In re David Dewhurst

The runoff was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, with State Senator Dan Patrick outperforming incumbent Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst 2-to-1 in the preliminary Republican primary for the post. The two will advance to a May runoff election, eliminating both Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Most political prognosticators (including, unfortunately, myself) thought the roles would be largely reversed, with Dewhurst receiving 40%+ and Patrick holding about a twenty point deficit.

Further, the Texas Tribune reports on a developing story surrounding pressures placed on second-place candidates to drop out, thus eliminating the need for a runoff election. The effort has already been successful on one front, with State Representative Harvey Hilderbran dropping out in his bid for Comptroller, thus assuring victory to the huge frontrunner, State Senator Glenn Hegar. Similarly, on the Lieutenant Governor’s side, Dewhurst has some huge ground he must make up if he actually plans on remaining competitive. Finishing with barely over 20% of the vote in a race for re-election is a very pitiful end of a political career, but his possible fate in the runoff could spell even more misery.

Click here to view another 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.

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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!

Texpatriate endorses in Comptroller primary

The Texas Comptroller is an incredibly unique position, one without a readily identifiable counterpart at the local or national level. At first glance, one might think the job predominantly revolves around managing and keeping the State’s money. While the Comptroller may do many of these functions today, they were not and are not the prime duties of the office. Indeed, the office of State Treasurer had originally completed these tasks. The prime responsibility of the Comptroller of Public Accounts is to forecast revenue for the upcoming biennium, which in turn binds the Legislature as to how much money it may appropriate throughout its session. These estimates are important, because they can make or break just how painful the austerity in any particular year will be. For example, the incumbent Comptroller, Susan Combs, greatly underestimated revenue a few years ago –for ideological reasons– leading to excessive cuts.

This board has not been impressed by Combs’ tumultuous tenure in office. Putting ideology above the welfare of the State has led to disastrous results, most notably the painful cuts to Education in the 2011 session. Accordingly, we would be remiss to continue with business as usual by supporting her handpicked choice as successor, State Senator Glenn Hegar. Rather than talking about accounting, Hegar has seemed very busy on the campaign trail touting his stance on abortion. Rather than aspiring to be a protector of the State’s financial integrity, Hegar appears content to protect the integrity of the 2nd Amendment. We fail to see how either has anything to do with the office of Comptroller.

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Texpatriate’s Questions for Glenn Hegar

Editorial note: This is the eighteenth in our series of electronic interviews with candidates in contested primaries at both the Statewide level and throughout Harris County. We have sent eight open-ended questions to each of the candidates. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.

Glenn Hegar, State Senator and candidate in the Republican primary for Comptroller

Texpatriate: What is your name?
GH: Glenn Hegar

Click here to read the full interview!

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!

Hilderbran for Comptroller

The Texas Tribune reports that Harvey Hilderbran, the long serving State Representative, will, as expected, run for Comptroller. Unlike last week’s Agriculture Commissioner announcement by Brandon Creighton, nobody from Texpatriate was in attendance. Mostly because this event was all the way out in Kerrville.

Hilderbran, of course, is the State Representative who has served since 1989. Recently, he served as the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. Despite his extended resume in public service, Hilderbran is a mere 53 years of age, and evidently longing for something else to occupy his days.

“I’ll get to the bottom of IRS abuse in Texas – whether it’s abusive audits, unnecessary delays with tax-exempt applications or any unlawful disclosure of personal information,” said Hilderbran in his announcement.

Hilderbran will face a plethora of opposition in the Comptroller’s race, including State Senator Glenn Hegar, former State Representative Raul Torres and Tea Party firebrand Debra Medina. Additionally, an individual named Mike Collier will be running as a Democrat for Comptroller. I was going to write an entirely separate article on that, but there just isn’t that much to say about him.

The article from the Tribune has a lot more on what Hilderbran laid out as his key policy proposals, predominantly those that include protecting the average Texan from the IRS. Such promises are somewhat light on substance, instead honing in the Tea Party, Republican primary base:

Hilderbran also laid out the first three policy proposals he plans to highlight throughout his campaign. If elected, Hilderbran said he wants the comptroller’s office to do more to prevent the “abuse of Texas taxpayers” by the IRS. Citing controversies over the federal agency’s alleged targeting of political groups, Hilderbran said he would have the office serve as a resource to the state’s business owners and other residents who feel the IRS is treating them unfairly.

