Texpatriate endorses in Agriculture Commissioner Republican primary

Like many of the ancillary positions we have fielded endorsements in over the past weeks, the Agriculture Commissioner is a position that confuses many. Indeed, we would reckon most Texans do not know all the unique and diverse and responsibilities the elected office comes with. While the Commissioner of Agriculture may have a broad responsibility to look over the farms and ranches of the State and ensure meaningful and smart regulation over those process, the office actually consists of far more.

As much as we may execrate the incumbent, Todd Staples, he has done one at least one thing remarkably well, and that is explaining just what the office does. In an –albeit ridiculous– commercial from 2010 that features a horse, Staples delineates the duties of his post, which also include regulation of Gas Pumps and of School Lunches. For these important obligations, Texans deserve a no-nonsense non-partisan who will uphold the best interest of all the community, not just the miniscule portion of the electorate who votes in Republican primaries.

Accordingly, we have not been big fans of either Sid Miller or Tommy Merritt thus far in the campaign. Much like our previous qualms in the races for both Comptroller and Railroad Commissioner, we are generally not supportive of such candidates. Miller touts Second Amendment support, anti-abortion rights and Tea Party histories, with not a single reference on the homepage of his website to Agriculture. Similarly, Merritt has focused on these unrelated issues too much –though not nearly to the same extent as Miller. Both of these men are former State Representatives, the type who now seek these Statewide elected offices as a type of political rung-climbing.

Click here to read the full endorsement!

Texpatriate endorses in Lt Gov primary

Cartoonist Nick Anderson at the Houston Chronicle recently depicted the four candidates in the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor as neanderthals. Indeed, the candidates have incessantly one-upped each other in a desperate race of conservatism to the extreme. Whether this has been on the issue of abortion, creationism or the role of the government funding, each and every candidate has espoused dangerous political positions that have the capacity to turn back the clock on the progress of a healthy society.

However, instead of focusing on the drawbacks of the candidates, this board will focus on their strengths. Among the four candidates –incumbent David Dewhurst, State Senator Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples– this board has found two distinct categories that we have rewarded those running. First, there is the capacity for effective leadership demonstrated in the past. Second, there continue to be those bright spots –albeit few and far in between– wherein some candidates have let their pragmatism and common sense shine through, often to the detriment of their standing with the hard-right primary voters.

When it comes to leadership, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst is the hands down winner. For over eleven years, Dewhurst has led a State Senate that has retained a club-like, easy going attitude, often in sharp contrast to the petty bickering both in the lower house and in Washington D.C. This is chiefly due to the retention of a safeguard against the tyranny of the majority, a dilatory tactic known as the “two-thirds rule,” which allows a union of at least 11 Senators to hold up legislation. Additionally, Dewhurst has historically heralded bipartisanship by appointing nearly a half-dozen Democrats to lead some of the most important Committees in the chamber, including those in charge of Criminal Justice, Education and Veterans.

Click here to read the full endorsement!

Lieutenant Governor debate

I watched the Lieutenant Governor’s debate, which was broadcast live on television, this evening and tried to live-tweet the whole debacle, but understandably so may have gotten a little biased or overly partisan throughout the ordeal. If you want a straightforward, non-partisan and otherwise just extraordinary source for these sorts of events, I thoroughly recommend following Scott Braddock. The debate featured all four Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor, was hosted by KERA (Dallas’ NBC affiliate) and featured a panel of moderators from Univision, the Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle.

To start things out, the candidates were asked their opinion on a recent ruling by a Forth Worth Judge to force a brain dead woman be removed from ventilator, despite being over twenty weeks pregnant. Unsurprisingly, all four deeply disagreed with the ruling and appeared supportive of changes in the law that would put the alleged rights of the pre-born above even a legally dead mother. However, the topic soon shifted to abortion, where all four candidates made it clear that they opposed abortions even in cases of rape and incest.

Click here to read more!

Civil Affairs: Two/thirds rule

CIVIL AFFAIRS

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Via the Daily Texan:

There are four Republican candidates for lieutenant governor this year: incumbent David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Sen. Dan Patrick. With all four vying to win the Republican primary — a contest determined by the just over 10 percent of voters, many of them passionate conservatives — the candidates have unsurprisingly been taking political positions further and further to the right.

Most of the lieutenant governor’s powers involve the position’s role as the president of the Texas Senate. The lieutenant governor presides over the chamber, names the chairmen of the ever-powerful committees and helps to craft the rules at the beginning of each session. Accordingly, many of the far-right ideas propagated by these candidates will involve changing the way the Senate works and runs. And in Texas, where the state Senate features a Democratic Party that is in the minority and desperate to use every dilatory maneuver at its disposal, this could mean big changes to the rules in the legislative process that currently benefit the minority.

Click here to read more!

Patterson the Pragmatist

Common knowledge would have you believe that all four Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor are equally conservative, with each and every one occupying a political position just right of Attila the Hun. Accordingly, the prevailing wisdom has held that for liberals or centrists considering casting ballots in the GOP primary, there are no good options. After a few bouts of news in the last few days, I now must strongly disagree with such an overly simplified assessment.

