Lawrence Person’s BattleSwarm Blog endorses Ted Cruz for United States Senator. I believe that Cruz is the best candidate, that he has the longest, strongest, and deepest commitment to conservative principles among all the candidates running, and that he will make the best United States Senator for Texas.
Because I strive to be both fair and clear, I want to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of all the other Republican candidates in the race, and why I believe Ted Cruz is the superior choice for Senator.
Let’s dispense with the candidates that didn’t run serious campaigns: Dr. Joe Agris never bothered to even put up a website and never campaigned beyond an event appearance or two; I can only assume his run is a way to advertise his medical practice. Ben Gambini did little better, only managing a Facebook page and a few events. Curt Cleaver at least made some effort, but not enough to make an impression,
Lela Pittenger ran a semi-serious campaign, raising some money and appearing at numerous events, but I always got the impression that she was running more for ego than to take principled positions at odds with the more prominent candidates. Plus I never got the impression she put in the sustained effort into the nitty gritty, unglamorous work that a real longshot candidate has to in order to have any chance of succeeding.
With all but one of the longshots dispensed with (we’ll get to him further down), let’s turn to the major candidates.
Given how heavily favored he was coming into this race, it’s shocking how poor a job Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has done campaigning.
To be sure, Dewhurst has many strengths, but two of his strongest (name recognition and personal wealth) play no role in my deciding who to endorse. And while I’m impressed with his U.S. Air Force service and his business acumen in amassing a $200+ million fortune, both of those attributes must take a very distant backseat to his decade-long record as Lt. Governor.
Some of Dewhurst’s record is worthy of praise. While other state governments have spent money like drunken sailors in a Thai whorehouse using George Soros’ stolen credit card, Texas, under Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst, has generally controlled spending, has balanced the budget without raising taxes (though some of that has been accomplished through gimmicks), and actually reduced the state budget for the 2012-2013 biennium compared to the 2010-2011 budget. What share of credit does Lt. Governor Dewhurst take for this achievement? A fair amount. While constrained both by the overall direction of the Governor’s Office of Budget, Planning, and Policy, and by the Comptroller’s revenue estimates, the Lt. Governor has considerable control over the process by virtue not only of his oversight of the day-to-day affairs of the state senate, but also his ability to essentially pick half the seats on the Legislative Budget Board, which has a large hand in establishing and managing budget priorities.
This, and his efforts at shepherding through the (constitutionally required) 2003 redistricting are among the primary reasons Dewhurst has been considered a conservative. And I have defended Dewhurst from charges he was a RINO in the past. Dewhurst occupies that vast gray area between real RINOs such as Arlen Specter and Charlies Crist and true movement conservatives; call him a “big business Republican,” the sort of guy who will defend the free market 90% of the time, but won’t let anything like principles stand in the way of doing favors for well connected friends. (That would also explain why, though he has mostly contributed to Republican candidates, he did make two donations to Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen.) I fear that Dewhurst is probably the most amenable of all the candidates of signing on with the sort of “grand compromise” that gets praised by the press for selling out conservatives rather than fighting to shrink the size and scope of the federal government.
There’s been real dissatisfaction with Dewhurst among movement conservatives for years. Despite having controlling majorities in both House and Senate, conservative Republicans found their agenda being thwarted in many ways great and small by Dewhurst in the Senate and Speaker Joe Straus in the House:
Dewhurst, much more than Perry, has been willing to compromise on higher spending levels.
Dewhurst floated the idea of a “Payroll Tax” that Cruz has characterized (I think correctly) as a stealth income tax.
Last year Dewhurst floated the idea of raiding the Rainy Day Fund until Perry put his foot down and ruled it out.
Dewhurst has frequently chosen Democrats and moderate Republicans as committee chairmen.
Dewhurst has frequently compromised on conservative legislative priorities even when he didn’t have to. To be sure, part of his job description is hammering out compromises, but he has frequently seemed to seek out such compromises as a first resort, rather than the last.
