Other GOP runoffs

As I previously noted in my Dan Patrick analysis, there were three other Statewide GOP primary runoffs last night.  Ken Paxton defeated Dan Branch for Attorney General, Sid Miller defeated Tommy Merritt for Agriculture Commissioner and Ryan Sitton defeated Wayne Christian for Railroad Commissioner. In the former two contests, the clearly denoted “Tea Party” candidate defeated the “Moderate establishment” pick, whereas the latter race was significantly more nuanced. While Christian has a history in public office of using loud and obstreperous right-wing noise to the detriment of actual policy, Sitton also campaigned heavily on right-wing issues. For example, his campaign commercials discussed immigration policy, taking a hard stand on undocumented immigration, despite that it has little to do with the office of Railroad Commissioner, which regulates the oil and gas industries.

Specifically in the Attorney General’s race, Paxton won in yet another blowout, winning almost every county in the State, save a few in the Valley and along the Edwards plateau. The issue with Paxton is a novel one, as he has received no shortage of bad publicity this campaign cycle for some shady dealings. Paul Burka at Texas Monthly lamented Paxton in particular as both a “know-nothing” and someone likely to be convicted of a felony and disbarred. What a wonderful candidate for Attorney General.

Click here for the three obligatory charts!

In re Dan Patrick

Last night, I attended the “victory party” for the David Dewhurst campaign. As one may have expect, the affair for the Lieutenant Governor was rather somber as a result of his crushing defeat at the hands of State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), who usurped the nomination away from the three-term incumbent. In other news from around the State, State Senator Ken Paxton (R-Collin County) defeated State Representative Dan Branch (R-Dallas County) to win the GOP nomination for Attorney General and former State Representative Sid Miller (R-Erath County) defeated former State Representative Tommy Merritt (R-Gregg County) to win the GOP nomination for Agriculture Commissioner. Ryan Sitton also won the Republican primary runoff for the Railroad Commission, besting former State Representative Wayne Christian (R-Shelby County). All in all, it was a fantastic night for the Tea Party in an election cycle where they are losing all over the rest of the country.

Whenever I go to an election watch party, I invariably attempt to befriend the younger faces, out of familiarity I suppose. As a fun aside, this was the first election where some of those “younger faces” were actually younger than me, but that is neither here nor there. What stuck out to me was the degree of hatred pointed toward Patrick that many held. Most everyone I talked to pledged to not vote for Dan Patrick in the fall, with many of them willing to thrust eager support behind State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor.

“It doesn’t matter anyways, Texas will be a blue state in 10 years,” one of them even said. I was shocked at how many of his compatriots appeared to tacitly agree with such a viewpoint, long the immaculate bread and butter of Democratic politics. You know my opinion on this subject, however. It is going to get worse before it is going to get better, and last night was yet another huge step backwards.

Click here to see my obligatory charts!

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!

A few initial thoughts

Just to sum up the results for those of y’all who have not been paying much attention to things, I will recap some of the big things that have happened. First, the expected winners were, by and large, the winners on Tuesday night in Statewide elections. Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis won their respective bids for Governor, John Cornyn easily beat back challengers for another nomination to the Senate, George P. Bush got the GOP nod for Land Commissioner and Stephen Brown got the Democrat nod for Railroad Commissioner. All three incumbent Supreme Court Justices who saw right-wing primary opponent were able to easily prevail.

In a few other races, the expected result happened, but in a very different manner. This was largely due to the fact that the Texas Tribune poll released about a week ago was total garbage. It was not worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, to quote a friend. In these races, David Alameel and Kesha Rogers indeed will proceed into a runoff for the US Senate Democrat primary, as will David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick for the Lieutenant Governor Republican primary. However, the Tribune poll seriously miscalculated who would come in first and by how much. Instead of Rogers holding a commanding plurality lead, she hovered near 20% while Alameel was just a few perilous points so close to winning outright. Instead of the preconceived notion that Dewhurst would receive 40-something percent compared to Patrick’s 20-something, the roles were reversed.

Click here to read more!

Predictions and hopes

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I am not much for predictions. Well, to be fair, I used to predict things all the time, but I was notoriously wrong too many times to count. Accordingly, in an effort to save face, I will  not field my own electoral predictions, which are only slightly less reliable than the Tribune polls.

Rather, I want to note what I am looking for and what I am hoping for; admittedly, they are nearly mutual exclusive categories. Within those categories, I would like to look most specifically at both the Republican & Democratic primaries, as well as both Statewide races and those in Harris County. Within these four categories, there are quite a few overlapping key points, however.

1. HOW BIG IS THE STUPID VOTE?

This is one for the Democratic primary. I am using the official academic term, of course, to describe these so-called stupid voters. They are the voters who will cast their lots for Kesha Rogers (US Senate), Lloyd Wayne Oliver (District Attorney) and Lori Gray (115th District Court), in that order. Albeit, plenty of otherwise unintelligent voters may coincidentally vote for the non-egregious candidates, but there is no way to discern them from Adam.

Click here to read all my other points!

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!

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!

A basic recap of Legislative retirements

The Texas Tribune reports that yet another longtime Republcan State Representative, Bill Callegari of Katy, will not seek re-election in 2014. Callegari, who has been in office since 2001, is not by any means one of the most moderate of Representatives, though he is still far more pragmatic than most members of the Tea Party caucus.

Among the other retirements from the lower chamber among the Republican caucus are technocrats, pragmatists and longtime representatives. These include Harvey Hilderbran (who is running for Comptroller), Tyron Lewis, Rob Orr and Jim Pitts, among other names. Further Republicans, not necessarily more moderate, such as Dan Branch, Stefani Carter and Van Taylor, are forgoing re-election to the House in order to run for higher office.

Among Democrats, Craig Eiland is probably the only Democrat retiring whose district has been put in jeopardy (this is assisted by the fact that the Democrats, holding a pitiful 55 seats, have already been reduced to the studs. Eiland’s district, consisting of most of Galveston, has eyed a few hopeful Democrats, including District Judge Susan Criss & former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski.

From what I understand, about half the Legislature has announced intention to run for re-election, with another big share of the lower house still assumed to do so.

A larger share of the State House’s Republican caucus that is filled with far-right reactionaries is bound to be a brutal result for the Democrats. The most odious quality of this increased polarization is that it is not easily fixed. Jim Pitts’ successor, for example, will most likely be a Tea Party favorite out of Waxahachie. His constituents in Waxahachie will not be inclined to dump a Tea Party representative any time soon, because for the forseeable future, Republican primaries in Ellis County will be tantamount to election.

Another issue with all these retirements is that Joe Straus’ days as Speaker may be numbered. Paul Burka first prophesied this conclusion about a month ago, well before the cards of retirement started falling.

51 current Republicans were elected in the post-Tea Party era (2010 or 2012). This is added to the six currently retiring Representatives who did not take office in one of those years. After that point, only 19 of the 44 remaining Republicans are needed to oust Straus. The math does not look good for him if an organized opposition effort actually comes to pass.

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.