Kronberg: Some Thoughts & Memories of My Friend Mark Lehman



In the pantheon of sought after power endorsements, under Mark Lehman the Texas Association of Realtors easily ranked in the Top 5

By Harvey Kronberg


Few recent passings have rocked the Capitol Community as much as the recent and unexpected passing of Mark Lehman. Lehman had that unique combination of eternal cheerfulness, deep knowledge of the political process, a huge spiritual connection and involvement in his church and a man of sometimes surprising new beginnings.

Former Senator Florence Shapiro remembered that her one-time campaign manager and Capitol staffer began his career in accounting (some remember that he worked at Arthur Anderson. However, as she reminisced, “He found accounting boring.”

So of course, it was a natural choice to enter politics.

Most folks knew Mark in his role as helping shape the Texas Association of Realtors into one of the most influential and dynamic trade associations on the scene during a time that trade association power was waning. It is hard for member-based organizations to compete with billionaires writing six figure checks to causes and campaigns.
 
Lehman is credited with taking the recipe of other power-house trade associations from years gone by and incorporating the raw material of thousands of energized Realtors actively engaged and concerned about their communities and focusing that energy into one of the largest PACs in the state.

In the pantheon of sought after power endorsements, TAR under Mark Lehman easily ranked in the top five.

Mark did not just stumble into this success.

It has been a little tough cataloging all of the steps in his career, but in the time I knew him he ran the GOP Victory effort in 1990, which at the time was one of the best turnout operations in the state – and a major force in transitioning the state Republican.
 
At Karl Rove’s request, Lehman joined Shapiro’s first Senate campaign in 1992, helping to elect Plano’s first Jewish female Mayor to the Texas Senate the session before Republicans finally took control in 1995. After winning, he worked in her office – ultimately becoming Shapiro’s chief of staff.

Lehman subsequently ran then-Supreme Court Justice John Cornyn’s first race for Attorney General, and helped Cornyn prevail in a tough primary campaign against then Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson and GOP Party Chair Tom Pauken. Cornyn was the underdog and surprised many by making it to the runoff with Williamson.

In my coverage of the campaign, I had noted that Cornyn – as Chief Administrative Judge in San Antonio – gained statewide notice because of his active opposition to venue shopping just as the tort-reform movement was gaining strength.

In the runoff with Williamson, Mark asked if he could quote Quorum Reprt – and the next thing I know, tens of thousands of mailers quoting “the highly respected Quorum Report” were sent out to GOP primary voters all across the state.

From the Cornyn campaign, Mark was hired by the Realtors.

He retired facing a grueling battle with cancer, which he ultimately won after some very tough chemo-therapy.
 
Less well known to most was during that battle, Mark was working on "The Shoebox Chronicles," in which he laments the end of people writing letters and build a narrative on his discovery of much of his family history after finding a box of personal letters. The book is still available on Amazon.

All of us were astonished that the book translated into a screenplay contract.

Mark loved joking that despite his stalwart Republican history, he was now a bona fide union member having joined the Screenwriters Guild. He loved joking that he had no intention of crossing the picket line. His inevitable laughing follow-up was that he had to get a doctor’s note in order get out of actually marching in the picket line.

Lehman and I shared many of the same mentors, and our careers ran on parallel tracks. He left the Realtors at the top of his game. Few had better political skills or deeper roots in Republican politics.

Despite the passions of modern politics, Lehman was always a focused advocate and worthy adversary while managing the egos of tens of thousands of small business members.

It was a privilege to grow up in the profession with Lehman.

It is over-used in this business to say “he was one of a kind,” but in the case of Mark Lehman, the man was truly unique.

Harvey Kronberg has been covering Texas politics as writer, editor, publisher and chief bottle washer for the Austin-based Quorum Report since 1989. He also serves as political commentator for Time Warner Cable's 24 hour news channel serving Central Texas. Copyright August 2023, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved.




















 
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