Texas Politics

GOP US Senate hopefuls before business association



The top four competitors for the Republican nomination to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison agree that Barack Obama should be retired, along with his health plan.

But they tried to distinguish themselves in a joint appearance Feb. 1 before the Texas Association of Business in Austin, including fielding questions about environmental regulations and endangered species.

Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz seems to favor seeing boots made out of endangered Texas lizards.

Cruz, who never forgets, or lets his audience forget, that he’s the son of an immigrant who came from Cuba knowing no English, used the lizard as ammunition against what he considers over-regulation by the feds about endangered species. It should be left up to the states, he said.

“That’s our lizard.” Pause. “And they make darned fine cowboy boots.”

Sportscaster Craig James thinks Barack Obama made a big boo-boo in holding up, at least for now, the environmentally controversial Canada-to-Texas Keystone oil pipeline.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he would “dramatically downsize the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Dewhurst, who after four years as the state’s land commissioner has presided over the Texas Senate since 2003, said the EPA has usurped Texas’ enforcement of air pollution regulations.

Should he be sent to Washington, Dewhurst said he would seek to strike from the law EPA’s ability to regulate “Greenhouse gases,” which most scientists say are a major cause of global warming.

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said he dealt with the EPA while running several different businesses. He proposed requiring that any rule by a government agency costing more than $50 million be subject to a vote of Congress.

The questions came from TAB President Bill Hammond, who moderated the debate.

The more reserved Leppert, whose grey mane and relatively quiet demeanor help him look the most senatorial of the group, said his business background helped him effectively manage the mayor’s office.

James is a former Southern Methodist University and National Football League running back, who has made considerable money as a sports commentator for ESPN.

James is best-known recently as the man whose allegations about mistreatment of his son by Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach led to Leach being canned.

James tends to talk in terms that are broad, but not necessarily deep. “EPA is just off its rails, man,” James said.

James will be testing whether name ID from playing college and professional sports, and then being a TV sportscaster, can transfer to politics. It’s happened before, but usually in local races rather than statewide.

When Hammond asked each candidate what they hoped to accomplish as a freshman in a seniority-conscious body, James said he would work to protect freedoms and support

Leppert, without singling out any of his opponents, said “I wish we could solve all the problems of this country with a couple bullet points, or a couple platitudes, on a page.”

He said what the state and nation need are people who have actually been out in the business world creating jobs, and not just dealing with theory.

Leppert faces the same problem other mayors of big Texas cities have in running statewide. He’s a familiar name in Dallas, but not the rest of the state.

Former Mayors Ron Kirk of Dallas for U.S. Senate and Kirk Watson of Austin for attorney general in 2002, and Bill White of Houston for governor in 2002, all discovered that. Of course, all three were Democrats running in bad election years for Democrats, in red-state Texas.

Cruz said he has the endorsement of the four most conservative Tea Party-popular members of the Senate: Jim DeMint, South Carolina; Rand Paul, Kentucky; Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania; and Mike Lee, Utah.

Dewhurst is essentially running on Gov. Rick Perry’s record, since Perry’s no-new-taxes approach, backed by veto threats, has essentially starved Texas government, including its public schools. That record may or may not be a good thing for Dewhurst, after Perry’s hapless presidential bid focused attention on it.

But Dewhurst’s personal wealth, estimated at north of $200 million, allows him to buy as much TV time as he thinks he needs. That’s what he did to become land commissioner, and then lieutenant governor, and presumes he can do it again.

• • •

One Less Democratic Candidate

The Texas AFL-CIO’s political arm unanimously endorsed former state Rep. Paul Sadler for the Democratic Senate nomination Jan. 29.

Jason Gibson, president of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, dropped his candidacy Feb. 2.

“My heart and my upbringing are with the labor movement and I did not want to move forward without their endorsement,” Gibson said in a statement. He endorsed Sadler, who said Gibson’s “future is a bright one.”

# # #

The other three Democratic hopefuls are Addie Dainell of Beaumont, Sean Hubbard of Dallas, and Daniel Boone of Canyon Lake.

The other six GOP candidates are Glenn Addison of Magnolia, “Doc Joe” Agris of Bellaire, Curt Cleaver of Fort Worth, Ben Gambini of Winnie, Charles Holcomb of Wimbereley, and Lela Pittinger of Driftwood.

DAVE McNEELY is political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@gmail.com or (c edd512)458-2963.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *