Here we are just days away from the 2014 Republican Primary Run-off Elections. Patrick or Dewhurst…Dewhurst or Patrick, is there a clear and simple choice for the Texas Tea Party movement? Is there one candidate that the tea party can trust to advance our agenda of personal freedom, economic freedom and a debt-free future for our children and grandchildren? Who knows? Ultimately, it’s a crap-shoot…or is it? Let’s look a little deeper now that we only have two choices left for the Republican Lt. Governor candidate.
To be fair, I have supported Lt. Gov. Dewhurst for re-election since the four challengers (Dewhurst, Patrick, Patterson, and Staples) announced their candidacies. This surprised many of my friends in the tea party movement. They looked at me like I had two heads (and both of them crazy). How could I support Dewhurst! Look at what he did to Ted Cruz during the US Senate campaign! He’s the establishment in Austin that we are fighting against! Talk about hard to defend your pick, it didn’t get any harder than this.
Indeed, even before the campaign season started…for most tea parties…David Dewhurst was not an option. Opinions were already set. An unspoken “anybody but Dewhurst” approach was pursued by everyone driven by their revulsion of the previous “scorched earth” tactics used against Ted Cruz and the continuing overspending and increases in the Texas State budget. Indeed, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst had become radioactive to the vast majority of tea parties in Texas. It seemed that everyone, including my own tea party, was searching for reasons to support one of the other remaining candidates. And for the most part, they found one reason or another to throw their support to one of the other three. The Clear Lake Tea Party endorsed Todd Staples by an overwhelming majority. It was a cold and lonely place on the CLTP Board standing up for Dewhurst and my arguments fell on deaf ears.
Yet, in the months before that vote to endorse Staples. Like many others, I was also looking for that “white knight” tea party candidate who would champion our principles and causes. However, Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert already had jobs. So I sat down and did my own analysis of the Republican candidates with their names in the hat.
Ordinarily, Patrick should be a shoo-in for tea party support. He truly does have one of the more conservative voting records in the Texas Senate. He did form the Texas Legislative Tea Party Caucus during the 82nd legislative session. Additionally, he assembled a Texas Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee composed of many leading tea party activists in the State to advise the caucus. So why was this not a slam dunk for Senator Patrick? Patrick claims that new “authentic conservative” leadership is needed in the Lt. Governor’s office. Maybe the problem seems to be with the word “authentic.” The sense of many in the tea party was that they were being “played.” Several Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee members have said that the Texas Tea Party Caucus has been ineffective in setting tea party supported policies and championing them in the legislature. Although Patrick often casts conservative votes on many issues (such as his voting against the State budget this session), his votes are never a deciding vote. Patrick also has a reputation as a “bully” and an “ideologue,” which was visibly demonstrated when he stormed the House floor to confront Rep. Steve Toth over his CSCOPE oversight bill which Patrick promised to scuttle in a backroom deal with the CSCOPE administrators. This particular instance gave some in the tea party a deep glimpse into his character. Some of us still remember, Dan Patrick’s ambush interview of Ted Cruz on his radio show that upset the grassroots state-wide. With his election year revelation regarding Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s leadership abilities, the tea party grassroots should remain unconvinced of Senator Patrick’s motivations and ultimate goals. Ultimately, I decided that Dan Patrick was no “tea party champion.”
So if not Dan Patrick, what other choice is left? It was not enough to only vote against someone. I needed to vote for someone in this election, so I gave David Dewhurst another look. I found that the original disagreements over spending and the State budget with Dewhurst still remain. I am still against the water amendment (No. 6) passed in November that was supported by the Lt. Governor. However, as I looked at the overall performance of Texas during the national financial crisis starting last decade and the hardships and anti-prosperity policies of the Obama regime, I began to evaluate things in a different light.
The tea parties are looked at as the L’Enfant Terrible of the Republican Party. We are conservatives who are terrifyingly candid by saying embarrassing things to and about the Republican Establishment. We are also portrayed as uncompromising and naive with respect to politics. While it may be true about us saying candid things that embarrass the establishment, we are growing up and maturing.
Getting past the Senate race campaign, the State budget, and a revolving-fund water amendment, I began to focus on the whole Dewhurst record. I discovered that he has be responsible for increasing the DPS budget by $800 Million to build the infrastructure necessary for Texas to be able to close its own borders for the first time. That after Patrick’s Sonogram Bill stalled in the Senate that Dewhurst personally pushed through the bill’s passage in the Senate. That under Dewhurst, as Lt. Governor, Texas has had lawsuit reform, election reform, stopped the State from adopting Medicare expansion, rejected Common Core, and greatly expanded our internal energy sources. With these in mind, I looked at other States and how they are faring with respect to Texas. Texas leads the nation in job growth. One third of all jobs created in America are in Texas. Approximately, 1200 people a day from other States come to Texas. If Texas has been so bad under the watch of Lt. Governor Dewhurst, then why are we in such great shape compared to the rest of the country?
