Presenting himself as “a rational, conservative Republican running against an extremist incumbent,” Scott Milder, a former Rockwall City Council member and advocate for public education, declared Thursday that he is challenging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the March Republican primary.
“Somebody’s got to stand up and confront the bully who’s never going to stop picking on the little guy,” Milder, 49, said in an interview in Austin with the American-Statesman. “He’s insulting. He’s polarizing. He’s divisive. He’s not a strong a leader. He doesn’t represent the values of class and character that Texans have.”
Patrick’s political consultant Allen Blakemore responded to Milder’s announcement Thursday by extolling Patrick’s values and support.
“Dan Patrick is unequivocally the hardest working, most effective, conservative leader in the history of the Texas Senate. He enjoys overwhelming support among Texas Republicans, including early endorsements from Gov. Abbott, Sen. Cornyn, Sen. Cruz, major conservative grassroots leaders, a majority of Republican county chairs and (State Republican Executive Committee) members, and a long list of Texas business leaders,” Blakemore said.
But Milder said he believes “there is a groundswell of anti-Patrick sentiment all over Texas. I hear it everywhere I go, and these are traditional, conservative, rational Republicans. And that’s what I consider myself.”
Milder is the founder and CEO of Friends of Texas Public Schools, which describes itself as dedicated to “celebrating what’s right with our schools.”
He is an executive with Stantec Architecture, an international engineering and design firm, which designs a lot of schools in Texas. Milder works in helping school districts do pre-bond project planning. He previously worked as a public information officer for the Galena Park and Mesquite independent school districts.
Milder said Patrick is “public enemy No. 1 of public education,” noting that the Texas Senate under Patrick stripped $1.5 billion of the $1.8 million the House had approved in additional spending for public education.
Patrick “said, ‘No,’ because of petty politics,” Milder said.
“And frankly, I think he’s public enemy No. 1 of the business community, public enemy No. 1 of the local elected officials community,” said Milder.
Milder also asserted there was strong opposition to Patrick among some Texas pastors, a group Patrick has assiduously courted on behalf of his political agenda. Many of them, Milder said, “are outraged” by Patrick’s politics.
Milder said about six months ago he corralled a group of folks around the state who wanted to come up with “a really solid strategy to retire Dan Patrick, but it hinged on a candidate, a challenger.”
“But the further along we went, we realized that nobody with any Republican brand identity is going to step up and challenge Dan Patrick,” Milder said.
Milder was then encouraged to run, and he decided to be the one to fill the breach.
He said he is counting on the overconfidence of Patrick and his core supporters to open the door to a surprise victory.
“The grass-roots strategy we’ve put in place is going to surprise him on Election Day,” Milder said.
In May, Milder lost re-election to a third term as a member of the Rockwall City Council to Rockwall Chamber of Commerce President Dana Macalik.
Milder credited his loss on his vocal opposition to a local ordinance to regulate bathroom use by birth sex that Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt had proposed in May 2016. Pruitt couldn’t get a second for his ordinance on the council, but Milder in particular became the political target for those in the community who had backed the measure.
Milder said the debate over that local ordinance foreshadowed the statewide debate over Patrick’s efforts to enact a state bathroom bill.
“It’s not a pro-business policy,” Milder aid. “It’s a solution without a problem.”
Milder said his critique of Patrick does not apply at all to Gov. Greg Abbott.
“I separate them,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Gov. Abbott.”
Asked if he was prepared for the rough-and-tumble of a statewide Republican primary campaign, Milder said he’s already gotten a taste of that.
“He’s released his goons on me,” Milder said of Patrick. “He’s submitted public information requests to every school district in Texas for any and all documentation with my name on it.”
Asked about that, Blakemore replied, “When Mr. Milder entered the race, we asked, ‘Who is this guy?’ Like many people, we wanted to know about this fellow. So, we have begun our due diligence process.”