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. 

Read More
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.

Read More

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. 

Read More
Mon March 10, 2014 11:50 am By Paul Burka

Rick Perry received warm reviews for his speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday. It was a relatively short speech, and the entire video is online here. He concluded his remarks in his typically rousing manner.

“It is time for Washington to focus on the few things the Constitution establishes as the federal government’s role: defend our country, provide a cogent foreign policy, and what the heck, deliver the mail – preferably on time and on Saturdays," he said. “Get out of the health care business, get out of the education business. Stop hammering industry. Let the sleeping giant of American enterprise create prosperity again. My fellow conservatives, the future of this nation is upon you, it belongs to you. You have the power to change America.”

Some thoughts, after the jump.

Read More

Fri March 7, 2014 8:49 am By Brian D. Sweany

In the April 1994 cover story, Paul Burka wrote about the Democratic governor who had come up through the party's liberal wing and had gained a national profile after a feisty and funny keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. That's where she went to work on George H.W. Bush: "I'm delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like" and "Poor George. He cain't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth" (her delivery on that last line is perfect; she takes 23 seconds to utter those sixteen words). Six years later, as Richards prepared to face George W. Bush in the 1994 general election, Burka discovered a politician whose outlook had changed, who had been hurt as much if not more by her own people than her partisan opponents. As she told Burka: "I’ve always said that in politics, your enemies can’t hurt you, but your friends will kill you.” Burka writes:

Ann Richards’ popularity remains high. Her lead over George W. Bush holds steady in the polls. But inside, something has changed. She has lost the exuberance of her first months in office. During her speech, Richards made a modest promise or two, the audience clapped politely at several points, and a couple of jokes elicited light ripples of laughter. But she never really roused the crowd or herself. Who would have thought that Ann Richards, the first Texas governor to come up through the liberal wing of the Democratic party, would go to La Joya to deliver a speech that seemed to say, “Ask not what your government can do for you, because it can’t do very much”?

Read More