Gone, Baby, Gone

The chamber of the Texas House
The chamber of the Texas House

Most of the legislators who aren't returning for another term decided for themselves not to come back, either because they wanted out of politics for now or because they decided to run for a different office. It's an up or out thing. But there's another group, too: After the first round of primary voting, more officeholders joined the list — involuntarily. 

So far, 37 members of the Texas House, four members of the Texas Senate, and three members of the 32-person congressional delegation from Texas are on the list. Runoffs could add more, and so will the general election. All in all, there are 25 Republican runoffs in state races and a dozen on the Democratic side, and there's some action there, as you'll see below. First, the list of the people who won't be at the same desks come January.



Railroad Commission candidate Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, will go into his runoff with Christi Craddick with endorsements from two who missed that last round. Becky Berger and Roland Sledge both endorsed Chisum. Berger finished third in that race; Sledge finished fifth. Chisum, a 12-term state representative, finished second to Craddick, the daughter of former Speaker Tom Craddick, who is making her first bid for elected office.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, endorsed Marc Veasey of Fort Worth over Domingo Garcia of Dallas in the Democratic primary runoff for the new CD-33 seat in the delegation. Veasey finished 12 points ahead of Garcia in a crowded primary. Veasey also picked up a nod from one of his first-round opponents, former Dallas City Councilman Steve Salazar.

Railroad Commissioner David Porter endorsed David Dewhurst for U.S. Senate.

Lots of primary losers are making their endorsements in the runoffs. Ken King, the remaining challenger to Rep. Jim Landtroop, R-Plainview, picked up endorsements from the third- and fourth-place finishers in that four-man contest. Gary Walker and Mac Smith remain opposed to the incumbent.

Josh Tetens endorsed Tucker Anderson in the HD-12 runoff (the open seat district that runs from Brazos County north to McLennan County). Anderson will face Ky Kacal in July.

Jesse Gaines will go into his runoff against Nicole Collier with the backing of third-place finisher Dulani Masimini in Tarrant County's HD-95.

And in HD-117 in San Antonio, third-place finisher Ken Mireles endorsed Tina Torres, who finished second, over Philip Cortez.

The Battle for the Hispanic Vote

After the Texas primaries the battle to court the state’s so-called “sleeping giant” – the Latino vote, is front and center. Republicans are beating the familiar drum — that their social and economic priorities are more in line with the state’s fastest-growing demographic group.

Democrats, meanwhile, say their traditional grip on Hispanics isn’t slipping. If there appear to be any gaps in leadership within Latino elected officials, it’s because the party’s leadership as a whole is in transition.

“[Democrats] are pushing policies that Hispanics like — and that’s better public schools, more humane immigration policy and economic policies that benefit the middle class,” said Democratic consultant Jason Stanford. “I’ve been chewing Texas Democratic politics since 1994 and I don’t know a soul that has taken the Hispanic vote for granted. Everyone knows that more must be done, that’s never a question.”

Republicans in the state, whose inroads with Hispanics have been bolstered with the creation of the Hispanic Republicans of Texans, co-founded by George P. Bush, the grandson of President George Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush, and Juan Hernandez, a former member of former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s cabinet and former advisor to U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, are doing their best to hone in on this message: Democrats are a constant disappointment for Latinos.

“I have to recognize that [President Obama] created wonderful hope and now, it’s disappointment,” Hernandez said. “There are so many areas in which Obama did not keep his promises and we are just getting started in truly showing our interest in Hispanics participating.”

Aside from the weak economy, which has shown to disproportionately affect Latinos more than Anglos, Hernandez said the president also failed Latinos on the issue of immigration reform.

“Immigration is familia,” he said. “We did not see, as Hispanics, an aggressive performance on his part when he did have power in Congress to promote it and in my opinion even pass it.”

Stanford, however, said immigration reform is mistakenly dubbed the issue of utmost importance for Latinos and it is because of that that the Democrats can likely maintain their appeal.

“It gets a ton of attention, but that’s not the Democrats main focus. The Democrats main focus is good pubic schools,” he said. “Ask anyone: ‘What was the biggest issue coming out of the last session?’ and they will say, ‘5.4 billion cut from public schools.’ You ask any reporter and they’ll say voter ID. There is a disparity between what really happened and what gets the most attention.”

Even if the immigration debate doesn't top the priority list, Hernandez conceded that Republicans have to tweak their language on the issue.

Asked about Romney’s insistence that he would veto the DREAM Act, Hernandez said the candidate still has time to change his message.

