Tag Archives: GOP primary

That’s why they’re called ‘exploratory committees’

What do you know about this? Texas state Sen. Pat Fallon, a Republican from Prosper, has decided against running for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

He had formed an exploratory committee to, um, explore the possibilities of challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the GOP primary.

He’s decided to stay in the Texas Senate and not expose his wife and young sons to the rigors of trying to pull Sen. Cornyn even farther to the right.

It’s a smart move, Sen. Fallon.

For starters, Sen. Cornyn is pretty far right already. He is a reliable opponent of gun control measures, of abortion rights, of the Affordable Care Act. That’s just three issues.

Trust me on this: Pat Fallon didn’t need to seek to make Texas’s senior U.S. senator even more conservative. So he’ll forgo a race against Cornyn.

It just goes to show that these efforts occasionally produce the kind of result that Pat Fallon has found. It’s why they’re called “exploratory committees.”

Where are the GOP challengers with ‘heft’?

Joe Walsh has joined William Weld and Mark Sanford as actual and potential challengers to Donald Trump in the president’s quest for nomination by the Republican Party for another term in office.

A friend of mine wonders where the GOP challengers with “heft” are hiding. He believes Trump will “swat” any of the three challengers being discussed “like flies.” I fear he is right.

Who, then, are the hefty GOP heavyweights who might stand a chance of giving the president the primary campaign scare he so richly deserves?

I am having difficulty coming with names.

Former Secretary of State/Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell more or less comes to mind. He won’t walk onto the field. He had his chance leading up to the 1996 election when Bill Clinton was running for re-election. Gen. Powell begged off, citing the lack of support from his wife, Alma. I doubt Mrs. Powell has changed her mind. Besides, Powell’s time has passed.

I think also — are you reading for this? — of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. Naww. He won’t do it, either.

I fear the GOP is left with three men who don’t stand a serious chance of inflicting any meaningful damage on Trump, who is raising many millions of dollars toward his re-election effort.

Mark Sanford is grievously damaged already. He once was South Carolina’s governor who messed around with a woman other than his wife; he skulked off to South America for a fling, while telling his staff to lie to the media about his whereabouts, instructing them to say he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” No good, Mark.

William Weld ran for vice president in 2016 on the Libertarian ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Weld does have political experience, having served two terms as Massachusetts governor. But he ain’t gonna make the grade, either.

Joe Walsh served for a term as a congressman from Illinois. He’s a firebrand, a TEA Party advocate. He is ultraconservative. He also cannot stand the idea of Trump serving as president. He says things about Trump that many of us have said to each other at dinner tables and living rooms around the country.

I fear the GOP pool of challengers is thin, given the state of politics in the country at this moment. History shows that intraparty challenges against presidential incumbents have proven politically fatal to the incumbent. Sure, Trump is likely to have someone run against him, but he has rewritten the playbook and installed strategies that few “traditional” politicians can recognize, let alone emulate.

The GOP primary campaign will contain plenty of fiery rhetoric. Of that I am sure. Will it matter? I am thinking it won’t.

We’ll have to await the main event to commence sometime in the late summer of 2020 when Democrats nominate their candidate and Republicans swallow hard and send Donald Trump back into battle.

Oh … boy!

Former GOP Rep. Walsh now set to challenge Trump

Joe Walsh hasn’t been in the public eye all that long, but his time in the spotlight has been fraught with, shall we say, uncomfortable moments.

The former Republican member of Congress has thrust himself back onto the stage with an announcement that he’s going to challenge Donald J. Trump for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

Does this TEA Party adherent stand a chance of wrestling the nomination away from the president? Ohhh, probably not.

However, the guy who now works as a right-wing talk show host could make this primary fight entertaining in the extreme.

Walsh served a term in the U.S. House. Then his district got redrawn in a way that favored Democrats. He sought to switch districts and then lost to Tammy Duckworth, who since has gone on to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Walsh, though, has been far from silent. Yes, he once spoke harshly against President Barack Obama, but has all but apologized for the intemperate language he used against Trump’s immediate predecessor.

In a way, though, it kind does my heart good to hear him say things many millions of us have been saying about the president since before he won the 2016 election.

He calls Trump unfit, frightening, incompetent, crass, callous, lacking in empathy. And this is from a Republican who once stood foursquare behind Donald Trump.

Joe Walsh isn’t exactly the kind of politician I want to see elected. He tilts too far the other way than I do. He was elected as a TEA Party advocate. I am not crazy about TEA Party candidates or officeholders.

However, he stands on a set of principles in which he believes strongly, which happens to be something that is foreign to Donald Trump, who doesn’t appear to have a single guiding principle other than what benefits him.

So, with that I wish former Rep. Joe Walsh well. Give POTUS the dickens. He deserves every lick he’s going to get.

Empower Texans zealot really makes me angry

I am going to admit something about which I am not very proud.

Whenever I see the name of Michael Quinn Sullivan, my hair tends to stand straight up. Why this guy? He runs an outfit called Empower Texans, a far-right political action committee that tends to interfere in Republican Party primary contests; Empower Texans prefers GOP candidates to adhere to rigid ideology, no matter how effective certain Republican incumbents have been in service to their constituents.