Numerous insider accounts attest that Dewhurst personally killed Dan Patrick’s anti-TSA groping bill, choosing to knuckle under to the Obama Administration’s empty threats of stopping all air traffic to Texas rather than making liberals defend idiotic practices that are deeply unpopular with the public at large.
All this was bad enough, but his lackluster campaign and poor public speaking skills have given even more reasons for voters to look elsewhere. The Cruz campaign was right to ding Dewhurst for his repeated failures to show up at numerous candidate debates and forums across the country, but the Belo debate went a long way toward showing why exactly why Dewhurst has been avoiding such events: He’s not a good debater, he doesn’t seem to think quickly on his feet, and he seemed to grow worse and more confused as the night went on. Frankly, he didn’t seem up to the job.
Then there’s the issue of his indifference or even hostility to both new media and grassroots conservative activism. The fact that Dewhurst was the only major Republican senate candidate not only unable to find time to sit down for an interview for this blog, but whose campaign even failed to even respond to repeated requests, is only a minor concern (after all, people are busy). But it’s emblematic of the larger issue of Dewhurst’s indifference to new media, the Tea Party, and voters. You can bash Obama failures all day, but that won’t make you stand out from any other Republican candidate in the entire country. Dewhurst is an insider, establishment Republican who seems to have made zero effort to reach out to Tea Party voters.
This quote from Tea Party 911 blogger Barry Schlech neatly encapsulates what many Texas conservatives think about Dewhurst:
There is not a lot of tea party support for Mr. Dewhurst because of his more liberal Republican views. He has probably sensed this animosity since he has been unavailable for or a “no-show” at many of the tea party events to which he was invited. He is seen, by many, to represent the “good ol’ boy moderate to liberal Republican establishment that is well entrenched in Austin. He is seen as a close ally to House Speaker Joe Straus whom the tea party does not respect. Many tea partiers are not happy with this liberal Republican clique in Austin and want to change to a more representative and more conservative legislature.
All that said, David Dewhurst has some real strengths. He’s good at making and cultivating business and cultural connections, good at managing the intricacies of the legislative agenda, good at finding compromises and building consensus, and good at the backslapping minutia of legislative interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, those are precisely the qualities I’m not looking for in my Senator. I don’t want a negotiator, I want a conservative fighter. I want someone to fight for shrinking the size and scope of the federal government and reign in insanely bloated federal spending, not manage it better. There are quite enough get-along-to-go-along compromisers in the senate already; we don’t need another one.
There are no areas in which I think David Dewhurst would do a better job than Ted Cruz in the Senate, but many in which I think he would perform markedly worse.
Speaking of people who I just don’t think are up to job, let’s talk about Craig James. James has a lot of strengths: he’s handsome, charismatic, personable, and has done very well for himself in his post-NFL business career. Politically James’ heart seems to be in the right place, he seems considerably more authentic and less calculated than Dewhurst, and his decision to release several years of his own tax returns was a savvy move for increased transparency the other candidates were forced to emulate. James seems to have awakened politically to the numerous problems facing the nation and how far we’ve drifted from a constitutional republic of enumerated powers. That’s a great first step on your political journey.
Unfortunately, the next step in that journey is not “Run for the United States Senate.” The second step is to read widely, broadly and deeply of both classic and modern political thought. The Constitution and The Bible are great first steps, but you should also read The Federalist Papers and Democracy in America and The Wealth of Nations and The Road to Serfdom and Economics in One Lesson and The Gulag Archipelago and The Black Book of Communism and Darkness at Noon and Up From Liberalism and Conscience of a Conservative and Losing Ground and Liberal Fascism and, yes, Atlas Shrugged, even if you object to Ayn Rand’s anti-religious bias. Start there, keep reading, and soon you’ll have the intellectual underpinnings to deepen and articulate your views. (It would also help you get beyond the irritatingly vague and platitudinous nature of your answers on any issues that go beyond your standard talking points.)
