Page 12


EPUBLICAN FOR TEXAS HOUSE REPUBLICAN FOR TEXAS HOUSE While blunt, the sentiment had a certain logic to it. In recent years, Texas Republican politicsaside from an occasional spasm from the right-wing grassrootshas been a topdown enterprise run by a small circle of powerful politicians financed by a few extremely rich ideologues. By comparison, the Parent PAC concept seemed almost nave. Boyle was a longtime Austin PTA member and a veteran Girl Scout leader behalf of public education groups. The other seven members of Parent PAC were either PTA activists or members of their local school boards. Many were stay-at-home moms and campaign novices; treasurer Staley Gray is the carpool driver for her son’s soccer team. Pitted against Craddick and the handful of millionaires who bankroll the Legislature’s right-wing leadership, a collection of volunteer soccer moms didn’t seem to have much of a chance. Yet, on March 7the night of perhaps the most influential Republican primary ever in Texasthere they were, crowded into an Arlington dive bar named J. Gilligan’s to celebrate a resounding triumph in the state’s headliner race. Diane Patrick, a University of Texas-Arlington professor, had handyear House incumbent and powerful chairman of the House Education Committee. As the face of the right-wing’s master plan for education, Grusendorf was Parent PAC’s top target. He was the man who treated school superintendents and PTA members as if they were trifling little annoyances, going so far as to introduce a group of PTA members about to testify at a committee hearing as “a look behind the Iron Curtain.” And now they had taken him out. The key to Patrick’s win, as with all grassroots campaigns, was turnout. The race attracted a record number of early of votes Grusendorf had received in each of his two previous primary elections. The mood at his election night party at the Arlington Hilton was grim. A few dozen supporters in business attire milled around the fully stocked open bar and large buffet spread. \(It clearly wasn’t Grusendorf’s night: the sign out front misspelled his name, welcoming visitors to “Kent was packed with several hundred rowdy teachers, education activists, and PTA members clad in green-and-white Patrick campaign t-shirts, drinking $2 beers, munching chips and salsa, and dancing to the tunes of a local band comprised of school district employees. A little after 9 p.m., the band members hauled out the victory song they had composed to tune of “Your Cheatin’ Heart””Go walk the floor the way I do/Kent Grusendorf: we’re tired of you.” But Boyle wasn’t ready to celebrate. Camped out at the back of the bar, she pressed her cell phone to her ear. Numbers were still coming in from 14 other House races across the state in which the Parent PAC had endorsed a candidate. A few Diane Patrick photo by Dave Mann MARCH 24, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7