Texpatriate endorses in Attorney General primary

Editorial note: We originally published this editorial on February 2nd, ahead of the March primary. We reiterate our support for Rep. Dan Branch in preparation for the May primary runoff by reprinting it today.

We would like to pose a question to our readership: What does the Texas Attorney General do? If you believe the incumbent, Greg Abbott, the job chiefly revolves around suing the President of the United States. If you believe one of the Republican contenders for this post, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, the job is simply a stepping stone to conservative, red-meat social issues. And if you believe one of the most recent Democrats to run for the post, David Van Os, the office is about providing liberals a soapbox to rant and rave against “Big Oil” and the energy sector.

Obviously, none of these are really correct answers. The Attorney General serves as the lawyer for the State of Texas, both representing the Governor and other agencies as official counsel and as the official defender of laws that are challenged in court. However, despite being the most flashy duties, this only represents a small fraction of the position’s responsibilities. In addition to those aforementioned duties, the Attorney General’s office also investigates a plethora of crimes that are especially heinous or damaging to public integrity. Finally, the office secures child support payments, which perhaps is its most time-consuming duty. When taking into account these responsibilities, this board is hard pressed to find a candidate in the Republican primary who will competently and capably fulfill these duties.

Click here to read more!

In re Ken Paxton

In yet another instance of the Texas Tribune’s poll not being worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, it was State Senator Ken Paxton –not State Representative Dan Branch– who finished in the plurality in the Republican primary for Attorney General. Paxton got 44% of the vote, while Branch got about 33%. Given that the third candidate, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, is an ultra-conservative alongside Paxton, the Senator looks ripe to defeat the more establishment Branch in the resulting runoff election. In fact, calls are already abound to force Branch to step aside, much like Harvey Hilderbran did in the race for Comptroller.

Smitherman, for his part, has not endorsed either candidate, though one could not deny that he is more ideologically aligned with Paxton. The office of Attorney General holds a powerful position that looms heavily over the State, as an independent top lawyer for the State with the responsibility to both litigate pertinent suits for the jurisdiction and enforce child support laws. Both Branch and Paxton look to the incumbent, Greg Abbott, as an example for their possible administrations. Abbott has transformed the office from behind-the-scenes technocrat to an upfront counselor constantly getting in high profile spats with the Federal Government.

Click here for a county-by-county map!

Farewell, Dirtbags!

After every election, Bill Maher typically does a segment where he presents a tongue-in-cheek “in memoriam” video as a tribute to all those most outlandish personalities who lost in their elections. Thus, to quote the words of Richard Nixon, we won’t have them to kick around anymore.

Rep.+Steve+Stockman

Rep. Steve Stockman: “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted.”

Click here for more!

2014’s first big poll

The Texas Tribune reports on a very comprehensive poll they conducted over just about every competitive primary in the State. The poll has a fairly substantial margin of error (upwards of 6% in the Democratic primary, specifically), so that is something to bear in mind when analyzing the results.

Simply put, the results paint a bad picture for the Democrats. Back at that time, Greg Abbott lead Wendy Davis by only five points; today, Abbott’s lead has grown to Eleven points. Other polls paint a similarly bleak picture for the Democrats, especially considering that these Texas Tribune polls have historically been overly generous to the Democratic candidate. Just a few days after that original Tribune poll, Public Policy Polling (a historically very accurate pollster) estimated Abbott’s lead at a whopping fifteen points. Accordingly, I am eager to see just how bad off the Democrats are doing when PPP releases its triannual February poll any day now.

Also of note here is that these polls were largely conducted before the Ted Nugent scandal really blew over regarding Greg Abbott’s campaign. Therefore, one could plausibly assert that this poll overvalues Davis’ problems emanating from “Trailergate” while simultaneously not taking to account Abbott’s recent woes. Among other issues with this poll was a misleading discrepancy between “registered” and “likely” voters. Additionally, the polls completely disregarded the portion of the electorate still undecided. I have recreated these polls with the undecideds built into the poll, as well as only taking note of the “registered” voters.