“Romney is going to have to work on his vocabulary,” he said. “But I do believe that once the Republicans are in power they will bring immigration reform that will dignify immigrants and Hispanics.”

He said voters should be reminded that the Obama administration has already deported more people than his predecessor and that it was under President Reagan that reform was last passed.

As far as leadership within the Democratic party, which was often maligned last session for its lack of leadership in Austin, Stanford said the issue would work itself out.

“There is plenty of blame to go around and plenty of opportunities,” he said. “I think at a time when we are getting a new party chair and a time when the Democratic legislative caucus is undergoing a change, I think it’s the perfect time for new leaders to step up and I think that’s what we’ve seen. It’s not so much that there is disunity as there is transition.”

Platform Splinters

Besides selecting state party leaders, approving the platform is the main excuse for some 12,000 Texas Republicans to congregate every two years. 

Though in theory the platform sets forth official positions on topics as diverse as foreign policy and legislative procedure — and as specific as the HIV/AIDS crisis (“All people, no matter what disease they may contract, are worthy of deep respect as humans; however, behavior has personal and social consequences”) and the federal minimum wage (it should be repealed)— many officeholders take it as more of a guide than a rulebook. That hasn’t stopped it from sparking its fair share of arguments among convention-goers over the years. But this year, the biggest debate may be not about what the platform says, but what it doesn't. 

Tom Mechler, the Amarillo businessman who chairs the platform committee, said that this year the focus is on streamlining the document.

“We’re trying to minimize not the planks themselves but the amount of language that might be included in describing the planks,” he said, in order to avoid “including so much content that it becomes a distraction.”

Mechler emphasized that there wouldn’t be much difference in terms of the planks themselves — just in the explanations of why the party was taking the positions. 

But that could mean friction on the convention floor about what was and wasn't left in — and opens the door for hurt feelings among the party's many factions if they think their positions haven't been adequately represented.

“Depending on what has been taken out, it certainly could bring discussion,” said David Bellow, a State Republican Executive Committee member from Hardin County. 

For instance, Bellow said, if the section on abortion removed references to pain of the unborn baby, that would be something delegates might fight to put back in.

Peggy Venable, who directs the Texas Chapter of the anti-government spending group Americans for Prosperity, said her organization has educated its 117,000 members statewide on its positions on key issues in the hopes that they will then take that information to their respective conventions and push for their inclusion in  party platforms. She said there were differing philosophies on what shape the platform should take as a document.

“I do think a lot of people would probably agree that this is more like a manifesto that it doesn't just highlight the principles and ignore the details,” Venable said, “But that is something very important for the party to work out. I understand both sides of it.”

Inside Intelligence: About Those Election Results...

With the first round of the primary elections behind us and the picture of who'll be in the Legislature a little clearer than it was, we asked the insiders for their take on the results and for their predictions about how the leadership votes at the beginning of next January's legislative session will go.

Joe Straus isn't in any trouble at all, to hear the insiders tell it. All but seven percent think he's on his way to reelection to another term in that post.

If David Dewhurst leaves, either to join the U.S. Senate or to walk away after a loss, most of the insiders think efforts to elect his replacement in the GOP caucus will fail. Only 23 percent think Republicans alone will elect his replacement; 72 percent think the winner will need a bipartisan coalition to succeed.

Who's the favorite? Tyler Republican Kevin Eltife, with 60 percent, followed by Sens. John Carona of Dallas and Robert Duncan of Lubbock, with 15 percen each. Everyone else together — we asked about all of the incumbent Republicans who are returning for another term — collected a combined 10 percent of the votes. 

As always, we've attached the full set of verbatim comments from the insiders. Here's a sampling:


Do you think Joe Straus will win another term as speaker of the House?

• "Noisy outsiders are just that. The majority of members appreciate the Speaker's leadership style and integrity."

• "As has been the case for years, the incumbent is protected by low quality of his challengers."

• "While he has suffered a few losses in the primaries, those should be made up for by several new Democrats being in the House in January. Where else are Ds going to go?"

• "Its hard to take a challenge by a trial lawyer seriously."

• "No question."

• "Straus has confidence of members and they like how he runs the House."

• "He lost the Dems in 2011, and he lost some Republican support in the primaries when it was clear just how exposed he had left his own members. And if there's one rule in politics, it's not to expose your members. It leaves them dangling."

• "I honestly can't believe the media continues to make this a story. Barrack Obama could file for Speaker and you guys would call it a race."


Who would you say is the frontrunner in the race to fulfill the remainder of David Dewhurst's term as lieutenant governor if he leaves?

