Tag Archives: Dan Branch

Miserable campaign about to end

I have to agree with those who have described the Texas Republican runoff campaign as one of the most miserable in recent memory.

Heck, it might be the worst in anyone’s memory.

The lieutenant governor’s GOP runoff between incumbent David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick has devolved into a mud fest “featuring” the release of Patrick’s medical records in an attempt to imply that the Patrick might suffer from latent emotional scars from a previous bout with depression.

The attorney general’s runoff between Dan Branch and Ken Paxton has become a contest over which guy is more crooked than the other one.

The Railroad Commission race between Ryan Sitton and Wayne Christian has brought forth allegations that one of the candidates, Christian, is a closet greenie who’s unfriendly to the state’s oil and gas industry.


The Republican Party is at war with itself. It’s the Establishment vs. the Tea Party. The Establishment has been winning statewide battles around the country. I’m not sure the civil war is playing out quite that way in Texas, where the establishment wing of the GOP has become just as conservative as the tea party wing. Watching these people trying to outflank each other on the right is akin to watching someone walking a tightrope over a bottomless abyss.

It hasn’t been much fun to watch.

I’m ready for it all to end, which it will when the ballots are counted Tuesday night.

Texas politics always is bloody

I’ve noted before how Texas politics is a contact sport.

The source of that description came to me from the late great Democratic U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. It’s more than mere contact, however. At times it becomes a blood sport.

Take the Republican runoff race for Texas lieutenant governor or the GOP runoff contest for state attorney general. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston are going at each other hammer and tong. It well might be that the Dan Branch-Ken Paxton contest for AG is even nastier, with Paxton running TV ads accusing Branch of being a — gulp! — “liberal Republican” who voted for third-trimester abortions and has backed the dreaded Obamacare.

This kind of campaigning isn’t new to Texas.

The Texas Tribune looked back at the 1990 Democratic race for governor as its prime example of how low it can go.


Attorney General Jim Mattox squared off against State Treasurer Ann Richards. They finished at the top of the primary heap that year and faced each other in a runoff for the party nomination.

Mattox actually accused Richards of using illegal drugs. Richards, a recovering alcoholic, had been clean and sober for many years. That didn’t matter to the bulldog Mattox, who made the accusation during a live TV debate with Richards, according to the Tribune.

Richards would win the runoff and would go on to beat Republican oilman Clayton Williams in the fall after Williams (a) made that terrible gaffe about rape and how women should “just relax and enjoy it” and (b) refused to shake Richards’s hand at an event they attended jointly, instead calling her a “liar” within hearing distance of an open microphone.

Yes, we should lament the nastiness of these current campaigns. Let’s not get too overwrought about them, however. They’re hardly new creations of this new age.

This nastiness is part of what makes Texas politics so, um, invigorating.

Texas AG candidates misrepresent their role

Texas has a long history of tough-talking macho men running for state attorney general.

They make all kinds of vows: to crack down on border security, to be tough on crime, to fight the federal government.

That’s all fine, except that the office requires little of what they individuals are trying to sell.

This year’s Republican primary for attorney general is no different. It’s getting tiresome, to be honest, listening to these individuals try out to out-tough each other.


The attorney general essentially is the state’s in-house lawyer. He or she represents the state primarily in civil matters. Crime-fighting? They leave that job to the district attorneys elected to serve the state’s 254 counties.

The closest the AG comes to fighting crime is chasing down dead-beat parents who are delinquent on their child-support payments.

Barry Smitherman touts his experience as a prosecutor; Ken Paxton boasts that he has tea party U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s support; Dan Branch declares his devotion to the sanctity of human life. They’re all spending a lot of money to promote themselves.

None of it matters as much as how well they’ll perform as a civil litigator representing Texas.


My favorite attorney general candidate of all time, though, was the late Democrat Jim Mattox, who used to brag about how tough he was crime and how he loved a good political battle.

The late great liberal newspaper columnist Molly Ivins once said of Mattox that if he spotted an ice cream stand and a crowd of folks fighting on opposites sides of a street, he’d go for the fight.

Did that make him a good attorney general? No. It did make for a good punch line.

Mattox’s political descendants — who represent the other party — nonetheless are following his lead in their quest for the office he once held.

TV ad wars begin in Texas election ’14

The television ad wars have commenced in the heated races — on the Republican ballot at least — for some of Texas’s key statewide offices.

Dan Branch is running for Texas attorney general. His main foe is Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman. Both men are talking like prosecutorial tough guys.


Branch’s TV ad, which I saw early today, is quite fascinating.

The Dallas-area legislator says Texans need someone in the AG’s office who’ll “fight Obama.” OK, how’s that supposed to help the state? I guess he’s joined the GOP amen chorus in proclaiming that President Obama is picking on Texas, is trying to exert federal authority over the state which — they contend — he doesn’t deserve.

The camera pans across a “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker, further perverting the slogan’s actual intent. You remember that, right? The slogan became popular when then-Land Commissioner Garry Mauro — a Democrat, by the way — started a statewide anti-littering campaign in the 1980s. Don’t mess with the state means don’t throw trash out of your car onto our highways. Since then, though, the slogan has come to mean something quite different to many people. It has become a statement about Texas machismo, our tougher-than-you-are mantra.

What utter hooey.

These AG candidates need to focus more on how they intend to make constructive improvements in the office. Previous attorneys general, Democrat and Republican, used to make child support enforcement their mantra. My time in Texas dates back to the days of Democrat Jim Mattox. Others who followed him in that office, such as Democrat Dan Morales and Republican John Cornyn all have sought to make improvements in some of the duties unique to the office.

The current AG, Greg Abbott, has become lawsuit-happy in his effort to keep the feds at arm’s length. I guess Dan Branch is running as Greg Abbott 2.0.

To me, this continuing combativeness against the hated federal government is a small-minded turn-off.

Texas voter fraud: Is it a major problem?

Dan Branch wants to become Texas’s next attorney general and, by golly, the Republican state representative from Dallas says he’s going to get really tough on voter fraud.

I must ask, therefore: Is voter fraud a major problem in Texas? I am thinking it’s about as major an issue here as it is virtually everywhere else. Which means it isn’t that big a deal.


Branch vows to monitor groups that seek to “subvert” voter integrity; he would appoint a special counsel who would prosecute those accused of voter fraud; and he vows to defend the Texas voter ID law against “spurious” attempts by the Obama administration to overturn it.

I’m still a bit dubious about the need for a voter ID law in Texas, particularly since those who sing its praises contend that voter fraud has reached epidemic proportions here. I’m still awaiting evidence that voter fraud is rampant.

Roughly 8 million Texans voted in the 2012 presidential election. Has anyone produced evidence that voter fraud has become a major concern anywhere in the state? I haven’t heard of it.

Yes, the state’s political history is full of stories of dead people voting. Duval County in South Texas provides the best-known example of corpses rising from their graves to vote for Lyndon Johnson. That was a very long time ago.

The state’s population has exploded in the decades since that era. The number of people voting in elections has boomed. Have we seen an accompanying explosion in cases of vote fraud? No.

Obviously, I do not condone voter fraud. Yes, the state needs to be vigilant to protect the integrity of the electoral process. I sense, however, that candidates for public office, as the San Antonio Express-News blog linked to this post notes, may be “creating a solution in search of a problem.”