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Dan Patrick Jumps into District 130 Race

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Note to Readers: Please note that I have updated my response to the first of a series of six criticisms, below, that Allen Fletcher made of Corbin Van Arsdale’s voting record.

Senator Patrick has thrown his support to Allen Fletcher, who is challenging incumbent Corbin Van Arsdale in the Republican primary for House District 130. It is widely believed that Patrick recruited Fletcher to run, and a letter to voters sent by Fletcher earlier this month included an accompanying statement by Patrick:

Dear Friend,

We are less than 100 days from the March 4 primary. I hope you will take a moment to read this letter from my friend Allen Fletcher, who I’m supporting to be your new State Representative. He is the right man for the job.

Last year, we learned together how difficult it was to win against the establishment’s candidate; it will be even tougher to win against the establishment’s incumbent candidate. Together we must send another strong message to Austin. The fight for change must continue. We need a real conservative in the House, and I need someone I can trust to work beside me in Austin to better represent you. Please continue to work hard for change in Austin … please support Allen Fletcher for State Representative.

I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

What is Patrick referring to when he says how difficult it was to win against the establishment’s candidate? He didn’t seem to have any difficulty when blew away three establishment-type rivals with 68% of the vote in the 2006 Republican primary. He did back the wrong horse in the District 133 Republican primary, a very close three-way race in which Jim Murphy defeated Mike Schofield in the runoff.

Patrick’s involvement against an incumbent has to make other Houston-area Rs nervous. Patrick doesn’t regard himself as constrained by the ordinary conventions of politics. He will go after somebody he feels has crossed him. Van Arsdale supported Joe Nixon against Patrick.

Fletcher’s letter runs to 2 2/3 pages, single spaced. Page 1 is about his personal history–he tells a nice story about meeting his wife to be when she ran into his patrol car and he wrote her a ticket–and the next two pages attack Van Arsdale:

“…. Regrettably, my opponent is well known for running negative campaigns. I sure hope we will both run campaigns based on the issues and records, but I’m not encouraged by these past examples:

* In 2000, his first race for state representative (which he lost), his opponent, Aubrey Theode, was attacked via e-mail from someone posing as a former campaign volunteer for Mr. Theode. An investigation determined the forged e-mails came from Van Arsdale’s law firm.

* In 2004, he impugned the integrity of U.S. Congressional candidate Ben Streusand.

* In 2006, he attacked Sen. Dan Patrick with baseless charges. He went so far as to send Mrs. Patrick a certified letter calling her and her husband liars. Sending an attack letter to a candidate’s wife is reprehensible.

* In 2007, Van Arsdale attacked Tomball Mayor Gretchen Fagan and former Mayor Hap Harrington in their respective campaigns.

This is a strange collection of examples of Van Arsdale’s propensity for negative campaigning, because only the first example applies to a campaign in which Van Arsdale was a candidate.

The most interesting part of Fletcher’s letter is a list of six issues concerning which Fletcher says he would have voted differently than Van Arsdale did. My comments are in bold face.

1. I would have championed legislation in Austin to curb illegal immigration, not skip multiple committee votes on the illegal immigration bill which eventually died in committee.

The Appropriations Committee, of which Van Arsdale is a member, meets almost continuously to hammer out the state budget. Committee members invariably miss other committee meetings and floor debate. The immigration bills were considered in State Affairs, Van Arsdale’s other committee. If he missed some votes in State Affairs, it was almost certainly because Appropriations was meeting at the same time. That he missed some votes had NO effect on the fate of the legislation. State Affairs chairman David Swinford announced in late March that he would kill all of the immigration bills after Attorney General Greg Abbott said that most were unconstitutional. His criticism of Van Arsdale is bogus.

UPDATE: Fletcher’s consultant, Court Koenning, sent me an e-mail asking, [Do] you think your defense of Corbin’s missed votes holds up when you learn he missed 42% of State Affairs votes and 50% of Appropriations votes? My answer: That seems like too many missed votes to me.

2. I would have voted against–he voted for–busting the constitutional spending cap.

This was the most important vote of the session. Unless Republicans voted to bust the cap, there would be no money for the buydown of the property tax from $1.50 to $1. Speaker Craddick considered this to be one of the most important votes of the session. He announced from the podium that he was voting for it–a sure sign he expected Republican members to do likewise. Only six Republicans voted against it. Five were from the Houston area and knew Dan Patrick was looking over their shoulders (Crabb, Elkins, Harless, Riddle, Talton). The sixth was Pat Haggerty (El Paso).

3. I would have voted against–he voted for–the largest spending program in Texas history.

Only four Republicans voted no on passage of the budget (2nd reading): Haggerty, Delwin Jones, Merritt, and Talton. All were anti-Craddick. Is this the group Fletcher wanted to be part of?

4. I would have voted against–he voted for–the largest tax increase in Texas history, the new business income tax.

Like lifting the spending cap, passing the business tax (or some other alternative source of revenue other than the property tax) was necessary to provide property tax relief and to satisfy the Supreme Court that the school finance system was constitutional. This is part of the price of governing. If the Supreme Court says the Legislature has to fix the school finance system or they will close the schools, you have to fix it.

5. I would have voted against–he voted to allow–universities to set their own tuition rates, which has increased college costs by 43% in just two years.

Flexible tuition passed in 2003. The total credit (or blame) belongs to Tom Craddick. He pushed it; he twisted arms to pass it. And Fletcher’s arm would have been among them.

6. And as a former cop, I would have voted against — he voted to require — the highly foregeable Mexican [metricular] consular card, to be used as identification in Texas. Illegal immigrants use counterfeit metricular consular cards in other states to obtain valid driver licenses and even register to vote.

I can’t find anything about this bill. Drivers licenses for immigrants became a big issue in the Democratic primary, to Hillary Clinton’s detriment. I seem to recall that law enforcement in New York was for them, for obvious reasons. They want to be able to identify and locate those who violate the law.

I’ve probably devoted more space to this race than it is worth. There are a lot of primary races that are more interesting than this one. The main reason I wrote about it is that Patrick is a very ambitious guy, and it interesting to see how he tries to advance himself. He seems to be making a play to become a kingmaker in Harris County Republican circles; if he wins this race, he may get into others in the future. The other thing that interests me, as someone who is fascinated by this 2,500-year-old experiment called democracy, is how politicians define themselves by the issues they choose. The reform of school finance in 2006 was far from perfect, but it was one of the great achievements of the Republican era (1994-????) in Texas politics. It was a responsible resolution of a crisis. To make it work, Republicans needed to make some tough votes. Busting the spending cap was one. Passing the business tax was another. Without these votes, Republicans could not have governed. Van Arsdale voted to govern. It would be a shame if he were defeated because of it.

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