[…]

Hilderbran’s other proposals include improving customer service in the comptroller office and addressing concerns that the state’s taxing entities are treating residents and businesses fairly when a tax refund is owed.

I did like the customer service note. Historically, I have been very pleased by Republicans‘ efforts to do this locally.

With Hilderbran’s entrance into the Comptroller’s race, it appears the Republican lineup has been set. All eyes are now on Wendy Davis.

To run or to not run

Two people take the plunge, one way or another, today. The Houston Chronicle reports that Sen. Tommy Williams, who has recently been exploring a run for the Comptroller’s office, has ultimately decided against that pursuit. The Comptrollers’ race is quite crowded, consisting of Sen. Glenn Hegar, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, Fmr. Rep. Raul Torres and Debra Medina. However, Williams did not cite these concerns, rather relying upon the fact that he is the Senate Finance Committee Chairman, which evidently takes up a lot of time.

In his press release (MR WILLIAMS, PLEASE SEE THE IMAGE BELOW), Williams stated:

“…serving as Chairman of the State Senate Finance Committee is incompatible with the demands of simultaneously running for a statewide election. After careful consideration I feel I can best serve our state and the people of Southeast Texas in my current role as State Senator and Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.”

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This is an interesting position for Sen. Williams to take because he is not up for re-election in 2014. Generally, the reason Senators are so open about the idea of running for Statewide office is that they draw the coveted four year term. Some Senators, such as Wendy Davis, are up for re-election in Midterm years after drawing two year terms (I still think it was rigged). This is why it is always a neat site to see an incumbent Representative, like Harvey Hilderbran, declare for a Statewide office.

In other news, The Dallas Morning News reports that Stefani Carter, a Dallas area State Rep, is all but officially announcing her candidacy for Railroad Commission, specifically Smitherman’s seat. I discussed the Railroad Commission commission spots last week, including Carter’s possible candidacy. Her only opponent, at this time, is Malachi Boyuls, a friend of the Bush dynasty.

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!

A bitter anniversary

148 years ago today, the news of the Emancipation Proclamation –and the end of the war– reached Galveston, and as such, the last corner of the Confederacy. Accordingly, June 19th, or Juneteenth, is always commemorated as a reminder of the protections of freedom and liberty. How very unfitting, then, that in the wee hours of the morning, this Juneteenth, the Texas Senate voted to, for all intent and purposes, to strip women of many of the same freedoms and liberties.

The Texas Tribune reports that SB5, the omnibus abortion restriction bill by Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), had forfeited the 20 week ban provision, but retained all the other ones. These regulations are threefold. First, abortions must be performed in “ambulatory centers,” whatever the heck that means. Second, all abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital less than 30 miles from their clinic. Third, that the abortion doctor must administer a specific drug, RU-486, in person. The last regulation seems innocuous enough, but the former two are quite harmful.

The GOP attempted to say this was all about the safety of the procedure, and the health of the women involved, but we know that simply isn’t true. David Dewhurst made a tweet today that bragged about how SB5 is projected to close down 37 of 42 of the State’s abortion clinics, including all of them outside of Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. At least Dew is being honest about the real intentions.

Regardless of one’s personal opinions on abortion, the issue is settled constitutional law: the United States Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that a woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy in the first trimester under the Right to Privacy. Any blatant attempt to eliminate access to these clinics is a huge violation of the Constitution, and, as such, will most likely be struck by a Federal Court.

Although the 20 week ban did not make it out of the Senate, the House will attempt to resurrect it. The Austin American-Statesman has the full story on that. I’m a perpetual optimist, but maybe all the work in conference committee will kill the legislation at next Tuesday’s deadline. Maybe, just maybe.

All of this reminds me of the old George Carlin quote about the priorities in the GOP. “If you’re pre-born, you are good. If you’re pre-k, you are [expletive deleted]”