Tag Archives: David Dewhurst

Protecting the Texas coast? What a novel concept!


Well, ruffle my hair and call me Frankie!

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush has made a commitment to a portion of the state that has been, well, seemingly kind of put on the back burner for too long.

Bush has pledged to make coastal protection a top priority of his during the 2017 Texas Legislature.

The last land commissioner to make such a pledge — and then follow through with it — was a Democrat. You might remember him. His name is Garry Mauro who, in 1998, had the misfortune of running for Texas governor against an incumbent named George W. Bush. Gov. Bush mauled Mauro by more than 30 percentage points while cruising to re-election.

It was a shame that Mauro didn’t do better against George P.’s Uncle W. He had held statewide office for well more than a decade and had done a creditable job as land commissioner.

I got to know him while working along that coast, in Beaumont. I was editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise and witnessed a lot of Mauro’s commitment to protecting the coast.

He started coastal cleanup operations; he sought to protect wetlands from further erosion. He was a coastal region champion.

That emphasis went by the wayside at the General Land Office during the administrations of David Dewhurst and Jerry Patterson.

Now we have another Republican, a first-time officeholder at that, committing publicly to protecting the coastline.

Bush already has taken steps to make good on his pledge, according to the Texas Tribune. As the Trib reports: “The office has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a long-term plan to address problems in the Houston Ship Channel and the Corpus Christi area in order to ‘ensure that Texans receive fair treatment following tropical storms and hurricanes.”‘

My wife and I moved from the coast to the High Plains of Texas more than two decades ago, but my own interest in coastal matters has remained high … even though I haven’t written much about them on this blog.

I am heartened to hear the land commissioner make a public commitment to strengthening the coast, which faces hazards every year during our hurricane season.

The coast ought to matter to the entire state.

I’ll offer George P. Bush one suggestion: Get on the phone and call Garry Mauro and ask him for some advice on how to proceed with ensuring greater coastal protection.

Hey, you can do it private, P. No one has to know.

Cruz gets fascinating Texas endorsement


Say what you will about Chris Christie and Ben Carson endorsing Donald J. Trump after Trump trashed both of them during their joint Republican presidential primary run.

Ted Cruz of Texas has just scored a fascinating endorsement as well from a fellow former competitor. Only this guy didn’t run against him in this year’s GOP presidential primary. Oh, no! This fellow was the original foe to get “Cruzed,” as some of us in Texas have said about the treatment he got from the junior U.S. senator.

Former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is backing the Cruz Missile.

This endorsement might not have the legs it does in Texas. Take it from me: This is a big deal.

Cruz decided in 2011 to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. The prohibitive favorite to succeed her was Dewhurst. He had served well as lieutenant governor and as land commissioner before that. He had lots of money and lots of political connections, dating back to his pre-public service career as a mover and shaker in the Houston area.

Dewhurst backs former foe

Then he ran into the Ted Cruz buzz saw.

Cruz campaigned against Dewhurst more or less the way he has campaigned for the presidency: He cast Dewhurst as part of the Texas political establishment and promised to change the climate if Texans elected him to the Senate.

He called Dewhurst a dreaded “moderate” because he managed to work pretty well with Texas Senate Democrats while presiding as lieutenant governor over the upper legislative chamber. To the ears of Texas Republican primary voters, he might as well have called Dewhurst a child molester.

Dewhurst responded by trying to outflank Cruz on the right, which is pretty damn hard to do, given Cruz’s reputation as a far-right TEA Party golden boy.

It didn’t work for Dewhurst. Cruz beat him in the primary.

Dewhurst, though, has forgiven Cruz for the rough treatment he got.

Will any of that matter down the road? It’s interesting to me that Dewhurst decided to endorse Cruz now … nearly a month after the state held its primary elections.

Cruz already has won the Texas primary.

Don’t look for Dewhurst to campaign much for his new best friend Ted Cruz as the primary campaign continues its journey. For the rest of the country, the rangy former Texas lieutenant governor’s rhetoric endorsing Ted Cruz won’t mean much.

It does speak, though, to how political wounds manage to heal.

Dewhurst can boast, I suppose, of being the first of Ted Cruz’s political victims — which grants him a fascinating, if somewhat dubious honor.

Lt. Gov. Patrick: Keep troops on the border

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to keep state National Guard troops on the state’s southern border.

Here’s the question: Is the state’s No. 2 elected official getting ahead of its No. 1 official, the governor, who’s actually in command of the Texas National Guard?


