Side sticks together and word will eventually hit the street: “Montford is a good guy. He helped us out. The man is one of us.”
Will local Democrats back him? Absolutely. The man has been a loyal Democrat for decades. This will offset the Julian Castro supporters.
What about Republicans? Over the years, he has hosted fundraisers for former State Representative Ken Mercer and others. Republicans in this city will always back a conservative Democrat over a liberal Democrat. Remember, it was Stone Oak that gave Phil Hardberger the golden ring.
There is one potential weakness that can be exploited by opponents if Montford runs for Mayor: His current job at AT&T, where in his own words, “He is responsible for all regulatory, legislative, governmental, and external affairs in the states west of the Mississippi, except California, as well as Connecticut.” This is a long way of saying he is a super-lobbyist for SA’s Ma Bell.
Consider how his position is affecting his daughter, Mindy Montford, who is running for Travis County District Attorney this year. Current contributor Vince Leibowitz of capitolannex.com wrote the following in January: “Capitol Annex has learned that Travis County District Attorney Candidate Mindy Montford (D-Austin), daughter of AT&T lobbyist and former Texas State Senator John Montford, is putting the squeeze on corporate lobbyists — especially those with ties to the controversial Texas Association of Business — to fund her primary campaign ... Sources also tell Capitol Annex that corporate lobbyists contributing to Montford’s campaign are doing so in the hopes that, if elected, she will drop the state’s prosecution of indicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land).”
Will his lobbying affect his run for Mayor? If it is an issue for his daughter in Austin, expect local opponents to hit him over the head when the race starts. Look at how Obama demonizes lobbyists and you get a taste of what is coming.
Serving under Montford on the Chamber board taught me one thing about the man: He is a smooth operator who knows how to lead. The man can read a room and manage meetings effectively. He is also a good listener. Over the years, he has proven his devotion to this community through his passionate fundraising, community service, and leadership.
Does the man have Attention Deficit Disorder? No, he is just itching for career no. 9. •
Joe Solis is a small business owner, Walker Report blogger and publisher of the South Texas Republicans newsletter.