Simply put, there have been some entrances and some exits in recent Statewide Republican primaries. Namely, in the races for the positions of Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner.
Brandon Creighton, a State Representative from Magnolia who took his sweet time to announce his candidacy for Agriculture Commissioner, is out of the race. As far as I could figure, Creighton was the hands-down favorite in the race thus far, and his exit opened up a vacuum. Politics, of course, abhors a vacuum, and therefore a small stampede of candidates rushed into the primary, which now lacks a clear frontrunner. I never got around to writing about this last week, but Sophia discussed it in the week in review this past Sunday.
Now, the Texas Tribune reports that State Representative Stefani Carter, a candidate for Railroad Commissioner, has dropped out of the race. Carter, in stark contrast to Creighton, was not doing especially well in the race. Malachi Boyuls, George P. Bush’s business partner, has by far the most money in that race, and thus was crowned as the frontrunner by the Tribune. Carter, therefore, most likely felt her candidacy was not worthwhile.
Tommy Williams, the State Senator in Creighton’s district, recently announced he was retiring/resigning. Creighton, who evidently still has some ambition left as a legislator, decided to run for the Senate seat instead. He will be challenged by State Representative Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), reports the Tribune. The astute will remember that, when Creighton announced his bid for Agriculture Commissioner, it was Rep. Toth who introduced him to the crowd and spoke so highly of his colleague. Accordingly, now that these two men are challenging each other in a primary, get ready for some sparks to fly. To add insult to injury, Quorum Report has recently suggested that Cecil Bell, the other State Representative who introduced Creighton’s candidacy in August, might end up running for the post of Agriculture Commissioner.
Rep. Carter, meanwhile, will be running for re-election to the State House. The Tribune article on the topic notes that there are already four other Republicans running in the formerly-open primary for her seat. If the curious case of Mr Dewhurst is any indication, the once-successor candidates will transform into challengers, and could spell trouble for the incumbent.
At this point, I believe it is also important to note the state of these two primaries, specifically all of the new candidates in it. First, in the Railroad Commissioner race, Boyul’s first opponent is Joe Pool, Jr., the son of a Democratic congressman in the 60s, and a lawyer who is trying to run as a very Conservative candidate. Next, Ryan Sitton and Becky Berger, both oil/gas businesspeople.
The final two candidates are Wayne Christian and Ray Keller, respectively, both former State Representatives. While Keller served a very long time ago (1979-1987), Christian served much more recently. In fact, Christian was famously “primaried” by a more conservative challenger in the Republican primary last year after serving eight terms. Both have taken small steps to repudiate Tea Party extremism.
The election, therefore, will serve as a referendum on the future of the Texas Republican Party. Boyuls represents the malleable candidate trying his best to take and retain public office, no matter where the voters’ opinions lays, much like Greg Abbott. The next trio of candidates (Pool, Sitton & Berger) represents the Tea Party insurgents, who are backed only be grassroots organizations and not by any sort of institutional organization. The latter duo (Keller & Christian) are the far more pragmatic, old-school politicians.
Moving onto Agriculture Commissioner, the picture is far muddier, as there is no clear frontrunner following the exit of Creighton. Eric Opiela, a former official with the Texas Republican Party, is an unpredictable candidate, occupying much of the same ideological space as Tom Pauken. It is unclear whether he will be the establishment candidate or not.
“J” Allen Carnes, the Mayor of Uvalde (a town of 15,000), is also running for Agriculture Commissioner. Carnes is running not as a Tea Party favorite, but as an openly pragmatic and moderate candidate. For example, he posts a long explanation of government’s need to provide good infrastructure on his website:
“Even such Republican conservatives as…Lincoln and Eisenhower were believers in the State’s role in maintaining and enhancing infrastructure. There are some who in the interest of “conservative governance,” which they equate exclusively with reduced spending, seem content with such retrograde solutions as turning portions of our once prized Farm-to-Market roads to gravel and reducing the speed limit to 30 miles per hour.”
I didn’t know the Republican Party still claimed Eisenhower as one of its own. The final two candidates represent another “latter duo.” Sid Miller and Tommy Merrit are State Representatives recently primaried by more conservative candidates, respectively. Though, compared to Carnes, they have not been running on as pragmatic of platform.