Tag Archives: Texas Republican Party

Texas GOP wins, but some Republicans remain angry

Some Texas RepublicansĀ can’t seem to win enough.

The Legislature approved two key bills near and dear to gun owners: open carry and campus carry. Gov. Greg Abbott just signed them both into law, which now means that Texans licensed to carry concealed weapons can do so openly; they’ll also be able now to pack heat on college campuses.


If you’reĀ a gun owner rights advocate, you’d be happy. Correct?

I guess not entirely.

The state GOPĀ was unable to approve a resolution that slapped around four Republican lawmakers for “standing in the way” of Texans’ gun ownership rights.

Good grief, folks. You won! You got what you wanted! But as the Texas Tribune reported, the notion of such a resolution made some GOP officials uneasy: “But the very prospect of itĀ riled some party leaders, sparkingĀ heated debate about the committee’s role in the CapitolĀ and seriously complicating party fundraising in at least one instance.”

The party lost a vendor who’d been a major fundraiser and who had been uneasy about the resolution rebuking some lawmakers.

However, some members of the State Republican Executive Committee wanted to single out House Speaker Joe Straus, Rep. Dennis Bonnen, Rep. Larry Phillips and Sen. Joan Huffman for their opposition to a “Constitutional Carry” amendment, which translates into allowing unlicensed Texans to carry firearms.

Some members ofĀ the Texas GOP need to settle down. Take a breath. YouĀ won the contest over these two key gun-related issues.


Panhandle activist to lead Texas GOP

There’s a certain justice in the selection of Tom Mechler to lead the Texas Republican Party.

Mechler is from Amarillo, the unofficial “capital” of the Texas Panhandle, which is the unofficial capital of the Texas conservative movement that is so tightly bound to the Republican Party.


I’ve known Mechler for a number of years. I like him. I admire his tenacity. I think he’ll do a good — maybe even a great — job as chairman of the Texas GOP.

Why the justice angle?

Mechler served on the Texas Criminal Justice Department of board. So he’s well-versed in punishing criminals for the misdeeds they commit.

But more to the point: The Panhandle has been known for decades as the place where conservatism was cool before it was cool anywhere else. The state’s political tides began turning first in the Panhandle. While the rest of Texas remained solidly Democratic, the Panhandle started turning Republican, sending up signals that the rest of the state began to understand.

There’ve been pockets of arch-conservatism here, starting with the John Birch Society, which for many years has preached a brand of isolationism that hasn’t really gone mainstream.

I don’t know how Mechler intends to lead the Texas Republican Party. Perhaps he’ll take this advice, should he ever read it. It would be that the party needs to return somewhat to the center, back toward the few remaining Texans who still call themselves Democrats.

There once was a tradition in Texas of the parties working together for the common good. The reality of late has been that Republicans — who’ve grown into a colossus — are trying to bulldoze an agenda into public policy that isn’t a good fit for all Texans.

Mechler seems on the surface to be of a quite conservative persuasion. Maybe that’s how he campaigned for the office he’s just obtained. Now that he has, might he drift more toward the center?

I’m hoping.


'Farthest right' defeats the far right

Bob Deuell might be the face of the changing Texas Republican Party.

He is a soon-to-be former stateĀ senator from East Texas. Deuell got beat by someone described by Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow who is “a virtual newcomer to Texas and politics.” The man who’s about to represent the east Dallas legislative district did it be “branding Deuell a liberal,” according to Blow.

What little I know about Deuell, a family physician, he is anything but the liberal that Sen..-elect Bob Hall described in his successful campaign.

Therein might get right to the core of what’s happened to the Texas Republican Party. It has become something that mainstream, establishment conservatives — such as Bob Deuell — no longer recognize.

“To call me a liberal? It’s just ridiculous,” Deuell told Blow, who described the lawmaker as “my senator.” Blow said he had a “front-row seat on this crazy battle between the far and farthest right.”