First, The Dallas Morning News reports that Jerry Patterson, the State’s Land Commissioner and a Lieutenant Governor hopeful, has begun calling out his opponents for too extreme of conservatism over the theoretical repeal of the 17th amendment. The over 100 year old statute provides for the direct election of the US Senate, taking that power out of the hands of the State Legislatures. For what it is worth, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples –another hopeful– blasted the idea, albeit on less pragmatic grounds (he noted that direct election led to the reign of Ted Cruz).

As the Burnt Orange Report noted back in October, this fodder penetrated into the mainstream following a primary forum in October. At that point, incumbent David Dewhurst and State Senator Dan Patrick unequivocally noted, on the record, that they wished to repeal the amendment. However, in addition to these statements, Bob Price tweeted that he privately confirmed the remaining candidates were also in favor of repeal. Price is a well-respected journalist for Texas GOP vote, a conservative newsource that is actually pretty straightforward. I’ve placed calls to Patterson’s campaign and received no comment by press time on this alleged discrepancy.

Click here to read more!

Van de Putte makes it official

The Texas Tribune reports that State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), a long serving rank-and-file legislator, will join the Lieutenant Governor’s race. Van de Putte, who stepped into the national spotlight during the Wendy Davis filibuster, has since become a nationwide hero of liberals for her impassioned defense of abortion rights.

Van de Putte will face Maria Alvarado, a political nobody and the 2006 nominee for Lieutenant Governor, in the Democratic primary. However, at press time, Alvarado has not yet filed for office and may not even end up running. Either way, Van de Putte is heavily favored to prevail by a large margin, given both her high name recognition and well-financed campaign.

The incumbent Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, of course will face a crowded Republican primary just to get another chance at keeping his job. Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and State Senator Dan Patrick are all vying to knock off Dewhurst and win the nomination for themselves. Because of this, the four candidates have often tried to one-up each other, tacking to the right on more and more issues. Recently, in fact, the candidates flirted with the idea of repealing the 17th amendment (direct election of US Senators) and impeaching President Obama. It is unclear how much this will help Van de Putte.

Click here to read more!

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!

Lieutenant Governor debate

Patti Hart at the Houston Chronicle reports on the first official debate in the Lieutenant Governor campaign. The debate, held at the Houston Doubletree Hotel, featured all four candidates: incumbent David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and, last but not least, State Senator Dan Patrick.

Many of the questions hinged on Dewhurst’s handling of the Wendy Davis filibuster, which Patrick was especially critical thereof. Dewhurst touted his conservative credentials when responding to these sorts of questions, including the fact that he passed the unfortunate bill eventually and that the pro-life anti-choice groups endorsed his actions.

However, the much more entertaining portion of the debate hinged upon two ideas brought up by two different challengers, alleging that the Lieutenant Governor is not conservative enough. First, Patterson uttered that laws protecting endangered animals are unwise, pontificating that the “critters ought to die anyways.” He then doubled down on the statement, as the Chronicle, reprinting his quote, noted: “I mean – the blind salamander? How long are we gonna let that little bugger last?”

Patterson’s comments, though, while asinine, were insignificant compared to Dewhurst’s response to one of Patrick’s inquiries (yes, I know, all the names are getting confusing). Patrick defiantly castigated Dewhurst’s record of bipartisanship and cooperation with Democrats, stating that he would reward partisan affiliation much more than seniority in appointing committee heads. His full quote that the Chronicle printed was: “I will not appoint half of the Democrats as chairman of committees.”

Dewhurst responded to the comments, at first, with arithmetic. Democrats control 7 of the 17 committees, or roughly 29% of them. However, Patrick’s comments involved an allegation about “half of the Democrats,” not half of the Committees. There are only 12 Democrats in the Senate, while mean 42% of the caucus is a Committee chair, and if one more was added to the mix it would be exactly 50%. Dewhurst’s response to this was that the committees controlled by Democrats were not important.

The five committees chaired by Democrats are Criminal Justice (Whitmire), Government Organization (Zaffrini), Intergovernmental Relations (Hinojosa), Jurisprudence (West), Open Government (Ellis) & Veterans Affairs (Van de Putte). I will concede that Government Organization & Interovernmental Relaitons are not the most glamorous (or important) subjects, but the other three most definitely are.

The integrity of Criminal Justice, Open Government & Veterans’ Affairs are absolutely among the most important functions of the State. I find it somewhat fitting, therefore, that they are also some of the most neglected by the right wing. Even at the local level, Republicans hate these things.