Former Gov. Rick Perry dispatched the National Guard to the border a year ago in a move seen by many as little more than a grandstanding act designed to make himself look tough in the face of that mass migration of children into Texas, who were fleeing political and economic repression in Central America.

You’ll recall, perhaps, that Gov. Perry sent the troops there with no clear mission — or even any authority — to make arrests.


There’s a new regime at the top in Austin, with Perry now out office and Abbott occupying the governor’s seat, and with Patrick having defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary this past spring.

It’s interesting to me that, according to the Dallas Morning News, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has taken a cautious approach to Patrick’s call for keeping the troops on patrol along the border. “I appreciate Gov. Patrick’s remarks,” Straus said. “But Gov. Abbott is the commander in chief and he will decide whether to extend the National Guard’s deployment.” The Morning News reports that Abbott had no comment on Patrick’s statements.

All of this has me curious as well. Is the lieutenant governor’s stay-tough approach to border enforcement a symbolic shot across Abbott’s bow to ensure that the Big Man — Abbott — is equally stern in his approach to border enforcement?

Some folks seem to believe Patrick has his eyes set on another political prize in 2018, the one currently possessed by Greg Abbott.

I’m just wondering.


Has the '18 governor's race begun … already?

Erica Greider, writing for Texas Monthly, may be onto something.

She thinks it’s possible that the 2018 race for Texas governor might formulating not quite a month into the current governor’s first term.

Her clue? Two aspects relating to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

One is that Gov. Abbott has a lot of campaign cash stashed away. Indeed, he kept raising boatloads of money long after it was understood by everyone in Texas that he would be elected in a landslide over Democratic challenger Wendy Davis.

Two is that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick isn’t shy — as he demonstrated by challenging incumbent David Dewhurst in 2014 — about poking the establishment in the eye.


She also believes Land Commissioner George P. Bush isn’t going to languish forever in his office and he might want to run for governor as well.

All three of them are Republicans. Abbott, of course, is in the driver’s seat. However, by my way of thinking, Patrick is going to pressure him to the right to ensure that he follows the TEA party agenda that Patrick is formulating as he runs the state Senate. I was intrigued, for example, by the team of ad hoc citizen advisers he formed, several of whom have TEA party connections.

Greider also notes one more potential rising political star. Too bad he’s a Democrat. That would be U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio. Texas Democrats get all hot and bothered when his name comes up as a possible candidate for governor.

Well, Wendy Davis had the same impact on Democrats when she announced her candidacy for the 2014 race. She flamed out.

The political tide continues to pull Texas politicians hard to the right. Politicians such as Patrick are preaching the state’s electoral choir. Greg Abbott hears it, too.

If the governor doesn’t mind his P’s and Q’s during the next, oh, three-plus years, he is going to get a challenge from within his party. And as Texas Republicans have shown they are able to do — e.g., Ted Cruz beating Dewhurst for the U.S. Senate, and Patrick knocking Dewhurst out of his lieutenant governor’s office — I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see another GOP knockdown battle in 2018.


Patrick fills the chairs; now let's watch

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is the Man of the Texas Senate and his first serious act as the No. 2 man in state government is complete: He’s filled Senate committee chairs.

By the looks of it, he more or less made good on a campaign pledge by putting almost all Republicans in those chairs. Two of the chairmanships went to Democrats — John Whitmire at Criminal Justice and Eddie Lucio at Intergovernmental Affairs.

Patrick had suggested during the 2014 campaign he might go all-Republican if he was elected.


The tradition of past lieutenant governors has been to sprinkle chairmanships a bit more liberally — if you’ll pardon the expression — to senators from the opposing party. Patrick doesn’t much adhere to Senate tradition, though, as Texans soon will learn.

Patrick’s immediate predecessor, David Dewhurst, followed that lead, as did his immediate predecessor, Bill Ratliff, and the man before him, Rick Perry, and the man who preceded Perry, the late Bob Bullock.

Lucio, I should add, got the chairmanship after voting with Republicans to do away with another Senate tradition — the two-thirds rule that required at least 21 votes in the Senate to send any measure to a full vote. What the heck, you do what you gotta do, correct?

As for payback in reverse, longtime GOP Sen. Craig Estes was denied a chairmanship after he abstained on the same vote. Did one thing have to do with the other? Well, I’m just askin’.


