The Austin Chronicle

Primary Run-Offs: Tea Party vs. Old Guard

Establishment gains traction toward election

By Richard Whittaker, May 16, 2014, News

It's the conservative old guard versus the Tea Party radicals in the GOP primaries, as the fallen contenders endorsed in the run-off races for attorney general and lieutenant governor.

The big headlines went to Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who this week announced that he's backing incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst over challenger and Tea Party Caucus chair Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. Pulling no punches, former marine and Vietnam War veteran Patterson accused Patrick (or, as he was known then, Dannie Scott Goeb) of being a draft dodger. Patrick's campaign fired back that their candidate would have served, but was declared medically unfit because of issues with his leg. Patterson witheringly responded, "Bad knees were an epidemic during the Sixties among young draft age men."

Over in the attorney general race, endorsements took second place to allegations of malfeasance between the candidates to replace Greg Abbott as he seeks the governorship. Tea Party fave Sen. Ken Pax­ton, R-McKinney, should have been riding high after picking up the endorsement of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. But at the same time, he lost the backing of his local Allen Police Association after he was fined $1,000 for procuring business for an investment company without being registered with the State Securities Board. This was quickly followed by the announcement that Railroad Commission chair Barry Smitherman, who was knocked out in the first round of this race, is endorsing Paxton's more institutionally-inclined conservative adversary, Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas. Calling the board ruling "very troubling," Smitherman said Paxton "also failed to disclose his employment as an investment advisor to his legal clients, a possible violation of the State Bar's rules for professional responsibility."

Meanwhile, in the agriculture commissioner race, former Rep. Tommy Merritt battles it out with his old chambermate Sid Miller. Both were purged by Tea Party insurgents, but that bit Miller harder, as he had authored the infamous mandatory pre-abortion sonogram bill. While Merritt is scarcely a liberal, if he wins on May 27, then Democrats and centrist GOPers may enjoy a degree of schadenfreude at the super-radical Miller's expense.

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