Common knowledge would have you believe that all four Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor are equally conservative, with each and every one occupying a political position just right of Attila the Hun. Accordingly, the prevailing wisdom has held that for liberals or centrists considering casting ballots in the GOP primary, there are no good options. After a few bouts of news in the last few days, I now must strongly disagree with such an overly simplified assessment.
First, The Dallas Morning News reports that Jerry Patterson, the State’s Land Commissioner and a Lieutenant Governor hopeful, has begun calling out his opponents for too extreme of conservatism over the theoretical repeal of the 17th amendment. The over 100 year old statute provides for the direct election of the US Senate, taking that power out of the hands of the State Legislatures. For what it is worth, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples –another hopeful– blasted the idea, albeit on less pragmatic grounds (he noted that direct election led to the reign of Ted Cruz).
As the Burnt Orange Report noted back in October, this fodder penetrated into the mainstream following a primary forum in October. At that point, incumbent David Dewhurst and State Senator Dan Patrick unequivocally noted, on the record, that they wished to repeal the amendment. However, in addition to these statements, Bob Price tweeted that he privately confirmed the remaining candidates were also in favor of repeal. Price is a well-respected journalist for Texas GOP vote, a conservative newsource that is actually pretty straightforward. I’ve placed calls to Patterson’s campaign and received no comment by press time on this alleged discrepancy.
In other news, the Houston Chronicle reports on a recent editorial board meeting Patterson had with the publication. Therein, Patterson iterated some surprisingly pragmatic positions, specifically on the topics of immigration, education and leadership style. In sharp contrast to Patrick’s anti-immigrant campaign, Patterson noted it would be rather idiotic to implement mass deportations, adding “I don’t want to live in a country with that kind of police power, especially at the federal level.” Thereafter, he voiced his support for a guest worker program.
Peggy Fikac at the Houston Chronicle painted a much different picture on Tuesday. She chronicled just how tough the language that Patrick is using has been. This just goes to show the night and day difference, specifically when Patterson is the only one between them with any imitative to reach out to the Hispanic community or otherwise understand its importance politically in the future.
Patterson then talked education, teachers specifically. As the original Chronicle article goes on to note, Patterson actually admits that teachers are underpaid. In fact, he thinks they should be paid, on average, about $12,000/year more. Specifically, with money taken directly from the US Department of Education, though he did note that that was nothing more than a quixotic suggestion.
However, the general idea represented flies in the face of another general consensus of the far-right community. As KUHF noted, Dewhurst argued just last night that teachers are paid a “very fair salary.” The comments drew the ire and the rebuke of many around the State, including teachers here in town. For what it is worth, the average teacher in the State of Texas receives about $47,000/year in compensation, well below the average of their national counterparts. Patterson’s solution would bring the number close to $60k, which is definitely a good start.
Make no mistake, the candidates in the Republican primary are not all “just as bad” as one another. David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick are, without a shadow of a doubt, more extreme than their other counterparts. Additionally, I would opine that Patterson is even more pragmatic than Staples. Patterson closed his remarks by noting that all his counterparts with the exception of Patrick are worthwhile candidates –a position shared by Dewhurst. Finally, he expressed his intention to run the chamber like one of his Democratic predecessors; specifically, former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, the fiery Democrat who served from 1991 to 1999.
I think everyone in this State knows by now that I will be voting in November for Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for office. But absent a miracle, she simply does not have a chance, and March’s Republican primary is tantamount to election. Accordingly, I think Jerry Patterson is the best choice…certainly an improvement from the status quo.