Click here for full results and graph!

Lazy, Lazy, Lazy

When it comes to last minute Statewide filings, there were few big surprises besides Steve Stockman going up against John Cornyn, and Justice Larry Meyers becoming a Democrat, both of which I have previously covered. Indeed, the news I will focus on is the continued laziness and complacency of the Democrats, which in and of itself is not especially surprising. But more on that about two paragraphs down.

For the non-Judicial posts, Democrats were responsible enough this go-around to recruit candidates for all of the openings for the first time in six years (in 2010, we allowed Susan Combs to be re-elected without contest, and in 2012, we allowed Barry Smitherman to do the same). Except for the Agriculture Commissioner, Railroad Commissioner and Governor (Wendy Davis faces token opposition), all the other Democrats stood alone in their primaries. The obvious major exception is for the US Senate seat, which will feature three major candidates, David Alameel, Michael Fjetland and Maxey Scherr.

For the Judicial positions, a few qualified candidates also ran. Bill Moody, an El Paso District Judge who has previously run for the Supreme Court, will seek the Chief Justice’s office. The aforementioned Larry Meyers, who currently serves as a Justice on the Court of Criminal Appeals, will run for a spot on the Supreme Court. Gina Benavides, the Chief Justice of the 13th Court of Appeals (based in Corpus Christi), will run for yet another spot. Additionally, John Granberg, an attorney out of El Paso, will run for the Court of Criminal Appeals. These four candidates will be extraordinarily competent on the campaign trail and would make fine Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals Justices.

But the Dems left three seats without candidates. Click here to read why that is inexcusable!

Another 2014 Tribune poll

The Texas Tribune, in cooperation with the University of Texas, has released a new 2014 General election poll. As far as I could figure, this is the first poll the institutions have released for the 2014 campaign. The results paint an interesting picture of the political landscape that could foster competitive elections for the first time in nearly 20 years.

First and foremost, let us look at the results:

Click here to view results and analysis!

San Antonio approves NDO

The San Antonio Express-News reports that the San Antonio City Council has approved an encompassing non-discrimination ordinance aimed at protecting LGBT people. The vote wasn’t even close –8 to 3– and only saw objection from the most vitriolically homophobic Councilmember, including Elisa Chan.

Julian Castro can now put this elegant feather in his cap, right alongside the ‘Pre-K for San Antonio‘ measure. Houston has neither a comprehensive pre-educational program nor a non-discrimination ordinance. Castro, for his part, released this statement shortly following the votes:

“This ordinance fundamentally is about ensuring whether you’re white or black, Christan or Jew, straight or gay, this city belongs to you. This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio.”

This ordinance is a wonderful example of Castro, and all the representatives of San Antonio, standing quite firm following terrible attacks on all fronts from the right wing. I cannot think of a single Statewide Republican who has publicly condoning/endorsed this measure. However, the conservatives lined up to oppose the measure stretches out the door.Greg Abbott, our Governor-in-waiting, strongly opposed the ordinance. All three Attorney General candidates (Dan Branch, Ken Paxton and Barry Smitherman) also opposed the ordinance. Ted Cruz too.
The Texas Tribune has more on this issue, including the possibility of a court challenge. The Tribune article notes that Greg Abbott and his buddies are planning on to bring a court challenge against the ordinance, arguing it violates the 1st Amendment (Religious Liberty).—From a very personal point of view, I am ecstatic that the ordinance was passed today, as today is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It is no secret that I am somewhat secular, but this is one of the two days of the year I go to services and spend my day predominantly in nominally spiritual introspection. For some sort of minor political development, I probably would not have taken the time to follow the news today, research this article or write this article.A number of years ago, when I was getting my “fifteen minutes of fame,” I was interviewed by KPRC. As it turned out, the only day the could fit me in was on Rosh Hashanah. I remember being somewhat apprehensive about the idea at first, but at the urging of my parents, I was told that it would be far more important to live-out the virtues of decency and justice and righteousness that you would have just spent the day promising to do in the upcoming year anyways.
Accordingly, it was an easy decision to write this article today. Again, for what it is worth, I typically do not condone gloating in reaction to political victories, but believe this is an important exception. In a normal election, there is obviously a losing party, who has been hindered. Further, on many policy issues, the same arrangement may exist (e.g., Doctors being harmed by healthcare reform). There are no losers in San Antonio this afternoon. No persons will be discriminated against, whether for sexual orientation, gender identity or religious viewpoint. No money will be lost. Only benefit comes from this issue; it is truly a one-sided issue.

