Primary Wrap Up: Texas

Yesterday Texas voters went to the polls to vote in the first round primary for various federal, state, and local offices. Here’s what happened:

Governor:

To nobody’s surprise, Democrat State Sen. Wendy Davis and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott both won their respective primaries in the race to become the 48th Governor of Texas. The only bit of surprising news was how poorly Davis performed in South Texas, where she lost quite a few counties to a virtual unknown candidate, Ray Madrigal. In addition, Democratic turnout was down a whopping 20% from 2010 while Abbott alone received more than twice the votes cast in the Democratic primary. This is a sign that the Democrats’ uphill climb to turn Texas blue is even steeper than originally thought.

Senate:

Senator John Cornyn (R) fended off a primary challenge by Rep. Steve Stockman, easily surpassing the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Stockman ran possibly one of the worst campaigns ever conducted by an elected official in modern history. He barely did any events, he  threatened criminal action against the media for publishing true reports about his arrest record, he alienated the conservative base, and he literally went missing for days in the middle of the campaign. So while this race was entertaining to watch, Cornyn never had to break a sweat over what could have been a competitive primary. And now that he has the GOP nomination, Cornyn should have smooth sailing towards reelection.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have been trying to fend off the crazies in their own ranks. Kesha Rogers, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche (the guy behind this stuff), placed second in the Democratic Senate primary and is now set to face Dallas dental mogul David Alameel in the runoff in May. The last thing Texas Democrats need is a LaRouchian on a state wide ticket and you can be certain that they’ll do everything they can to make sure Alameel is the eventual nominee.

 House:

TX-04: At age 90, Rep. Ralph Hall (R) is the oldest guy in Congress. But that doesn’t mean that he can escape the clutches of a primary challenge. Despite three decades of incumbency, Rep. Hall failed to garner 50% of the vote on Tuesday and as a result he now faces a runoff against former US Attorney John Ratcliffe. For now Hall is still favored for reelection, but these low turnout primaries are often unpredictable and we could be in for a surprise in May.

TX-23:  As noted previously, former CIA operative Will Hurd has run a strong campaign for the GOP nomination and last night it paid off when he came in first place ahead of former Rep. Quico Canseco. Of course, this  is similar to what happened in 2010 and that year Canseco came back and beat Hurd in the runoff with 56% of the vote. Once again this race should be close and each candidate has about an even shot at winning in May and a decent chance of taking the seat from the Democrats in November.

TX-36: In the race to replace Rep. Steve Stockman(R), no GOP candidate received more than 50% of the vote and that means that the top two candidates, Dr. Brian Babin and Ben Streushand, will face off in the May runoff election. Right now, this race is anybody’s game and it’ll be a test of organizational muster to see who wins the nomination. And since this is one of the most conservative districts in the country, whoever wins the primary will almost definitely be the new congressman come 2015.

Miscellany:

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (R) is in the fight of his life for reelection. In yesterday’s primary, Dewhurst came second place behind Houston lawmaker and radio host Dan Patrick while netting only 28% of the vote. Dewhurst, who (in)famously lost the 2012 GOP Senate primary to Ted Cruz, is in dire shape and unless things really turn around for him it looks like the Tea Party will score a majority victory in the Lone State state.

Meanwhile, a quiet race for Land Commissioner saw the return of the Bush family to politics. George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H. W. Bush (whew), easily won the GOP nomination for LC. And in state like Texas, that means that he’s as good as gold for victory in November. Could this be the beginning of Bush III: With Vengeance? Only time will tell…

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2014 Election Preview: Texas

The deadline the for candidates to run in the March primary came and went earlier this month, setting the stage for the March primaries. This is the landscape for 2014 in the Lone Star State:

Governor:

Incumbent Governor Rick Perry (R), who has been in office since George W. Bush resigned after winning the 2000 presidential election, will not run for another term. The GOP front-runner by a wide-margin is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who faces very little in the way of organized opposition. That said, former Univision personality Miriam Martinez could be an outlet for anti-establishment forces to coalesce around if she knows what she’s doing. And that’s a big if. As for the Democrats, the only serious candidate is State Senator Wendy Davis, most famous for her talking filibuster against a recent Texas anti-abortion bill. While she may be a darling of progressives nationwide, pro-choice doesn’t really sell that well in Texas. In the end, this race is Likely Republican.

Senator: 

Right up until the filing deadline, it seemed that Senator John Cornyn (R) would avoid a challenge from conservative activists that so many of his colleagues will have to face in 2014. But then Rep. Steve Stockman (R) made a last minute filing to run against Cornyn in the March primary, setting the stage for… well, not much. Stockman isn’t exactly the most credible candidate and polls show that Cornyn is in good shape for the GOP nomination. That could change, but right now its hard to see anyone other than John Cornyn as the Senator from Texas come January 2015. Regardless of who wins the primary, this seat is Safe Republican.

House:

TX-23: Due to an impressive of amount of gerrymandering, the state with the second most congressional districts has only one competitive race this cycle. The 23rd is one of the largest in the country and stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. In 2012, Democrat Pete Gallego defeated freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R) in this majority Latino district. Two years later, Canseco is running to reclaim his former seat in what should be a better year for Republicans. Of course he first has to make it out of the primary, where former CIA operative Will Hurd seems to be running a strong campaign. Both Hurd and Canseco have a shot at taking this seat, but Gallego will have the advantage of incumbency and because of that this race Leans Democrat.

