Friday, January 24, 2014

Nice Problem to Have, Part II

This is part II of looking at the nice problem to have: four good candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor. I gave fair coverage to incumbent David Dewhurst in part I. Today I’ll cover more of what was said in Monday’s debate, and end with my recommendation.
The debate was set up with every question going to all four candidates, alternating who went first. Each answer got one minute. Then, in reverse order, each candidate got 20 seconds to rebut anything else that was said (or jut to add 20 more seconds of comments). And then, if something was said against a candidate during rebuttal, they would get an additional 20 seconds to respond.
David Dewhurst at Cypress Tea Party 11-2-2013
(photo by David Wilson)
A minute to answer any question is a recipe for sound bites. This was a particular disadvantage to Dewhurst, who likes to set up an answer with a story, and eventually get around to answering in full and in context. More than once his time ran out during the set up. He responded to a question about the use of the Rainy Day Fund in a way that caused the moderators to interrupt and repeat.
This past legislative session, $2 Billion was borrowed from the Rainy Day Fund for water projects throughout the state. This was a questionable use of the fund, because water needs are ongoing. But we’re in a long drought cycle, and getting a biennial legislature to budget for long-term, expensive water projects has proved undoable. So it was set up so the fund would be used, with a board overseeing projects, and with careful repayment to replenish the funds. So there were honest and sincere people on both sides. On this panel, if I understood right, only Todd Staples had been against using the fund (and that had been my preference as well), but that doesn’t mean the others are careless about using the fund.
Anyway, Dewhurst started answering the question saying, it’s rainy now, and he hopes it just keeps on raining. I think he was referring to the drought, not the title of the fund (except in an ironic sort of way), but the moderator assumed he had misunderstood. In an additional few minutes, I think he’d have gotten to the right point, but instead the interruption was unfairly embarrassing to him. The other answers concerned accountability, with plenty of oversight of the Texas Water Development Board, which the Lt. Gov. could appoint and watch.
The weirdest question of the night was whether these candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor favored repeal of the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution. That amendment, 1913, changed US Senators from being appointed by state legislatures to represent the state’s interests, to direct popular election. It had apparently come up in a previous debate in Clear Lake (south of Houston, near NASA). It’s an academic argument, not a serious or relevant one for a lieutenant governor. Personally, I’m for strong states’ rights, and I think weakening that a hundred years ago was the wrong direction. But I have a hard time picturing how going back would regain what was lost. I’m wary of state legislatures, which have also developed “progressive” mindsets over this century.
Todd Staples and Jerry Patterson were outspoken against any such scheme; they trust the people more than the legislators. Fine. But that also reveals that they don’t really understand the historical content of the question. Dan Patrick said he thought he understood where the misunderstanding came from—that discussion in a previous debate. He had said that the 17th Amendment changed the way government worked. Power of the states was curtailed, and the federal government was empowered. It’s a historical view, but he’s not in favor of repeal. (In other words, pretty much what I think about the issue.)
Remember, Dan Patrick is a talk show host. He knows a broad variety of topics, including history, particularly in relation to government. This was an academic discussion question, irrelevant to the job these men are running for. But at this point Patterson stepped in and accused Patrick of changing his views according to the audience. Really? If Patterson had been my preferred candidate, I’d have cringed at that feeble attempt to use this as the old flip-flopping accusation. Instead, while I like Patterson a lot, I thought this attack made him seem desperate and petty.
Dan Patrick at Cypress Tea Party 1-4-2014
(photo by David Wilson)
Patterson did have a good answer to an outreach question. I think that’s been a good topic for him. He uses the word Tejano instead of Hispanic. Tejano is the historic word for the native Mexicans who became Texans along with the immigrated whites in the Mexican state of Tejas, the Texians; the Tejanos were part of the revolution for Texas Independence. There were nine Tejanos that died with Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis at the Alamo. They aren’t a separate people; they are Texan-Americans.
Patterson emphasizes that, when we state our conservative message clearly, Tejanos recognize what we have in common: they’re pro-family, pro-life. He does, however, take on the risky discussion about worker permits more loudly than border security. He suggests going to Tejanos for Patterson (which I found at
I do agree with Patterson that outreach with a clear, conservative message will attract voters who have been told by media to be wary. That seemed to be what the other candidates wanted to say as well; we know conservative principles are the values of the majority of Americans. Patrick’s message went beyond Hispanics. He emphasized school choice, and mentioned a case where an African-American grandfather said he was offended to be told he has to ask permission where to send his grandson to school.  
Patrick had an additional argument when it comes to border control, which he has been hammering in his speeches lately as well. The problem isn’t people who come here for jobs; it’s violent criminals. There are 141,000 illegal violent criminals in our jails, put there over the past four years, charged with 447,000 crimes including 2,000 murders and 5,000 rapes. If you’re a law-abiding person, it doesn’t matter what you believe about immigration; you’re going to want to keep these violent offenders out.
Patrick was also strong in his plans for doing a better job as Lieutenant Governor. As Patrick said, “98% of what the Lieutenant Governor wants happens. As chairman of Education I decided what happened. Six democrats were chairmen of committees.”  He added that all the democrats were in favor of the recent big budget—a sign that it’s not what we want. He would remove the two democrats from the powerful Legislative Budget Board and make sure the Board was made up of conservatives, who could reliably come up with a budget we want.
There has been a sense that tantrums from the minority have affected leadership. (Remember the democrats who shirked their duty and ran over the border into Ardmore, Oklahoma, back around 2003, to avoid a debate and vote over redistricting?) It’s not the job of the majority to mollify the minority; it’s their job to get the people’s work done. And when the people continue to ask for the conservative principles that work, mollifying the minority does nothing but hinder us in that goal. Patrick pointed out that, when democrats were in power for over a century, they weren’t appointing republicans to chairmanships. Dewhurst failed in any attempt to rebut that argument, and Patrick delivered it at least three times Monday evening.
Staples pointed out that there are 31 members of the state senate, and there are 18 standing committees. With those numbers, it’s hard to avoid democrat chairs here and there. So he suggests fewer committees—streamlining, combining. Staples was very much about basics: low taxes, free-markets, strong values. He offers a “Contract with Texas” on his website covering ten major issues.
Concerning the influence of lieutenant governor, Patterson added that sometimes you have to play hardball, and if a bill isn’t moving, re-refer it to a committee that will get it through.
Dewhurst pointed out that the legislature is designed to have bills fail; it takes several sessions sometimes to move a bill through. Not complaining, just how it is. (Thousands of bills are filed per session, and only a relative handful pass. The budget is the only required item.) He did accurately point out that Texas is one of the three most frugal states, the best business environment, and in the past decade we’ve eliminated 51 state agencies. That’s not a bad record to rest on.
But with so many conservatives ready to step up and serve, Dewhurst’s record might not be enough.
Gonzalez flag from Texas War for Independence
photo from Wikipedia
I like Dan Patrick’s assertiveness. I like his insistence on getting the conservative work done—which the people want and expect—without letting moderates or minority democrats get away with calling you mean if you don’t play their way. We’re up against an unprecedented amount of federal government intrusion. Filing lawsuits is a necessary step, but I want someone who will just say no, will act on principle, and say to the federal government, as the Texas revolutionaries said to tyrants in their day, “Come and take it.”

Dan Patrick has strong support around here, his home turf, as you’d expect. We keep in touch with him and see what he accomplishes as he keeps his word. I don’t have a perspective of how well he’s doing across the state, but I hope he’s doing well, because I really do believe he’s the best candidate for the job. And finally I’m ready to say, I’m endorsing Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor.

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