The Texas Agriculture Commissioner is a powerful, Statewide elected position that traces its roots back over 100 years ago. During the era of Democratic dominance, the office was occupied by larger-than-life men who became national figures. There was James McDonald, a bitterly conservative Democrat who fought with Franklin Roosevelt over crop subsidies. He served for twenty years until a 25 year old man named John White defeated him and held the office himself for twenty-six years. White, a liberal, would later go on to serve as President Carter’s deputy Secretary of Agriculture as well as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Then, of course, there was Jim Hightower, a folk hero of the left who held the office for close to a decade.
Since Republicans first took over the office, however, it has been career politicians most prevalent in this post. Rick Perry, then a State Representative, unseated Hightower in 1990. He was succeeded in 1998 by Susan Combs, the incumbent Comptroller, who was –in turn– succeeded by Todd Staples in 2006, the incumbent.
In the race to succeed Staples, it is the career politicians who finished best. Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt, two fiercely conservative former State Representatives, finished first and second, respectively. They will therefore advance into a runoff election in May. Two other conservative activists, Joe Cotten and Eric Opiela, also finished strong, while J Allen Carnes, the Mayor of Uvalde and a self-described pragmatist, finished dead last.
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In yet another instance of the Texas Tribune’s poll not being worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, it was State Senator Ken Paxton –not State Representative Dan Branch– who finished in the plurality in the Republican primary for Attorney General. Paxton got 44% of the vote, while Branch got about 33%. Given that the third candidate, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, is an ultra-conservative alongside Paxton, the Senator looks ripe to defeat the more establishment Branch in the resulting runoff election. In fact, calls are already abound to force Branch to step aside, much like Harvey Hilderbran did in the race for Comptroller.
Smitherman, for his part, has not endorsed either candidate, though one could not deny that he is more ideologically aligned with Paxton. The office of Attorney General holds a powerful position that looms heavily over the State, as an independent top lawyer for the State with the responsibility to both litigate pertinent suits for the jurisdiction and enforce child support laws. Both Branch and Paxton look to the incumbent, Greg Abbott, as an example for their possible administrations. Abbott has transformed the office from behind-the-scenes technocrat to an upfront counselor constantly getting in high profile spats with the Federal Government.
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The runoff was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, with State Senator Dan Patrick outperforming incumbent Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst 2-to-1 in the preliminary Republican primary for the post. The two will advance to a May runoff election, eliminating both Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Most political prognosticators (including, unfortunately, myself) thought the roles would be largely reversed, with Dewhurst receiving 40%+ and Patrick holding about a twenty point deficit.
Further, the Texas Tribune reports on a developing story surrounding pressures placed on second-place candidates to drop out, thus eliminating the need for a runoff election. The effort has already been successful on one front, with State Representative Harvey Hilderbran dropping out in his bid for Comptroller, thus assuring victory to the huge frontrunner, State Senator Glenn Hegar. Similarly, on the Lieutenant Governor’s side, Dewhurst has some huge ground he must make up if he actually plans on remaining competitive. Finishing with barely over 20% of the vote in a race for re-election is a very pitiful end of a political career, but his possible fate in the runoff could spell even more misery.
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As Election Night unfolded, I sat at a watch party glued to my laptop. The first few results rolled in on Tuesday evening, I could not help but be surprised at what I was seeing. Dan Patrick, the ultra-conservative state senator from Houston, was leading incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst 2-to-1 in the primary for that post, flouting both what had been assumed as gospel by the political establishment and reported as fact from a recent Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll.
That same poll showed LaRouche activist (a cabal of conspiracy theorists) Kesha Rogers holding a plurality lead in the Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate. While she did — somehow — manage her way into a runoff with the establishment candidate, she did so with close to a 20 point deficit to make up, a normally insurmountable task.
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Rasmussen Reports, a reputable nationwide polling house, has released its first poll of the 2014 Texas Gubernatorial Election. The poll asked 500 likely voters on Monday and Tuesday who they would support between now the official Democratic nominee, State Senator Wendy Davis, and Republican nominee, Attorney General Greg Abbott. The poll also asked who the voters trusted more on a slew of issues, including taxes, the economy, government corruption and social issues. The results paint a disastrous picture for the Davis campaign, one that should surely sound some alarm bells in Fort Worth if they are still serious about winning.
In addition to the aforementioned totals in this race (Abbott 53, Davis 41), one more percent selected some other candidate with a mere 5% still undecided. When divided by gender, Abbott leads men by a huge margin (66 to 29) while Davis actually leads among women (53 to 41). I’m not sure what the breakdown by race, ethnicity, geography or age is yet. Additionally, when the poll asked voters who they trusted more on taxes, economical issues, government corruption and social issues, Abbott was the clear favorite for all the choices. Admittedly, Davis did a little bit better on the social issues question, but was still trailing.
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If your first question is “Who is Jim Hogan?,” then don’t worry, there is a website set up to address your concerns. Hogan is a rancher out of Cleburne (Johnson County), who despite not campaigning in the slightest finished first in the Democratic primary for Agriculture Commissioner and advanced into a runoff with Kinky Friedman.
Despite being the establishment candidate supported by the top brass of the Texas Democratic Party and Leticia Van de Putte, Hugh Fitzsimons finished in dead last in the primary. In fact, of Texas’ 254 counties, he only won a plurality in a single one (Dallas County, for what it is worth). Accordingly, purist Democrats are slowly going bonkers having to choose in between a no-name and someone who the Austin elite bears a pathological hatred towards. That being said, I encourage you to read the one liners from both Friedman and Hogan. As many may recall, Texpatriate could not agree on an endorsement in the preliminary primary, we split our ticket with both Fitzsimons and Friedman.
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