In a surprise, the Democrats did well in Tuesday’s Texas GOP runoffs. And, perhaps even more surprising, the Dems also managed not to screw up their own runoffs.
None of this, of course, means Democrats have much chance of winning much in November, but the runoffs showed that Republicans, swerving even further right (next up: fetal voting rights?) may give Dems a fighting chance in future years.
The Dems scored Repub runoff wins when GOP voters picked a lite guv candidate who some Republicans think may be mentally unstable and an attorney general candidate who recently confessed to breaking the law. And the Dems won their own U.S. Senate runoff by not nominating Kesha Rogers, a LaRouchie (look it up) who wants President Barack Obama impeached. Rogers lost to David Alameel, who’ll face GOP Sen. John Cornyn.
The Dems also did themselves a favor by nominating Jim Hogan, an unknown, for agriculture commissioner over Kinky Friedman, a known who, in a new twist on his tired political act, ran on a legalize-pot platform, perhaps not an issue Dems want lit up this year.
All in all, it was all pretty good for Texas Democrats who think, led by gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, they’re headed for their first statewide win since 1994. Maybe.
But that’s for November. Let’s stick to now. The Dems’ big win Tuesday was Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick’s defeat of three-term GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Patrick is perfect for Dems who want to portray Republicans as way right of where many Texans live. He now faces Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, who may be way left of where many Texans live.
Either way, Dems were helped by GOP efforts to tarnish Patrick, including Dewhurst TV ads. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a loser in the March GOP lite guv primary, pitched in by releasing 1980s medical records detailing Patrick’s mental health issues back then.
(Best overheard line from a Dewhurst backer at his defeat party: “What the hell is wrong with people?”)
In the GOP attorney general runoff, McKinney Sen. Ken Paxton beat Dallas Rep. Dan Branch, who reminded voters Paxton recently ran afoul of state law requiring him to register as an investment adviser. Paxton, like Patrick a tea party favorite, now faces Democrat Sam Houston, who, unless it’s a different one, is 221 years old.
The next good show comes next week when the Texas GOP — fresh from putting the “fun” in “dysfunctional” — makes believe it’s one big, happy family at its state convention. That effort could be challenged by a potentially contentious presidential straw poll pitting Gov. Rick Perry vs. Sen. Ted Cruz, as well as Texas-raised Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas-born Jeb Bush. (You never can have too many Texans running for president.)
But before Dems get too good a laugh out of Tuesday’s outcomes, let’s remember this: The screaming Senate gallery mob that shouted down the GOP-controlled Senate’s first attempt to pass an abortion restriction bill in June 2013 helped boost Patrick, who used that night as an example of Dewhurst’s poor leadership.
Now the mobsters must deal with a reality they helped create: They’re going to get a lieutenant governor (Van de Putte) they’ll like a lot more or one (Patrick) they’ll like a lot less.
“Some Democrats have said they want me to be the nominee,” Patrick said Tuesday night. “Well they’ve got me.”