Todd Smith

Bad day for conservatives: the anger that wasn’t there

Mar 3, 2010 By Paul Burka

This was supposed to be an unpredictable election due to the tea parties and the Medina candidacy. It was supposed to be an election in which angry conservatives rose up and smote incumbents. Nothing remotely like that occurred. Republican congressional candidates, who might have been tainted by Washingtonitis, won with ease; the closest race was Ralph Hall's 57% victory. In fact, this was a bad election for conservatives, with one exception--Rick Perry. He was a ten-year incumbent in an election cycle that was supposed to be terrible for incumbents, but his keen political instincts enabled him to get out in front of the tea party movement early and become its champion instead of its victim. One of the undercurrents in this election was that conservatives disgruntled by Joe Straus's defeat of Tom Craddick in the 2009 speaker's race saw an opportunity to destabilize him by running hard-right Republicans against moderates on his team. Todd Smith was assailed for holding up Voter ID; he won with surprising ease. Vicki Truitt was assailed for offering a local option gasoline tax; she dispatched three opponents without needing a runoff. Burt Solomons had an unexpectedly close race but prevailed. Chuck Hopson, who switched from Democrat to Republican, infuriated Republicans in his district by announcing that he would continue to vote as he had in the past--and smashed his two opponents. Most of the opposition didn't come from the grass roots; it came from self-appointed kingmakers like Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Michael Quinn Sullivan. Incumbency proved to be mightier than ideology. The voter anger never materialized; it metamorphosized into a brief infatuation with Medina and faded away after she self-destructed on the Glen Beck radio show. A bonus for Straus: One Republican he surely didn't want to see in the House was former Legislative Council director Milton Rister, a longtime Republican operative and hatchet man who is close to Craddick and Dewhurst. Rister was running for the Gattis open seat, but Dr. Charles Schwertner won that four-person race without a runoff. In the end, only five incumbent legislators lost, three Democrats (Al Edwards, Dora Olivo, Tara Rios Ybarra) and two Republicans (Betty Brown and Tommy Merritt), and none of the losses could be blamed on voter anger or ideology. Rios Ybarra could not overcome issues in her personal life that became public, and the others lost for the typical reason why legislators lose: They stayed too long and had too little to show for it. Brown could also attribute her loss to the suburbanization of her district.

Another view re Citizen Leader PAC

Feb 28, 2010 By Paul Burka

The following article first appeared in Lone Star Report. I am publishing it with the permission of Will Lutz. This is his take on the Todd Smith-Jeff Cason Republican primary battle race and the involvement of Citizen Leader PAC. * * * * What started as a local race between Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless) and Jeff Cason took on a new tone when Texans for Lawsuit Reform founder Dick Weekley and fellow TLR donors Leo Linbeck III and Harlan and Trammell Crow funded the Citizen Leader PAC, which launched attacks on Smith via the web, mailers, and phone calls. Much larger now than Smith’s political future are these questions: Do Republicans want independent legislators who think, or will Texas government become a private fiefdom for the benefit of a handful of feudal lords? And is the tort reform movement about creating a fair balance between individuals and corporations in the legal system, or is it succumbing to special interests? Here’s the obvious question: why isn’t TLR attacking Smith directly? After all, Smith is an attorney who has done some plaintiff work, and he has disagreed with TLR sometimes. Despite his profession and concerns about parts of the bill, Smith voted for TLR’s signature legislation — an omnibus civil justice reform bill that included caps on non-economic medical malpractice damages. So instead of attacking a legislator who voted for tort reform directly, TLR’s founder uses the Citizen Leader PAC instead. The website the PAC created tries to attack Smith on several issues including immigration, abortion, taxes, and voter ID. But this is disingenuous, as there are other Republicans with far worse records on these issues who aren’t getting attacked. Here’s a big reason why the attack on Smith looks fishy: Smith played a critical role in the unraveling of an outrageous abuse of the public trust — the Texas Residential Construction Commission.

More on Citizen Leader PAC

Feb 24, 2010 By Paul Burka

I wrote about this new PAC, formed by TLR’s Dick Weekley and Leo Linbeck III along with Harlan Crow, on the weekend. In that post, I said: It would really be nice if the founders, who contributed $50,000 each, have realized that Republican primary voters, thanks to Rick Perry, are…

House primary races

Feb 16, 2010 By Paul Burka

Note to readers: The descriptions of these races reflect the best information I have been able to glean. It isn’t always possible to know what is happening “out there.” The four most endangered Republican incumbents (alphabetical order): Chuck Hopson Delwin Jones Todd Smith Vicki Truitt Hopson’s problem is that he…

McCaig defends Todd Smith on Voter I.D. issue

Jan 28, 2010 By Paul Burka

This mass e-mail was sent to me by SREC member Mark McCaig. Dear Texas Republicans, Like the vast majority of Texas Republicans, I am a strong supporter of legislation that will require photo identification to vote. As a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, I supported efforts by the…

How the Democrats passed Voter I.D.

May 25, 2009 By Paul Burka

Elections committee chair Todd Smith has researched the history of Voter I.D. legislation in Texas. He shared his findings with me. In 1997, Elections chair Debra Danburg, a Democrat, brought HB 330 to the floor. The bill amended the Election Code to require an election judge to ask for a…

The electioneering bill: I don’t get it

May 18, 2009 By Paul Burka

This is Todd Smith's bill that passed on Friday. It is a good and much-needed election reform bill as a response to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that corporate and union PACs may lawfully expend funds for the purpose of issue advocacy, but not for directly supporting candidates. This leaves a loophole known as "sham electioneering." This tactic, often used in direct mail, typically employs an attack ad against a candidate for supporting or opposing a hot-button issue but does not ask the potential voter to support or oppose a candidate. Rather, it may say, "Call Representative Smith's office and ask him to stop supporting baby killers." This is bad stuff. Readers may recall the photograph of two men kissing that was used against Bill Ratliff a few years back. My interest in the bill is political rather than substantive. The opposition comes from Republican party, the Texas Association of Business--Bill Hammond has always had an all's fair in love an politics approach to elections, and from the activist groups on the extreme right of the Republican spectrum. Here's what I don't get: Why are the Republicans so opposed to this bill? I understand that these mailers have been used effectively in the past. Hammond took credit for winning the 2002 House elections that gave the Republicans a majority with his tort reform mailers. But he's wrong. TAB didn't win the election. The Legislative Redistricting Board won the election. Anyway, the bill isn't about the past. It's about the future. I fail to see any partisan advantage or disadvantage if this bill passes. Groups on the right and the left alike will no longer be able to engage in sham electioneering. Only six Republicans voted for this bill, and four of them (Geren, Jones, McCall, Merritt) have been victims of sham electioneering. Todd Smith and Hartnett were the other two votes for passage. The reason for the low number of aye votes was that the extremist groups were demanding no votes from Republican reps. And the members folded like a canvas chair.

Heflin’s vote gets Voter I.D. out of committee

May 11, 2009 By Paul Burka

By Abby Rapoport, Texas Monthly Intern The Elections Committee sent Voter ID out of committee over lunch—but it’s not the bill most wanted. After going through several versions and so-called “compromise bills”, the committee ultimately voted on Troy Fraser’s Senate version, identical language and all. The meeting, a chaotic gathering…

Tuition de-reg: Will it be an issue in the speaker’s race?

Nov 23, 2008 By Paul Burka

Here’s the problem for Tom Craddick. The House passed tuition deregulation in 2003 for one reason and one reason only: The speaker twisted Republicans’ arms to get the votes. Almost six years later, tuition and fees at Texas’s public university have risen by an average of 50%, according to Robert…