Blow said he laughed when he received “mailers at home with freaky colorized photos of Deuell and Barack Obama pasted together. ‘Stop Bob Deuell’s liberal agenda,’ they said,” Blow writes.

How did this novice defeat a reliably conservative 12-year veteran of the Texas Senate? Blow said “Hall’s TEA party base was simply more energized and engaged.”


According to Blow, Hall managed to cobble together a campaign of lies about Deuell’s support for needle exchanges for drug addicts. Deuell bucked his Republican colleagues in supporting the exchanges because of “clear medical evidence” that the exchanges decrease incidents of hepatitis and HIVA. “And 20 percent of the addicts who participated got into rehab programs. To me, it’s the fiscally conservative thing to do.”

Blow rights that Deuell couldn’t get other legislators to support the exchanges out of fear they would be “sound-bited on the issue.”

“Predictably,” Blow writes, “Hall did exactly that against Deuell, characterizing it as ‘free needles for drug addicts.'”

Deuell predicts a long and arduous legislative session.

After all, the state Senate will be led by a lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who’s an expert at demagoguery and glib sound bites.

Welcome to the new Texas Republican Party.

No goodbye for Goodhair

Come on, y’all. You didn’t really think Gov. Rick Perry was going to say “farewell” at the Texas Republican Party convention in Fort Worth, did you?

Oh, no. The man dubbed by the late columnist/humorist Molly Ivins as Gov. Goodhair said, according to the Texas Tribune, said, in effect, “See y’all later.”

You know what that means. He wants to run for president of the United States in two years.


Great! Just great!

Perry did a thorough job of embarrassing himself and the state he governs in 2011 while running briefly for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. He didn’t make it to the first contest, the Iowa caucus, before dropping out. He had that infamous “oops” moment when he couldn’t identify all the federal agencies he’d cut if he were elected president.

He performed badly in other GOP joint appearances with the other candidates.

Perry called it off, came back to Texas and resumed his day job, which he’s held longer than anyone else in Texas history.

He’s sought to rehabilitate himself, his image, his message, his demeanor … the whole thing.

Many Texans still know him — fondly and not-so-fondly — as Gov. Goodhair, thanks to Miss Molly’s timeless description.

I’ll just add this little anecdote, which I heard countless times from quite a few Texas Panhandle Republicans as Goodhair ran for president two years ago.

A lot of ’em told me they wanted Perry elected president — just so they could get him out of Texas.

Seliger may be in a bind

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger just might find himself in a tough spot as the general election campaign gets going full blast.

He’s an Amarillo Republican who’s already beaten back a stout challenge from his right. Former Midland Mayor Mike Canon lost narrowly to Seliger in the GOP primary in March. One of Canon’s top back-room advisers is a guy named Michael Quinn Sullivan, an arch-conservative activist who is believed to have talked Canon into running against Seliger.

The senator has no love — or even a modicum of “like” — for Sullivan. He’s said so publicly.

So, who do you think is one of Sullivan’s top stable horses this year? State Sen. Dan Patrick, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, the guy who wants to preside over the Texas Senate where he and, oh yes, Seliger serve. Patrick faces a probable slugfest this fall running against Democratic nominee, another state senator, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio.

Here’s the quandary.

Suppose Patrick ventures to the Texas Panhandle this summer and fall to look for votes. Who will appear with him on a stage, at a dinner dais, at a Labor Day picnic or a political rally at, say, Dick Bivins Stadium? Will it be the senator from Texas Senate District 31, who has a known disdain for one of Patrick’s main backers?

I tend to think not.

Whatever support Patrick gets from the Panhandle — and it will be substantial, given this region’s strongly Republican leanings — he’ll likely have to acquire it without Seliger’s help.

Unless, of course, Seliger changes his heart and mind and climbs aboard the Patrick bandwagon.

Don’t laugh. Politicians of both parties have been known over many years to have these “awakenings” when the spirit — and the thought of choice committee assignments — moves them.

