November 08, 2005
HD78: Gunning for Haggerty

If you're wondering how the chips will fall from the House revolt that led to the death of the Perry/Craddick-back school finance reform plans, consider this story from Capitol Inside (sent to me by reader DH):

Some of Governor Rick Perry's key supporters in the El Paso area have rallied behind local educator Lorraine O'Donnell as she prepares to challenge Republican State Rep. Pat Haggerty in the March primary election - less than two months after announcing plans to run against his brother for county commissioner next year.

O'Donnell - a school board trustee who runs the continuing education program at the University of Texas at El Paso - will be the featured guest Wednesday night at a reception that's being held to raise funds for her bid to unseat Haggerty as he seeks a ninth term in the House in 2006.


Pat Haggerty, who's compiled a moderate voting record since entering the Legislature in 1989, is a member of a group of House Republicans who GOP insiders are referring to increasingly as the "Hochberg 14" - meaning they voted to replace their own party's school finance plan with a Democratic alternative during the second special session this past summer. With the 14 Republicans' support, House Democrats effectively gutted the Republican school bill with an amendment that State Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston successfully tacked on to the school bill. The Democrats' plan had more support from superintendents, school board members and other educators across the state than the majority proposal.

For the past three months, Republican conservatives have been threatening to field primary opponents against the GOP members who crossed party lines on the school bill vote. Two of the 14 Republican who backed the Hochberg amendment are not seeking re-election - and so far only five of the remaining 12 have drawn primary challenges. Two of those who face primary opponents - State Reps. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie and Elvira Reyna of Mesquite - have been members of Speaker Tom Craddick's team and haven't been viewed as "RINOs" - Republicans in Name Only - like others who broke ranks on the
school vote. There are no signs at this point that their primary foes were party establishment recruits.

But Haggerty has long been one of the most independent-minded members of the Texas House - and he's done little to try to change that reputation despite threats over the years of primary foes and party cleansing with GOP establishment support. Haggerty's maverick image didn't stop Craddick from backing the El Paso lawmaker's re-election bid last year. With Craddick's support, Haggerty buried former Republican Judge Peter Pecca in the 2004 primary election with more than 70 percent of the vote. Like Perry, Craddick so far hasn't taken a public position on the GOP contest in the state's westernmost city this time around.

Despite grumblings from conservatives over the years, Haggerty hadn't faced primary opposition in more than a decade until Pecca filed to run against him last year. Some Republicans, however, apparently think O'Donnell has a realistic chance to beat him.

Be careful what you wish for. Consider the following, taken from the HD78 election analysis:

*BUSH/CHENEY R 25,803 55.7%
KERRY/EDWARDS D 20,512 44.3%

BRIGHAM, DAVID R 19,700 44.0%
*REYES, SILVESTRE D 25,042 56.0%

*CARRILLO, VICTOR G. R 21,823 52.6%
SCARBOROUGH, BOB D 19,676 47.4%

*BRISTER, SCOTT R 23,086 54.3%
VAN OS, DAVID D 19,410 45.7%

*KEASLER, MIKE R 22,236 52.0%
MOLINA, J.R. D 20,559 48.0%

*HAGGERTY, PAT R 30,114 100.0%

That's 112,648 votes for Republicans in contested races, and 105,199 for Democrats, which makes a 51.7%/48.3% split. If you take out the CD16 race (which as far as I can tell covers all of HD78), that's still 92,948 to 80,157, or 53.7%/46.3%. Now consider that if you assume Presidential turnout levels, Haggerty would have gotten 65% in a contested race (he was, by nearly 2000 ballots, the top votegetter in this district). If the Texas GOP wants to turn this seat from a safe one into a potentially very competitive one, they should go right ahead and knock off Pat Haggerty in a primary. I'll be the first to send O'Donnell's fundraisers, all of whom are on the Perry campaign steering committee, a thank-you note if they do.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 08, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack