Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nice Problem to Have

Texas has a deep bench. All state level positions for a while now have been held by Republicans. And you can’t get anywhere unless you speak conservative. And if you speak conservative without living it, you’ll be found out.
Add to that, some top positions have been occupied for a while—ever since Governor George W. Bush stepped up (some Texans would say stepped down) to become US President. So there have been people building up their conservative skills in several other positions in this big state, and they’re ready to take the field. It’s a bit like a college football team with a second string better than most teams’ star players—and they’re all calling out, “Put me in, Coach!” (We voters are the coach.) It’s a nice problem to have.
The primary election comes up here in Texas on Tuesday, March 4th. For you Texans, that means it’s also precinct meeting night, after the polls close. That’s one of the best places to get involved at the grassroots level. You’ll decide what you’d like to see in your state party platform, and you’ll choose delegates for the county/district convention, where those same things will be done for the next level up. (Yes, I did mention this last time around; thank you for asking.) For you people in other states, you probably have a primary coming up very soon as well. Your precinct meetings might be called something else, and they might be held separately from a voting day, but most places and parties have them in some form. So look it up, and then pass the word along to your friends.
Debate held Monday, January 20th, at King Street Patriots
One of the big races is for lieutenant governor, a rather powerful second-in-command position in the state. The slate of candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor is down to four: incumbent David Dewhurst, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, and District 7 State Senator Dan Patrick. In different circumstances (not all against each other), I would probably be happy with any one of them. They’re all conservative, personable, articulate, good-humored, and effective over time with a strong record. They squared off in a debate here in Houston this past Monday, which I got to attend.
Maybe something should be said about why there is such a challenge for a relatively popular and effective incumbent. I’m guessing on this. Back in 2012 Lt. Gov. Dewhurst ran for the US Senate, Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s vacated seat. He lost to Ted Cruz. I think that was a surprise to him at a point in his career when logic said it was time to move up. Failing that, I think it was assumed by many he would run for governor, once Gov. Perry (who has been governor longer than any other in Texas history) announced he would not run again.
But after the confidence loss of the senatorial race, along with the announcement by the popular and effective Attorney General Greg Abbott that he was running for governor, Dewhurst seems to have decided to stay with the safer Lt. Gov. position. It’s just that, by the time he made that decision, there were a number of others who had been planning their futures based on the likelihood of a vacancy in the Lt. Gov. position. And even after it was known Dewhurst was staying, there was a sense that 14 years is more than enough for anyone; get out of the way! So the challengers went ahead as planned.
That Dewhurst senate campaign, in 2012, wasn’t particularly effective: too much attacking a noble and effective person, and too many formal settings, meaning debates and distance from the people. This time around he has surrounded himself with handlers who let him do better what works for him—talk one-on-one with people, in small groups, with individuals, unscripted. He’s charming in person. A couple of months ago he came to our little local tea party meeting. He asked if he could meet with leadership ahead of time, just sit around at a table and talk, for a full hour. Our tea party isn’t exactly full of titles. We have a president, who arranges speakers for our meetings and manages our email group and Facebook page. N one else has an official position. I’m just a faithful, longtime participant, and I’ve taken on some assignments from time to time. But I got invited to that meeting. He spent an hour with four of us, asking us questions about what was important to us, answering whatever he could. He connects very well in that kind of setting. Then he spent another half hour or so speaking to the whole group once they arrived. That was more of a stump speech, but he included Q&A time at the end.
I should mention that this was something like a visiting team disadvantage. Dan Patrick is our state senator. We have known him since he was just the guy on the radio (he owns local station KSEV and did a daily talk show, which he still does as time permits). Most of us decided to support him in his first run, in pre-Tea Party years. He has been much more responsive than his predecessor. My kids and I have met with him in his Austin office during legislative sessions. Without appointment there were a couple of times he stood with us in his foyer and answered anything we were concerned about for twenty minutes or so. He knows his stuff. He was effective this past session heading the education committee, and I’ve noticed as he has become more informed about homeschooling and more in favor of choice for parents. He’s the only candidate who doesn’t currently hold statewide office, but in our little corner of the state—which happens to be one of the largest and most conservative districts—he’s seen as practically heroic.
And it was in this setting that Dewhurst came and sat to talk with us. That was brave. And time-consuming. It was generous of him to come, and I wanted to be open to be persuadable.
He is tall and impressive in person. He seems much more articulate in an intimate setting than in a debate. He doesn’t seem slow of speech or slow of thought when he’s making a personal connection. And he does have a valid point that Texas has done very well, compared to the rest of the country, by moving more conservative over this past decade. And the worse the federal government is for the country, the better Texas looks.
Still, there are some specific issues we conservative Texans are concerned about: border security, low taxes, standing up against federal government intrusions. Federal regulations that prevent people from using their land and resources because there might be some lizard living on those thousands of acres, for example. Filing lawsuits against the federal government, by the dozens, has been the common practice. And while I think that is one direction to go, simply refusing to abide is sometimes what Texas should do. We did that in refusing to set up an Obamacare state exchange, for example. We’re trying to protect our own border, since the federal government fails to do so.
I want to give a fair representation of all of the candidates, including how they did in this debate, covering how they approach the issues. So we’ll do a part II tomorrow.
If you’re a regular here, you may have noticed that, after I came back from the holiday break, I’ve been writing just twice a week. I’m spending my other allotted writing time on a related writing project. But some weeks I may just have to write more. We’ll take it as it comes.

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