Perhaps the most closely watched chairmanship selection focused on the Education Committee. Amarillo’s Republican Sen. Kel Seliger has wanted to chair that panel. He sought it actively. However, he and Patrick aren’t exactly close, so the Education gavel went to Larry Taylor of Friendswood. Seliger’s consolation prize was to retain his chairmanship at Higher Education.

I guess that will be enough to sustain Seliger’s interest as the Senate slogs through its business.

But the place won’t be as friendly as it has been for, oh, most of the past century.


Farewell, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst

David Dewhurst has bid the Texas Senate farewell after serving 12 years as lieutenant governor and presiding officer of the 31-member legislative chamber.

It was an emotional good bye.

I’m glad the Senate approved the resolution honoring him for his service. Dewhurst did serve the state well.

That is until he got outflanked on his right by Ted Cruz in their campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Then the lieutenant governor became someone that many of us no longer recognized. He got outflanked once more this past year as he lost the Republican primary to Dan Patrick.

The cause of good government has lost a one-time champion.


I recall when Dewhurst splashed onto the state political scene in 1998 when he ran for land commissioner. I’d never heard of this wealthy guy from Houston. He’d been a political insider downstate and was well-connected.

But he became land commissioner and did a great job expanding veterans home loan benefits, which is one of the office’s key duties.

Dewhurst was an occasional visitor to the Panhandle while serving in that office and later as lieutenant governor. He always seemed quite appreciative of the time we spent visiting about the issues of the day. And I think we forged a nice professional relationship over the years.

Dewhurst could talk forever about the tiniest details of legislation, which he did often either on the phone or in person. Indeed, I often heard from my sources in Austin that Dewhurst might have been the hardest-working state official in Texas.

He was elected lieutenant governor in 2002, succeeding Bill Ratliff who was appointed by the Senate to fill the term vacated when Rick Perry became governor — after George W. Bush was elected president.

Dewhurst ran the Senate the way most of his predecessors did, with a flair for bipartisan cooperation. He was unafraid to appoint Democratic senator as committee chairs, sharing the power with senators from the other party.

I always appreciated his adherence to Senate tradition.

Then came his failed bid to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Ted Cruz battered him for being too moderate. Dewhurst fought back — uncomfortably, it appeared to me — by saying in effect, “I’m no moderate. I’m as conservative as you are, Mr. Cruz.”

He didn’t wear the TEA party label well. Cruz beat him in the 2012 GOP primary.

Then came Patrick in 2014 to do the same thing to Dewhurst: painting him as some sort of squishy moderate Republican In Name Only. There’s nothing worse in the Texas GOP than to be called a RINO.

They fought through the primary. Patrick defeated Dewhurst in the runoff.

Now the new guy is set to take over. The Senate won’t be the same. Dewhurst has said farewell.

I am glad to have gotten to know Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. I wish him well in whatever future awaits him.


Cruz becomes movement leader

It used to be said in Washington that the “most dangerous place in the world” was the space between U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm and a television camera.

Gramm has left public life and the owner of that title now happens to be another fiery Texas Republican, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz.

According to the San Antonio Express-News headline atop a blog post, the young senator has a movement that carries his name. Call it “Cruz conservatives.”


His ability to muscle his way past more senior Senate Republicans to the center of the political stage in less than two years is utterly astounding. The Cruz Missile exploded on the scene with his GOP primary upset in 2012 of Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, after which it became a foregone conclusion he’d be elected to the Senate from such a heavily Republican state.

These days, if you want some “good copy,” turn to Ted; the glib gab machine is loaded with it. If you want to know what the TEA party wing of the GOP is thinking, ask the junior senator from Texas.

Whatever became of the GOP’s senior pols, such as Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa? Sure, the party has its share of media hounds, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida (I’ll throw Rubio into that mix, even though he’s been in the Senate only two years longer than Cruz).

To be fair, the Senate Democrats have their share of TV hogs. Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri come immediately to mind.

No one else — in either party — can match Ted the Canadian’s panache.

It used to be said that it took at least half of their first six-year term for senators to figure out the ropes, to earn their spurs and to find their way to the men’s room.

Not so with Ted. The young man is a force of nature — which makes me, at least, want to head to the storm shelter.


Dewhurst is pushing the panic button

David Dewhurst always seemed like a reasonable, responsible, reliable Republican.

I didn’t know much about him when he and I met the first time as he ran for Texas land commissioner back in 1998. He was new to the Texas political spotlight. He seemed bright and engaged fully in the nuance of Texas government at many levels.

