The Texas Tribune reports on possible huge development for the 2014 Gubernatorial race. Debra Medina, the former Wharton County Republican Chair and Tea Party favorite 2010 gubernatorial candidate, is flirting with the idea of running for Governor in 2014…as an independent. Medina, who was previously somewhat sold on running for Comptroller, has a reputation for being a Ted Cruz-style insurgent type candidate well before Ted Cruz was a household name in Texas politics.
Medina ran for Governor in 2010 to the right of Rick Perry, running against both him and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Ultimately, she finished in third place with 19% of the vote, a full 11% behind Hutchison. However, at one point, she was at 24%, well within striking distance of forcing a runoff with Perry.
The article in the Tribune insinuated that Medina would rather run for Comptroller in the Republican primary, but has trouble getting off the ground when it comes to raising any significant amount of money. Alternatively, she has discussed the possibility of running as an Independent candidate for Governor, to which she insinuated donations would be somewhat larger.
By no means is it a done deal, or even especially likely, that Medina will choose this path. However, let us assume arguendo that she decides to run for Governor as an independent. The situation would be greatly beneficial to the Democrats for a number of obvious, and a few non-obvious, reasons.
If 2010 is any indication, Medina would run to the right of Abbott. While the Tea Party influence in most of the country is somewhat tepid compared to where it was three years ago, the opposite is probably true of Texas. Back in 2010, people of the right-wing were content to believe the institutional GOP had their best interests at heart. That all changed with Ted Cruz, and now has produced a domino effect with Dan Patrick (& possibly Louie Gohmert). If Medina decides to run for Governor as an independent, she would receive more Republican primary voters than she did in 2010.
Medina would also have some issues to run on. Specifically, the US Airlines-American merger, which Greg Abbott famously opposed. The Texas Tribune just reported, a few hours ago, that the Texas Association of Business, a nominally conservative organization, has harshly repudiated Abbott for this stance. Medina would have a major leg to stand on with this issue.
The benefit for Democrats is somewhat obvious. Texas does not require majorities to win, so Wendy Davis could get elected Governor with 44% of the vote if Medina takes a serious chunk of the right-wing away from Abbott. As opposed to other “mavericky” Republicans to recently run for Governor as independents (e.g., Carole Keeton Strayhorn), Medina does not risk taking any votes from moderates.