The first primary on the election calendar took place on 4 March in Texas.
Sessions faced a challenger in Katrina Pierson who was a bit more organized than Stockman. She was very active in the Tea Party across the Metroplex and had all the makings of giving Sessions the toughest fight of his political career. Her campaign fizzled out when it was revealed that she glossed over details about her personal life as reported by the Texas Observer. The story says that Ms. Pierson received $11,000 in unemployment benefits over a 22 month period starting in January 2012. During this time she was a consultant for now-Senator Ted Cruz's 2012 senate campaign and also preparing for her own run for congress.
If these were serious challenges they might have given these incumbents something to sweat over. Instead these incumbents easily cruised to victory without having to spend time and importantly money to clinch the nomination.
The one place to look where the Tea Party was successful was in state level races. Here is a look at some of the more high profile races.
Senator Dan Patrick (R,
ESPN TX SD-7)
represents what the Tea Party in Texas is really about: anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT,
very dangerous religious element. During the Republican Lieutenant Governor
debate in January at the KERA studios in Dallas, Patrick
was the most viscous among the three other candidates when it came to
immigration calling the influx of undocumented persons as an "illegal
invasion." This drew the ire of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who
called Patrick the "Pete
Wilson of Texas." Mayor Castro is set to debate
Senator Patrick on this topic with a
possible date of 15 April. The debate will be moderated by Texas Tribune's Evan Smith.
Patrick's potential Democratic opponent in the Lieutenant Governor's race, Senator Leticia Van de Putte, said that such language by Patrick and other Republicans is that, "They're not learning the lessons of Pete Wilson's California. They're not learning the lessons of Jan Brewer's Arizona."
The Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor in Texas is headed towards a run-off and it is very likely over before the election. The top vote getters on primary night was the previously mentioned Patrick and the incumbent Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. For those unfamiliar with Texas politics, this is the second consecutive election that Dewhurst will be involved in a run-off. In 2012, it was looking like Dewhurst was going to cruise to the nomination and very likely be the next senator from Texas taking the seat previously occupied by Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
Something funny happened on the way to the coronation though.
Since then, as I previously mentioned in a previous post, Dewhurst's star within the Texas Republican Party has waned. Texas Republicans believe that the Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst was responsible for the Davis filibuster. It also did not help his standing with voters that he tried to use his position to get a relative out of police custody.
On primary night, Patrick won 41.5% of the vote vs. Dewhurst's 28.3% with 30.2% that did not vote for either candidate which I will refer to as the Either Pool. If the goal is to get to 51%, Patrick only needs to win 31.5% of the Either Pool while Dewhurst has to convince a little more than 3 out of 4 either pool voters to support him. That is a very daunting task.
Already the Patrick campaign has launched a whisper campaign to try to get Dewhurst to drop out and concede the primary to Patrick.
It is very likely that even fewer voters will participate in the runoff. Dewhurst's political career is over. The race for Lieutenant Governor of Texas will be between two State Senators vying for the gavel in the upper chamber: Van de Putte of San Antonio and Patrick of Houston.
Patrick's primary is a trend of Republicans in Texas trending even further rightward.
Senator Donna Campbell (R, TX SD-25) was able to beat two challengers, one of them was former San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan. You remember her? Chan was the one who made insulting comments towards the LGBT community while San Antonio was debating their non-discrimination ordinance law last summer. Campbell, an eye doctor, was one of many Republican women completely clueless during the anti-abortion bill debate and was responsible for issuing the third strike towards Senator Davis' filibuster.
Speaking of Wendy Davis, Democrats in TX SD-10 have chosen their candidate to replace her in Libby Willis. The Republican candidate for that senate district will not be determined until late May. The runoff is between Mark Shelton and Konni Burton. Shelton tried and failed to unseat Davis in 2012. Burton has ties to many Tea Party groups in Texas, specifically the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party. She also has the endorsement in Senator Ted Cruz.