He is now linked to Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Sullivan reportedly recorded a conversation he had with Bonnen in which the speaker allegedly offered to give Sullivan the names of 10 Texas House GOP incumbents who might be ripe for targeting in the 2020 GOP primary election.

Texas Democrats have sued Sullivan and Bonnen, alleging campaign finance law violations connected to that conversation. Democrats also want Sullivan to reveal the full content of what he and Bonnen discussed.

Bring it on

Bonnen is embarrassed. He has apologized to his Republican House colleagues for things he allegedly said to Sullivan about them. He has reached out to House Democrats as well in an effort to rebuild his reputation. Bonnen assumed the speakership at the start of the 2019 Legislature after Joe Straus gave up the speaker’s office at the end of the 2018 election.

But … back to Sullivan.

I haven’t met this man. I know him only by what I’ve seen him and Empower Texans try to do in legislative districts in the Texas Panhandle, where I lived for 23 years while writing about politics and policy as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

Empower Texans has tried twice to defeat Republican state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo. They ran a TEA Party candidate against Seliger in 2014. Seliger defeated former Midland Mayor Mike Canon five years ago. Canon ran against Seliger again in 2018, along with a third candidate, Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal. Seliger managed to defeat both challengers in the GOP primary, avoiding a runoff.

I’ve stipulated already that I have strong professional and personal affection for Sen. Seliger. It pi**** me off royally to see Seliger get a primary challenge from the far right wing of his party.

Indeed, Seliger has made no secret that he detests Sullivan. The feeling is quite mutual. Never mind that Seliger is a solid and dependable mainstream conservative Republican lawmaker who talks candidly and fluently about issues throughout the vast Senate district he has represented since 2004.

Sullivan also drew a political bead in 2018 on state Rep. Four Price, another mainstream Amarillo Republican. The Fritch city manager ran against Price in the GOP primary, but got thumped in the process. Price, though, has been much quieter about his feelings about Sullivan. My hunch is that Four Price shares Kel Seliger’s view about the Empower Texans political mogul.

Accordingly, I am hopeful that Texas Democrats can prevail in their lawsuit against Sullivan and against Speaker Bonnen.

Sullivan plays a relentless game of political hardball. This guy needs to get beaned.

Run, Gov. Weld, run!

Wouldn’t it be just a kick in the backside if William Weld re-creates a Eugene McCarthy moment in the 2020 race for the presidency of the United States?

Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, has formed an exploratory committee to determine whether to mount a primary challenge against Donald Trump. Weld said many other Republicans “exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome, identifying with their captor.”

Weld ran for vice president in 2016 on the Libertarian ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. The ticket didn’t do too well, gathering just 4.5 million votes, or about 3 percent of the total.

He wants back into the fight, this time as a Republican.

The McCarthy moment? In 1968, the Vietnam War was raging and Sen. McCarthy, a Minnesota Democrat, mounted a Democratic Party primary challenge against President Lyndon Johnson. McCarthy — a vehement anti-war candidate — took his campaign to the nation’s first primary state, New Hampshire.

He then finished a very strong second to President Johnson, sending shockwaves through the Democratic Party establishment. McCarthy’s strong showing brought Sen. Robert F. Kennedy into the race. Then on March 31, 1968, LBJ spoke to the nation to announce an end to the bombing campaign against North Vietnam — and then said he would not seek or accept the Democratic nomination “for another term as your president.”

History does have a way of repeating itself. If only Gov. Weld can mount any sort of serious challenge to the wack job serving as president of the United States.

One’s hope must spring eternal. Mine does.

Chris Christie tells is like it is?

I suppose you could surmise that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still angry at getting canned as Donald Trump’s presidential transition boss.

Christie once campaigned against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, saying some mighty unkind things about the eventual GOP nominee along the way. Then once Trump vanquished him, he lined up behind the nominee. He worked hard for his election. Then the president-elect asked him to lead the transition into the Oval Office.

Oops! Then the newly elected president replaced him with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Christie now has written a book titled “Let Me Finish” in which he says that Trump has surrounded himself with “amateurs” and “grifters” and “weaklings” and “convicted and unconvicted felons.”

Wow, man!

But wait! Didn’t Trump tell us he would hire only the “best people” who, as he does, know the “best words”? Gov. Christie doesn’t think that’s the case.

He writes that the people Trump has hired have “set loose toxic forces that may have made Trump’s presidency far less effective than it otherwise would have been. If this tragedy is ever going to be reversed, it is vital that everyone know exactly how it occurred.”

Well, so much for political alliances.

‘Lies and deception’? Really, Mr. President?

I cannot believe I just heard the president of the United States utter these words.

Donald Trump today opened a White House ceremony welcoming newly minted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh with an apology. He sought to apologize to the justice’s wife and daughters for what he called a campaign of “lies and deception” that led up to Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the nation’s highest court.

I promised I wouldn’t talk about the Kavanaugh confirmation process. So, I won’t go there.

