With the filing deadline behind us, I wanted to post some thoughts after visiting with a prominent Republican operative who keeps a close eye on legislative races.
--Two trends are evident in this year's campaign. One is that this is not necessarily shaping up as a tea party year. There are a lot of Main Street Republicans running for the House of Representatives -- business people and school district leaders. Some of the candidates backed by Michael Quinn Sullivan might find themselves on the losing end of races. Matt Schaefer faces a strong opponent in Tyler. The same is true for Jonathan Stickland, whose opponent in Bedford is a popular former coach and educator.
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.
Wendy Davis jumped into two contentious issues last week. One was whether Texas has sufficient electricity generating capacity to serve the state's residential and industrial consumers without causing electric rates to rise precipitously. The Texas Association of Manufacturers has already voiced its opposition to a capacity market, which, according to some estimates, could cause rate increases in the billions of dollars. "I trust that you will agree with me that Texans should not have to tolerate an outcome from your Commission’s decision-making that would raise their utility rates while simultaneously failing to ensure a better guaranty that our lights will come on when we flip the switch,” Davis wrote in a letter to utility commission Chair Donna Nelson. Greg Abbott has not entered the debate over the electric power issue, but he should be concerned that major industrial groups are alarmed by potential changes in the electricity marketplace.
In the current issue of TEXAS MONTHLY I wrote a piece called "Bowl of Dread" recounting how much I dislike chili—and how disappointed I still am at the Sixty-fifth Legislature, which declared it the state dish more than 35 years ago. Everyone knows that brisket is far superior. But as I lamented, perhaps the barbecue lobby had been caught napping?
Sarah Davis, the only openly pro-choice Republican woman in the Legislature, will be contested in the Republican primary. She faces a challenge from Bonnie Parker, who describes herself as a conservative, a philanthropist, and a longtime Republican party volunteer. Readers may recall that Parker ran against Davis in 2010, losing by 9 points. In that election, Parker argued, among other things, that "the current Republican leaders have been a disappointment because they have allowed state government to grow faster than inflation and population growth."
John Smithee's decision to run for another term as state representative establishes him as a potential challenger to Joe Straus as speaker. Readers will recall that a group of twenty or so tea party Republicans congregated in Tyler in September for a fundraiser for Matt Schaefer, at which Smithee served as emcee. I wrote about that development and raised the issue of whether the tea party gathering signaled a future speaker's race.
Nathan Hecht, the recently sworn-in Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, is a disgrace: a judge who ignores the spirit of the law. For five years now, he has appealed a $29,000 fine assessed by the Texas Ethics Commission. The commission says that Hecht received a discount for his legal bills with the firm Jackson Walker, which, according to the commission, amounted to a campaign contribution. It is now the longest-running appeal of a state ethics fine.
Texas historian T. R. Fehrenbach, who died on Sunday at the age of 88, leaves behind an impressive legacy of work about his native state, most notably his epic history of Texas, Lone Star, which was published in 1968. It is a sweeping, mythic version of the Texas story, telling how the Texians subdued an alien land and alien peoples. Fehrenbach sees Texas history as a repeating clash of races and cultures, and he made the argument that the Anglo culture was superior to its rivals.
For the second time in this election season, I have to ask the question: Where's Wendy Davis?
Days go by without a statement being issued or any indication of what issues the campaign will address. Even as I write, Davis is missing a golden opportunity. I'm referring, of course, to the growing concern over whether Texas power plants will be able to meet peak demand in the coming months, and whether legislators will be up to the task of seeing that Texas consumers are not saddled with huge rate increases. This issue is on the front pages; it is heaven-sent for Democrats, and yet, we have heard nothing from Wendy Davis on the subject.