Lege update 8/1

There are three words I would have never thought I’d be piecing together. But here we are, three Special Sessions into the summer. Thus far, Transportation funding is the only issue on the call, though Campus Construction & Guns on Campus could still appear. As one may recall from my previous post on the issue, the Senate has already approved SJR1. At press time, the journal has still not been uploaded, so I have absolutely no idea how the vote went down.

Anyways, the Texas Tribune now reports that the House Select Committee on Transportation has taken up SJR1, and purposefully chosen not to move forward with the legislation. The Committee then took up HJR1, which is Joe Pickett’s plan, and passed the measure 6-1 with the lone dissenting vote coming from Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Harris County). Sergio Munoz (D-Hidalgo County), the only other Democrat on the committee, voted yes, as did all four Republicans.

There are a few different circumstances, however. First, Comptroller Susan Combs announced that Oil & Gas taxes would come into the coffers at levels $900 Million higher than previously expected. Second, there were some changes to Pickett’s proposals. From the Tribune:

Pickett added a provision to the plan that would require the Texas Department of Transportation to find $100 million in “efficiencies” over the 2014-15 biennium and put that money toward paying the agency’s multibillion-dollar debt. Paying off that much debt early would save the agency $47 million in debt service payments, Pickett said.

[…]

The other key difference in Pickett’s new proposal would be in the way the Legislature could ensure that the plan wouldn’t drain the Rainy Day Fund’s balance beyond a level with which state leaders are comfortable. A previous version required the Legislative Budget Board to periodically set a minimum balance, or floor, for the Rainy Day Fund below which tax revenue could not be diverted to transportation. Pickett switched out the LBB with a select joint committee of five House members and five senators.

Also, at the start of each legislative session, lawmakers would have the opportunity to file bills proposing that the floor selected by the committee be adjusted, Pickett said. Such a bill would need to pass both chambers within the first 60 days of the session to be enacted. 

This bill, most likely, will be approved by the full House. At that point, HJR1 and SJR1 would have to be battled-out in Conference Committee, just like last time. It is unclear what the end game here is.

In other news, the Texas Tribune reported that Sen. Ken Paxton (R-Collin County) officially announced his candidacy for Attorney General. Paxton will be facing off against Rep. Dan Branch and Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman in the GOP primary. It will be quite the contest. Paxton, by the way, has a two-year term, so if he loses the primary, he will be unemployed.

A few more candidates

First off all, I would like to apologize for the two day absence. I was up in Washington for a conference, and my nighttime schedule unexpectedly filled up. Further, the 3 hours I was planning to dedicate to writing, on the plane, was a non-starter because I got booked on the one Southwest flight still without WiFi. Oh well.

These past few days have seen three major contenders enter the fray for the 2014 Republican Primary for statewide elections, as well as one more candidate for the 2013 City Council election in District D.

As expected, Dan Branch made an official announcement to enter the Attorney General’s race. As The Dallas Morning News reports, the State Representative announced his candidacy, surrounded by family, at the SMU Law School. Branch, like Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman and Senator Ken Paxton, had been running a pseudo-official campaign for Attorney General in the past weeks. However, after Abbott’s big announcement last week, Branch quickly began making his way towards a formal announcement.

Next, I got a press release (THANK YOU) announcing the candidacy of a man named Ray Keller for Railroad Commission. I’ve never heard of Keller, a former State Representative from the Dallas area, and I soon learned the reason. Keller served in the Legislature from 1979 to 1987, well before I was born.