Party switch gives Democrats hope

Texas Democrats shouldn’t read too much into a recent party switch of a statewide elected official who’s now one of them.

Court of Criminals Appeals Judge Larry Meyers has made the leap from Republican to Democrat, becoming officially the only statewide elected official with the label “Democrat” next to his name.


Meyers, who hails from Fort Worth where he served as a trial judge, was elected as a Republican, so Democrats will have to be careful to avoid labeling him in a manner that implies he was elected as a Democrat.

Perhaps the most important element of this switch, from a Democratic standpoint, is that it marks the first such switch from “R” to “D” in many years. The inter-party movement in Texas has been in the opposite direction, with Democrats switching to the Republican Party. The late Potter County Sheriff Jimmy Don Boydston made the switch some years back; Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance got his political start as a Democrat, then switched to Republican after losing a bid to become a U.S. senator in 1984. The roster of Democrat-to-Republican across the state is virtually endless.

Now, though, comes this switch in the other direction. It has statewide Democratic Party officials borderline giddy. They need to take care in going overboard here.

Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilbert Hinojosa is quite happy with the news.

As the Texas Tribune reported: ā€œWith this and the candidates that we are fielding in this election, I think people are saying, ‘Wow, this is a totally different Texas Democratic Party,’ā€ Hinojosa said. Hinojosa said Meyers had told party officials he was a big fan of state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, and indicated that he had grown uncomfortable with the rightward shift of the Texas Republican Party. Hinojosa said the party had been in talks with Meyers about the switch for about three months. ā€œHe just said, ‘I canā€™t do this anymore,’ā€ Hinojosa said. ā€œHeā€™s been thinking about this for quite some time.ā€

Meyers is the senior member of the state’s highest criminal appellate court, which gives some added boost to his party switch. Will this move be the catalyst that produces a truly competitive political climate in Texas? Time will tell.

That’s my hope, anyway. Texas needs two vibrant parties to compete vigorously for votes. Democrats have been rolled in this state by a muscular Republican Party.

It appears Democrats finally have lifted themselves off the floor and started punching back.

GOP platform goofs on red-light cams

Tom Pauken is a smart guy who’s running for Texas governor.

He’s running as a “true conservative,” which means — I am going to presume — that he favors small government and less intrusion into local affairs.

Why, then, does this stalwart Republican say he opposes cities’ authority to install red-light cameras at dangerous intersections? “I support a statewide ban on red-light cameras as prescribed in the Texas Republican Party’s platform,” Pauken said in a recent news release.

What? The party platform opposes cities’ right to act on their own to curb what they believe to be a problem at certain intersections?

Amarillo has deployed these cameras for the past five years. They’ve had mixed success. People are still running red lights, either just blazing through them or taking off from a complete stop to violate the law. The Amarillo City Council, instead of retreating from the strategy to reduce these infractions, has expanded the number of intersections that will be patrolled by the electronic devices. Good job, City Hall.

Back to Pauken’s point about endorsing the GOP platform.

Republicans keep yammering about government interference. They decry “big government” paternalism. They keep saying localities should have the right to determine policy issues. Amarillo acted in its own interest when it decided to activate the cameras. What’s good for Amarillo isn’t good, say, for Lubbock — which once deployed the cameras, only to take them down because too many people griped about them.

By my reckoning, Pauken’s insistence that the GOP platform is correct doesn’t make sense coming from the so-called “true conservative.”

Lt. gov. debate takes load road

State Sen. Dan Patrick got under Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s skin the other day at a debate that featured the four leading candidates for Dewhurst’s job as head of the Texas Senate.

Patrick, R-Houston, chastised Dewhurst for appointing too many Democrats to Senate committee chairmanships. Dewhurst’s response? He said he’s been reducing the bipartisan leadership ratio since becoming lieutenant governor and besides, he said, the Democrats who chair committees lead panels that aren’t “critical.”

Democratic chair takes issue with Dewhurst debate remark

That drew a sharp response from one of those inconsequential committee chairs, Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Military Installation.

