Sid Miller running for re-election

The Governor’s race will have one fewer malicious jokers in it.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced Monday he would seek reelection, putting to rest speculation that he could challenge Gov. Greg Abbott for the top elected position in the state.

“I really have the best and most rewarding job in the world,” Miller said in a statement. “That’s why, after listening to the advice of supporters, friends and my team, I have decided that I can best serve Texas by continuing this important work.”

“Today I am announcing my campaign for reelection as your Texas Agriculture Commissioner,” he said.


In May, the Conservative Republicans of Texas political action committee had cut a video ad to recruit Miller to run against Abbott, declaring: “He was right on Trump, he’ll be right for Texas.” Miller appeared to be pondering the decision, announcing weeks later that he was running for statewide office but not saying for which position.

“I’m convinced that our current governor cannot get reelected in the general election,” he said on a podcast with Sery Kim, a former congressional Republican candidate.

Earlier this month, Trump endorsed Abbott.


That backlash from the right wing of the Republican Party has led former Dallas State Sen. Don Huffines to challenge Abbott. Allen West, the chair of the Republican Party of Texas, is also expected to run for statewide office after his resignation as party chairman becomes official next month. West has not said what office he will seek.

Miller did not name Abbott in his reelection announcement but said that he felt a special obligation to use his bully pulpit to “hold other elected officials accountable.”

Whatever. Miller’s assertion about Abbott’s re-election chances are interesting and wishful, but they can’t be trusted because he’s not a reliable source. It would have been interesting, in the way that a freight train derailing and crashing into a warehouse filled with manure would be interesting, for Miller to have challenged Abbott, but that was not to be. We’ll need to beat him ourselves.

In news from that other primary that we have to pay attention to:

Eva Guzman, the Republican former justice on the Texas Supreme Court, officially began her campaign against embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday, pledging to bring “honor and integrity” to the office as well as an extensive legal background that could set her apart from another primary candidate, George P. Bush.

“I’m just what Texas needs because I have the experience, the proven integrity, the conservative values,” Guzman said in an interview, adding that she has shown she can “put together winning teams” — a reference to her distinction as the highest vote-getter in Texas history at the time of her last statewide race.


Guzman made her bid official in a roughly two-minute video during which she talks about growing up in Houston’s East End, going from “humble beginnings to the Texas Supreme Court” and working to secure justice for families like hers. She says she is running for attorney general “to protect our border, to ensure elections are fair, to fight the overreach of the federal government and to alway support the police who keep us all safe.”

She quickly picked up a major endorsement from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the powerful tort reform group that supported Paxton for attorney general in the 2014 and 2018 general elections. The chairman of the group’s PAC, Richard J. Trabulsi Jr., said in a statement that Guzman “has the breadth of legal experience and the personal and professional integrity that we must require of our state’s highest legal officer.”


Guzman said her experience also extends to her ability to fight the White House in court. She said she “will be ready to sue the Biden administration on Day 1 to protect Texans, and I’ve actually been in a courtroom and I’ve actually argued cases … on the very issues” that could come up in pushing against the White House.

Former President Donald Trump has promised to make an endorsement in the primary, though it remains to be seen if Guzman’s candidacy alters his plans. Before Bush started his campaign against Paxton, Trump released a statement saying he likes “them both very much” and that he would make an endorsement “in the not-so-distant future.”

“I’m in a three-way primary,” Guzman said. “I welcome all the support I could get, including from former President Trump.”

See here for the background. I continue to believe that Guzman will have a hard time winning over the kind of slavering nihilists that populate a Republican primary, but the endorsement from TLR probably came as an unpleasant surprise to Paxton. Please observe that while Guzman would be a more competent and less criminal Attorney General than Paxton, that in no way means that she would be a good Attorney General. No one should feel any reason to vote for her.

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5 Responses to Sid Miller running for re-election

  1. Kibitzer says:


    Re: She says she is running for attorney general “to protect our border, to ensure elections are fair, to fight the overreach of the federal government and to always support the police who keep us all safe.”

    Guzman said her experience also extends to her ability to fight the White House in court.


    Guzman was a family court judge in Houston and has not practiced law in 22 years. Judging isn’t advocating for one side or the other in disputes. At least it shouldn’t be. Nor are judges supposed to do any fighting. It’s against decorum.

    And … I’m always for the police. – Hmm. Glad she wasn’t a criminal court judge. Come to think of it, she sat on a lot of noncapital criminal cases in the Fourteenth Court of Appeals. Perhaps someone should look into her record of jurisprudential writings on that portion of the docket. 

