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Ruin Haan International Headquarters Come Visit us for LUNCH! In addition to our organic coffee, pizzas, empanadas, pastries and pies, we now prepare made to order sandwiches, salads, and even black bean gazpacho. 3601 S. Congress off E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower \(5121707-9637 cheo our site for !nonthly calendar stantly griped that their elected officials weren’t, as the saying goes, “standing on conservative principle.” Little usually comes of this friction. The grassroots folks always like to gripe at state conventions, but predictably they fall in line by election season. This time around may be different. At this year’s convention, many GOP delegates weren’t just angry, they were downright uppity. The source of their anger was the expanded business tax that Perry had pushed through the Legislature and signed into law just a few days earlier. The tax is a centerpiece of the five-bill school-finance and property tax-cut package the Legislature passed in its recent special session. The revenue from the business tax and a higher cigarette tax will partly offset more than $15 billion in property tax cuts over the next three years. Perry and the GOP leadership hailed the package as historic. And everyone agreed that it was historic in at least one sense: The new levy is the biggest tax increase in state historya notion that doesn’t sit well with some GOP activists. Perhaps the only sin worse in conservative ideology than a tax increase is a tax increase on business. “House Bill 3 is a disaster for the Republican Partywe all know it,” Steven Hotze, a Houston physician and longtime GOP activist, told the platform committee on the convention’s second night. “It’s going to destroy the party in the long term.” Hotze was one of a half-dozen angry conservatives who testified that the platform should oppose the tax. Hotze had lobbied fiercely against the tax bill a month earlier at the Capitol. He wrote an op-ed piece that ran in the San Antonio Express -News on the convention’s first day that criticized Perry and the GOP leadership for abandoning conservative ideals. He urged the platform committee to remove a plankinserted by Perry backersthat expressed official party support for the business tax. What galls Hotze and some conservatives is that previous platforms called for the repeal of the state business taxthe same tax that Perry expanded. Perry ignored CC our platform,” Hotze told the committee. “If we don’t stand up on this, they’re going to roll over us every time. I urge you to send a message to the governor.” The committee, however, sent no such message, and probusiness tax language remained in the platform. Hotze and his supporters made one final push to strip the HB3 plank from the platform on the convention’s final day, when the document came up for approval on the convention floor. They lost that vote, too. But it was a close count \(55 percent despise Perry’s business tax, and perhaps a source of potential peril for the governor’s re-election. While Hotze did much of the dirty work, the true face of activist anger at the business tax is Dan Patrick, the Silvio Berlusconi of Texas politics. The Houston right-wing talk radio star is all but assured of winning a seat in the state Senate come November. Ostensibly, Patrick tried to keep a low profile at the convention, but it was impossible to miss him. On the first day he made the biggest news splash of the weekend by announcing that he had purchased a Dallas radio station, which will allow him to carry his right-wing messageand presumably his cult followingbeyond Harris County and Southeast Texas. \(Not so coincidentally, Hotze, the anti-business tax activist, also hosts a talk show on Patrick is a true believer, an insurgent candidate from the GOP’s right-wing grassroots who’s trying to break into the party’s ruling elite [see “Party Crasher,” February 24, 2006]. In the primary election last March, he beat three opponents and ended up with nearly 70 percent of the vote \(a win so overwhelming in political terms that “blowout” doesn’t do When he addressed a caucus meeting of Harris County delegates at the convention on Friday afternoon, the assembled die-hards greeted him with a loud cheer and a standing ovation. \(The only folks in the room not clapping were two reporters and three members of the governor’s staff seated in conservative principles. Then he backpedaled and called for unity. “It’s OK to disagree. I don’t like House Bill 3,” Patrick said, “but I’m not personally angry with the governor. A Republican on their worst day is still better than a Democrat on their best day.” Such pleas were heard repeatedly throughout the convention. Party leaders are clearly concerned that the ultraconservative, grassroots activists, discouraged by the performance of the elected GOP officials in Austin and Washington, will stay home this November. The top of the GOP ticket seems safeonly Perry faces any re-election threat, and it’s only a marginal one. But without a strong turnout from the GOP base, Republicans could lose state legislative and judicial races, particularly in Harris County. “We can’t be staying home,” said Houston Rep. Debbie Riddle. “I know you’re upset with the governor over HB3, but he’s still our governor,” she told the Harris County Caucus. State Rep. Bill Zedler of Arlington told another caucus, “If you hear someone who says they’re going to stay home [in November], remind them of the alternative.” For the party leadership, that alternativenot multiculturalism or hyphenated Americans or businesses taxesmay be the biggest fear of all. 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 16, 2006