Wendy for Governor

But we all knew this. The New York Times, among other locations, reports that “sources close to Wendy Davis” have leaked information confirming that she will, in fact, run for Governor of Texas in 2014.

A few more details have been unearthed as well about Davis’ future candidacy. She will make the big announcement, as I had partially predicted, in her hometown of Fort Worth. That would also be where the future campaign will be based. This is some very good new for her part. The meticulously astute might remember one of my first posts on this blog, wherein I roundly criticized Paul Sadler’s statewide campaign for being based in Austin. While I maintain that San Antonio would have been a better headquarters, Fort Worth is an important place as well.

As Davis’ campaign is analyzed by the Times, the paper interviews pertinent individuals who reflected upon her future candidacy. Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic activist grassroots force that has largely been historically impotent, offered somewhat obligatory commendable remarks vis-a-vis Davis’ candidacy. However, what surprised me more was the Times’ interview with Mark White, the former Democratic Governor. White, who is 73, stated:

“I think her chances are very good. I compare it to my chances of winning when I decided to run for governor. Everybody said it was impossible to do, and I was able to do it, and they’re probably telling her the same thing. She’s got the advantage that David had over Goliath.”

Davis, of course, was mum on the leaks. She will still be making her announcement on October 3rd, and will not be publicly saying anything before then. However, the announcement will be somewhat anticlimactic, like the faux-suspensful drama leading up to statements on the future candidacies of Greg Abbott, Brandon Creighton and Harvey Hildenbran before.

There is a lot to be said right now about whether or not Davis may actually win. I have discussed this issue at detail in the past, and I am sure I will do it again sometime soon. Loyal readers of Texpatriate know that my position is that, while Davis cannot win, she could come closer than any before, and set the stage for a victory down the line. Accordingly, I am very happy to see this announcement (though I had known this was coming for awhile).

The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman have more. Also, Politico.

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.

Horwitz on ‘going Blue’

For some reason, there are a large number of people in this State who think that, if Wendy Davis runs for Governor, she will win. Personally, I find that statement to be utterly ridiculous, but admire the optimism from those who believe it. Even more Texans believe, once again foolishly, that Julian Castro can win the Governor’s mansion in 2018. Once again, the optimism is admired from this tired, old cynic. But I do not want to talk about how long our road to victory still is, the Editorial Board has already done that. I would like to talk about how, once Democrats break the losing-streak we’ve had since 1996, serious challenges will persist. Indeed, as long as the road to our first Democratic victory will be, the road to a Texas that is as blue as California will be even longer.

As much as I would love the peaches & cream belief that a single Democratic victory ushers in an unprecedented era of Democratic dominance, it simply won’t happen. Here’s why:

Let us assume, arguendo, that Julian Castro is victorious in his campaign to deny Governor Greg Abbott a second term in 2018, the same year his twin brother, Joaquin Castro is elected to the United States Senate by defeating first-term Senator Ted Cruz. The election will be quite notable, because while the pundits and Democratic activists had been saying it all along, the real establishment had been far more pessimistic about the entire ordeal. Accordingly, Democrats ran really poor candidates against the Agriculture Commissioner, Brandon Creighton; the Land Commissioner, George P. Bush, and; the Comptroller, Harvey Hilderbran. All these officeholders crushed the mediocre, placeholder Democratic opposition. Meanwhile, some of the Statewide spots on the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals lacked even a single Democratic opponent.

Democrats made only meager gains in the State Legislature, though one bright spot was Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman Wendy Davis defeating Konni Burton and winning back her old Senate seat.

Democrats wouldn’t make such a mistake more than once, so they will probably start running competent candidates in all the Statewide seats thereafter. They won’t win, though, for at least a few more election cycles.

The other reason a Democratic governor’s election in 2018 would be invaluable is that she or he could veto the redistricting plan. Under current maps, it would be almost impossible for Democrats to win more than 65 seats in the House, and I cannot image them winning many more than that by 2021. Accordingly, a heavily Republican Legislature will draw the maps for the 2020s. For these reasons, I cannot image Democrats taking over the State Legislature until the 2030s.

Another problem is something that the Democrats will surely face in their first defensive position, say 2022:

By 2022, the national mood will have turned against the Democrats in full force. Despite President Clinton’s re-election just two years earlier, the nation had grown weary of the 14 years of continuous Democratic rule in Washington. The frustration was taken out on the local level as Land Commissioner George P. Bush soundly defeated Governor Castro in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans, still controlling back majorities in the State Legislature, pushed for another mid-decade redistricting plan–the second in the past three decades.

Things still hadn’t turned around by 2024, when Republicans take back the White House after 16 years, and the new Republican President’s coattails sweep a creationist into the Senate, denying Joaquin Castro a second term.

Once the Democrats start taking Statewide positions, they will be fighting hard with the Republicans to keep them for the foreseeable future. To give some background, Illinois has voted Democratic in the past six Presidential election, but the Land of Lincoln will probably elected a Republican governor next year. To this Bostonian, need I say more than Scott Brown?

So make absolutely no mistake, Texas is not going blue any time soon. The State will go purple at some point in the next 10-15 years, but I will have grey white hair before the pigment is blue.

Darkest before the dawn

About two months ago, the Editorial Board wrote that “it’s going to get worse,” that Democrats and progressive politics will continue taking blows, instead of the conventional wisdom that we have already reached the bottom. Simply put, we haven’t reached the bottom yet, and I have found some evidence of this continued decline.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published an op-ed this morning discussing the plight so-called “moderate” Republicans like David Dewhurst have been along. My colleague summarized Dewhurst’s recent saga yesterday, but he by far not the only such official to find himself in such a predicament.

Avid readers of the Texas Tribune would have noticed that Jim Pitts, the only Republican to ever chair the House Appropriations Committee, is retiring. Pitts is often remembered as not-the-worst of the Republicans, being willing to work across the aisle and being able to go after Rick Perry, especially his regents. I would not be surprised if Pitts was deathly worried about facing a primary challenge from the Tea Party. This is because, after two insurgent-fueled Tea Party-dominate primary cycles, 52 of the 95 (55%) Republicans in the State House were elected in either 2010 or 2012. A mere 15 Republicans are left who take office before 2003, when Republicans took over the lower House. Of those 15, two (Hilderbran & Pitts) are already not seeking another term. Considering the rural areas these individuals represent, they will no doubt be replaced by far-right Tea Party types.

Kennedy’s opinion piece at the Star-Telegram continues by mentioning the sour place Senator John Cornyn was put into after Ted Cruz refused to endorse his re-election bid. The Dallas Morning News has the full story on that. The hypothetical primary opponent for John Cornyn at this time would be Louie Gohmert, the foul-talking Congressman with birther-tendencies. Again, the Morning News covered the issue in greater detail, as did Off the Kuff.

The op-ed uses the general theme of cynicism and doom & gloom I have been talking up for years. The night is always darkest before the dawn, and it is certainly still getting darker.

As much as I dislike David Dewhurst, Dan Patrick will almost certainly be worse in an executive position. As poorly as John Cornyn serves this State in the U.S. Senate, Louie Gohmert would be exponentially worse. The place where I break with Kennedy’s op-ed is at the end, where he has the bodacious temerity to assert the sun may be rising sometime soon:

The danger for the GOP,” he wrote, is that by the time Republicans realize they have swung too far, “it will be too late, and [Democratic San Antonio Mayor] Julian Castro will be celebrating his election as governor.”

That might be in 2018.

That’s three House election cycles away.

2018 is a very long five years away, but unless a lot of things go very right, it still won’t be a competitive election.

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.”

35906318

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!