James doesn’t have that intellectual depth yet, and the fact that he hadn’t even heard of the Posse Comitatus Act is emblematic of his inexperience. His problems are compounded by his late start and his background. If you start out as a professional football player and then move into sports broadcasting, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to convince people that you have the intellectual acumen to run for public office. (Jack Kemp worked very hard at establishing his policy credentials.) James’ problem is compounded by his unwise decision to declare he was living on “Real Street” as his campaign’s central rhetorical motif. Craig, you were a professional football player and broadcaster. It doesn’t matter how many mayonnaise sandwiches you ate in your hardscrabble youth, the voting public at large is never going to believe an ex-NFL player/broadcaster is living on “real street,” no matter how hard you try or how many jobs you create as a businessman. Give it up.
Craig James isn’t ready to be Senator. Could he “skill up” to be electable a few years down the road, once the Texas Tech controversy has faded? Very possibly, though more likely at the congressional than senatorial level. (Let’s face it, when the bar starts at Sheila Jackson Lee, there are few non-incarcerated Republicans that aren’t up to the task.)
I’ll give this to Tom Leppert: When this campaign started, I really didn’t see myself ranking him higher than just about any of the declared candidates (which at the time included Roger Williams, Michael Williams, and Elizabeth Ames Jones) or Dewhurst. Leppert is intelligent, he’s dogged, he’s a very good one-on-one retail politician, he doesn’t make many mistakes, he’s assembled a campaign team second only to Cruz’s in their competence and grasp of new media, and he has much better stage presence than Dewhurst.
So given all that, and Leppert’s solid conservative policy positions on a wide range of issues, why doesn’t he rank higher? Mainly because until October 13, 2010, when Leppert endorsed Rick Perry in the gubernatorial race, Leppert gave absolutely no public sign that he was even a Republican, much less a conservative Republican. Before he started running for mayor, Leppert was just another rich guy whose campaign contributions went to people on both sides of the aisle, including contributions to Democrats like Texas Senate candidate Ron Kirk in 2002, Hawaii’s incumbent Senator Daniel K. Inouye in 1992 and again in 1998, and congressional contender (and later Honolulu mayor and member of Bloomberg’s gun-grabbing Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition) Muliufi Francis Hannemannin in 1990.
While running for mayor of Dallas in 2007, Leppert:
Sought the endorsement of the left-wing SEIU public employees union:
Sought the endorsement of far left pressure group ACORN, who have been quite busy committing voter fraud in Texas and elsewhere.
Did the same thing with the Dallas gay community, marching in their parades while running for mayor of Dallas, only to reverse course when he decided to run for the senate. “After being in office and reaching out to the gay community, he then basically turned his back and slapped us in the face because it was politically expedient to do so.”
When he first ran for Mayor, as a moderate and a supporter of working men and women, he was pro-SEIU, pro-public employees organizing, pro-collective bargaining.
So committed to these ideals was Tom, that he vigorously pursued SEIU’s endorsement.
So committed to these ideals was Tom, that he came to our union organizing launch in the Water Department — encouraging folks to join SEIU.
So committed to these ideals was Tom, he frequently threw on an SEIU T-shirt and came to our union hall.
So committed to these ideals was Tom, that he wrote a letter of support to Senator West and testified in favor of SEIU members getting a form of collective bargaining.
Tom even signed an SEIU membership card!
Now, that Tom wants to compete in a Republican primary, he has renounced his support of unions and even has the gall to declare he “has expanded the Right to Work.”
And that’s just while running for mayor. His record as Mayor of Dallas has just as many question marks on both conservative and good governance grounds:
Why did he push so hard for the Trinity Toll Road to be situated inside a flood plain rather than outside it, against the wishes of the Army Corps of Engineers, driving up costs in the process? (The initial cost was estimated at $400 million; it’s now projected at $2 billion, and the construction still hasn’t started.)