I do want to call attention to the campaign of “lies and deception” that Donald Trump himself waged against his Republican primary foes and against Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton while winning the presidency in 2016. The utter gall, the brass, the absolute absence of self-awareness from the president is simply breathtaking.

He sought to implicate Sen. Ted Cruz’s father in President Kennedy’s assassination; he denigrated the service of his GOP foes; he hung hideous “nicknames” on many of them; then he went after Hillary Clinton, leading campaign-rally chants to “lock her up!” even in the absence of any evidence of criminality.

And I haven’t mentioned, until right now, the hideous and unfounded denigration he tossed at all those who oppose him.

To hear, therefore, the president talk about “lies and deception” is laughable on its face.

Except that it’s not funny.

Now the governor calls for GOP ‘unity’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is trying to recover from some of the political wounds he suffered this week in the state’s Republican Party primary.

You see, the governor took a most unusual step in endorsing three challengers to Republican legislative incumbents. It’s highly strange for politicians to take sides within their own party. Abbott sought to get rid of three legislators who oppose many of his policies.

Oops! It didn’t work … mostly. State Reps. Sarah Davis and Lyle Larson won their primary races. Rep. Wayne Faircloth lost his primary contest.

So now the governor wants the party to “unify” behind its slate of candidates running against Democrats this fall.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “Now that the primary’s over, I think it’s very important that the Republican Party come together as one and work together all the way through the November to make sure that we win the elections in November,” Abbott said.

We live in politically contentious times. The Republican Party is being redefined at the very top of the food chain, by the president of the United States. Donald Trump has imposed protectionist trade tariffs that run totally counter to traditional GOP orthodoxy.

That tumult has splashed over state politics as well. Consider the intraparty battles that occurred throughout Texas during this primary season. Popular incumbents received GOP primary challenges in all corners of the state, including in rock-solid Republican Texas Panhandle legislative districts.

This tells me that the “unity” that Gov. Abbott seeks might be a bit more difficult to obtain that it might be in a “normal political climate.”

Ain’t nothing “normal” about what we’re watching transpire within this once-great political party.

Seliger stays on high road in this fight

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger wants to be re-elected so badly that he’s staying totally positive in his campaign.

That is how the Amarillo Republican is casting his campaign. You know what? I am all for his approach.

Now he’ll get to find out whether the strategy works or whether Texas Senate District 31 Republican primary voters are drawn instead to mud-slinging and innuendo.

Seliger’s recent TV ad push highlights how he has stayed positive. All he says about his foes is that they have gone intensely negative with “false” accusations about his voting record, which Seliger insists is a conservative one.

Indeed, Seliger — who has served in the Senate since 2004 — has followed what I would call a “traditional conservative” track in the Texas Senate. He doesn’t align with the TEA party wing of his party and some of the principal elected officials elected on TEA party platforms; I think of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as one example.

He has drawn the wrath of Patrick’s major political benefactor, PAC boss Michael Quinn Sullivan, whose latest incarnation is something called Empower Texans, which has been savaging Seliger with baseless attacks.

Meanwhile, Seliger campaigns on his conservative record; he touts his record standing up for rural interests against urban power centers; he talks about his strong pro-life stance and his endorsement by gun-rights advocates.

Seliger also has earned standing among his state Senate colleagues and has chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee through two legislative sessions.

I, too, want him to be re-elected. I detest the campaign that has been launched against him.

My hope for Sen. Seliger is that his high-road track plays better with West Texas Republican primary voters than the low road his foes have taken against him.

The primary is just a few days off. We’ll know quite soon a lot about the character of the Texas GOP primary voter.

Candidates don’t deserve free ‘ad space’

I get that the Amarillo Globe-News has endorsed state Sen. Kel Seliger’s bid for re-election to the Texas Senate. That’s their call and, frankly, it was the wise decision.

Now, though, the newspaper has crossed a line it shouldn’t have crossed. One of Seliger’s Republican primary opponents, Amarillo businessman Victor Leal, has been allowed to write a letter to the editor excoriating Seliger’s voting record. The newspaper published it!

Leal’s letter makes no mention of the editorial. It doesn’t challenge the G-N editorial board rationale for its decision to back Seliger.

Read Leal’s letter here.

Instead, it challenges Seliger’s statements touting his voting record on a variety of issues.

Why does this set a slippery-slope precedent? Because political candidates should have to pay for their political advertisements. Newspapers and other media offer candidates space and air time to espouse their own real or perceived virtues, but they don’t usually give it to them for free.

I worked for a couple of newspapers that didn’t even allow people to speak on behalf of candidates during election season for that very reason. The idea was to reserve the free space for issues and discussions that steered away from political campaigns. As a former boss of mine used to say, “We aren’t going to give away political ad space with letters to the editor that endorse a candidate’s virtues.”

I moved away from that policy years later. The candidates themselves, though, did not get that space to speak for free to speak on behalf of themselves or against their foes. If they wanted the space, they had to pay for it.

We now can await Seliger’s response to Leal and quite possibly Mike Canon — the third GOP candidate in this contest — will get to boast about his own virtues.

Sheesh!