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Home | Tag Archives: your voice your vote 2020

Tag Archives: your voice your vote 2020

Primary fights few and far between as Texas Republicans focus on November 2020

It’s been quiet — almost too quiet.

That’s the mood as Republicans in Texas, home to bloody primary battles in recent election cycles, enter the final couple months of the candidate filing period with fewer-than-usual intra-party fights on their hands. While plenty could change, the trend so far is encouraging to state GOP leaders who have sought to tamp down on internecine conflict as they face a high-stakes general election.

“Everybody from both factions sees now how we are all in the same boat, and I think there is some evidence that these factions see that we are facing a real challenge in Texas,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a GOP strategist who has worked for both incumbents and challengers. “There’s just not as much of an appetite for the primary battles as there has been in the past.”

Democrats’ ambitions for 2020 in Texas have gone a long way toward unifying the GOP. Democrats are targeting U.S. Sen. John Cornyn after U.S. Sen Ted Cruz‘s narrow win last year. They are going after six Republican-held U.S. House seats amid a stream of retirements. And they are working to flip the state House, where they are effectively nine seats away from the majority.

To be sure, there is not a shortage of tension within the Texas GOP at the moment. Some conservative activists are still fuming that the most recent legislative session was a “purple” session marked by overly cautious policy pursuits. There is sharp grassroots disagreement over how state GOP leaders have responded to recent shootings in El Paso and Odessa. And House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, is scrambling to rebuild trust among Republican members after being accused of politically targeting 10 of them.

But as the clock ticks down to the Dec. 9 filing deadline, those tensions — or any others — have yet to translate into a robust roster of primary challengers, especially so in state House races, which have been the biggest battleground for the Texas GOP civil war in recent cycles. Currently, less than 10 of the 82 Republicans in the House have primary opponents, and even fewer of the challengers appear to be running serious campaigns for now.

The dearth of intra-party fights means the spotlight is shining brighter than usual on those who have bucked the wishes of state Republican leadership and pressed forward with incumbent challenges or have openly considered running. That group includes two congressional opponents drawing increasing intrigue as well as state Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper, who is exploring a run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Still, those cases are outliers, not the trend — and state leaders would prefer to keep it that way. Fallon, for example, has gotten not-so-subtle pushback from Cornyn’s top two conservative backers: Cruz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both of whom have been far more amenable to intraparty battles in previous cycles. Cruz declined to endorse Cornyn in his 2014 primary, while Patrick backed Fallon last year in his primary challenge to then-state Sen. Craig Estes of Wichita Falls.

“Texas conservatives must be more united than ever before, whether you are an ultra-conservative or on the moderate side of the spectrum,” Patrick wrote to supporters Monday night, recapping a speech he gave over the weekend. “Instead of arguing with each other, it is essential that we focus on those who oppose liberty and freedom.”

The message has been crystal clear from other state leaders, including Bonnen, who kicked off the cycle bluntly warning of consequences for House members who campaign against one another. That edict has been complicated by the more recent allegations that Bonnen sought to collude with a hardline conservative activist to target 10 fellow House Republicans, though the scandal does not seem to have significantly impacted the primary challenger lineup for now.

“I think [Bonnen’s pronouncement] has a lot to do with it, and it scared a lot of people from running,” said James Trombley, who is challenging Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton. “I am a little disappointed we’re not seeing more. Maybe I can help lead the way. Others can see our success and realize this is something we need to do.”

Gov. Greg Abbott, who himself worked to unseat three House members from his own party in 2018, has also sought to keep the peace this cycle. Shortly after the session ended earlier this year, he declared every Republican member of the Legislature deserved reelection, and he has been steadily rolling out incumbent endorsements since late July — almost 30 already — a few timed to head off real or suspected primary challenges.

One of the more overt examples involved state Rep. Candy Noble, R-Allen, a freshman who helped carry one of Abbott’s priority anti-abortion bills during the latest session. A day after word got out that Angela Powell, a Plano school board member, was exploring a primary bid against Noble, Abbott endorsed the incumbent for reelection. Powell decided not to run in the ensuing days.

In another notable intervention, Abbott in August endorsed state Rep. Dustin Burrows for reelection days after the Lubbock Republican resigned as chairman of the House Republican Caucus amid the fallout from the Bonnen scandal.

