Down ballot elections are equally important to those that are at the top of the ballot.
I'm sure everyone has heard about Wendy Davis announcing her run for Texas Governor. If you haven't, here it is again.
But one thing for certain, I am paying attention to who runs down ballot.
Thanks to the good folks at the Burnt Orange Report and especially the writings of one Joseph Vogas (twitter), they are keeping tabs on who is running for other statewide elections.
The most viewed statewide outside of Governor and US Senate will likely be the Lieutenant Governor's race. The incumbent, David Dewhurst, has been in this position since 2002 and was first elected to office as Texas Land Commissioner in 1998. While Dewhurst has been easily re-elected in 2006 and 2010, 2014 will probably be his most challenging race.
Lt. Governor Dewhurst ran for the US Senate seeking the Republican Party's nomination in 2012. If you recall, the primary featured former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, former ESPN broadcaster and SMU running back Craig James, and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Polling from that election on the Republican side was showing that it was heading towards a runoff. Part of that was due to the Tea Party's strength here in Texas and another was due to the primary being delayed from its traditional March date to late May due to the redistricting battle that was orchestrated by his fellow Republicans. It also gave the Tea Party time to organize around a candidate.
While Dewhurst received the most votes in the primary, he did not secure the 50% needed to avoid the runoff. The candidate that the Tea Party organized around in the runoff was Ted Cruz and he easily won that election and crushed Paul Sadler in the November general election.
Dewhurst is further weakened by the events that took place over the summer in Austin. While Democrats have no love for him, Republicans are feeling that maybe they need a new candidate for the lieutenant governor's office. Republicans, specifically those aligned with the Tea Party and at the grassroots level feel that Dewhurst was to blame for the Davis filibuster. Also during last election cycle's US Senate Republican primary, there were whispers that Dewhurst was "not conservative enough" specifically coming from Tony McDonald of the Young Conservatives of Texas (yes... THAT Tony McDonald).
Then there is this story about how Lt. Governor Dewhurst tried to use his position to get a relative who was accused of shoplifting out of the custody of the Allen police department in August.
Along with the anti-incumbency streak that runs through Republican primary elections, Texas Republicans today are outraged over a Texas based education program called CSCOPE. The purpose of the program is to provide educators a way to prepare students for the state's academic assessment exams. While it has praise from administrators, teachers have expressed mixed feelings towards it specifically citing that they are limited by timetables.
Tea Party type folks claim that the lessons are too liberal or anti-American. Well... reality has a well-known liberal bias.
Actually the problem is that no one knows WHAT exactly has the Tea Party in outrage over CSCOPE. For those looking outside Texas Republican politics it is another example of the anti-intellectual streak that currently dominates their party in the early 21st century.
On the inside it is a way for potential Republican candidates to tap into the Tea Party and use it to gain prestige among this group. David Dewhurst stated his opposition to CSCOPE in July. In August, State Senator Dan Patrick and SBOE vice chairman Thomas Ratliff held a debate over CSOPE at UT-Tyler.
CSCOPE, the Davis filibuster, the 2012 US Senate Republican primary, and the incident with the Allen police department has led to where Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst is facing a fierce primary challenge. The three candidates in this race: land commissioner Jerry Patterson, agriculture commissioner Todd Staples, and the previous mentioned Senator Dan Patrick.
Each of these candidates will try to out conservative each other leading up to the 4 March 2014 primary date.
In a debate last month hosted by Houston's Ronald Reagan Republican Women's Club, David Dewhurst said something that might serve him well in the primary but could hurt his party come Election Day 2014.
According to the Houston Chronicle reporting on the debate:
Patrick claimed that Democrats have been allowed to block legislation on sanctuary cities and school choice, largely because Dewhurst has given them too much power.
"I will not appoint half of the Democrats as chairman of committees," he said.
Dewhurst responded that Democrats led only 5 of 17 Senate committees, and assured the crowd that none of them was important.
The exact quote from the Houston Chronicle blog about Texas Politics:
“I’ve been reducing the number of Democratic chairs since I came in. You know how many committees we have? Seventeen. You know how many Democratic chairs we have? Five. So I’ve been reducing them — and not one of them is one of the critical committees.”
From the Lt. Governor's mouth: Not one of them is one of the critical committees....
Here is one of those not-so-critical committees: Veterans.
The chair is Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. She is a Democrat. You remember her, the one who had the mic drop moment during the Davis filibuster.
You can imagine my outrage when I heard what the Lieutenant Governor said about the Veterans committee not being a critical one in the State Senate. Instead, I'm going to allow Senator Van de Putte to channel my outrage and she does it a lot better.
I can only hope that your comments were taken out of context because, Governor Dewhurst, I can assure you that the work of the VAMI committee is important —as a veteran, you should know this. The VAMI committee serves over 1.7 million veterans living in our state and more than 131,000 active-duty military service members. The committee I chair has worked hard to make Texas the number one state for military service members, veterans, and their families by passing legislation that eases the transition of service members and their families to civilian life; strengthens Hazelwood higher education benefits for veterans and their families; and addresses the high number of suicides by veterans and service members.
As a Democrat in the state of Texas, I would understand if you attacked me personally at a Republican political debate. However, I take great exception with dismissing the work of the committee which I chair, particularly because the VAMI committee works hard to protect the men and women that defend your right to freely debate.
And there was this tweet too:
With all due respect,Mr Dewhurst,if you don't think our work on behalf of TX vets is important,please step aside so we can continue it.
— Leticia Van De Putte (@leticiavdp) September 17, 2013
Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst further confirmed what I already know about the modern incarnation of the Republican Party.
I am pleased that Senator Van de Putte announced her run for Lieutenant Governor over the weekend.
Texans deserve better leadership in Austin so that we can start focusing on the important things.
Because for too long we are not important to Texas Republicans.