Friday, March 03, 2006

Local Politics: The Patrick Factor

Today marks the last day of early voting before the Texas State Primary Election Day next Tuesday, March 7. If you have not yet participated in the primary, I urge you to either go by an early voting location [PDF file] on your way home from work today, or make plans to vote on Tuesday.

The ultra liberal Austin publication The Texas Observer this month features an article about the Republican primary candidates in the Texas State Senate District 7 (SD7) race, a race which they label "a battle for the soul of the Texas Republican Party."
In a season with no significant contested statewide races on the Republican ballot, the race for the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jon Lindsay is emerging as a bellwether election. The winner will help determine the direction of the Texas GOP and, since Republicans rule the roost in the Lone Star State, the trend of state politics and policy.
As Songbird has reported in the past, one of the candidates in this race is local talk show radio host Dan Patrick. The Texas Observer article gives what I feel to be a fairly honest and (in my conservative view) very positive description of Candidate Dan:
He combines a take-no-prisoners stance on pocketbook issues — railing against rising property taxes, public subsidies of sports arenas and ballparks, and what he depicts as out-of-control government spending — with an aggressive, born-again Christian message on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. [...snip...] He promises to put an end to politics-as-usual in Austin, attacking the power of lobbyists as well as the clubby atmosphere of the Texas Senate. Taking a stand that sounds uncontroversial here but is jolting to Austin insiders, he calls for elimination of the Senate’s two-thirds rule, which requires the consent of 19 of 31 senators before a bill can be considered on the Senate floor.
Dan's Patrick Pact With Texas outlines his campaign platform and agenda, several points of which have since been adopted by the Texas State Republican Executive Committee. The Executive Committee has since come out in support of Dan, as have upwards of 100 of the Republican precinct chairs in SD7.
At the same time, however, his candidacy is loathed by a significant segment of the party regulars, as well as by powerful business interests. The voters who used to be called “rock-ribbed” Republicans, the party stalwarts who once were the backbone constituency for the late Senator John Tower and former President George H.W. Bush, now find themselves disdained by Patrick as “RINOs,” shorthand for “Republicans In Name Only.”
Of course, two of the most compelling arguments for Dan's candidacy are the non-endorsements of both The Houston Chronicle and the incumbent Senator Jon Lindsay, who is vacating the District 7 post. Both parties are backing candidate Peggy Hamric, but neither endorsement is necessarily a positive thing for Republican primary candidates. The Chronicle is a very liberal-leaning rag, and Sen. Lindsay has been tepid at best on the topics that seem to be at the top of Republican voters this year. He was a major hindrance in last year's fight for property tax reform and appraisal caps, and his record on border issues is lackluster.
“I think he would be terrible in the Senate,” Lindsay says of Patrick in a candid telephone interview. “...I don’t think his agenda would be good for the state of Texas.”
That agenda, of course, includes securing the Texas-Mexico border and providing relief to Texas homeowners through reining in the swelling state budget and lowering property tax appraisal caps to match the normal growth of inflation. (Most Texas homeowners currently average a 10% growth in their appraisal values for property tax purposes, even though the market appraisal values are much lower than that.)
It also galls Lindsay that Patrick has made illegal immigration a front-and-center issue in the campaign. “This is really not a state issue,” Lindsay says, “and you don’t hear him explain how he’d fund it. He’s misleading folks into thinking it’s a black-and-white issue that’s easy to fix, but it would be expensive.”
Unfortunately, this must become a state issue as the federal government and the Office of Homeland Security continues to refuse to offer any solutions to the skyrocketing problem if illegal immigration and the multitude of crimes associated with it.

As the Texas Observer reporter notes,
It's just one seat in the Senate, but the stakes are high for Republicans.
In our eyes, the stakes are high for all Texans. Please exercise your right and power to participate in government by voting for Dan Patrick in this primary election, and please encourage others to do the same.

UPDATE: Lone Star Times highlights an article in yesterday's Dallas Morning News that covers the District 7 race.
It is perhaps the most competitive and expensive legislative race in the state this year — and it’s being watched closely by political experts because of its stable of strong candidates vying to win a seat in the Legislature’s upper chamber. [...snip...]

"It's a nice slice of the modern Republican Party," said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. "There's an insurgent, anti-tax outsider; two established members of the Texas House; and a city councilman who has tried to turn emotional issues like immigration to his advantage."

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