Good morning, Texans. I hope you all had a nice weekend and didn’t, unlike me, spend several hours brooding over a political possibility which, once you think about it, can’t easily be dismissed: Dan Patrick (left, with senators Kel Seliger and Kirk Watson) may very well be elected governor in 2018. Under certain conditions the scenario may be almost inevitable. Consider:
1. Although it’s been widely presumed that Julian Castro wants to run for governor in 2018, in view of the 2014 bloodbath it’s become much more difficult to argue that he, or any other Democrat, has a realistic chance of winning. (In fact, given that Castro is both prudent and young, we should probably re-evaluate the premise that he wants to run—and it’s not as if there are many Democrats clamoring to be the party’s standard-bearer at the moment.)
2. It’s also been widely presumed that George P. Bush would like to run for governor in 2018, or at least that he’s not planning on slumming it as land commissioner forever. However, again in view of the 2014 elections, there’s no reason to think he would beat a Tea Party favorite in one of Texas’s highly specialized Republican primaries.
3. Most importantly, I don’t think we can blithely go about our business under the impression that Greg Abbott will naturally be the Republican gubernatorial nominee next time around. Assuming he runs again, there’s always been reason to think that Patrick might challenge him in a primary. Abbott may be anticipating such a possibility—as Burka observed in September, he was still raising campaign funds two months before the general election, despite leading Wendy Davis by a double digit margin—and of course Patrick has not been shy about challenging incumbents thus far. And less than a week after they were inaugurated, the distance between Abbott and Patrick is starting to show. Abbott has cast himself as a governor who means to build on the work done in Texas over the past ten years, saying that as great as Texas is, we can do more; Patrick has cast himself as a change agent whose election represents “A New Day”. To that end, Patrick has already presided over several changes in the Texas Senate; meanwhile, the self-appointed conservative enforcers at outfits like EmpowerTexans have already taken Abbott to task over his appointments to UT’s Board of Regents. For Abbott, a primary challenge would probably be a greater challenge than the general election, because the primary is decided by a small subset of hard-right voters, and in that context, as Poncho Nevárez observed at the LBJ Future Forum last week, Abbott can expect to be held accountable for any acts of centrism (real or perceived, one might add).
When it comes to electoral politics, a lot can change in four years. But that doesn’t mean a lot will. Happy Monday!
(AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman – statesman.com, Jay Janner)