We're four days into early voting for the May 29 primary election, and with Mitt Romney now the sole contender for the Republican presidential nomination, the race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate is the biggest statewide contest.
Four of the state's largest newspapers have weighed in with endorsements, and there have been a few surprises. The rundown:
Dallas Morning News
Former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert couldn't land his hometown rag's endorsement over Dewhurst.
"Both have displayed balanced vision in the past; either would, in all likelihood, make a good senator. We believe Dewhurst is the superior choice based on his experience, record, longevity and smarts," the editorial said.
The DMN also argued that because he oversees the Senate, the lite guv has legislative experience and is "a policymaker at heart."
The editorial did take issue with the fact that Dewhurst has "taken a page from Rick Perry’s playbook in sharply limiting campaign appearances, candidate debates and editorial board discussions." (Dewhurst did not speak to any of the editorial boards.)
While largely complimentary of Leppert, the DMN board criticized him for leaving office to pursue the Senate seat. It also said former solicitor general Ted Cruz was more interested in "fighting and defending and toppling than bringing people together, building coalitions or solving problems."
Former ESPN commentator and SMU football player Craig James was not considered, except as one of the other six candidates described as "less informed, little known—or both."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
But across the Metroplex, Leppert scored, as the Startlegram editorial board questioned the authenticity of Dewhurst's conservatism and said that given the opportunity to advance his politicial career, the Lieutenant Governor "picked the office that came open first."
It called Leppert "an intelligent, hardworking leader who has experienced success in both the public and private sectors.
After leading major national and international companies, Leppert demonstrated that his ability to negotiate in the boardroom translated well to council chambers, where he was successful in bringing together a previously dysfunctional City Council.
That happened by listening to all the stakeholder groups in the city and working on a solution that was best for the community as a whole.
That feat impresses folks on this side of the Trinity River because we watched the sideshow that was the Dallas City Council for a long time.
The choice was especially interesting, as Star-Telegram editorial director J.R. Labbe noted, because the paper had endorsed Dewhurst for every office he had previously sought, going back to 1998.
Labbe also wrote about the irony that Dewhurst wouldn't talk to them, since that was not the case over the past ten years:
If we dared to run an editorial that mentioned him in less than glowing light, you could bet that my phone would be buzzing the morning of publication.
He was never rude, never out of control. But he would go on -- and on -- about how wounded he was that we didn't give him an opportunity to discuss the issue before writing the editorial.
Home-field advantage helped the lite guv here. "We've known David Dewhurst, a Houstonian, since before he came into public life," the Chronicle's endorsement said . "We appreciate his experience as a successful businessman and his service in Austin."
Criticizing Ted Cruz supporters and, especially, Washington, D.C.-based special interest groups for attacking Dewhurst as a "moderate," the Chronicle chose to praise him for it:
Along with House Speaker Joe Straus, Dewhurst has been a welcome stabilizing influence in an often stormy and polarized legislative process. Isn't that what's called for in a divided Washington? We think it is.
Viewing these broadsides only convinces us that those who thought them up have a tin ear for the Texas way of working across the aisle made famous by Gov. George W. Bush and the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, and embraced by countless disciples in Texas public office through the decades. No Texas Republican need apologize for being a moderate.
The Chron did say that Dewhurst's limited campaigning and editorial-board blackout was "not decision-making worthy of a man who would be U.S. senator from Texas."
In a bit of a surprise, the state capital's daily came out for Ted Cruz.
The editorial praises Cruz's background and intelligence, but it seems that what the paper really wants is more of a campaign to cover, in the form of a July 31 Cruz-Dewhurst runoff that might force Dewhurst to be more accomodating, and give Texas voters better information:
Polls suggest that outright victory may be within Dewhurst's reach, but Cruz and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert appear to be gaining ground and we say that's good.
Dewhurst has stiffed his opponents and stiffed voters by limiting joint appearances. He's sitting on a comfortable lead, and perhaps that's good politics. The campaign tactic denies primary voters the opportunity to question him on his record or at least listen while others do that.
Dewhurst is a familiar name and he is spending big money to make it even more familiar.
We have supported Dewhurst in the past but cannot recommend a candidate who plays hide-and-seek with the public by limiting his contact with voters to controlled events and media buys.
Though we have some disagreements with Cruz, we respect his willingness to engage and answer questions. We also respect the passion of his convictions.
And what about the Dems?
The Star-Telegram, the Morning News , and the Chronicle all endorsed former Henderson state representative Paul Sadler, mostly on the strength of his experience. (The latter two papers also noted his appearances on TEXAS MONTHLY 's Best Legislators list.)
The Statesman hasn't published an endorsement, but it did make passing mention of the Democrats in its Dewhurst editorial: "The GOP nominee meets the winner of the four-way contest for the Democratic nomination. The best known is former State Rep. Paul Sadler."
That left the progressive blog Burnt Orange Report to at least try something different, making 31-year-old Sean Hubbard its pick , even if