• "It's down to Carona and Eltife; either are good for business. Te Party types won't be pleased but who cares. The catch is who can make Democrats most comfortable."

• "This will be a good one. Lots of maneuvering going on behind the scenes. Carona is playing the Democratic and centrist Republican card, and has to be ahead now"

• "Sen. Eltife is likable and respected. He has the reputation of his yes being a yes and his no being a no."

• "Patrick smoked out Carona through his machinations. Eltife has smartly kept his powder dry."

• "But the likeliest lieutenant governor going forward is Dewhurst himself!"

• "That's assuming Dew can win. The odds are that the person entering the runoff with the lead usually looses. I'm sure Carney is READY!"

• "Senator Carona brings a wealth of experience, wisdom and strategic thinking to a job that desperately needs an elected official that does not pander to the extremist right wing faction."


Will Dewhurst's replacement be chosen by the GOP caucus or will the Democrats have a voice in the selection?

• "This will be the beginning of a battle royale in the next election cycle."

• "Depends on how rabid the GOP winners are."

• "There will be a power struggle between the republicans and it will linger throughout the session."

• "As the Primary indicated, Republicans are the new Democrats--infighting and back biting prohibit consensus."

• "Since Dewhurst is going to be Lieutenant Governor, there's no need to speculate"

• "The Caucus will not be able to determine a consensus candidate rendering themselves powerless."

What's your take on the election results? What's it mean for the House and the Senate?

• "Move to the right in both houses is a precursor to more DC style partisanship in the legislative process."

• "Hello more conservative Senate. Hello more freshmen in the House."

• "No more ability to kill crazy stuff in the Senate. Of there are 75 sane members of the House, they can run things."

• "More conservative. Period."

• "As for the House, mixed results. Many of the Speaker's closest lieutenants are leaving, but many of the newly elected members will be loyal to Speaker Straus, as well. The fact is, however, that with so many new faces, much like last session, things will move slower and there will be a steep learning curve. Those with seniority and experience will find their influence has increased. As for the Senate, it will become more conservative, it appears."

• "No real surprises. The House will have fewer Republicans but they will be more conservative. The Senate will be more conservative. I think there is a pattern here. It is also worth noting that almost every election outcome from last Tuesday can be explained in local terms, without regard to conservative/Tea Party/moderate labels."

• "Both houses got more conservative-if that's possible- and Straus may be forced to move further right. As always the Senate will have to play the role of the grown ups. The former House members while more conservative than their predecessors will be forced to moderate as they balance district interests that just got 5 times larger than their house districts."

• "Trial lawyers will have less influence in Senate requiring democrats and others to fight harder on those issues. House will be a learning process with more power to experienced vets."

• "Hope everyone enjoyed last session because the election results won't change a thing policy-wise"

• "Initial impressions would suggest that the senate at least made a pretty sharp turn to the right. As for the west side, it would seem that the speaker will have his hands full finding new leadership. I'm sure the talent is there, but it has not surfaced yet."

• "Good for Straus. Losing Chairs means he gets to give them to somebody else. Look for someone who voted against him the first go round to get a Chair. Senate is a tougher body. Look for the House budget priorities to win the day."

• "More partisan and ideological rancor in both houses. Perry compounds it."

• "The usual zoo. Only zooier."

Texas Weekly Newsreel: Political Convention Preview

The Republicans and Democrats have something newat their conventions this year: Candidates who haven't finished their primary elections.

The Calendar

It's convention weekend, with Republicans in Fort Worth, Democrats in Houston, Libertarians in Dallas and Greens outside San Antonio. 

Here's what else is going on:

Friday, June 8:

  • Fundraiser for Sen. Rodney Ellis; Houston (6 p.m.)

Sunday, June 10:

  • ACE 12 water conference; Dallas (runs through Thursday)

Monday, June 11:

  • Fundraiser for Rep. Sid Miller; Austin (4:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 12:

  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III meeting (9 a.m.)
  • House Higher Education Committee meeting (9 a.m.)
  • Fundraiser for House candidates John Adams and Chris Frandsen; Austin (5:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 13:

  • Texas Public Policy Foundation celebrates 25th anniversay of Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech, with Gov. Rick Perry; Austin (11 a.m.)

