Well, I guess this relatively quiet time since the polls closed on the March primary had to end sometime. With the coming of the absentee ballots, the slate mailers, and the final push from the candidates, I feel that I need to close the loop on some of my feelings on a few of the remaining races—a few of which I did not take a public position on during the first round. I am not going to discuss every race, just the ones that I feel I need to address (and, though it should go without saying, the following endorsements are personal and do not reflect the views or positions of any organization of which I am a member). I also want to end this post with some final thoughts about the outcome of the Chair’s race and the future of our local party.
Congressional District 36
I live in both CD 36 and HD 129, so these races are especially important to me. Because I know, like, respect, and work with many of the candidates who were in the first round of both races, I decided not to inject myself into either race with a public endorsement. Although I wish I could do the same this time around, I have been asked by too many people how I evaluate these races, and my views have evolved so much over the course of this primary season, that I doubt that I can avoid having some version of my comments become public eventually. So, to avoid any misinterpretation or misunderstanding, I will give you my thoughts now—starting with CD 36.
As I have noted on this website before, CD 36 was drawn without regard to the peculiar interests of either the counties to the east of Harris County, or to the peculiar interests of the communities that comprise the east and southeast portions of Harris County included in the district—apparently, somebody just took a pencil and tried to draw a “Republican” district out of this hodge-podge. As a result, there quickly (and inevitably) developed a type of “us v. them” concern between voters in the two geographic areas, which has played out during the last two “open” primaries.
Having noted that development, though, this primary resulted in a rare situation for me: a choice between the better of two good candidates. And, for several reasons, I was prepared to support the candidate who currently resides in the district—in Woodville—in this run-off. But this agonizing process of choosing between two good candidates has now led me to a final decision as to the candidate for whom I will vote: Ben Streusand.
Again, this has been an uncharacteristically difficult choice for me, because I started this process overwhelmingly leaning toward Dr. Brian Babin, and against Ben—and I still believe Dr. Babin will make a good Congressman for this District if he wins. His long-time involvement in his community as a Mayor and holder of other offices, as an early Reagan campaign volunteer, as a Republican County Chair, through his two previous campaigns for Congress, as well as the success of his children in their chosen walks of life, tells me that this is a man who has lived and learned from a lifetime of experiences, and could represent the District well. So, my views of Dr. Babin have not changed. It’s just that I’ve walked a “Damascus Road” over this race since mid-March, and I now am convinced that Ben Streusand is the best of our two good choices.
I think most of us in Harris County political circles know, or know of, Ben through his work for Americans for Prosperity, his grass-roots involvement in many conservative causes, his previous campaign for Congress, and his consistent advocacy for conservative economic principles on KSEV radio. And, for a long time, that last experience was a problem for me, because of my disagreements over the years with Dan Patrick over what I believe has been his heavy-handed involvement in maintaining a failed status quo of discord within our local party with his infamous “RINO hunts.” Admittedly, I just associated Ben with Dan; and when I saw that Ben did not even live in the district, I simply refused to look at him more seriously. In fact, I publicly said that Ben was the one candidate in the original field whom I could never support.
But, after the primary I had a couple of opportunities to talk with and interview both men, and I began to question the wisdom of my closed-mindedness. Frankly, Ben impressed me very much; and I found that I agreed more with his positions on and approach to the broad range of issues that our next Congressman will face, than I did with Dr. Babin. Most importantly, I saw and heard a man who will balance an aggressive advocacy of conservative economic, limited-government, national defense and social conservative principles with a prudent advocacy for the legitimate federal interests in our District, including the Ports of Houston and Orange, NASA, Ellington Field, vocational education for jobs related to those facilities, the coastal flood plain and property insurance, and proper development and maintenance of natural resources. This balanced advocacy is crucial, because CD 36 is arguably the most interdependent district in Texas with the proper and legitimate exercise of federal responsibilities—we need someone who understands those interests and will balance them with the need for implementing conservative priorities in Washington.
The difficulty for me is that I believe Dr. Babin will strive to represent this district and its diverse interests well. I just believe Ben has the energy and the experience (in the private sector and in politics) to be the new advocate we need in Washington. That is why I finally have decided to vote for Ben Streusand for CD 36.
