Cartoonist Nick Anderson at the Houston Chronicle recently depicted the four candidates in the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor as neanderthals. Indeed, the candidates have incessantly one-upped each other in a desperate race of conservatism to the extreme. Whether this has been on the issue of abortion, creationism or the role of the government funding, each and every candidate has espoused dangerous political positions that have the capacity to turn back the clock on the progress of a healthy society.
However, instead of focusing on the drawbacks of the candidates, this board will focus on their strengths. Among the four candidates –incumbent David Dewhurst, State Senator Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples– this board has found two distinct categories that we have rewarded those running. First, there is the capacity for effective leadership demonstrated in the past. Second, there continue to be those bright spots –albeit few and far in between– wherein some candidates have let their pragmatism and common sense shine through, often to the detriment of their standing with the hard-right primary voters.
When it comes to leadership, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst is the hands down winner. For over eleven years, Dewhurst has led a State Senate that has retained a club-like, easy going attitude, often in sharp contrast to the petty bickering both in the lower house and in Washington D.C. This is chiefly due to the retention of a safeguard against the tyranny of the majority, a dilatory tactic known as the “two-thirds rule,” which allows a union of at least 11 Senators to hold up legislation. Additionally, Dewhurst has historically heralded bipartisanship by appointing nearly a half-dozen Democrats to lead some of the most important Committees in the chamber, including those in charge of Criminal Justice, Education and Veterans.
However, Dewhurst has been roundly criticized for this bipartisanship and moderation by the base of his party. Charges of insincere conservatism and of being a “RINO” have penetrated this race, and allowed his many challengers to gain traction. Accordingly, Dewhurst has arguably strayed as far to the right as any other candidate. In addition to extreme positions on political issues, Dewhurst has promised to eliminate the 2/3rds rule and end Committee chairmanships for Democrats. This board believes both are foolish tactics that will only hurt this State in both the short term and the long term.
When it comes to the Commissioners’ leadership histories, Patterson and Staples, there is truly little to say on the topic. Both have led somewhat low-profile histories at their respective low-profile positions. Finally, Sen. Patrick has surprised this board in his style of leadership thus far in the upper chamber. While there are surely many repugnant ideas that Patrick has pushed for in those years, we have been especially surprised in just how well he has handled his new responsibility as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, specifically in advancing a good education reform bill that passed unanimously.
This leaves us with the so-called “bright spots” of candidates on the campaign trail. In that category, this board believes it is Dewhurst and Patrick that most pressingly epitomize the dangerous extremism of grandstanding to the far right. Be it proclamations that the United States is a “Christian nation,” ignorant pontifications about the legal system (from two laymen) or talk of repealing the 17th Amendment (direct election of US Senators), these candidates are, as Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg would put it, “in the wrong century.”
Commissioner Staples has also swayed dangerously far to the right, albeit in a less severe manner than the aforementioned two candidates. Whether it has been talk of marijuana laws or immigration, Staples has been right there with him. Additionally, reports have also surfaced that Staples joined with Dewhurst and Patrick at an earlier forum in calling for the repeal of the 17th amendment.
By the process of elimination, this board is left with Commissioner Patterson. While there are surely some issues in which Patterson is similarly out in crazy land, this board believes he is ultimately the most sane of the bunch. Whether this has been immigration reform –and his admittance of the humanity behind the issue– or a cool head when it comes to the reform of marijuana laws, Patterson is not afraid of admitting something possibly unpopular if it is the right thing to do.
Accordingly, this board endorses Jerry Patterson in the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor. In the Democratic primary, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte is unopposed.
The Texpatriate Editorial is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent the opinion of a majority of the board.