    Now Guzman is going into the arena for a fight. A three-way fight among ideological fellow-travellers no less. Having served as a judge for two decades, and having been in the lofty position to command obedience and exact obsequious deference — by litigants and lawyers alike — hardly amounts to suitable preparation for a mud-slinging contest.  

    With respect to her desire to follow the example of Abbott and Paxton in picking legal fights with the White House, this involves federal law. So, while Guzman’s state-appellate court experience is vast – over a period of two decades you get to write a lot of opinions — and while her supreme court opinions are solid and impress with a copious number of footnotes – that experience does not provide much substantive expertise for suing the federal government. Nor is such technical litigation prowess really what matters.

    What matters much rather is whether a Texas Attorney General should deploy his or her power and resources of office to engage in obstructionism based solely on the federal government being led by a President of the other party. The litigation nitty-gritty can always be farmed out to well-qualified and hardworking underlings. 

    So what is Guzman’s stance on knee-jerk litigation against the Feds as a matter of lone-starry defiance elevated to principle?  Is there any detectable difference from Paxton? Any sign of contemplation? Intelligent re-evaluation? Moderation? 


    Neither Guzman nor Bush has recent litigation experience. Nor is that essential for an Attorney General, who can hire legal talent as needed. And if you are elected as a Republican, you can also recruit from the pool of judges and justices who lost their jobs in recent elections as their respective districts turned blue.

    While P. Bush doesn’t have judicial experience, he has experience in the executive branch and is no stranger to controversy and entanglement in conflict. And Paxton himself is a burn-and-slash crusader.

    Guzman faces a daunting challenge not faced by Bush, crossing over from the supposedly least dangerous branch. She will have to morph from a judge to whom legions of lawyers have prayed to year-in-year-out into a politician joining a bloody fight with rivals and concomitant bruising of egos.

    Bush already is a fighter, and one with experience in running a big organization at that. Guzman, by contrast, was one justice of nine, and only got to manage a few law clerks and admin staff in her chambers. And she has been virtually immunized from criticism regarding her job performance on account of her judicial status. 

    So Bush would seem more suited to take the helm of a big bureaucratic litigation machine that also has a long and infamous track record of being involved in the most contentious political controversies for many years. The Honorable Eva Guzman, by striking contrast, will have to reinvent herself. Attorney General is a very different kind of job. 

    And while we are on the topic of the job description and relevant qualifications, Guzman’s debut video as a campaigner provides virtually no clue about what the office of Attorney General is about, or what it might look like under her jurisprudentially-infused leadership.

    Instead, it’s all about self-promotion. Please like me! 

    Contrast that with Joe Jaworski’s website, who also tries to instrumentalize family history, but actually addresses key policy issues in addition to the anti-corruption theme. You may not agree with his stance on weed legalization or Medicaid expansion, but at least he has the guts to stake out positions and put forth concrete plans: such as setting up a civil rights and voter access division.

    Guzman would have us believe that she fought for working-class Latino families like hers. How? By applauding Abbott while sitting on the high court? By remaining silent on low-income East Enders’ healthcare needs? 

    And as for the integrity theme that animates the campaign messaging of all three competitors for the Paxton succession, remember election integrity. — That now infamous Republican euphemism.

    If the quality media in Texas were to go to the trouble of delving into Guzman’s jurisprudential performance, rather than just regurgitating campaign fodder fed to them, they would realize that Guzman was ALL-IN on so-called election integrity.

    And they might also discover that Paxton’s Democratic opponent spoke up for Texas voters IN REAL TIME in 2020.


    Indeed, Justice Guzman went out of her way to side with Paxton in making voting by mail during the pandemic more difficult. She wrote a separate concurrence to celebrate the consensus of her high-court peers that Texans should not be allowed to vote by mail to avoid COVID infection. And they decided this while conferring remotely and holding oral argument via Zoom. Justice Lehrman was actually afflicted with COVID at the time, so they would all have been exposed to the virus had they met to conference in person. But they sided with Paxton against the people as voters. Safe voting for judicial supremes (and the rest of the judiciary via administrative emergency orders and protocols), but not for ordinary Texans. 

    Nor did Guzman have any qualms thwarting Chris Hollins’ promotion of voting by mail in Harris County by sending an application with accompanying eligibility information to all registered voters.