State House District 129
If the last decision was agonizing, double that feeling and you have a good picture at the knots I’ve been tied in since the polls closed in March. And these knots only grew tighter with the March vote being so close, and with the campaigns both have run. I’ve gotten to know both Sheryl Berg and Dennis Paul so well over the last few years, and I respect so much the work they both have done for our party as precinct chairs, SD 11 representatives, and SREC representatives from SD 11, that I really wish I could just jump on a plane and miss this whole process rather than choose between them.
But choose I must—and we must. So, I’ll try to explain my thinking and my choice as best I can.
When this race started, I told all the candidates that I was staying neutral, but there were a handful who I thought would make excellent representatives for our district, and a handful who I thought actually had the support needed to make the inevitable run-off—and, frankly, I saw very little overlap between the two categories. In my mind, Sheryl Berg fell into both categories, but Dennis Paul only fell into one of them. Moreover, though I’ve gotten to know both of them well, their respective strengths and weaknesses are so different, that I had a real hard time making an apples-to-apples evaluation of them for this race.
But my thoughts along my recent “Damascus Road” were not solely focused on the Streusand-Babin race; Dennis Paul’s excellent campaign was on my mind, too. I believe Dennis has run one of the best campaigns I’ve witnessed in a long time, and he has become not just a good candidate, but also a strong potential representative for our district. I expected Sheryl to be a good and competent candidate and eventual representative (and I still have no doubt she would be if she wins this race), but I now believe Dennis has shown himself to be better and has given me another choice between the better of two good people and candidates.
Believing that what I’ve now witnessed is indicative of how he will represent us in Austin, I have decided to vote for Dennis Paul for HD 129.
State House District 132
I don’t live in District 132, but I had a chance to interview each of the candidates in the original field, as well as watch this race unfold. Here are my thoughts about the two remaining candidates.
If you want a candidate who knows the current political environment and litany of current Republican orthodoxies in Austin like the back of his hand, and who can maneuver the halls of the Capitol with the ease of someone who is coming back to an old familiar home, than Mike Schofield is your candidate in this race. He has spent over a decade in Governor Perry’s inner circle and has spent even longer trying to find an open House seat to run for and win. There is no doubt in my mind that he could enter the House chamber on day one of the next session and represent the generic, status quo conservatism that he espouses on the campaign trail—positions that are as comfortably discussed in Midland as they are in Katy, and all points in between.
But, if the voters in HD 132 are looking for a conservative person whose life experiences in the business and civic affairs has provided her with a unique knowledge of this growing Katy-based district—its strengths, its weaknesses, its interests in Austin, and its needs from Austin—and who will advocate for the greater Katy community consistent with her conservative principles, then Ann Hodge is your candidate.
For me the choice would be clear: Ann Hodge for HD 132. I got to meet Ms. Hodge for the first time during this campaign, and it is not an over-statement to say that she was the most impressive candidate I met during this campaign cycle. She would make a great representative for this Katy-based district, and she would give our party a fresh, yet experienced, voice in Austin to help address all of the major issues facing this state in the near future, including education and tax reform, and highway funding reform.
Again, I endorse Ann Hodge for HD 132.
Family District Court 311
I know, you’re thinking what more is there to say here, now that Judge Pratt resigned.
First, I want to thank Judge Pratt for taking the step she did to allow Judge Farr and the Governor to begin fixing the problem with this court, and to protect the Republican Party from being tarnished by this issue in the fall election. I hope that she and her family find peace in this decision, and that she does well in all of her future endeavors; just as I hope that the families who find themselves before this court now find justice.
Second, we have to make sure that Alicia Franklin wins this race by finishing the job and voting for her. Because of the lateness of her resignation, Judge Pratt’s name will still be on the ballot, and some people—for whatever reason—will still vote for her. We need to make sure that more people vote for Alicia, and then we need to support her in what will probably be a tough fall campaign. So, to make it clear, I endorse Alicia Franklin for Judge of the 311th District Court.
