Thursday, February 18, 2016

Primary Recommendations, Part I

The primary election is underway. Here in Texas, while voting day comes up Tuesday, March 1st, early voting began Tuesday and runs through February 26th. So I’m getting ready to vote next week, and sharing my decisions.

I expect we’ll do this in two posts: one for national, Texas, and Harris County races, and another for Texas and county judicial races.

I’ve gathered pamphlets, online info, endorsement lists from friends and groups, and I’m using a handy matrix of endorsements put together by Mark Ramsey, State Republican Executive Committeeman for Senate District 7 (my district), which he has been updating daily. 

From Mark Ramsey's Facebook Page 2-18-2016

I won’t spend a lot of time here, because I’ve written my opinion pretty clearly. [Read here, here, and here.] I endorse Ted Cruz. If I can’t have my way, I could settle for Marco Rubio. There were others in the race I could have settled for, but I don’t think Jeb Bush or John Kasich qualify. I generally like Ben Carson as a citizen, but I don’t think he has what it takes to be president. He is, however, better than many alternatives.

I won’t vote for Donald Trump—even if he were to become the nominee. I will not vote for the ruination of my country and the disposal of our beloved Constitution. Every day his behavior convinces me more thoroughly that he would be disastrous with power at his disposal.

Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton is even conceivable as a president of this country. They would also be permanently disastrous to our country. They are so bad that people would be tempted to vote for whoever is running against them. But I can’t see that Trump would prevent the damage they would do; he might even do damage they haven’t thought of.

It would be awkward (understatement) to be a Republican Precinct Chair who refuses to vote for the nominee; I hope the party does not put me in that situation. I trust Ted Cruz will win handily in Texas, which is a winner-take-all-delegates state. We’re doing our part. But we depend on voters in other states to be wise as well.

US Representatives

My representative, Ted Poe, District 2, is unopposed. I support him.

I’ve been interested in a couple of nearby races. John Culberson, District 7, used to be my representative, until redistricting a few years ago. He hasn’t faced a primary in a while. This year he has two opponents: Maria Espinoza and James Lloyd. I’ve met them both at local Tea Party meetings. Both are impressive.

I was surprised at the urgency to run against Culberson, because he seemed conservative to me when I voted for him. I asked James Lloyd about that: Was I wrong about him? Has he changed? Or has our idea of what is conservative changed? He said he thought Culberson had changed. He had been conservative in the beginning. But he hasn’t faced opposition in a while. And sometimes, when you hear from business lobbyists all the time, and no one is paying attention, it gets easy to just give in.

I haven’t followed closely enough to give specifics on Culberson complaints, but his conservative ratings have dropped of late. When I heard from Lloyd, I was impressed with his experience at a young age. He was valedictorian at Rice Law School—and came out still conservative. Like Ted Cruz at Harvard. He also has experience in Washington working against terrorism. He’s young, but very impressive. I’d be happy to vote for him.

Looking at endorsements from various groups, Lloyd is endorsed by The Conservative View, Terry Lowry’s The Link Letter, Mark Ramsay SREC SD 7 Committeeman, and Gary Pollard’s Texas Conservative Review. Of those, Ramsey has the most sway with me. Espinoza doesn’t receive any of these club/group endorsement.

I think Culberson will probably win; incumbency carries a lot of weight. But the challenges might wake him to the need to respond to his conservative constituency.

When our elected officials remember that conservative principles lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization, we back them up.

In the meantime, I hope we see more of Maria Espinoza and James Lloyd in the future.

Another contested race is Kevin Brady, District 8. I knew someone who ran against him in the primary a few years ago. People in his districts have similar feelings as Culberson’s constituents. He used to be conservative; what happened? His opponent is Steve Toth, who gets endorsements from Mark Ramsey, Terry Lowry The Link Letter, and Texas Patriots PAC. In the meantime, Brady has been hitting the airwaves with reminders of every conservative thing he’s ever done—same with Culberson. Maybe this challenge will help him to actually be more conservative.

Texas Representative

My representative, Duane Bohac, House District 138, is running unopposed. I have found him responsive and reliably conservative so far.

There are a couple of nearby races. The one getting the most attention is House District 150. Debbie Riddle has represented that district for fourteen years now. We cheered her on as a conservative. But something has turned lately. She isn’t my rep, so I haven’t looked too hard at the specifics, but the main concerns are that she failed to vote for preventing Sharia law from having a place in Texas courts, and she supports House Speaker Joe Strauss, whom we all know is conservative only when forced. Also, some think she worked against Right to Life issues.

There are a total of four on the ballot, but the main challenger is Valoree Swanson, who recently served as SREC SD 7 Committeewoman, and has worked for conservative causes for a long time. She gets endorsements from Steve Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Harris County, The Conservative View, CCHC PAC [Conservative Coalition of Harris County—has weight with me because I know several of them from my tea party; this is an unpaid group of volunteers who research and interview candidates and express their opinions by secret ballot], Kingwood Tea Party, Mark Ramsey, Texas Right to Life, Empower Texans, Texas Patriots PAC, and Conservative Club of Houston. Debbie Riddle gets Pollard’s Conservative Review and Houston Realty Business Coalition.
It’s hard to take out an incumbent, but I think Valoree Swanson has a good chance of winning this one. I would vote for her, if I were in her district.

