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.
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The Agriculture Commissioner is one of the most respected and powerful posts in the State, a steward of all things related to food, as well as a few other miscellaneous duties involving gas pumps and other odds and ends. For years, the Texas Farm Bureau has played kingmaker for this post, not only when Democrats carried the day in Texas, but for the past two decades of uninterrupted Republican rule. This year, they endorsed J. Allen Carnes in the Republican primary, something we later did too. For all our efforts, Carnes came in dead last, and a runoff election has now emerged between Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt, two former State Representatives from the rural portion of the State.
The two men have somewhat similar stories, in that their service in the Legislature often consisted of right-wing grandstanding, and that they were both ultimately defeated for re-nomination in the 2012 Republican primary. Merritt was defeated by the more conservative David Simpson, who has since become a stalwart of Tea Party causes in the legislative. Miller, for his part, was defeated by J.D. Sheffield on account of allegedly neglecting the needs of his home constituency. Both men are lacking in the Agricultural credentials, to say the least, although the same thing could be said ten times over on the other side of the aisle.
Please click here to see who we choose!
The Texas Agriculture Commissioner is a powerful, Statewide elected position that traces its roots back over 100 years ago. During the era of Democratic dominance, the office was occupied by larger-than-life men who became national figures. There was James McDonald, a bitterly conservative Democrat who fought with Franklin Roosevelt over crop subsidies. He served for twenty years until a 25 year old man named John White defeated him and held the office himself for twenty-six years. White, a liberal, would later go on to serve as President Carter’s deputy Secretary of Agriculture as well as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Then, of course, there was Jim Hightower, a folk hero of the left who held the office for close to a decade.
Since Republicans first took over the office, however, it has been career politicians most prevalent in this post. Rick Perry, then a State Representative, unseated Hightower in 1990. He was succeeded in 1998 by Susan Combs, the incumbent Comptroller, who was –in turn– succeeded by Todd Staples in 2006, the incumbent.
In the race to succeed Staples, it is the career politicians who finished best. Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt, two fiercely conservative former State Representatives, finished first and second, respectively. They will therefore advance into a runoff election in May. Two other conservative activists, Joe Cotten and Eric Opiela, also finished strong, while J Allen Carnes, the Mayor of Uvalde and a self-described pragmatist, finished dead last.
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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.
Click here to read all my other points!
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.
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