The Texas Tribune has released its newest poll, and the results continue to paint a bleak picture for the campaign of State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. The poll has her down 12 points to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. The poll also examined Statewide races up and down the ticket and found that Democrats were doing miserably bad in all of them. Most all of these polls included Libertarian and Green candidates, for what it is worth. Additionally, undecideds boasted pretty good showings in all of these races, and the number only got bigger the further down the ballot one traveled.
As many will remember, the Tribune commissioned an extensive poll in February that was not worth the non-existent paper that is was not printed upon. Among the many terrible predictions it made was that Kesha Rogers and Debra Medina led the plurality in their respective primaries. Rogers barely squeaked into a runoff and Medina came in a distant last place in a race where one candidate (Hegar) won outright. I went after the Tribune with a wrench in the Daily Texan a couple days after the preliminary primary completely discredited their polling, noting that we should not waste our breath analyzing something so unreliable anymore. As my friend Charles Kuffner noted yesterday, the Tribune polls should be “in time-out,” meaning that we have to very look at what they have to say quite critically.
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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.
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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!
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.
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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.
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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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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.
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