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David Dewhurst and Dan Branch Shouldn’t Concede

Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton are hoping their runoff opponents will fly a white flag—but it would be a bad thing for Texans.
by Published on
David Dewhurst
Patrick Michels
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

After last week’s primary, Texas now faces a grueling two-and-a-half months of runoff election campaigns. Every candidate who won less than 50 percent of the vote last Tuesday has to square off with the second-place finisher for a May 27 runoff. They’d prefer not to do this, of course. Runoffs take time and money that could be spent preparing for the general election (or measuring drapes for your new office at the Capitol.) So up and down the ballot, first-place finishers are trying to shame their opponents into giving up and conceding before the runoff campaign even starts.

One candidate, comptroller hopeful Harvey Hilderbran, has already withdrawn, but that was a special circumstance. His opponent, Glenn Hegar, won 49.99 percent of the vote, and the runoff appeared a formality. But Dan Patrick, who won 41.4 percent of the primary vote to David Dewhurst’s 28.3 percent, is also trying to sumo-slam his challenger into conceding. Allen Blakemore, Patrick’s campaign manager, told reporters recently that “the position for Mr. Dewhurst is rather hopeless.”

Ken Paxton, who won 44.4 percent of the vote to Dan Branch’s 33.4 percent, is also trying to muscle out his opponent. Yesterday, fourteen state representatives signed a letter asking Branch to drop out for “party unity.” The same thing is happening in downballot primary races like the one in Senate District 10, where tea partier Konni Burton, who won 43.2 percent of the vote, faces Mark Shelton, who won 35.1 percent.

Dewhurst, Branch and Shelton are all unlikely to win their runoffs. But it would be deeply unfortunate for Texas voters if they just conceded—and it would be unnecessarily fatalistic from the perspective of plain political calculus.

For years, blogger Matthew Yglesias had a simple rule for politicians who get caught up in scandals: don’t resign. If you’re a politician who gets caught with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar, persevere through the darkest news cycles—when even your own party just want you to disappear—and there’s a good chance you’ll end up no worse than even.

Take the twin cases of Louisiana Senator David Vitter and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, said Yglesias. Spitzer resigned after his passion for galavanting with high-price escorts surfaced, and remains a laughingstock, with New York Post reporters stalking his girlfriend. Vitter, a major client of the so-called D.C. Madam, rode out the largest capital prostitution scandal in memory. As Washington whispered about his uncommon fetishes, he struck a pose of repentance. Three years later, he cruised to his reelection, and four years after that, he’s now the favorite to become governor of Louisiana.

The point: Politics may be the art of the possible, but it can also be about playing long odds. Those who hang tough are occasionally rewarded. The most important thing is to stay in the game and keep moving forward. That’s the strategy being practiced by both Rick Perry and Chris Christie right now. Let’s suggest a corollary to Yglesias’ rule: don’t concede, and don’t ever, ever give up. Just ask Ted Cruz.

That’s not to say that Dan Branch or David Dewhurst is Ted Cruz, of course. Frankly, like Blakemore, I don’t currently see a way for Dewhurst to win either. But two-and-a-half months is an eternity in politics. Who knows what will happen? Think, also, about the dynamic in the lieutenant governor’s race: Patrick has relentlessly attacked Dewhurst for months, but Patrick was somewhat protected—at least until the end—by the four-way race that preceded election day. Now Dewhurst has only Patrick to fight, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve kept some powder dry. Patrick has a long and somewhat unusual history outside politics. Let’s see what comes up. The same goes for Paxton and Branch—there’s no telling what will develop.

The other thing conceding would do is deprive Texans of a voice. Patrick won primary night with 41.4 percent—is that what passes for a mandate? I see nothing wrong with making sure that a majority of the state Republican Party wants Dan Patrick, who would be the most right-wing lt. governor the state has ever had, as their nominee—even if the answer is “yes” and the outcome is preordained.

On his recent call with reporters, Blakemore argued that the 30 percent of voters who voted for Staples and Patterson had already chosen not to vote for Dewhurst—making them likely Patrick supporters. But looked at another way, that 30 percent made the decision not to vote for Dewhurst’s front-running challenger, Patrick.

Here’s the other thing: We don’t know enough about this election year to know if Democrat Leticia Van de Putte’s campaign will be competitive in November. But, hypothetically, if it isn’t, the May runoff will be the last chance for Texans have a hand in picking the lt. governor. In the attorney general race, where Democrats have a spectacularly-named but improbable candidate named Sam Houston, the race between Ken Paxton and Dan Branch could be the last meaningful say Texans have, too—albeit, a very small number of them. Why deprive them of that?

  • getoffmylawn

    Dewhurst should stay in. Not because he would be any better than Patrick, but for entertainment value. Besides, as you say, Patrick has a VERY interesting background. Being a no-count, loud mouthed, gun toting bigot in the state senate ain’t statewide. It could get very interesting.

    • JoeAllen

      Dear get…, I like Patrick because he wants to empower parents concerning SCHOOL CHOICE. Dewhurst blocked all legislation that encouraged school choice. Most of our big-city Government schools have become Democrat indoctrination centers.

  • JoeAllen

    I like Patrick because he wants to empower parents concerning SCHOOL CHOICE. Dewhurst blocked all legislation that encouraged school choice. Most of our big-city Government schools have become Democrat indoctrination centers.

