Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tea Party roars in Texas

Reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Losing ground elsewhere in the U.S., the tea party emerged from Texas' primary runoffs mightier than ever in the nation's biggest conservative stronghold, sacking Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and ousting a 91-year-old congressman who was seeking one final term.

But Congressman Ralph Hall, the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House, was swept away by the latest wave of Republican insurgency that is now poised to have the muscle in the Legislature to make good on promises to push the state even further to the right on immigration, abortion, gun rights and spending.

The tea party's keystone victory was state Sen. Dan Patrick, a fiery conservative radio talk show host, who denied Dewhurst a fourth term by a 2-to-1 margin and then began his general election candidacy by unabashedly pledging to shove aside outnumbered Democrats come 2015.

"Some Democrats said they want me to be the nominee. Well they got me, and I'm coming," Patrick told supporters at his victory party in Houston.

He added: "Salute the tea party of Texas!"

You get one finger. Oh okay, double rods.

"This election means we're going into November with a very strong ticket with candidates elected by the most conservative voter base in the nation and a team that can articulate the issues the way Texans want them to be," he said. "We're going to sweep the ticket in November. This was a change election. Voters wanted a strong conservative policy in this state, and they've chosen bold conservative leaders to keep Texas moving ahead."

I can't argue with anything he said, except for that 'moving ahead' part at the very end.  That is not the direction Texas will be heading if Patrick's predictions come to pass.  Some of the reporting outside Texas reads as if it is stricken with horror.

Although, as the Dallas Morning News pointed out, Texas is ranked 47th in per capita spending and 48th in taxation compared to every other state, many of the Tea Party candidates ran on the platform that spending was out of control thanks to "establishment" Republicans, and promised substantial cuts to spending. The Morning News summed up the state's Tea Party position as, essentially, "to shut down the border, to stop or even impeach President Barack Obama and to fight for gun owners to be able to carry their weapons openly and anywhere." Patrick, for example, repeatedly referred to undocumented immigration as an "illegal invasion," angering many Latino political leaders in the state. In case you still think the Morning News's description is a bit much, Patrick's first campaign ad tagline was simply, "Secure the border, fight Obama." 

Hey baby, this is Texas.  You'll never top this place for crazy.  Here's a little more shock and awe from Chris Matthews, Wayne Slater, and Robert Costa from yesterday, early evening.

Tuesday's Republican runoffs settled nominations for four major offices and nearly a dozen statehouse seats. In the GOP campaign for attorney general between two state legislators, tea party-backed Ken Paxton beat Dan Branch, who is a member of the House leadership team.

Sid Miller won the nod for agriculture commissioner over his former colleague in the Legislature, Tommy Merritt, whom he accused of being too moderate.

Patrick overcame misrepresentations of the severity of his mental illness.  Paxton survived allegations of corruption and incompetence that made even seasoned political observers gasp.  Sid Miller ... well, Sid Miller thinks abortion should be regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture.  What else would you have expected from a guy who drags his racehorses behind his pickup truck, and has Ted Nugent as his campaign treasurer?

To be precise, not all of the worst conservatives in the world were winners last night.  T.J. Fabby, running for a north Texas statehouse seat, drew more than his fair share of unfavorable national media attention and lost his runoff.  But he was in the minority.

As the results rolled in and the AP and the TexTrib began calling races -- as early as 7:40 pm for Patrick over Dewhurst, with polls still open in El Paso -- social media began seeing reports of hail falling in the Austin area.

I read no accounts of frogs or locusts.  But snakes?  Yes.  Lots of snakes.

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