Finally, though, let this episode be a reminder that if we truly want to continue to elect our judiciary in partisan elections, we (of all or any political party) need to take greater responsibility for the candidates we elect. We need to understand the office they are running for, and to properly vet them for that office, rather than rely on the pay-for-play slate mailer system that gave us Judge Pratt. Then, once we elect them, we need to keep in contact with them to support them in their work, to make sure that they have the support they need to perform their job well, and that they are performing well. Maybe, if we had exercised this diligence—which is not just our right, but our obligation as voters—we could have learned of Judge Pratt’s issues and maybe provided support and help to see her through them, before it became a crisis and a basis for resignation.
We need to do better. Let’s start with voting for Alicia Franklin for Judge of the 311th District Court.
I saved this race for now because I am very concerned about the outcome of this race. Needless to say, I publicly supported Jerry Patterson and publicly opposed Dan Patrick; so, the result of this race was not what I was hoping for.
But let me make one point clear: I will support the Republican ticket from top to bottom this fall, regardless of who wins this run-off. Just because Dan Patrick may win this race, doesn’t mean that I will support his Democratic opponent—I won’t. It just means that my efforts probably will be focused on other races and candidates, as well as the ticket as a whole.
So, I guess you know where I am going here. I only have track records by which to judge the two remaining candidates in this race. One, David Dewhurst, has been a strong Lieutenant Governor and presided over the Senate during a great era of economic growth for our state and of implementation of many Republican policies. As I said when I announced my support for Jerry Patterson, if I didn’t feel that this year provided us with a great opportunity for bringing in fresh thinking throughout state government, I would have supported Dewhurst.
The consistency and institutional memory that Dewhurst will provide our new statewide leadership team is simply miles apart from the discord Senator Patrick has sown as he has blown like an ill-wind through Republican Party politics in this county. From his abuse of his radio station to attack fellow Republican officeholders and candidates as they have had to pay him for advertising, to his declaration of “RINO hunts” against anyone he deems unworthy within the party, to his support for the failed status quo in our party administration in order to try to obtain and maintain political control over its apparatus, to his abusive demagoguery of the immigration issue in his latest campaign to savage his fellow Republican candidates without regard to how such vitriol will impact our party’s relationship to the Latino community for years to come, he has shown me, once again, that while he may have the political skills to win elections, he does not yet have the temperament to be Lieutenant Governor.
I know that what I just wrote probably will freeze me out of any opportunity to help address education reform in Austin over the next few years if Dan Patrick wins this race, but I could not look myself in the mirror without having gotten these thoughts off my chest. Now, it’s up to my friends in this party to make the final decision, which I will honor and respect.
But, because David Dewhurst has shown himself to be a competent, honorable, and effective leader, I am voting for David Dewhurst for Lieutenant Governor.
Final Thoughts on the Chair’s Race and the Future of the HCRP
I want to congratulate both Jared Woodfill and Paul Simpson.
First, to Jared, I want to extend to you my sincerest congratulations and thanks for the last 12 years of your leadership. Although you and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on the how the party should be organized and managed, I always have respected your tireless advocacy and leadership for the conservative values we share. I wish you nothing but success in your future endeavors.
Second, to Paul, congratulations on a long and persistent fight—it paid off. You now have an opportunity to accomplish for the HCRP organization what Steve Munisteri has done at the state level, and to make the HCRP a model for other urban GOP parties across Texas and the nation. You have both the burden and the opportunity to forge new and better relationships across all of the factions of our party, as well as to expand our party into every precinct in the county.
I know this will not be easy, and that you will enter this office in mid-June with a lot of parts already in motion toward the fall election. Please know that you have friends willing to help from throughout the party, including me.
And that’s where I’ll end this post—we Republicans need to work together to win elections, and to support our elected officials once they are elected, for the good of our community, state and nation. To that end we need to bury old hatchets and build new bridges. I even pledge to work with Dan Patrick if he is our candidate for Lieutenant Governor, if he, too, is open to put aside all the discord of the past so we can tackle the issues that confront us with positive conservative ideas. In the end, that is the challenge we all face now.