The Associated Press reports that a new right-wing PAC, Accountability First, is targeting both House Speaker Joe Straus and allies in upcoming Republican primaries, in a rather transparent attempt to make the Texas House an even more right-wing chamber. Specifically, Rep. Byron Cook (R-Navarro County) and Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland County), moderates and Straus allies, have seen their respective primary opponents be heavily funded by this PAC.
The PAC is largely underwritten by Wallace Hall, the embattled UT Regent on an alleged witch hunt against UT-Austin President Bill Powers. Hall is, of course, currently being investigated by the Legislature for abuse of office and possible impeachment. Also a heavy benefactor to the interest group is Jeff Sandefer, a longtime Perry adviser. Sandefer is probably best known for heralding many of the more-controversial education reforms in the right-wing’s playbook. Specifically, some of the aversions cast upon him are his alleged desire to turn schools such as the University of Texas into more of a technical/vocational institute.
Bobby Vickery is specifically opposing Cook out in east Texas, and it is Cullen Crisp challenging Keffer in the northwest. Both have focused little on specifically demonstrating why the incumbent has allegedly failed, and simply try to demonstrate they are the superior archconservative. The one exception is that Crip accuses Keffer of voting for “in-state tuition for illegals,” a familiar —if misleading— statistic employed by Dan Patrick against his opponents.
Cook and Keffer are among what the papers have called “Straus’ top lieutenants.” If they are “primaried,” so to speak, it will deal a tough blow for the comparably pragmatic leadership of the lower chamber. I don’t think Straus has a primary opponent, but he does have an opponent for the Speakership in Rep. Scott Turner (R-Collin County), who announced a few weeks ago that he would seek the Speaker’s gavel for himself.
Many of my liberal friends will lament the sad State of the Texas House, noting all the bad bills that arose out of it last session, and boldly proclaim it could not get any worse. Make no mistake, it can always get worse (Editorial note: And it will get worse, mark our words). Democrats and reasonable Republicans should team together to get sure people like Cook, Keffer and Straus don’t lose. I sure will.