The Legislature was heavily Democratic during that time, and half of the years included a Democratic Governor, so I take the claim he made of being a “Conservative Republican” in his press release with a grain of salt. He is a bit of an unknown, I guess you could say. It would not surprise me in the least. I will leave the diagnostics on this new candidate to one of my older contemporaries, perhaps old enough to remember the 80s.

Finally, in State news, Representative Brandon Creighton, the Conservative Republican who has an odd love-affair with guns, has announced his intention to make an announcement at some point in the future. Creighton, long rumored to be eyeing the spot of Agriculture Commissioner, announced on his Facebook that big day will come on August 9th. No word if it will be in San Antonio like all the other big announcements.

Back to municipal elections, there is yet another candidate in District D: Christina Sanders. She is the State Director of the League of Young Voters. She doesn’t really have a website or social media set up, but does have this shell of a donation page. I am always overjoyed when a fellow young person gets involved with politics, especially when they have experience as well. Sanders will be a good addition to an already interesting race.

If you are following my previous article on District D, you will note that one such candidate has decided to go out of his way to call me a liar. I don’t have any ill-will towards this individual, but the malice and untruthfulness on his part are somewhat important to note as one weights candidates’ integrity come election day.

Dos Centavos has more on Sanders.

The State of Statewide Elections

We have had quite a lot of action recently with our Statewide elections, and I’m talking about the Republican primaries to be clear. If anyone really wanted me to enumerate every single Democratic candidate, it would just be an empty chart. So, without further ado, the State of the Statewides, on this final day of June, 2013. We will be getting the campaign finance reports soon, so there will be even more to talk about.

GOVERNOR
*Rick Perry-Despite recently pledging to make a campaign decision by July 1st, the Governor recently reneged on that promise. The new time frame appears to be that Perry will make his big decision by the end of the Second Special Session, so by the end of July. Reading the tea leaves for Perry’s future is difficult, however. On one hand, the Texas Tribune recently reported that a Perry campaign veteran, Mark Miner, is rejoining his team. On the other, more and more candidates have started lining up for the Attorney General’s office, with the assumption that Greg Abbott is running for Governor. Only the incumbent Governor knows for sure.

*Greg Abbott-The incumbent Attorney General is, second to only Perry, the most watched figure in Texas politics. Perry has previous made the announcement that the duo would not run against each other. Further, there have been quite a few candidates who have declared for Abbott’s current job, with the understanding that Abbott will not run again for Attorney General.

*Tom Pauken-The former Chairman of the Texas Republican Party and Texas Workforce Commission is, right now, the only serious candidate running for the Governor’s office. He in unapologetic about opposing the incumbent, but I do not know how the campaign would actually go if it were Abbott, and not Perry, who was his principle opponent.

*Larry SECEDE Kilgore-As I have mentioned before, there is also a Texas secessionist who wants to turn to the new sovereignty into a theocracy. His campaign will be entertaining to watch, to say the least.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
*David Dewhurst-The incumbent Lieutenant Governor, despite his recent bad press, is still working hard to keep his job. After his loss to Cruz in last year’s Senate primary, Dewhurst has attempted to move as far to the right as humanly possible. A recent poll showed he had a plurality lead in a possible Republican primary, though most involved were still undecided.

*Jerry Patterson-The incumbent Land Commissioner has been openly running for Lite Gov since 2011, back when it appeared Dewhurst would be a shoe-in for the Senate. Since Dewhurst’s defeat, Patterson has simply doubled down on his own campaign.

*Todd Staples-The incumbent Agriculture Commissioner is pretty much in the same boat as Patterson. The commissioner has recently released a new internet video (not quite a commercial), that introduces him and his conservative credentials. It is chock full of hypocrisy, so I am sure he is going for major Tea Party support. For example, Staples calls himself a “defender of individual rights,” then brags about authoring the Defense of Marriage Act. Yuck.

*Dan Patrick-The new contender, State Senator Dan Patrick recently announced via YouTube video that he would be challenging Dewhurst, and, by extension, Patterson and Staples. Patrick attempted to brand himself as an “authentic Conservative.”