    Paxton has since credited the joint just-in-time caselaw production in State v. Hollins for saving Texas for Trump and the Texas Republicans. Then-justice Eva Guzman was part of the team on the project. As were four or her colleagues on the high court who were themselves Republican candidates on the November 2020 ballot. None stepped aside on the ground that the decision in the case would or could affect them. None dissented. Indeed, they issued the power-preservation ruling that overturned the lower courts’ decisions as a per curiam opinion. 

    And she also used her judicial position to praise Governor Abbott for his use of emergency power in relation to voting after he *reduced* the number of drop-off locations for absentee ballots to just one per county no matter how large the county, again a move to curtail voter participation in Harris County. (“I write separately *only* to highlight the many options voters have for accessing the ballot box this year, which may otherwise get lost in the cross-fire of advocacy.”)(emphasis added).  


    That said, it would behoove the Democrats not make an issue of Guzman’s complicity in restricting voting opportunities in 2020. At least not in the primary phase of the election season. That’s because it could very well bolster her standing with the far right if Dems took issue with Guzman’s voting and opinion-writing record as a judge on that basis. And if she were to win the Republican primary for AG, she would likely run a personality-focussed campaign as a quasi-incumbent, rather than a red-meat campaign, and would be harder to beat than Paxton. 

    It is clear at this juncture, however, that Guzman is positioning herself to actively compete for the same GOP primary voters that Bush and Paxton are after, rather than staying above the fray. And since Trump has already endorsed Abbott, Guzman’s judicial support for Abbott in the voting rights litigation, including the cases brought by more extreme Republicans, is no longer much of a liability in the primary contest.

    Note also that Guzman is pandering to the right wing on immigration and would welcome Trump’s support, bringing the number of Trump acolytes in this primary race to an unholy trinity of three.

    Finally, let’s also point out that the Texas constitution envisions no role for the Attorney General in border protection, nor does the constitution even make the AG the chief law enforcement officer. Criminal prosecutions are handled by district attorneys. The OAG has hundreds of lawyers and handles much litigation, but most of it is civil. 


    Sec. 22.  ATTORNEY GENERAL.  The Attorney General shall represent the State in all suits and pleas in the Supreme Court of the State in which the State may be a party, and shall especially inquire into the charter rights of all private corporations, and from time to time, in the name of the State, take such action in the courts as may be proper and necessary to prevent any private corporation from exercising any power or demanding or collecting any species of taxes, tolls, freight or wharfage not authorized by law.  He shall, whenever sufficient cause exists, seek a judicial forfeiture of such charters, unless otherwise expressly directed by law, and give legal advice in writing to the Governor and other executive officers, when requested by them, and perform such other duties as may be required by law.  

    Many other roles were assigned to the AG by statute, and could therefore be taken away or modified through legislative action. If the Dems ever take over the House and the Senate, that may become a project.

  2. Mainstream says:

    Prior supreme court justices like John Cornyn and Greg Abbott had no trouble moving from the judicial world to the world of politics. As the candidate who got the highest vote total of any statewide, I doubt Justice Eva Guzman will have any trouble on that score. I continue to think nativism, prejudice will be her greatest foes in a Republican primary. I am not sure Bush will be a significant contender from what I hear from activists and expect his supporters to migrate to Guzman as the campaign progresses.

  3. Kibitzer says:

    Mainstream makes a good point. There is precedent for moving from Supreme Court Justice to AG in Texas, so Guzman wouldn’t have to be a trail blazer on that front. She’d rather follow than lead anyhow, and in this cross-branch transition bid she has a model to emulate. The former Honorable Gregory Wayne Abbott himself.


    But whether that bodes well is another question. One of the cardinal problems with Abbott to this day is that he is looking backward, not forward. That’s what appellate judges do, both with respect to the record in a particular case (no new facts), and the law (i.e., enshrined public policy, sometimes based on a 100-year old precedent).  

    A lawyerly or jurisprudential mindset is a limitation that is antithetical to smart policymaking and bold leadership, particularly when there are unprecedented challenges that call for creative and innovative policy solutions and decision under the pressure of uncertainty and incomplete information.

    When so challenged, Abbott’s minions go: it’s never been done. So it cannot be done. It would be unprecedented. Can’t have that.

    Lina Hidalgo, to point to a notable counter-example, isn’t burdened by such cognitive constraints and ossified habits of thought. Luckily, she does *not* think like a lawyer or a judge (Her job title is a misnomer). To her credit, she is not a captive of obsolescent patterns and practices and has the schooled capacity to think outside the straightjacket of legal precedent to operate pro-actively, rather than re-actively, drawing on available data and expertise that is available, fully aware that a single person or collegial body cannot know it all.