Now he’s gone to the dark side. He’s joined the nut-case crowd of the Texas Republican Party. He’s now a lame duck, having been beaten for his job by someone who’s even farther out there on the rightest wing of the party, Dan Patrick.

So what does Dewhurst do? Does he recede quietly back into the shadows and wait for his term to end? Oh no. He goes to that Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. and proclaim that Muslims are infiltrating our southern border.


How does he know that? He says Border Patrol authorities have found prayer rugs way down yonder. That means those dreaded “Islamic fanatics” are coming into Texas to blow up buildings, kill people and convert the United States of America into an Islamic nation.

Of course, the federal government denies such rugs exist.

The Texas Tribune reports: “(A) Texas congressman who sits on the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee has argued that there’s no threat of extremism on the border. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, said during that same panel that top Pentagon officials had denied that there was any threat on the Texas-Mexico border from the Islamic State (ISIS) or similar groups. He added that similar claims were made about extremists crossing into Texas from Mexico during the United States’ conflicts with Libya in the 1980s, which he also mentioned to The Economist in an article published this week.”

Dewhurst always struck me as a studious guy, dedicated to the meticulous detail of legislating. It’s been said of him that he at times lacks the people skills needed to be an effective politician.

After reading his remarks at that Values Voter gathering, he also seems to lack the judgment to keep his finger off the panic button that signals the start of a religious war.

This isn’t a fight against Islam. It’s a fight against terrorists.

Cool it with the prayer rug talk, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst.

We are not engaging in a religious war

The Values Summit is underway in Washington, D.C., and the usual cavalcade of kooks is drumming up something akin to a religious war.

The international war on terror, they imply strongly, is a war between Christians and Jews against Muslims.


Let’s hold on here.

It is a war pitting civilized human beings against cult followers.

Michelle Bachmann, the lame-duck Minnesota congresswoman, kept harping on what she called “Islamic terrorists.” So did lame-duck Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and a roundtable of “experts” who contend that Muslims pose an existential threat to our way of life.

Give me a break.

Another conservative American president, George W. Bush, was quite astute back when this war began immediately after 9/11 to declare that America is not waging war against Islam. He singled out the terrorists who have perverted a great religion to suit their insane political cause. Does anyone remember when President Bush visited a mosque in New York immediately after touring the wreckage of where the World Trade Center stood?

The Islamic State is not a religious organization. It is a cult. It is a cabal of sociopathic murderers who seek to use religion as a pretext to commit heinous acts of terrorism on innocent people.

They are the enemy. The do not represent Islam any more than, say, the crackpots at Westboro Baptist “Church” in Topeka, Kan., represent Christianity.

The task now is to persuade the goofballs on the right to quit trying to make this a religious war.

It is no such thing.

'P' offers a pleasant surprise

Politicians occasionally surprise me — pleasantly so.

Sometimes I draw conclusions about politicians, only to have them suggest I might have been a bit too quick on the trigger.

George P. Bush has been, well, one of those pleasant surprises as he runs for Texas land commissioner.

It turns out that the tea party wing of the Republican Party with which he has aligned himself might be gnashing its teeth over P’s environmental policies. As land commissioner, environmental protection goes with the territory.


P, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, nephew of George W. Bush, son of Jeb Bush and a darling of the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, turns out to be keenly aware of some issues that interest those of us who tilt the other direction.

The young man acknowledges the Earth’s climate is change, that it’s getting warmer; he likes the idea of developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power; he stops short of calling for abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency; he’s concerned about protecting coastal wetlands; he wants the state to use less coal and use more natural gas to fire electrical power plants.

This guy just might be OK if he gets elected. In a state that leans so far toward the GOP, that event is a near-certainty.

The land commissioner has other responsibilities as well, such as administering the state’s veteran home loan program. On that score, I give the incumbent Commissioner Jerry Patterson and his immediate predecessor David Dewhurst loads of credit. P likely will need to study up on the impact the program has on prospective homebuyers.

I’ve long thought of the land commissioner, though, as one of the state’s chief environment stewards. The office’s very name suggests that protecting “the land” is its top priority.

On that score, George P. Bush is sounding more reasonable than his tea party affiliation would suggest.

I presume he’ll know that many Texans — including yours truly — will be watching him to ensure he stays true to his stated beliefs about our environment.

We’ve only got one planet, P. We need to take care of it.