The US Senate Race is a runoff for an open seat. There were 9 people who filed this year, of which 3 received significant numbers of votes – Tom Leppert, former mayor of Dallas; Ted Cruz, Solicitor General under Attorney General Greg Abbot; and David Dewhurst, the current Lieutenant Governor . The top two, Cruz and Dewhurst, are in contention for this race.
Both of these candidates have strong credentials. David Dewhurst has presided over a very conservative state senate since Rick Perry became Governor, and has shepherded through significant and far-reaching pro-life and conservative legislation. Texas is not allowed to run a deficit by State law, and Dewhurst has ensured that this has been accomplished without raising the Sales Tax.
Dewhurst is controversial because he backed the Margins Tax, which is organized as either a gross sales or gross payroll tax. The State Constitution forbids the use of an income tax, and payroll taxes are very similar in effect to income taxes. He is also controversial because of two bills that were killed during the 82nd legislature. One would have stopped the Federal Government from “groping” people in airport security screening procedures. Although Dewhurst passed this bill during the regular session, it missed some important deadlines and was brought back up during the first special session. The re-introduced special session bill was subsequently killed in the Senate due mainly to the lobbying efforts of Dewhurst.
Dewhurst would serve honourably in the Senate, with good experience in pragmatic compromise towards incremental improvements towards a more conservative approach to government. He raises some concern in that he may not understand the appropriate limits of the Federal government as specified in article 1 section 8 and the 9th and 10th amendments to the US Constitution.
Ted Cruz also has solid credentials. As Solicitor General, he argued a number of important cases before the US Supreme court. He also had to coordinate with Solicitors General from other states on cases that the states were working on together.
The cases that he argued at the US Supreme Court demonstrate a clear understanding of the limits of the Federal Government. However, he has no experience in crafting legislation. That has not stopped current senators like Jim Demint and RIck Santorum from endorsing him. Cruz has significant support inside and outside of Texas, and is seen as a rising leader among the young, energetic, conservative crowd.
Cruz is controversial because, while in private practice, he defended a Chinese owned company in court. He is also controversial because he has no experience as an elected official.
From a long-term view, many inside the “establishment” hoped that Cruz would run for Attorney General in 2010, assuming that certain dominoes fell. In fact, Cruz began campaigning for that seat in mid 2009. However, when Kay Bailey Hutchinson decided to not resign in 2010, that plan was set aside. His subsequent entry into the US Senate race caught many insiders by surprise. It is time for new leadership in the Texas House, and many were expecting Dewhurst to become US Senator, opening a position as Lieutenant Governor for some other leader such as Jerry Patterson or Todd Staples. Greg Abbot is also widely expected to run for Governor in 2014, which would allow Cruz to run for Attorney General. Should Dewhurst be elected there would be a vacancy in the Lieutenant Governor slot. As I understand it, that would be filled by the State Senate, and most observers expect Dan Patrick to be elected as the Lieutenant Governor to finish the unexpired term while Patterson and Staples campaign for the position in 2014.
This race has been very difficult for me to take sides on. Among people I trust endorsements are fairly even between the two candidates. And the Texas Republican Assembly, of which I am a chapter president, has issued no endorsement on this race.