Republican politics, which now control every statewide elective office in Texas, grew through a well-organized and well-financed party operation. Support for Republican candidates arose out of the Republican Party itself, which raised the money and financed and supported the candidates. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, had enjoyed too much success, and the party was mainly a debating society for Democratic political nerds to debate high-minded issues. The party itself did little to support candidates for office, particularly at the legislative level.
As a result of the Democrats’ prosperity, they had no one to fight with but themselves. On the other hand, the Republicans were establishing a well-disciplined party which for the most part had to bless various candidates for public office running as Republicans in order for them to stand any realistic chance of succeeding at the polls.
The coming election cycle finds Republicans in much the same condition as were Democrats several generations back. With the exit of Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas, the Republican Primary is faced with political fruit-basket turnover. The governor’s departure has caused the attorney general and former Republican state chairman to announce for office to succeed him. This leaves a vacancy in the attorney general’s office, along with a vacancy created by Susan Combs’ retirement as comptroller of the state. The Tea Party’s success in electing Ted Cruz over Lt. Governor Dewhurst has exposed Dewhurst as vulnerable to defeat in the Republican Primary and has attracted a host of candidates for that office. On top of it all, George P. Bush has announced for statewide office in Texas hoping the Bush magic will still prevail in the Republican Primary.
Of all the races, the most colorful and most hotly contested should be the race for Lt. Governor. All indications are that the current Lt. Governor David Dewhurst will seek re-election. He has already been challenged by the man he named as chairman of the Education Committee, Dan Patrick, right-wing conservative radio talk show host out of Houston. He is joined by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson as well as Todd Staples, who is currently the best funded candidate for that office. Of course Dewhurst with his millions can self-fund his campaign, and Jerry Patterson, having authored the concealed-weapons-carry bill and having spent several terms in the land office, has built a solid base of grassroots support which he intends to trade on.
We political wonks should have an enjoyable election season watching all of the inner-party actions play out. The thing most of us will look for is how well Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment is adhered to by the current crop of office seekers in the Republican Primary: “Thou shall speak no evil of a fellow Republican.”