Of course, plenty more is happening behind the scenes, where GOP campaigners describe a stronger-than-normal drive to keep the party in line.

“The Republican Party is working harder than ever to silence heretics,” said Luke Macias, a consultant for some of the Legislature’s most conservative members and a veteran of primary challenges.

That environment has reduced the number of operatives willing to associate, at least publicly, with primary challengers.

“For me, it’s just a matter of doing the right thing,” said Brett Rogers, who is working with Bonnen’s primary foe, Rhonda Seth, as well as one of Cornyn’s, Dwayne Stovall. “I’m one of the few … because I really don’t care.”

One big open question is how involved groups such as Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life plan to be in the 2020 primary — and if so, whether they plan to be more discerning than they have in the past. They have served as the top funders of state House primary challengers in recent cycles, though the challengers they backed in 2018 almost all came up short, and neither group disclosed significant fundraising on their most recent reports.

“Texas Right to Life will never falter in challenging elected officials who won’t protect Life,” a spokeswoman for the group, Kim Schwartz, said in a statement. “We will challenge several Republican incumbents in the upcoming primary and will make sure that the Democrat party, which believes in abortion until birth, does not gain majority control of Texas in November.”

Empower Texans, meanwhile, signaled its 2020 focus in June when it made its first endorsement of the cycle, backing President Donald Trump for a second term. “It is the most important race on the 2020 ballot for the future of Texas and our nation,” Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan wrote at the time.

Another group that has been vocal in intra-party matters, at least in North Texas, is the True Texas Project, formerly known as the NE Tarrant Tea Party. Its leader, Julie McCarty, said the group will continue to hold elected officials accountable but is “not as focused on candidates this go-round,” instead training its efforts on policy.

Of the primary challengers who are running, not all are waging the kind of clear-cut ideological battles that have epitomized previous cycles. Take for example Jacey Jetton, the former chairman of the Fort Bend County GOP who is running against state Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land. Miller is a top Democratic target in 2018 after winning reelection last year by just under 5 percentage points, and Jetton is arguing he would be a better nominee to defend the seat.

“This is all about holding HD 26,” Jetton said. Ideology, he added, “is not part of my pitch at this time — this is just about who’s going to work for it” in 2020.

To be sure, some of the primary opponents who have declared are indeed running to the right of the incumbents. A recent mailer from Trombley derided Stucky as Lynn “Libby” Stucky, calling him a “liberal Republican” and accusing him of being weak on fighting illegal immigration and rising property taxes.

In federal races, the two notable exceptions to the quiet primary season have been RJ Boatman, who is running against Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, and Chris Putnam, who is opposing Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, the ranking member on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Both Boatman and Putnam are running to the right of the incumbents, positioning themselves as not only more conservative but more loyal to President Donald Trump. And both challengers have made attention-grabbing moves lately, with Putnam announcing he raised a hefty $500,000 in the first six days of his campaign.

Both Boatman and Putnam have met with the Club for Growth, the national anti-tax group that played aggressively last cycle in Texas and won all but one of the races in which it spent money. An official with the group said Boatman and Putnam are “both legitimate challengers that you don’t see everyday … very ideologically aligned with us” and that the Club will take a look at the races.

Perhaps underscoring how sensitive primary challenges have become this cycle in Texas, neither campaign appears interested in drawing too much attention for now. Neither responded to interview requests for this story, as well as requests for more information on who was running the campaigns. The media contact for Boatman’s campaign has been listed as Emily Gorney, who appears to work for the New York-based GOP consulting firm Big Dog Strategies.

Babin’s campaign responded to Boatman’s July launch by confirming the incumbent is seeking reelection and touting how he is “working with President Trump to finish the border wall,” among other things. Granger has not publicly commented on Putnam yet.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: Two more months of musical chairs for Texans seeking office in 2020

Want to play parlor games?

Texas candidates who want to run in 2020 don’t have to declare their plans for another couple of months, leaving time for all sorts of crazy twists and turns before the election ballots are set.

Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. is the filing deadline for 2020 candidates in Texas. Here’s a lesser-known rule: Nobody can officially file to run for office until Nov. 9. All of that means nobody has paid the entry fee and signed his or her name to get on the ballot; many have started campaign finance operations, but those filings don’t put a candidate on the ballot.

The reasons for running, or not running, are still being created. On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican elected in 1994, said he won’t seek another term in office.

That particular development doesn’t create much opportunity for Democrats; Thornberry’s district is strawberry red. He won reelection in 2018 with 81.5% of the vote — with both a Democrat and a Libertarian in the competition. But for ambitious Republicans, it opens a door that has been locked for a quarter of a century. People will be filing for that election now who, with Thornberry in office, wouldn’t even have whispered about it.

Open seats like that — Thornberry is the sixth Texas Republican member of Congress to decide it’s time to collect that fat congressional pension — prompt changes in plans. Three of those — Thornberry, Mike Conaway of Midland and Bill Flores of Bryan — represent districts that would be difficult to impossible for Democrats to win. But three — Will Hurd of Helotes, Kenny Marchant of Coppell and Pete Olson of Sugar Land — are in seats Democrats could win. In fact, each of them survived a good scare on the way back into office in 2018: Hurd won by a 0.44-percentage-point margin, Marchant by 3.1 points and Olson by 4.9 points.

Author: ROSS RAMSEYThe Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: If you’d like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey’s column, click here.

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Analysis: A one-subject election year for Texas (and everyone else)

If the political conversation one year from now is what it is today, every candidate on the ballot — from the people seeking the presidency to the people running for local school boards — is going to have to take a position on impeachment.

And if the storyline has changed by then, it will be less a change in subject than another season of a familiar TV show about the adventures of Donald Trump.

Sure, local issues will be debated here and there, but the election year ahead — at least right now — is shaping up to be more like a referendum on national events and personalities.

Particularly the attention-gobbling personality in the White House.

The furor over Trump’s impeachment might not be in the headlines in a year, fading like the Mueller report did, but it’s hard to imagine a pre-election climate that isn’t centered on his reelection bid.

And it’s hard to imagine a campaign season that doesn’t force every candidate on the ballot — friend or foe of the president — to take a position attacking or defending him.

You don’t have to wait a year to see this happening. It’s happening now.

It’s not that local and state issues are of no concern. That list is long and full of difficult policy problems.

It includes the constitutionally protected use, possession and sale of guns, and how to respond to four mass shootings in Texas in less than two years — in Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe, El Paso and Odessa.

It includes access to health care, an issue that helped propel some of the Democrats who got better-than-expected results in their 2018 races and one that has a central role in the Democratic presidential primary debates.

And the list includes public education, which became a major issue in 2018, especially in Republican primaries and the general election.

Other issues from previous elections and legislative sessions are still of high importance to some voters, like property taxes, state spending and the state’s enforcement efforts at the Texas-Mexico border. It includes prosaic issues, like getting rid of the long lines at driver’s license facilities, highway expansion and repair, scooters on streets, homeless Texans, marijuana legalization and whether people can buy beer on Sunday mornings. All the things, and more.

But the election conversation at the moment is more likely to pivot around the presidential race and candidates’ relation to it, however near or far they are from Washington, D.C.

Right now, that’s about impeachment.

A year ago, it was about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.

In between, the Mueller report was at the top of the political charts.

Cutting through that with local issues, no matter how compelling, is difficult. Those will be in the mix — and will decide some races. Unless something changes, however, the driving issues in this election cycle — the ones that motivate voters — will be the ones emanating from the loudest voice in national politics.

If Trump is unpopular, Democrats will be delighted. If he’s popular — and the advantage in presidential races usually belongs to the incumbent — the Republicans will be overjoyed.

Either way, he’s likely to be the subject, and his competition for attention in Texas next year is thin — the top statewide offices won’t be on the ballot, the U.S. Senate race won’t have Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke spurring interest, and every other candidate on the ballot will be struggling to win attention away from the people at the top of the ballot.

Texas candidates could very well end up doing what they’re doing to elbow their way into your attention right now: commenting and opining about the news coming out of Washington, in the world of Donald Trump.

Whatever that happens to be.

Author:  ROSS RAMSEYThe Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: If you’d like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey’s column, click here.

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