Hart resurrected the story again today, where she wrote in the Houston Chronicle about the backlash Dewhurst has received, specifically from Leticia Van de Putte of the Veterans’ committee. Van de Putte published an extended open letter critiquing Dewhurst’s insult of her committee:

“You can imagine my great shock when I read the newspaper this morning and learned that you dismissed the work of the VAMI committee…I can only hope that your comments were taken out of context because, Governor Dewhurst, I can assure you that the work of the VAMI committee is important– as a veteran, you should know this. The VAMI committee serves over 1.7 million veterans living in our state and more than 131,000 active-duty military service members. The committee I chair has worked hard to make Texas the number one state for military service members, veterans and their families by passing legislation that eases the transition of service members and their families to civilian life; strengthens Hazelwood higher education benefits for veterans and their families; and addresses the high number of suicides by veterans and serve members.”

As a Democrat in the state of Texas, I would understand if you attacked me personally at a Republican political debate. However, I take great exception with dismissing the work of the committee which I chair, particularly because the VAMI committee works hard to protect the men and women that defend your right to freely debate.”

Van de Putte, for her part, is seen as a possible candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Accordingly, such harshly worded comments give me a slight inkling that she is fanning the fire for a Statewide run.

Texas Leftist & Burnt Orange Report have more.

Dewhurst’s Messy Call

In the past week it has become alarmingly clear that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has little if any consideration for the law when it comes to personal matters. The Texas Tribune reports on thirteen-minute phone call between Dewhurst and Sargent Maness of Allen Police Department in which Dewhurst attempts to sidestep a “miscarriage of justice” and get his step-sister’s daughter-in-law, Ellen Bevers, out of jail.

He begins by asking for the “most senior officer available” and qualifies his inquiry by stating his name and title as the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. He is then transferred to Sargent Maness. He assures Maness that Bevers was arrested on a “mistaken charge”.

It becomes clear that the issue at hand is an “unscanned” bag of groceries from Kroger totaling fifty-seven dollars. She was charged with a Class B Misdemeanor for theft between 50 and 500 dollars. Dewhurst assured law enforcement that he has “known this woman for thirty years” and she is “the sweetest woman in the world”.

Dewhurst asked Maness to “explain to me what I need to do to arrange for getting her out of jail this evening” because he knew “in my heart was not involved” in the intentional act of stealing”.

Dewhurst’s attempts to circumvent legal protocol and use his title to influence the legal process are examples of a disregard for the legitimacy of the judicial process. He claimed this was all a matter of “unfortunate circumstances”, but how often has he quickly dismissed the same argument. Politicians like Dewhurst claim to abide by an ethical standard that more often than not, is disregarded when it comes to personal matters.

The issue of hypocrisy in politics is nothing new, but the blatant attempt by Dewhurst is all the more insulting. Repeatedly stressing his title and rapport with law enforcement, Dewhurst badgers Maness for phones numbers and contact information. He seems to have no qualms when it comes to seeing “what can be done to prevent this very nice lady, through a miscarriage of justice, from spending the night in jail.”

Supporters of Dewhurst stress that he emphasized his desire to let law enforcement deal with the matter in the appropriate manner. While Dewhurst did say he wanted to conduct everything the legal way, he attempted to influence the legal process. The audacity to place the call is what should be discussed. It appears we live in a political climate that allows politicians to think they can manipulate the law with little or no consequences. In fact, though Dewhurst has received scathingly comments from both sides, he claims his statements were in no way an attempt to circumvent the law.

The issue was quickly picked up by Dewhurst’s opponents, who will no doubt exploit the issue in the upcoming Republican primary. Already, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has put out an Anchorman-themed Tweet on the subject, saying “Dew’s call to Allen PD sounds like Anchorman Ron Burgundy: ‘I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal. People know me.’

Bay Area Houston, Brains & Eggs, Burnt Orange Report, Letters from Texas and McBlogger all have more.

Creighton for Agriculture Commissioner

creighton

This morning I attended Brandon Creighton’s announcement for his bid for Texas Agriculture Commissioner in Montgomery, Texas, where his family has resided for over 170 years. Immediately preceding his speech, Reps. Steve Toth and Cecil Bell, both Republicans of Montgomery County, spoke on behalf of their friend Creighton and their personal excitement over Creighton’s announcement.

Touching on their strongly conservative and anti large federal government platforms, they finally yielded to the Representative Creighton. He then delivered a fiery speech for the crowd of supporters and locals. Creighton also spoke favorably of both Rick Perry and Todd Staples. Accompanied by his family on stage, Representative Creighton spoke of his conservative credentials and strong background in agriculture. He also touched on his pro life and anti Obama stance, wanting to keep Texas out of the hands of the federal government. This was echoed by a round of applause from the largely homogeneous crowd diversified only by gender.

While the speech served its purpose in gaining support, it failed to be full of substance regarding plans for the future of Texas Agriculture. More than a few comments about an agricultural platform would have sufficed at that point. In the end, a passionate speech was heard but little knowledge was gained.

The position of Agriculture Commissioner should not simply be a platform for higher office, or one for Tea Party rebel-rousing. As ridiculous as Todd Staples’ (the current Agriculture Commissioner) horse commercial was, it provided a great insight into the role of the Agriculture Commissioner. Sadly, Creighton did not give any concrete path as to how he would lead in that new role.

Sophia Arena is Texpatriate’s newest Staff Writer.