June 06, 2005
What kind of primary do you think we're going to have?

The Sunday Chron had this op-ed, which was written as a response to an earlier piece by former Gov. Bill Clements decrying the possibility of a bloody GOP gubernatorial primary. The central point of yesterday's piece is this:

Not just democracies but parties thrive on competition. It creates interest and forces candidates to define and defend their positions.

First of all, let me say that I agree with this premise. If nothing else, a primary gets a party some regular media attention, and it allows accepted conventional wisdom to be challenged. There were quite a few tooth-and-nail Republican Senatorial primaries around the country last year, and the winners who emerged seem to have done all right electorally.

That said, I wonder what kind of primary this author is expecting there to be if and when Kay Bailey Hutchison makes her entry into the race official. I don't really see a whole lot of difference between Rick Perry and KBH on the issues: Tax cuts good, school vouchers good, Robin Hood bad, abortion bad, gay marriage bad. Perry's more hard-edged than KBH on some of these things, but let's be honest - if KBH is our next Governor, we won't see any major philosophical shifts in the Capitol.

What this primary is going to be about is two things: What Rick Perry has and has not done as Governor, and who Kay Bailey Hutchison is. The case KBH will make for herself is clear: Rick Perry has a lousy record of achievement. He promised you property tax relief and a replacement for Robin Hood, and he's delivered neither. Worse, he's allowed these important issues to founder while he himself stands by and offers nothing in the way of leadership. In other words, she won't be claiming that she'll do different things, she'll be claiming that she'll do things differently, and thus will accomplish what Rick Perry had set out to do.

Perry's strategy is equally clearcut: Make KBH the bad guy. His greatest strength is with the religious conservative base, so he can tout things like the parental consent bill and the anti-gay marriage HJR6 while making KBH out to be Hillary Clinton's bestest friend. Unlike KBH, Perry actually will attempt to demonstrate philosophical differences between the two of them, but it will be strictly at the margins. Any response by KBH to this sort of attack will be basically of the "Am not!" variety. Maybe there will be some defining and defending of real positions in there, but I think it'll be the kind of non-substantial slagfest that reduces interest, at least among the non-hardcore.

If you really want to see a GOP gubernatorial primary with a robust debate about differences in approach, then I think you ought to be rooting for Carole Keeton Strayhorn to jump in. CKS has been a constant critic of Governor Perry's agenda since at least 2003. She's been a firm supporter of expanded gambling while Perry has flipflopped on the issue. She's pushed for a big increase in cigarette taxes, fought efforts to use one-time budget remedies such as the rainy day fund, and has called for funding CHIP at higher levels than we've done in the past two sessions. Whether you agree or disagree with any of this, it's issue-based and draws a clear distinction between CKS' goals and methods and Perry's.

So that's how I see it, and I believe that's why Bill Clements is nervous and Democrats are hopeful. Maybe there will be the kind of debate about ideas that our op-ed writer is hoping for, but given how both Perry and Hutchison's campaign manager have done things in the past, I wouldn't count on it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 06, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

As Charles Soechting said as the session wound to a quiet close: "It'sofficial: Republicans can't govern."

This is more than a catchy soundbite. The core principle of the modern-day Republican Party is that too much government is the problem.

So when this same modern-day Republican Party passes the largest state budget in history yet still manages not to adequately address the most fundamental obligations of government -- public education and children's protection -- you have to wonder if they are up to the job.

Posted by: Zangwell Arrow on June 6, 2005 10:47 AM