Route 66 Days 9 and 10: The Sooner the Better

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We woke up early in Amarillo and enjoyed the free breakfast at the Days Inn. Actually, we didn’t enjoy it at all. The biscuits were stale, the gravy was runny, and the coffee was so weak that I could taste the Styrofoam cup with each sip. Overall, it was probably the worst free breakfast I’ve ever had. But hey, it’s free.

After packing up and loading the car we decided to stick to old Route 66 from Amarillo to the Oklahoma border. Originally we planned to stay off the interstate as much as we could, but time constraints and road fatigue made taking I-40 too tempting to resist. While the interstate gets us to where we’re going faster, it misses a lot of the scenic beauty of 66 and all the old motels and gas stations that line the route.

Driving along the two-lane highway through rows of crops was a nice change of pace from doing 80 on the freeway. The first major stop we made was at the Route 66 and Devil’s Rope Museum in Mclean. The place had a bunch of old curios and trinkets going back to the 1940s and at first it seemed like every other Route 66 museum that we had visited. Then there was the section devoted to the “devil’s rope,” also known as barbed wire.

I never knew that there were so many types of barbed wire in existence. There hundreds of samples going back more than a hundred years, each with different shaped barbs and wiring material. I’m not sure of reason behind such fascination with something as mundane as barbed wire, but it was an interesting exhibit nonetheless. Behind the counter there was a nice old lady who was eager to show us a flag that had 49-stars. which is rare considering that there was only 1 year when the US had 49 states (between the admissions of Hawaii and Alaska in 1959).

The rest of the drive to Oklahoma City was pretty uneventful. It was nice to see a bona fide city skyline after days of traveling through small towns and cities that grew out instead of up. The first thing we did was visit the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, which consists of a part of the foundation of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and a grass park with a chair for each victim of the attack. You really have to admire the Park Service employees who have to stand out there all day in the hot Oklahoma sun (it was around 100 degrees when we got there, which was around 5 pm). The guy who was working that day was very polite and offered us literature about the attack and gave us a brief overview of the memorial.

We then left to drive to our hotel on the east side of town and we checked into, you guessed it, a La Quinta. After our experience with Days Inn, we were happy to be in a (sort of) familiar setting. We finished the day at Mr. Sprig’s BBQ, which was about five minutes from our hotel. Anyone who knows barbecue knows that you have to go to a real whole-in-the-wall place to get a decent meal. I just wish we had more places in New York like Mr. Sprig’s. Then again, it’s probably better for my waistline that it’s not.

After a quick breakfast at the La Quinta, we made our way north to Tulsa. A slightly smaller locale than OKC, Tulsa has a bit of a more laid back vibe to it. We saw the Golden Driller, a huge statue of an oil driller that is the tallest free-standing statue in the world (according to Wikipedia). Then we went to the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, which had an interesting collection of old airplanes and rockets. We even got a sneak preview of an upcoming exhibit of an American Airlines MD-80 that was under construction. Afterwards we spent a few hours visiting with my aunt who lives in the area. She had pool in her backyard and there’s nothing more relaxing than a dip in the water when it’s in the 90s.

We said our goodbyes and continued on towards Springfield, Missouri. The original Route 66 takes a small detour through a sliver of Kansas, so we decided to follow it for a few miles and add another state to the trip. The first town we saw in our brief stay in Kansas was Baxter Springs, an old mining town that had clearly seen better days. There was only one real restaurant in town that wasn’t a fast food franchise, It was a family style that specialized in chicken fry steak and apparently “chicken fry chicken.” I had no idea what that was, so I just stuck with the steak. We finished the meal off with a nice slice of chocolate cream pie.

We drove the rest of our short detour through Kansas and rejoined the interstate near Joplin, Missouri. We raced against the setting sun as we made our way towards Springfield, but the darkness overtook us and we didn’t arrive at our hotel until 9 pm. Exhausted, we climbed into bed and rested up for the day ahead.

Texas Gov Rick Perry Will Not Run For Re-election

From the Houston Chronicle:

“Gov. Rick Perry will not seek reelection, he announced to about 200 supporters and the media in a humid warehouse at the country’s largest Caterpillar dealership Monday afternoon.

‘I will spend the next 18 months working to create more jobs,’ he said. ‘I make this announcement with a deep sense of humility and deep appreciation, and knowing I will truly miss serving in this capacity, because it is the greatest job in modern politics.'”

This was not a big surprise, with the smart money counting on him declining another term in Austin and to leave open the possibility for a 2016 presidential run.

Perry’s last try at the GOP nomination was a complete disaster, and I’m sure he’s learned a few lessons about campaigning on a national level. But the big question is whether 2012 damaged him so much that a 2016 run would be a fool’s errand.

Another thing he has to deal with is the fact that the 2016 GOP field is probably going to be much more competitive than the 2012 one. Last year Romney was pretty much the last viable candidate standing, and all of his opponents were second-tier candidates at best. It was amateur hour at the GOP. But in 2016 there will be big names like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Bobby Jindal. Compared to those guys, Perry is old news.

Then again, he has a few things going for him. He was governor of the nation’s second largest state, and he is popular with the conservative base. In addition, as politician in Texas he has had to deal with the Hispanic community much more often than his opponents. And he has consistently pulled a better chunk of Hispanics than most Republicans in the rest of the country.

But overall he is a long shot for the nomination. Because to win the presidency you need to do three things: ignite the base, hold the center, and uh, what’s the third one? Oops.