A Mini-Referendum on Speaker Straus

Over the weekend state representative Brandon Creighton placed first in the special election to replace Tommy Williams in Senate District, and will head to a runoff with state representative Steve Toth. Creighton got about 45% of the vote, Toth about 24%. 

Like the other three candidates who ran, Creighton is a Republican. He is obviously a conservative one, having spent much of the last regular session as a de facto leader of the House’s amorphous Tea Party caucus, and attracting the approval of right-wingers for, among other things, his efforts to block Medicaid expansion. He is sufficiently conservative that EmpowerTexans has described him as having “a strong record,” despite the fact that, as they note, he voted to keep the dread Joe Straus as speaker in 2011. He is sufficiently conservative that Toth, his strongest challenger, acknowledged as much

There are four nice guys running — four conservatives — but in the Senate, it’s not enough to just be a conservative voice. You’ll get pushed out,” Toth said. “You need a conservative record and fight to get things done.”

And yet Toth was somehow challenging Creighton from the right, and received the support of several influential right-wing groups, including EmpowerTexans, which endorsed Toth despite Creighton’s aforementioned “strong record.”

The Debra Medina Interview

In 2010 Debra Medina, a nurse and the chair of the Wharton County Republican Party, startled the Texas Republican establishment by winning almost nineteen percent of the vote in that year’s gubernatorial primary. It wasn’t enough to win, obviously, but it served notice, especially given that Medina was running against incumbent governor Rick Perry, already the longest-serving governor in Texas history at that point, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The Dan Branch Effect

I take a dim view of Dan Branch’s campaign for attorney general. A former member of our Best legislators list, Branch is in the process of ruining himself by running away from who he really is, which is a mainstream Republican. On Sunday, the Houston Chronicle ran story titled “Branch shifts to far right in AG race: once a moderate, Dallas Republican takes up tea party mantle–and cash” (sub req). The first thing Branch ought to do is fire his campaign spokesman, who proclaims that Branch is the most conservative candidate in the race. Of course, this is not the case. There is nothing to be gained by saying something that is demonstrably untrue.

Stuck in the Middle

John Cornyn has come a long way since 2002, when he was first elected to Phil Gramm’s old seat in the U.S. Senate. In just two terms the 61-year-old has become the senior senator from Texas and the minority whip, making him the second-highest-ranking Republican in the chamber. But it was his split with freshman senator Ted Cruz over Obamacare this fall that turned heads in conservative circles back home.

Republican Civil War

How long can the Republican party endure the civil war that is raging between tea party conservatives and mainstream conservatives? It doesn’t take a genius to know that when a political party is split between its factions, its chances of winning an election diminish accordingly. Congressional Republicans are expending their energy on internal battles, not the least of which pits Ted Cruz against John Cornyn. In the meantime, much of the infrastructure of the party is atrophying. In particular, the Heritage Foundation, once the intellectual foundation of the Republican party, has diminished in stature. The elevation of Jim DeMint to the leadership of the foundation has had the effect of raising politics to the core concern of the foundation (as opposed to policy, the Heritage Foundation’s traditional specialty).

The Tea Party, Rick Perry, and Debt

I seldom find myself in agreement with the tea party, but they are dead right in their skepticism of debt. This is why you can make the argument that Rick Perry is not a true conservative. He won’t raise taxes, but he doesn’t mind going deep into debt–and retiring debt is about the most expensive thing government can do. His proposal to capitalize $41 billion in debt to build roads is rash. Our grandchildren will be paying to retire the bonds in the 103rd Legislature.

The problem with the tea party is that it doesn’t want the government to do anything. Raise taxes? Hell no. Raise vehicle registration fees? No, no, a thousand times no. We might as well go back to 1948 and reprise the campaign to “get the farmer out of the mud.” It is disingenuous for tea party leaders to say, “Any vote that adds debt to this state – any vote for any program that’s going to be leveraging debt or adding debt — will be considered by the tea parties of Texas as a vote for a tax increase.” It’s the absolutionist attitude of the tea party that drives me crazy. I have to say, though, it is quite delicious to see Rick Perry get a taste of his own medicine.

Texas Wants Its Gold Back

In an effort to increase Texas’s financial security, Governor Rick Perry is backing legislation that would bring the state’s stash of 6,643 gold bars home from a vault in New York. “We don’t want just the certificates,” freshman Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake), author of the bill, told the Texas Tribune. “We want our gold.”

James Ives Speaks

This morning Emily Ramshaw of the Texas Tribune posted the startling news that James Ives, president of the Fort Bend County Tea Party and frequent guest on the Dan Patrick radio show, served as the “director of propaganda” for the American Fascist Party as recently as 2003. Last September, Ives hosted Michael Quinn Sullivan as a guest speaker at the group’s monthly meeting.


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