Thursday, June 14:

  • Senate Committee on Governmental Relations meeting (10 a.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

On the second leg of his two-day swing through Texas, Mitt Romney set a local fundraising record in San Antonio, bringing in at least $3 million from South Texas donorsGene Powell, the University of Texas System Board of Regents chairman, who organized one of the fundraisers, said the day's events for Romney had doubled the previous local record, set in 2008 at a John McCain-Sarah Palin event attended by Palin. Romney on Wednesday also attended a fundraiser in Houston, where he was introduced by former Secretary of State James Baker. The day before he hit San Antonio, Romney campaigned in Fort Worth.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst praised a court ruling upholding a $26 million verdict for Jordan Fishman, a Florida businessman who has claimed that two foreign companies stole his tire designs. Dewhurst has spanked U.S. Senate rival Ted Cruz for his work as an appellate lawyer for one of the companies, a Chinese tire-maker. "Justice was served," Dewhurst said. A Cruz spokesman hit back: "Dewhurst has spent over $10 million of his personal fortune falsely attacking Ted Cruz, all in an effort to distract voters from Dewhurst’s tax-and-spend record — and the voters saw through the Dewhurst deceptions."

Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst have agreed to debate before the July runoff, but an unexpected sticking point developed this week: the English language. Though neither of the two U.S. Senate candidates in the July 31 Republican primary runoff is actively working to organize a Spanish-language debate, the idea gained attention from a Univision report this week, and national media coverage sparked erroneous reports that such an event is actually in the works, a claim both campaigns now deny.

A Bexar County judge ruled this week that state Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s defamation lawsuit against his former primary challenger Elizabeth Ames Jones may proceed. Wentworth had filed a libel and slander suit against Jones for her campaign ads claiming that he had double-billed his campaign and the state for expenses related to air and car travel. In a surprise, Jones ended up finishing third on May 29, behind Donna Campbell, who will face Wentworth in a runoff.

The Legislative Budget Board, headed by House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, has asked state agencies to propose 10 percent budget cuts for their next two-year budgets. No programs or services will be cut, but the agencies are expected to show lawmakers what the 10 percent cuts would do.

Political People and their Moves

Ramiro Garza Jr.was reinstated as city manager with a unanimous vote by the Edinburg City Council after losing his bid for U.S. Congress.

Daniel Keylin has accepted a position as Deb Fischer's communications director in Nebraska. He previously served on former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Lisa Woods, who previously worked at the comptroller's office, is rejoining the agency as chief strategy officer. Most recently, Woods was leading strategic initiatives and building fundraising capacity at the University of Denver.

Ian Randolph, who previously served as chief of staff to state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, has joined Premier Legislative Consulting, an Austin-based firm, as a partner.

Irv Downing, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College’s Vice President for Economic Development, will now also oversee the university’s Division of Institutional Advancement.

Gov. Rick Perry this week appointed:
  • Robert “Barney” Barnwell III of Magnolia to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board. Barnwell is president of Universal Natural Gas Inc. and president and board chairman of Texas Gas Utility Services. 
  • Angela Tucker of McKinney as judge of the 199th Judicial District Court in Collin County. Tucker is an attorney in private practice and a former Collin County assistant district attorney.
  • J. Brett Busby of Houston as justice of the 14th Court of Appeals in Harris County. Busby is a partner in the appellate section at Bracewell and Giuliani and an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
  • Mackenzie Kelly of Austin to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. Kelly is an emergency management technician for the Williamson County Office of Emergency Management. Perry also reappointed Aaron W. Bangor of Austin, a principal member of the technical staff at AT&T Labs; Rodolfo “Rudy” Becerra Jr. of Nacogdoches, a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University; Margaret Larsen of Austin, president and CEO of Special Olympics Texas; and Patty Watson of Flower Mound, a technology executive for Bank of America.

Deaths: Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena, apparently from a heart attack. He was 54.

Quotes of the Week

The donors didn’t see it as a winnable race, particularly after Bill White. That made them feel that Texas wasn’t winnable for a Democrat, and they’re putting their money elsewhere.

Sean Hubbard, who placed fourth in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate

It offers a great opportunity for the party to sell exhibition space to campaigns.

Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri, on holding the state convention while runoffs are underway

You can step on your dick. You just can't jump up and down on it.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, on Rick Perry's "Oops moment" in the presidential campaign, quoted in the book Election 2012: A Time for Choosing

I thought they were saying 'Dewwwww'.

Gov. Rick Perry, on getting booed for his endorsement of David Dewhurst at the state GOP convention

My job's pretty simple. I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, at the GOP convention

Candidates come and go, and for too long our party has been in the position of looking for that one candidate, that media star that is going to carry us instead of us carrying them. So as we go forward it is my hope that we will have a party that can carry candidates instead of having candidates that can carry the party.

Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, who isn't seeking another term at the party's convention