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Peggy Hamric photo by Troy Fields Democrats are responding, Patrick says. Recently, Patrick insurgents have been taking over positions as precinct chairs. So much so that, bolstered by a bevy of new recruits, Patrick claims endorsements from more than 100 Republican precinct chairs in the senatorial district, as well as backing from the State Republican Executive Committee. At the same time, however, his candidacy is loathed by a significant segment of the party regulars, as well as by powerful business interests. The voters who used to be called “rock-ribbed” Republicans, the party stalwarts who once were the backbone constituency for the late Senator John Tower and former President George H.W. Bush, now find themselves disdained by Patrick as “RINOs,” shorthand for “Republicans In Name Only.” The acrimony on both sides is palpable. “He’s a radical right-winger,” says Kay Shillock, past president of the Greater Houston Council of Republican Women and a longtime party activist. Shillock is self-assured and well dressed; she wears a flowing prismatic scarf about her neck, and an “I’m for Peggy” button. Interviewed after a candidates’ forum sponsored by a Republican women’s group, Shillock says that she no longer calls herself “conservative;” these days, she prefers the moniker “traditional Republican.” Shillock expresses irritation that during Patrick’s appearance at the political forum he made several references to his born-again religious convictions. That, she thinks, could have been a turn-off for any Jewish voters who might have been present. True Christianity, in her view, does not mean foisting religious beliefs on others or legislating morality. Though she is a self-described Protestant, Shillock has little truck with fundamentalists who inject their religious beliefs into the political process. “I have a problem with that,” she says. “I don’t think it has a place in the political spectrum.” Her anti-Patrick sentiments are shared by Senator Lindsay, the 70-year-old incumbent and former chief executive of Harris County. “I think he would be terrible in the Senate,” Lindsay says of Patrick in a candid telephone interview. “He’d be a difficult person for the lieutenant governor and the leadership to work with. I don’t think his agenda would be good for the state of Texas.” The senator holds little regard for Patrick’s proposal to make the Senate operate more like the House and enact legislation by a simple majority. “I think the two-thirds rule is something that keeps the Senate stable,” he says. “You can’t just steamroller people. It makes sure that the minorities are represented.” By “minorities,” Lindsay explains, he doesn’t mean members of ethnic groups but “the rural guys and members of the party out of power.” It also galls Lindsay that Patrick has made illegal immigration a front-and-center issue in the campaign. “This is really not a state issue,” Lindsay says, “and you don’t hear him explain how he’d fund it. He’s misleading folks into thinking it’s a black-and-white issue that’s easy to fix, but it would be expensive.” Although Lindsay would have preferred to stay neutral, he’s now backing Hamric. “I’m not a Dan Patrick fan,” he says. “He’s an extremist. And if Joe gets into the runoff,” he adds of Rep. Nixon, “I’ll support Joe.” But Hamric has emerged as the senator’s favorite. Lindsay worked closely with her on knotty problems involving municipal utility districts and groundwater and surfacewater issues back when he was Harris County’s chief executive. “And I’ve worked with her at the Legislature,” he adds. “She knows the district well and knows what needs to be done, and she’s not a carpetbagger.” Was he branding Patrick a carpetbagger? “There’s no telling where Dan Patrick’s coming from,” Lindsay says. Rep. Joe Nixon has assumed the role of Patrick’s chief antagonist. He regularly lambastes Patrick for continuing his radio show after his October 17 campaign announcement. Patrick signed off the air in late December, just days before the January 2, 2006 filing deadline. Under a rule of the Federal Communications Commission, his opponents would have to be given equal time if he continued broadcasting. \(Patrick is reporting inkind contributions from the radio station valued at $119,000. He has also lent his campaign more than $300,000, accordNixon has all but accused Patrick of carpetbagging as well, noting at every opportunity that “one candidate in the race” bought a condo in the Senatorial district in September 2005, which narrowly qualified him for residency in the district. “If 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 24, 2006