Why did he push so hard for the city to spend $550 million for a city-owned hotel?
What role did the now-dead Lynn Flint Shaw (Leppert’s treasurer during his mayoral campaign) and Willis Johnson play in steering minority contracts under the Leppert Administration?
And there are at least two or three other big question marks about Leppert’s term as mayor. Indeed, one sign of how controversial that term was is how rarely he talks about it on the campaign trail, where he puts his business background first and foremost, as though his four years as mayor of Texas’ third largest city never happened.
The least charitable explanation for Tom Leppert’s behavior is that he’s a pure political animal with no core ideological beliefs other than being elected. The most charitable explanation is that he’s been a “secret conservative” all along, and was just waiting for the opportunity to proclaim to the world what he actually believes. My own suspicion is that he, like Dewhurst, fits neatly into the “get along to go along” establishment Republican mold. Like Dewhurst, I doubt Leppert would be notably more conservative as a senator than the departing Kay Baily Hutchison. That’s not good enough.
But even if he were a “secret conservative” all these years, why would I prefer him to someone like Ted Cruz who’s never been afraid to proclaim and defend conservative principles throughout the entirety of his career?
So that takes care of all the major candidates besides Cruz. But there’s still one candidate we haven’t covered. If I weren’t voting for Cruz, I would probably cast my vote for Glenn Addison.
Though a relative unknown, Addison has probably worked harder than any other candidate on the campaign trail, he’s well-spoken with a certain folksy charm, and he’s run a serious campaign in every aspect except funding. With his energy and effort, he could easily be a successful candidate in a down-ballot race.
Addison has staked out strong conservative positions on just about every issue, but there are a few I disagree with. I oppose his desire to sanction China for currency manipulation (protectionism is still loser economics). His evidently friendliness with the John Birch Society (there’s a reason William F. Buckley, Jr. felt compelled to cast them out of the respectable ranks of the conservative movement) is not a plus. And the few areas that I do prefer his policies over Cruz (eliminating the EPA and the Departments of Education and Energy, for example) are ones which have absolutely no chance of being passed in the near future. Which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be pushed for…
If Ted Cruz were not in the race, I would vote for Addison knowing that he would probably be creamed by Dewhurst.
Fortunately, Ted Cruz is in the race.
Early on there was debate whether Cruz or Michael Williams was the best Tea Party candidate for the seat. Cruz won that “Tea Party Primary” so decisively that Williams dropped out. Not only is Cruz the unquestioned Tea Party representative, he is the one with the broadest and deepest conservative background. While the phrase “Ivy League Trial Lawyer” is technically accurate, you don’t specialize in 9th and 10th Amendment studies because you want to be rich, and you don’t work at the Texas Public Policy Foundation if you want moderate Republicans to consider you one of their own. Cruz is not only exceptionally sharp, an excellent debater and a gifted public speaker, he’s also a classic fusionist candidate with both strong free market and social conservative credentials, and fits the definition of the rightmost electable candidate in the race.
Don’t buy the MSM consensus wisdom that Dewhurst is invulnerable because he’s rich. There are lots of “unbeatable” politicians who have been knocked off by lesser-known challengers. Ed Koch was a shoe-in for Governor of New York until he ran into Mario Cuomo. Charlie Crist was going to mop the floor with Marco Rubio until he didn’t. George H. W. Bush looked invulnerable heading into 1992. Despite Dewhurst’s numerous advantages, he hasn’t been able to poll above 50% and Cruz has been steadily eating into his lead. I’ve had relatives who aren’t nearly as politically aware as I express unbidden how impressed they are with Cruz. The grassroots excitement about Cruz is not only palpable here in Texas, but among conservative and Tea Party organizations across the country, with conservative senate stalwarts like Jim DeMint and Rand Paul eager to help Cruz join their ranks.
I believe Ted Cruz is far and away the best best candidate in the race, and I urge all my Texas readers to cast their votes for him as the next United States Senator from Texas in the Republican primary.