The Tea Party had limited success challenging Republican incumbents this election cycle, as business groups finally started fighting back to avoid a repeat of Tea Party gains of the last two elections.
A notable exception was the stunning upset of U.S House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his Northern Virginia congressional district by a political novice.
In Texas, the Tea Party dominated statewide Republican primaries.
Democrats in their state convention in Dallas last weekend sought to brand Republican candidates with the GOP’s controversial platform.
The Dems hope to use that Tea Party takeover of the GOP to convince more Democratic-leaning folks that they can’t afford not to vote and Republican-leaning independents and moderate Republicans that Tea Party attitudes are cruel and unusual punishment.
“The bizarre, extremist Tea Party has essentially taken over the Republican Party,” warned Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “The Tea Party may have problems in Mississippi and other parts of the country, but they are growing in strength in the state of Texas.”
Tea Party-backed GOP nominees in November include state senators Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor, Ken Paxton for attorney general, and Glenn Hegar for comptroller, and former State Rep. Sid Miller for agriculture commissioner.
Hinojosa said the Republican platform called for spending less on public education, repealing the minimum wage, denying women the right to abortion, ignoring climate change, and endorsing “reparative” therapy aimed at making gay people straight.
Maybe Democrats should add a plank in their platform, Hinojosa jibed, to provide “reparative therapy for Tea Party folks so they can understand [that] we live in the year 2014, not in 1950, that we live in the United States of America, that we are a loving, caring people who take care of our neighbors, and that there is this thing called science.”
The Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Fort Worth’s State Sen. Wendy Davis, sought to tie Patrick, a bombastic conservative radio talk show host, around the neck of her opponent, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott.
Davis said the Republican convention showed that Abbott doesn’t want to be linked to Patrick.
“Unlike Greg Abbott, I’m not afraid to share the stage with my party’s nominee for lieutenant governor — my colleague, mi hermana [sister] Leticia Van de Putte!” Davis said.
“Don’t clap too much, or Greg Abbott will sue you,” she jabbed. “He says he goes to work, sues the federal government, and then goes home,” but he doesn’t say that when he goes to court, judges “rule against him, and the people win.”
Abbott hurts everyday Texans by fighting the lawsuit by 600 Texas school districts to have the state’s school financing system declared unconstitutional, Davis said, and by taking large campaign contributions from payday lenders while ruling that it’s OK for them to charge 1700 percent interest.
Van de Putte pounded Patrick by unfavorably contrasting him with the last Democratic lieutenant governor, Bob Bullock, who died in 1999 after eight often tempestuous years presiding over the Texas Senate.
A hard drinker most of his life and a smoker until he died at 69, Bullock told her he’d “messed up several marriages, his liver, his lungs, and some of his longtime friendships,” Van de Putte said. But, she said Bullock advised, “I know one thing: You take care of Texas, you put her first, and all the rest will work out.”
“I have a message for Dan Patrick,” Van de Putte said. “I knew Bob Bullock. Bob Bullock was a friend of mine. And Dan, you are no Bob Bullock.” She was referring to the famous quote from the late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen during a 1988 vice presidential debate, when Republican Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy.
Van de Putte charged that Senate colleague Patrick’s “idea of the legislature is [one] hell-bent on Washington, D.C.-style finger-pointing, partisan bickering, and blame games.” Texans, she said, “deserve a lieutenant governor who will listen, problem-solve, and work across the aisle to put Texas first.
“I ain’t no pushover. I ain’t no East Coast liberal. I ain’t no West Coast Democrat,” Van de Putte said, to growing cheers. “This grandma’s name is Leticia San Miguel Van de Putte from the barrio, and I am a Tejana. I am a Texas Democrat. This is my Texas. This is my children’s Texas, and this is my grandchildren’s Texas. This is our Texas.”
Veteran Texas political journalist Dave McNeely can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.