    • getoffmylawn

      “School choice”. Code for privatizing education for money. A recipe for disaster and decline of Texas and the US. It’s only peddled by morons who are too stupid to not understand and folks who stand to profit. Want to become Somalia? The first step is to dismantle education.

      • JoeAllen

        We got along without bureaucratic, self-serving government schools up to the time of the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and Ben Franklin and Abe Lincoln were products of PRIVATE schools. A higher percentage of Americans were literate in 1790 than are literate today. Moreover, all universities were private (Princeton, Harvard, etc) up to the time of the Civil War.

        PS: Are you or were you, a government employee … ???

        • getoffmylawn

          What? To what country are you referring? Literacy rates have risen steadily since the Civil War, ESPECIALLY amongst the former slave class, African Americans, who were intentionally made illiterate. This gigantic improvement is a DIRECT result of government commitment to education. Of COURSE Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and Lincoln were educated privately. THERE WAS NO broad PUBLIC SYSTEM when they were growing up, and you would know that if not willfully ignorant. When Jefferson and Franklin became FOUNDERS, they pushed to establish a system of public schools, as early as 1779. You advocating for a private system only plays into the hands of those who want to profit at our society’s expense and is directly contrary to history. I am personally a product of public schools, all the way through college. I’m self made, and run my own business. PS – Did you get your BS in Rewritten History from the University of Glenn Beck? You couldn’t be more wrong. Buy a history book and read it to avoid looking like a revisionist moron in public.

          • JoeAllen

            Thanks for your perspective. You are correct, most Black slaves were NOT literate. However, today we spend billions of dollars on inner-city schools, and the results are terrible. LBJ’s Great Society has destroyed the Black family.

            We disagree, but I think your perspective is valuable. Have a blessed Holy Week.

          • getoffmylawn

            My “perspective”? The problem with conservatives is if the facts don’t line up with their ideology, they ignore them. Are urban schools a huge problem? Absolutely. However, the blame LBJ is quite simply moronic. AND privatizing is precisely the wrong direction to fix education. Since public education works in every other industrialized society on the planet, certainly it can work in the US. However, as long as clowns like Dan Patrick are treated with anything but disdain, we will continue to mark time, falling farther and farther behind other countries. You said literacy before the civil war was higher than today. That’s demonstrably false. You also said that aristocrats like Washington and Jefferson were educated privately, leaping to a breathtaking conclusion that public education is therefore terrible. Since public education wasn’t even available in their day, it’s pretty silly to even draw that conclusion. Forward a few actual objective facts, then we’ll talk. I won’t debate nonsense that Patrick spouts.

          • getoffmylawn

            Joe, I’ve noticed that you make the same comment over and over on multiple threads touting Patrick’s supposed “education choice”. You wouldn’t happen to be a campaign operative for Patrick posing as a commenter, would you?

          • JoeAllen

            I have contributed modestly to the Patrick campaign, but do NOT work for the campaign. I voted for Ted Cruz over Dewhurst and will vote for Patrick over Dewhurst. I very much dislike fat-ass Cornyn and war-lover McCain.

          • getoffmylawn

            Then, unfortunately, you are an ignoramus, who focuses on predisposition to ideology, without critical thinking. Cruz, Patrick, Perry, Abbott, Dewhurst, Gohmert, Culberson, and Cornyn are all embarrassments to Texas. I long for the days of Connolly, Barbara Jordan, LBJ, and other talents who are now long gone. Texas is lost, relegated to the dregs of the worst states. I never dreamed we would trail Mississippi and Alabama. But it has come true.

          • getoffmylawn

            Joe, last comment. The Tea Party is nothing more than the John Birch society reconstitituted. While claiming that it’s all about taxes (that are at a 60 year low), it’s really about race. The TP is well funded by billionaires who whip up hatred to drive people like you to the polls to vote for their interests. Pay attention. Here are some good questions and answers you need to read. http://claireconner.com/q-a-with-claire-conner/

          • JoeAllen

            I think the Tea Party does need more minority participation. I welcome people of all races and creeds into the TP. TP people simply see the USA as a decentralized UNION (like the EU). The US Constitution sets up a UNION. The States existed before the Union. The States began in 1776 and the Union was created in 1781.

            Unfortunately, since WW2, many Americans think of the USA as a Nation, not a Union. Today many Americans see the States as arbitrary districts of the almighty Federal Government. I say let the States decide most issues independently (Gay marriage, legalized abortion, etc). Have a great 2014.

          • getoffmylawn

            If the Tea Party wants minority participation, it has a funny way of showing it. It’s nothing but the John Birch Society whitewashed to look like something it’s not. No minority should join or will join, but for a very few. We are certainly a union, but not just a union. You’re revising history again. We have over 200 years of case law that supports the constitutionality of our nation. Should your birth state determine if you have a decent education? Healthcare? How long you live? Whether you can make a living? I think not. These are all basic to life, and are non-negotiable. Some old, fat, white guy in Austin simply doesn’t have the right to tell a woman whether she should give birth, have access to birth control, or if her child can get a decent education, especially when that same woman, should she live in Vermont, have all those things unquestionably. “States rights” is simply code for wanting to discriminate. The Tea Party wants to take us back 160 years. I’ll personally fight THAT till my last breath.

        • getoffmylawn

          “I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness…Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils [tyranny, oppression, etc.] and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.” Thomas Jefferson, 1986

          • JoeAllen

            Thanks for the quote.