ATTORNEY GENERAL
*Greg Abbott-The incumbent Attorney General is, second to only Perry, the most watched figure in Texas politics. Perry has previous made the announcement that the duo would not run against each other. Further, there have been quite a few candidates who have declared for Abbott’s current job, with the understanding that Abbott will not run again for Attorney General.

*Dan Branch-The Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, a State Representative for six terms now, has officially announced his intentions for Attorney General assuming Abbott departs. He is a little “twitter-happy” (that’s an understatement), making a tweet every few minutes that ends with the hashtag “DanBranch2014.” 

*Barry Smitherman-The incumbent Railroad Commissioner, who was just re-elected without opponent last year, has also announced his intentions to run for Attorney General in the event of Abbott’s departure. 

*Ken Paxton-The one-term Senator and previous Representative has long been mentioned as a possible candidate for Attorney General, though he hasn’t officially announced anything. 

*Susan Reed-I am going to keep mentioning this until she definitively rules herself out. Susan Reed, the Bexar County DA, was mentioned by the SA Express-News about being interested in running for the seat. She has not officially announced anything herself.

LAND COMMISSIONER
*George P. Bush-The next generation of Bush has been openly running for this seat for a few months now. He is getting national recognition because his dad was the Governor of Florida, his uncle was the President (and Governor of Texas) and his grandfather was also the President. 

*David Watts-Watts, who has to my knowledge never held public office, is running against Bush for Land Commissioner. A self proclaimed “Conservative Republican,” his announcement flew completely under the radar.

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER
*Brandon Creighton-The conservative, Tea Party State Representative from Conroe, has been mentioned by quite a few sources, including The New York Times, as a possible candidate for Agriculture Commissioner. Creighton has not confirmed his candidacy.

*Tommy Merritt-The eastern Texas State Representative was famously defeated in the 2010 Republican Primary by then-unknown Tea Party favorite David Simpson, who has since become a big opponent of Speaker Straus. Merritt is now mentioned as an Agriculture Commissioner candidate, though he has not confirmed this.

*Eric Opiela-The only open candidate at this time. He served as the Executive Director of the Texas Republican Party from 2008-2009 and bears a special hatred in his heart for the EPA.

COMPTROLLER
*Glenn Hegar-The Senator who just concluded his fourth session is already an open candidate for the Comptrollers’ office, now that incumbent Susan Combs will be retiring. 

*Debra Medina-The former gubernatorial candidate and Wharton County Republican Party chair will be running for the office as well. If her 2010 campaign was any indicator, this will be a fun campaign.

*Harvey Hilderbran-The longtime State Representative will be running for the Comptrollers’ office, after 24 years in the lower house. Hilderbrn, a Tea Party favorite, was recently listed on Texas Monthly’s list of worst legislators.

*Raul Torres-The former one-term Republican State Rep from the Valley will be running for the office as well. I am curious to know how he will be setting himself apart from the rest.

*Tommy Williams-The Woodlands’ Senator, who recently had a high profile spat with Dan Patrick, has long been rumored as a Comptroller candidate. Williams, for his part, will be making his decision soon. Like Perry, he originally was going to make a comment at the conclusion of the special session, but the second session has started to muck these things up. Expect an announcement from Williams around the end of July.

RAILROAD COMMISSION
*Malachi Boyuls-A good friend of George P’s, Boyuls was recently highlighted as a candidate for the Railroad Commission. Interestingly, there will actually be two open Railroad Commission spots. First, Christi Craddick’s spot will be up for a full six-year term, while the final four years of Smitherman’s term will be filled in the event that he resigns his seat on the RRC.

*Stefani Carter-The Dallas area State Representative has long been open about her desires for Statewide office. If elected, she would bring some much needed diversity at the top –she is both female and African-American– which is now dominated by old, White men. For her part, she has not announced one way or another. She has even been mentioned as a possible Attorney General candidate.

Special thanks to Off the Kuff for assistance in compiling this list!