After I looked at the Lt. Governor’s entire record, I next looked at the man. Who was this guy who ran such a cutthroat campaign against Ted Cruz who I actively supported during the campaign? Who was this politician that from the CLTP perspective seemed hardly to recognize that there was a Texas tea party movement? My questions were answered as I worked with the Dewhurst campaign team last year when they reached out to grassroots around Texas. I and other activists were brutally honest with our advice to the Dewhurst campaign. Sometimes our suggestions and input were taken and acted upon, sometimes not. However, they kept coming back and asking. That is all we in the tea party are asking for. A chance to be heard! We know that we won’t get everything we ask for, but that is all right. As long as you are listening and making valued, principled judgments, I am okay with being on the losing side of things from time to time. Just ask my CLTP Board!
And then, I finally got to interact with David Dewhurst directly. From the time I spent with him in person and on the phone, I gathered my own sense of the man and who I thought he was. I got a feeling of “authenticity,” “integrity,” and “sincerity” from the Lt. Governor. He seemed earnest that I understand his positions and rationale, yet was never condescending or dismissive over my concerns and issues. Sometimes we would agree to disagree and others I could see enlightenment enter his eyes regarding concepts and concerns he had previously not thought of. For the first time my personal assessment agreed with my political assessment, that I was indeed backing the right horse in this race.
Like I said before, backing Dewhurst was a lonely place in the tea party. However, after the primary and the field now down to just two candidates, the CLTP was trying to figure out what its next steps would be regarding the run-off. The Patrick team contacted Robert Gonzalez, then President of the CLTP, to set up a meeting to “bury the hatchet” regarding our opposition to his candidacy for Lt. Governor. We agreed, and in good conscience, Robert decided it was only fair to give Dewhurst a similar opportunity to address our tea party board. Dewhurst accepted our invitation and on a Friday at the First Baptist Church of Seabrook, the Lt. Governor sat with the CLTP Executive Board. Sitting down, the CLTP Board was very anti-Dewhurst for all the reasons previously stated. My fellow board members began questioning with a vengeance and hitting on topics like education, the TSA anti-groping bill that failed, the Wendy Davis filibuster, budget issues, border security, open carry, Obamacare, tort reform, local elections and debt reform to name just a few. Dewhurst spent three and a half hours with us answering questions, giving background information, and discussing problems and solutions. After our meeting, my fellow board members seemed rather stunned at the way things had turned out. I was asked “was that for real” to which I replied “that is the David Dewhurst I have been working with for months, you are just seeing this for the first time.” In fact, one of my friends on the board commented that “if this is for real, I owe you an apology.” No apology needed. I understood their mindset intimately because it was once my own.
After a week of reflection and debate, the Clear Lake Tea Party Executive Board announced their endorsement and support of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for re-election as Texas Lt. Governor. To those who read these words, take note that it is a rare thing that so many strong and opinionated people can re-evaluate their positions, change their minds and publicly reverse their stance.
But this is not the end of this story. If it was just the CLTP Board who reconsidered their opinion of David Dewhurst and ended up supporting him, it could be looked at as an atypical outcome in a turbulent political season. But the story doesn’t just end there. Immediately upon the announcement that the Clear Lake Tea Party had formally endorsed Dewhurst for Lt. Governor, all the leadership of the surrounding area tea parties began to question the wisdom and sanity of backing the Dewhurst. In order to answer this question, the CLTP organized another meeting with Dewhurst and the leadership of six area tea parties all mainly hostile to the Lt. Governor last week.
Folks, lightning struck twice. After the meeting, what were once critics of David Dewhurst came out with a new understanding and perspective of the man and his efforts for Texas. Within a day, two tea parties that were represented by their boards immediately endorsed David Dewhurst for Lt. Governor and representatives of the others went back to advocate an endorsement from their respective boards. Their decisions are pending. What all this demonstrates is that if the tea parties of Texas temper their initial opposition and take a hard long second look at both candidates, they just might come to a different conclusion regarding the candidates.
Finally, do a grassroots activist’s due diligence by throwing out conventional wisdom and judge the situation on the entirety of the facts present. Get your facts first-hand by doing your own research, picking up the phone or setting up a meeting. Oh, by the way, how did the CLTP meeting with Dan Patrick go you may ask? After several canceled meetings by the Patrick team, we were never able to get him to sit down with our board. Who knows, what would have happened if he had thought it important to keep his appointments with the Clear Lake Tea Party.
Dale Huls is a founding member of the Clear Lake Tea Party.