A GOP Sampler: Primary Highlights

The Republican primary in a nuthouse ... er, nutshell

Last week, we reported on the contested races in the May 29 Democratic primary election (early voting in progress). This week, we offer notes on a selection of the contested races in the Republican primary (also May 29), focusing on those most likely to be of interest to Chronicle readers. Amy Smith and "Then There's This" will return next week.

President: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul

There are eight candidates (plus "uncommitted") still listed on the sample ballot, but only Romney and Paul are seriously running (and this week, Paul semi-withdrew). Paul has a significant Texas base and hopes to influence Romney at the Florida convention.

U.S. Senate: David Dewhurst, Ted Cruz, Tom Leppert ... et al.

The nine candidates chasing the GOP nomination are basically Lite Guv Dewhurst and the also-rans, although former solicitor general Cruz and former Dallas mayor Lep­pert (with some noise from ex-footballer Craig James) are trying to force a run-off, with low turnout a key to those plans. Dew­hurst and Cruz (endorsed by Ron Paul last week) are running hard right; Leppert, slightly more centrist; and James, jock-Christian looney.

U.S. Rep., District 21: Lamar Smith*, Richard Mack, Richard Morgan

Longtime incumbent Smith is being challenged from the right – very little room there – by former Arizona sheriff (gun-crazy) Mack and young software engineer Morgan, both attacking Smith for his sponsorship of the failed Internet piracy bill, being in office too long, and similar right-wing apostasies.

U.S. Rep., District 25: Roger Williams, Michael Williams, et al.

In theory, this dozen-candidate race plays as car salesman R. Williams vs. former Rail­road Commissioner M. Williams, with R. Williams spending campaign money like a man who wants to buy a seat in Congress. Why, you ask? Eliminates the middleman. Of the 10 others, Bee Cave resident and former Halliburton executive Dave Garrison has also sunk serious money into the race. With 12 candidates, a run-off seems likely.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 2: Steve Smith, Don Willett*

Willett is a former general counsel for George W. Bush and served as Bush's director of faith-based initiatives – typical of the conservatives on the all-GOP court. Appointed by Perry in 2005, he's endorsed by state Sen. Dan Patrick and both the Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life PACs. Smith, who served on the court from 2002 to 2004, is notorious for filing the Hopwood litigation and fighting all forms of affirmative action; he also opposed the tort reform package pushed by Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which in a GOP race, qualifies as wild radicalism.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 4: David Medina*, Joe Pool Jr., John Devine

Former general counsel for Gov. Rick Per­ry  – who first appointed him to the Court in 2004 – Medina is seeking his second full term. He pushes a conservative-hip image – onetime underwater swimmer at Aquarena Springs, likes to spend his free time playing drums to Led Zeppelin – but readers may best remember him as the jurist who was indicted on arson charges (subsequently dismissed) in connection with a fire at his home in Spring. Pool, a veteran civil attorney from Dripping Springs, stresses the importance of jury trials in civil cases; Devine, a Houston jurist, touts his Christian beliefs – "Pro-Life" is No. 1 on his "Devine Nine" crucial issues.

State Board of Education, District 5: Steve Salyer, Ken Mercer*

Incumbent Mercer is an unabashed reactionary who promotes "intelligent design," "phonics," and an ideologically based curriculum. School board member Salyer emphasizes education first and wants to end the board's partisan divisiveness and the imposition of political dogma on the schools. Wish him luck.

State Board of Education, District 10: Tom Maynard, Jeff Fleece, Rebecca Osborne

Former ag science teacher Maynard, director of the state Future Farmers of Amer­ica, emphasizes "fiscal responsibility and efficiency." GOP activist Fleece touts his military and tech experience, and promises a "strong conservative voice" on the SBOE. Round Rock ISD schoolteacher Osborne reflects an actual grasp of the issues facing schools and students, and wants to find nonideological solutions – likely making her the long shot.

State Senate, Dist. 25: Donna Campbell, Elizabeth Ames Jones, Jeff Wentworth*

Incumbent Wentworth, a relatively moderate San Antonio senator who has repeatedly called for independent redistricting and firmly supported open records laws and government transparency, has drawn two opponents running far to his right. Campbell, a New Braunfels opthalmologist who ran against Lloyd Doggett in 2010, champions a "family values" platform (including protecting fertilized eggs). Former House member and Rail­road Commission Chair Jones touts her role in passing "tort reform" and fighting for the "rights of Texas' unborn."

Republican Referendums:

1) Fund "school choice"; 2) repeal "Obama­care"; 3) deregulate "public prayer"; 4) "balanced budget" constitutional amendments; 5) state control of redistricting.

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