    But back to Guzman, the first high-court Latina (but no Latinx) who now seeks an executive-branch office which, like Hidalgo’s job, involves policymaking and executive leadership. How will she get there? Does she have a chance?


    Today, Ross Ramsey writes:

    “Eva Guzman, who quit the Texas Supreme Court to join that race, hasn’t yet made a play for Trump’s favor, relying so far on the support of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a Republican-leaning political group that signals a candidate’s establishment ties.”

    That not only refutes Kibitzer (see supra), but doesn’t square with a story the Trib published just a few days ago.

    “I’m in a three-way primary,” Guzman said. “I welcome all the support I could get, including from former President Trump.”

    Patrick Svitek, Eva Guzman, former Texas Supreme Court justice, officially starts campaign for attorney general, TEXAS TRIBUNE (June 21, 2021, updated 10am Central). 

    Regardless, it will be interesting to see upon whom among the three contenders Trump will bestow his blessing. 


    Former SCOTX Justice Don Willet’s twitter is still up (last post Jan. 1, 2018). Justice Eva Guzman’s has now apparently been deleted (status as of 6/24/2021).

    Guzman started tweeting on advice of a campaign pro and Don Willett set the standard for how to do it as a judge. Could it be that Guzman has embarked on a self-reinvention program for the new office she is seeking? Possilbe so. On the positive side, at least her record of judicial opinions cannot be as easily deleted likewise.


    Meanwhile, we have what appears to be the first polling data on Guzman’s appeal to the masses of registered Texans, and from a respectable surveying outfit no less. The poll was conducted from June 15th – 21st with a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points. Sample size: N=1099. See cite and link below.

    ¿La primera procuradora del pueblo?

    The main takeaway here is that the would-be voters at-large barely know her. But the same is true of Democrat Joe Jaworski, who also draws a high percentage of blanks, even though he has been an announced candidate against Paxton since last year. By contrast, the name recognition numbers look much different for Paxton and P. Bush.

    Comparative appeal by the numbers:

    Ken Paxton: 29 percent favorable, 32 percent unfavorable, 38 percent haven’t heard enough;
    George P. Bush: 26 percent favorable, 27 percent unfavorable, 46 percent haven’t heard enough;
    Eva Guzman: 10 percent favorable, 8 percent unfavorable, 81 percent haven’t heard enough;
    Joe Jaworski: 4 percent favorable, 8 percent unfavorable, 87 percent haven’t heard enough.

    For those in the legal biz, the partisan hacks, and the members of the chattering classes it may be hard to grasp how little the general public — even registered voters — know about the people that populate the Third Branch. And if these voters are know-nothings, they have to either refrain from registering a preference, or rely on cues and decision crutches.  

    Evviva Evita!  

    Leaving aside the lack of familiarity with the candidate, there is a stunner in the telephonic poll results too: Among those who express a sentiment, Guzman draws MORE support from Democrats than from Republicans. And independents tie with Dems.

    Sentiment Total Rep Dem Independent
    Favorable 10% 4% 13% 13%
    Unfavorable 8  8  5  8

    Here is a hypothesis: Democrats like: (1) female candidates more than Republicans, (2) Hispanic candidates more than Republicans.

    Eva Guzman belongs to both demographic categories, and this is obvious based on her first and surname alone. No rags-to-riches or janitor-pail-to-prominence narrative needed. Incidentally, Martinez as a maiden name would have worked just as well (as featured in her inaugural campaign video).

    As previously suggested, Guzman would have some measure of cross-party appeal. Kuff and/or political scientists adept at mining election data could do an analysis to see if there is a difference in her prior electoral performance (vis-a-vis other Republican judicial candidates) in rural and urban areas that might be attributed to sex or ethnicity, or the “intersectionality” of both. A disaggregated analysis of patterns would be more revealing than just looking at statewide tallies of different SCOTX candidates. And it should also be possible to ascertain whether there is a home-advantage in Harris County, or even in the East End, controlling for party.  

    The general wisdom is that voters like female candidates for judicial office. And good looks certainly don’t hurt either, from a decision-heuristics perspective with respect to low-information races. As long as there is money available to get your face out in the public, that is. Buying ad space on the Trib website with an invitation to view the debut campaign video seems like a smart move and a promising start.

    SURVEY DATA SOURCE: Quinnipiac University Poll Press Release, Texans Split On Whether Gov. Abbott Deserves To Be Reelected (June 23, 2021) 

  4. asmith says:

    Sid Miller v James White will be an interesting primary if it happens.

  5. Pingback: James White to challenge Sid Miller – Off the Kuff

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