Fri March 14, 2014 10:22 am By Brian D. Sweany

That was the subhead for Griffin Smith Jr.’s February 1976 sorta cover story on the Democratic governor from Uvalde. I say “sorta” because Briscoe was actually on the cover for that year’s Bum Steer awards in a corny but funny shot: the governor waving to the reader while surrounded by cattle with the line: “Find the Bum Steer in This Picture.”

The joke was not lost on Smith. In a biting story, he detailed Briscoe’s inaccessibility from the press, from the public, and from other legislators as well as the shortcomings of an amateur staff that prided itself on being outsiders to the political process. Smith writes:

Somewhere, no doubt, there are other officeholders as reclusive, as secretive as Dolph Briscoe—a comatose ward-captain in the Bronx, perhaps, or a furtive county clerk in the wilds of Idaho. But are there any equal in stature to the chief executive of the third largest state? It was not supposed to be that way. Briscoe, after all, once sought the governorship on a promise to throw open his doors to the public every two weeks, so that “anyone who wants to complain, make suggestions, or just talk to the governor will be welcome.” Try that today. For all practical purposes the Invisible Man of South Texas is unique among the country’s leading political figures. His low profile, and the lengths he has gone to protect it, have made him an enigma to many and a joke to others.

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Thu March 13, 2014 2:43 pm By Paul Burka

Reporters and Republicans made much of Wendy Davis's relatively poor showing on election night. Overall turnout in the Democratic primary was lower than in 2010, the last time there was a gubernatorial election in Texas. And roughly 20% of Texans who did vote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary voted for the little-known candidate Ray Madrigal. He got about 114,458 votes, compared to 432,065 for Davis, and he actually won a number of counties in south Texas outright. 

But another Democratic candidate made a much better showing. In the race for lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte got 451,211 votes. That's only slightly more than Davis, and it should be noted that Van de Putte didn't have an opponent in the primary. On the other hand, on the Republican side, Dan Patrick, who placed first, got 550,769 votes. It was a four-way contest, but still, that's not even half as many votes as another Republican, Greg Abbott, received for the gubernatorial nomination. It suggests that if Patrick makes it through the runoff, he will be a weaker candidate in the general election than Abbott. That was a great result for Van de Putte. 

Ross Ramsey also has an interesting column at the Texas Tribune, suggesting that Kinky Friedman--who placed second in the race for the Democratic nomination to be agriculture commissioner--might actually have a shot at winning the general if he wins the runoff, because both of the Republicans in the runoff, former state representatives Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt, are among the party's weakest potential statewide candidates, and have lower name recognition than Friedman. 

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Wed March 12, 2014 11:10 am By Paul Burka

It was no surprise that Texas's top officials denounced Judge Orlando Garcia's ruling, on February 26th, striking down the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the ruling was bound to be appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

But as a post-script to the ruling, and before the Fifth Circuit's ruling revives, the issue again, I was very surprised that Cruz lambasted "unelected federal judges." My concern with Cruz's comments is that they aren't worthy of a constitutional scholar of his stature. The fact that federal judges aren't elected is a longstanding battle cry of the far right, but Cruz knows full well that there is a reason why federal judges are not elected and have lifetime appointments. The reason is that the lifetime appointments insulate judges from politics. 

Rick Perry, by contrast, did not include this particular comment in his own statement disagreeing with the ruling. He took a swipe at Washington: "It is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens." But he didn't imply that federal judges should be elected. It was a misleading thing for Cruz to say, especially since conservatives will surely celebrate if the unelected federal judges of the appellate court reverse Judge Garcia's ruling. 

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Mon March 10, 2014 2:48 pm By Erica Grieder

I have to disagree with those Republicans who are calling for David Dewhurst and Dan Branch to cede victory to Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton in their bids to be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively. I also have to disagree with my colleague Burka, below, who thinks that both Dewhurst and Branch should give up because the writing's on the wall. 

As a practical matter, it’s not the case that the runner-up is bound to lose the runoff. If that were the case Dewhurst, rather than Ted Cruz, would be in the United States Senate right now. Dewhurst, that is, won the Senate primary; he actually won more votes, in May 2012, than either Patrick or Paxton did last week. He nonetheless went on to lose the runoff, obviously.

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Mon March 10, 2014 2:20 pm By Paul Burka

David Dewhurst should withdraw from the lieutenant governor's race. He earned a spot in the primary runoff with a second-place finish last week, but he has no chance to defeat Dan Patrick. None. Patrick is a strong figure with a large following that Dewhurst could never match; he beat Dewhurst in the primary by roughly 100,000 votes. Why Dewhurst continues to throw good money after bad is a mystery, but he should have learned something from his race against Ted Cruz in 2012, if only that it makes no sense for him to continue. Patrick is a lock to be the next lieutenant governor. 

If Dan Branch is getting pressure to drop out in favor of Ken Paxton in the race to be the Republican nominee for attorney general, he should do the same, as Harvey Hilderbran did before him in the race for comptroller. The legislators who are calling for Branch to drop out are exaggerating the strength of Battleground Texas. I don't think they have accomplished very much, and I don't envision a threat materializing. If there is a threat to Republicans from Democrats, it will come from Wendy Davis, not Battleground Texas, and it will come in the fall. But as with Dewhurst, I can't see any path to victory for Branch. 

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