Rep. Diane Patrick (R, TX HD-94) lost her primary to newcomer Tony Tinderholt by 10 points. Patrick represents Arlington and was a former State Board of Education member. She kept the interests of the University of Texas at Arlington. Now that she will not be returning to Austin, the university is concerned that Tinderholt might not be the strong advocate for the school that Patrick was.
Another key race in the Metroplex was Senator John Carona (R, TX SD-16) losing to Don Huffines. Huffines is known for his car dealerships in Dallas and was very well funded. For being a Republican, Carona was at least reasonable and is probably one of the few remaining moderates in the Texas Republican Party. Huffines had the endorsements of Senator Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. The November election is a formality as Huffines is paired up against Libertarian candidate Mike Dooling and will likely crush third party opposition.
One of the representations of graft and using her office to reward patronage, Linda Harper Brown (R, TX HD-105) will not be returning to the Texas Lege in January 2015. Brown lost to Tea Party backed candidate and former Texas House member Rodney Anderson. Per the Burnt Orange Report, it is one of the most competitive House districts in Texas representing most of Irving and portions of Grand Prairie. Brown won re-election in this district by less than 2 points. Anderson will face the winner of the TX HD-105 Democratic runoff between Terry Meza and Bernice Montgomery.
And then there is my favorite (and I use that term loosely) Texas state rep. The one who epitomizes what the Texas Republican Party is today.
Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R, TX HD-92) easily won his primary over former Euless Trinity High School principal Andy Cargile. This was despite Stickland's many social media faux pas (also this one too) and the Dallas Morning News reporting that he charged his campaign and the state for travel expenses. He does have a Democratic challenger in November and I hope that Tina Penny can kick his ass.
I could go on and on looking at every single Republican primary election, but here is the one thing that seems to be a common theme. Any Republican primary challenger or Tea Party backed candidate was well funded by special interests such as the Michael Quinn Sullivan financed Empower Texas, Stickland receiving funding from a Lubbock oil man, and in the case of Don Huffines being able to write your own checks.
Pretty much these people are waging war against the establishment because they feel like the Republican establishment let them down over the last decade by not enacting the most extreme elements of the conservative agenda. George W. Bush is considered a hero to some of these people, but they feel that he let them down by growing the size of government by creating the Department of Homeland Security, signing into law the USA PATRIOT Act, and compromising with those evil Democrats to bail out Wall Street to keep the economy from becoming more of a smoking crater than it already was.
Of course the biggest backstab according to this group was when Obama was elected in 2008 over McCain. They claim that McCain was not conservative enough so in 2012 the Republican Party nominated Romney.
With over 50% of the popular vote.
From what I have been hearing from my Texas connections that was the basis of attack ads leading up to the primary: Candidate A is in cahoots with Obama.
I have newsflash for these people: President Obama will not be on any ballot in November 2014.
In fact he will not be on any ballot ever again due to this thing in the Constitution called the Twenty Second Amendment.
It's easy for Texas Republicans to demonize President Obama because they are speaking to a very, very, SMALL voting bloc and they really have nothing of substance to offer to the voters except the same old rhetoric they have been offering for the last 30 years that somehow tax cuts will lead to prosperity (it doesn't), or that abstinence works (it doesn't), or that gay people getting married will lead to the decline of society (it hasn't), or that Democrats will take your guns (Obama has been in office for 5+ years and hasn't done it), or austerity works (it never has), or that voter fraud is widespread and rampant (uh... no).
The Tea Party in Texas knows that the country is changing and their demographic will be left behind in a rapidly changing voting demographic. The general electorate is becoming more diverse and finding their agenda disgusting. Instead of changing to fit the needs of the demographic, they are refusing and thinking that somehow if they double down on their positions that somehow people will support them. It didn't work in 2012 and it certainly will not work in 2016.
The purging of the moderate element in Texas Republican circles is all but complete. All that can be done to keep the party from moderating back to reality is threaten those who do with a potential primary challenge from the right flank. The right flank is well funded as we have seen in the recent primary election on 4 March.
The Republican Party is at war with itself between the establishment and the Tea Party and there is no better proof than in Texas.
Everything is bigger in Texas. Even the political battles.