Attorney General: Abbott Amps Up Conservative Credentials
Radnofsky points to attorney general's flip-flop on immigration
The Texas attorney general is the state's top law enforcer, the lawyer representing the interests of the state and its people – tasked with both initiating lawsuits on behalf of the residents of the state (think consumer protection cases) and defending the state's laws (think federal appeals in death penalty cases). The A.G. is also the watchdog for open government issues – enforcing public information and open meetings laws – and is tasked with responding to public officials who require a legal opinion on various issues. In short, the state's A.G. carries a wide sphere of influence.
This year, incumbent A.G. Greg Abbott will face 2006 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky and Libertarian Jon Roland. Though Radnofsky has attacked Abbott's record on a number of fronts – including that he has used the office to bolster his own profile and that of other state GOP officeholders (in particular Gov. Rick Perry) – Abbott is expected to easily win another term.
Abbott began his public service as a state district judge in Houston and was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in 1995 by then-Gov. George W. Bush. He became attorney general in 2002, defeating Kirk Watson in a costly political fight. He has touted his success in increasing the collection of child support payments; in fact, the state was tops in collections last year, but according to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News, the number of delinquency cases has also grown – five times faster than the national average. Abbott also touts his success in stopping cyberspace child predators and boasts a 100% conviction rate for adults caught trying to meet up with underage girls for sex. But in so doing, Abbott has, at times, contributed to a climate of sex offender hysteria. On a recent Houston PBS political show, Red White & Blue, Abbott claimed that sex offenders have higher recidivism rates than other offenders, but this is simply not true. Federal stats show most sex offenders actually have lower recidivism rates than other offenders. Abbott has increasingly picked battles with the federal government, filing a series of lawsuits that are little more than attempts to pander to a right-wing base. He is suing to stop health care reform (even though Texas trails the nation in the number of people insured) and to stop the EPA from forcing Texas to comply with the Clean Air Act, and he has filed in support of Arizona's contentious immigration law – all controversial positions which speak more to a narrow political agenda than the interests of all Texans.
Abbott's defense of Arizona's immigration law provided Democrat Radnofsky with one of her most direct hits of the campaign season, when she pointed out that Abbott was making a 180-degree turn from his position just six years ago, when he issued a press release declaring that developing and enforcing immigration laws "is the exclusive domain of the federal government." Radnofsky, a former partner at Vinson & Elkins, was the state Dems' first female candidate for U.S. Senate (she lost that 2006 bid to incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison). If elected, she says, she would take on insurance and electricity companies for their skyrocketing rates and declare as unconstitutional the margin franchise tax, which she says lawmakers passed to unfairly tax certain businesses without seeking a statewide referendum. Radnofsky has also dogged Abbott for failing to sue Wall Street firms she says have bilked Texas taxpayers out of billions of dollars through bad investments, including those of the Texas Permanent School Fund; she says her commonsense approach would seek redress in a similar manner to previous tobacco litigation. Abbott has so far failed to refute Radnofsky's proposal, save a vague suggestion that it was somehow too novel a legal approach to take. The Dallas Morning News backed Radnofsky, saying she's not only prepared for the job but would "back off from battles the state can't win – and shouldn't be fighting." Abbott, the paper noted, has taken too much time to "tilt at Washington's windmills."
Real estate investor and self-described "computer professional" Roland, making his third consecutive run for A.G. as a Libertarian, is the founder and CEO of the Constitution Society, which aims to "provide almost everything one needs to accurately decide what is and is not constitutional in most situations." According to his campaign website, Roland would use his power as A.G. to investigate local public corruption allegations, intervene to protect Texans from "abuse by federal officials," and act against public officials, "especially judges and prosecutors, who protect illegal drug trafficking."