I confess that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Dan Patrick’s reelection announcement last week, but one thing struck me as very peculiar. Here are the first three paragraphs of the release: “During the past few weeks there has been speculation I might run for, or be appointed to, higher office. My goal is to return to the Texas Senate to continue to fight for the conservative values and principles in which I and many Texans believe. “Today, I hereby announce my re-election campaign for the Texas Senate. If an opportunity presents itself to serve in the United States Senate, I will seriously consider it at the appropriate time, but my sights are set on the Texas Senate. I feel honored and blessed each day I walk onto the Senate floor to represent my district and my state. Does this strike anybody else as a weird way to announce for reelection to the Texas Senate — by declaring one’s interested in serving in the United States Senate? Could this scenario come to pass: Perry is looking for someone to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison, his Republican primary rival for governor. What is Perry looking for in a replacement? The qualifications are the same that Perry always has: (1) Is he loyal? (2) Can he help me politically? Who better than a Republican talk radio host with a huge following in Houston? Patrick can be on the radio every day blasting Hutchison and pumping up Perry. Then, after Patrick has done his part of the bargain, Perry holds up his end by appointing Patrick. Can Patrick hold the seat? That is not a sure thing, but the Republicans ought to be able to raise enough money in Texas and beyond to win. The advantage of Patrick over Dewhurst is that Patrick is closer to the Republican base and can generate pro-Perry (and anti-Hutchison) turnout. Patrick and Perry have already demonstrated that they can cut a deal together. The financially strapped Cy-Fair school district, third largest in the state, had gotten in financial trouble due to the Perry-approved school finance scheme that strangles the schools, and also because of the district’s own generosity in handing out an optional homestead exemption, as around 200 district do, ranging from poor to rich. Patrick took credit for arranging that extra money be directed to Cy-Fair, but in fact the payment was required by state law, which directs unspent money to be spent on the optional homestead exemption and other needs, such as school districts that are impacted by disasters. When I first read about the Perry-Patrick deal, I thought it was a bailout, but Patrick was only taking credit for something that would have happened anyway as mandated by state law. Meanwhile, Cy-Fair gets to keep its excessive homestead exemption and, assuming that money is available, continue to be bailed out by state tax dollars. Patrick is largely unknown beyond the boundaries of his radio broadcasts, and there is no certainty that he could hold the seat. It would probably make more sense for Perry to appoint Dewhurst, who can self-fund the race, if necessary. Yes, I am letting my imagination run wild here, but, you have to admit, Patrick’s deft solicitation for the Senate appointment suggests where his real interest lies.
Politics & Policy