House District 128 is open, with the retirement of Allen Fletcher. Tom Oliverson and Kay Smith are running. Oliverson gets endorsements across the board on my list of groups. CCHC gives him a 67% support, which is less than an endorsement. Kay Smith gets 33%. She is a longtime active member of our local Tea Party, former member of the county school board, and energetic activist. I don’t know Oliverson, so I was surprised at how that race is going. I suggest looking at both of them and making an informed decision: Oliverson’s website. Smith’s website.

Texas Railroad Commissioner

The Texas Railroad Commission is a three-person regulatory committee over energy, which in Texas is mainly oil and gas. There is one place on the ballot this year, with seven Republicans running (with some added confusion, because Lance Christian and Wayne Christian have the same last name).
This full list, in alphabetical order is: Lance Christian, Wayne Christian, Gary Gates, Doug Jeffrey, Weston Martinez, John Greytok, and Ron Hale.

Ron Hale attended our tea party back in November, which seems forever ago. My notes aren’t very revealing. Two years ago I was leaning toward Wayne Christian for Railroad Commissioner, and I know people who still support him. But the majority of recommendations I typically turn to support Weston Martinez. I’ve looked at his website, and he seems easy to support. The CCHC PAC supports Martinez with 55%, not an endorsement, and give Wayne Christian 36%. Another 9% go to John Greytok. The magazine slates—Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of HC, Terry Lowry’s The Link Letter, and Polland’s Conservative Review all support Gary Gates, but that doesn’t persuade me without anyone I personally know supporting him.

At this point I’m leaning toward Weston Martinez, subject to more information by the time I vote next week.

Harris County Sheriff

Harris County, where Houston is located, is one of the largest law enforcement jurisdictions in the country—the third largest sheriff’s office. The county is almost exactly 50% Democrat, 50% Republican. The previous sheriff, Adrian Garcia, resigned in 2015 to run for mayor (he did not win). The County Commissioners appointed Ron Hickman, who had been Precinct 4 Constable prior to the appointment. He is now running, and his main opponent is Carl Pittman, who ran for sheriff in 2012.

Both talked at a recent Cypress Tea Party meeting. Carl Pittman went first. I liked him last time he ran, but he wasn’t my final pick (my pick didn’t win in November either). He has been here, supporting tea party ideas, with his big smile and healthy handshake. I wanted to be able to vote for him this time. He talked about the need for better technology, and better ways for law enforcement to work across jurisdictions (the five constable precincts, and various incorporated cities). He seemed convincing.

Then Ron Hickman spoke. He’s been working in the job for about nine months already. He was appointed, so we don’t have to think of that as an incumbent position. But he has a pretty long record of incorporating technology. As Precinct 4 Constable, he instituted laptops in patrol cars, and paperless warrants. It looks like he’s already doing the things that Pittman says need to be done.

Pittman is getting big help from Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Sheriff Richard Mack, both big names, but both from somewhere else. There are accusations going both ways in this campaign. I don’t like to see that, and I pretty much tune it out. It’s unpleasantness that I hope will stop filling my email inbox very soon.

I’m still trying to get an inside view from a local sheriff’s deputy. But, looking at the various groups, but everyone across the board has endorsed Ron Hickman, including 100% endorsement from CCHC, and also Mark Ramsey. I have individual friends going with Carl Pittman. Either one I believe would be better than their predecessor, Adrian Garcia. But right now I’m leaning toward Ron Hickman.

Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector

Mike Sullivan is the incumbent. Don Sumners [I didn’t find a website for his campaign] was the assessor before losing to Sullivan several years ago. Don Sumners claims to be a watchdog for the taxpayer. But Paul Bettencourt, now our Texas Senator for District 7, who was truly a watchdog for the taxpayer when he held the Tax Asssessor position, and was all about paying less and paying with ease, is supporting Mike Sullivan. In fact, Sullivan is getting endorsements across the board. The CCHC PAC is supporting him with only 60%, which isn’t quite an endorsement. Still, if all of these people are satisfied, I’m not sure I can see a good enough reason to replace him with a 76-year-old who held the job previously. So, I’m going with Mike Sullivan.

Harris County Republican Chair

We elected Paul Simpson just two years ago. He’s done a lot to better communications, technology, and outreach. He has two challengers, but I’m willing to let him keep working.

We’ll look at Texas Supreme Court and Appeals Court in the next post, along with county judicial races, and anything else we haven't yet covered.


  1. I believe that Texas is a winner take all state only if the winner wins more than 50% of the popular vote. If not, which is a possibility this year, then the delegates will be allocated proportionally.

  2. I think you're right. Real Clear Politics calls us a proportional state with an open primary. Let's hope Ted Cruz gets 50% here in his home state. 155 delegates is pretty powerful.