She wrote Dewhurst a blistering note criticizing the demeaning tone of his response to Patrick’s barb.

I guess my own view is that Patrick is wrong to lambaste the bipartisanship that still exists to some — but a shrinking — degree in the Senate. I’ve long thought of the Texas Senate as a place where Democrats and Republicans could work together and could share leadership roles on key committees.

Isn’t a panel that deals with veterans and military installations ostensibly a non-partisan group? Doesn’t it deal with issues that should wipe away partisan differences?

For the lieutenant governor, though, to try to outflank the loudmouth Patrick is equally shameful. I would have much preferred Dewhurst defending the bipartisanship that is demonstrated by handing out committee chairmanships to senators from the other party.

But no. He tacked far to the right to appeal to that right-wing GOP fringe that likely is going to determine who gets nominated next spring.

Very disappointing, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst.

Bush kin on right immigration track

The Bush family name be politically toxic in much of the nation, but it remains fairly golden in Texas.

The reasons for that long-lasting good will might be difficult to explain. I’ll add that on immigration reform, the Bush family is ahead of the curve and is on the right side of history.


As the San Antonio Express-News blog notes, the Bushes can mark their return to public life with their strong stance on reforming the nation’s broken immigration system.

George P. Bush, the son of the former Florida governor, Jeb, is running as a Republican for Texas land commissioner — an office that doesn’t have much to say directly about immigration issues. But his father and his mother — Columba, a native of central Mexico — both have been strongly encouraging serious immigration reform that includes a “path to citizenship” for those who are here illegally. And as someone with Latino blood in his veins, George P. is seen as a rising Latino star within the Republican Party.

Uncle George W., the 43rd president of the United States, is another one who speaks wisely about immigration issues. The Express-News blog notes that former President Bush’s silence since leaving office in 2009 is beginning to break with his views on the subject. He was strong on immigration while serving as Texas governor and as president.

To his great credit, Rick Perry — who succeeded Bush as governor — has been equally outspoken on the issue, much to the dismay of his conservative allies within the GOP, some of whom argue stupidly that we should just round up all them “illegals” and send ’em back to where they came from. Perry, meanwhile, has supported legislation granting undocumented immigrants who’ve grown up in Texas “in-state tuition” incentives to enroll in our state’s public colleges and universities.

It encourages me to know that not all Republicans have gone around the bend on some of critical issues. I just hope they’ll listen to the wisdom — at least on the matter of immigration — to the Bush family of Texas.

Calling all bean counters

Roll this one around for a moment: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Doesn’t sound like too sexy of a political office, correct? It can be. Several Republicans and perhaps one Democrat seem to think it’s an office worth seeking.

And why not? It can be a stepping stone to bigger things.


Comptroller Susan Combs, a Republican (as if that’s a big surprise), decided not to seek another term as comptroller. Her absence from the 2014 GOP primary ballot has brought out a small and perhaps gathering crowd of potential successors.

The Texas Tribune reports that when Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn walked away in 2006 to run for governor, no such crowd of candidates emerged in her wake.

Combs’s departure is different.

Look at it this way, the office of comptroller — who, in effect, is the state’s bean counter in chief — has been a launching pad recently for a couple of notable Texas politicians. The late — and legendary — Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, served as comptroller before becoming state attorney general and then lieutenant governor; Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp served as comptroller before launching two unsuccessful bids to become lieutenant governor.

Strayhorn thought it would lead to a higher office for her as well, but by my reckoning she didn’t wear her political notoriety as gracefully as some others who preceded her in that office.

The comptroller’s main job is to ensure the state meets its budget requirements. The comptroller issues fiscal projections that enable the Legislature to budget state money for the next two years. It can be a hum-drum job, but it also can serve as a platform for budget policy ideas.

The race for comptroller might not get the blood pumping furiously. It’ll be worth waiting to see who emerges next year from the political battlefield and how that individual handles a really big job.