This is the first of a multi- part series regarding the Republican primaries and my personal endorsements. The decisions are based primarily upon the candidate's ability/potential to be elected given the dynamics of the state or the district (in the case of House races). It will involve only gubernatorial, Senate and House races. With respect to House races, "endorsements" will be offered only in districts where there is a competitive Republican primary. Texas is up first and kicks of the 2014 primary season. So without further ado:
For Governor: Although her candidacy for Governor is imploding, the Democrats believe they have their woman in Wendy Davis who made a national name for herself with a 36-hour filibuster against an abortion law. She ran out the legislative session only to have Rick Perry call them back and pass the law anyway. In the interim, Davis became a hero to feminists and liberals. Despite her early campaign miscues, Democrats are pumping money into this race from all over the country and whoever emerges for the GOP will have to do likewise.
The Republican field is four strong with current state attorney general Greg Abbott the strongest of the four. Therefore, this writer wholly endorses Abbott for the Republican nod. As "compelling" as Davis' back story may be, Abbott can match it. However, expect the Democrats to come after this office with everything (as in money) that they have. The RGA must get involved in this race wholeheartedly as an Abbott victory would thwart the Democratic Party's efforts to "turn Texas blue." Regardless of that dynamic, Greg Abbott is a strong candidate, a true conservative, and a man who would make a good governor in Texas.
John Cornyn seeks reelection to the Senate. There are some conservative misgivings about him, especially in light of his inability to win the Senate in 2010 when given that task. To many here at Redstate and even in Texas itself, Cornyn is perceived as not conservative enough. Until Congressman Steve Stockman of the 36th District entered the race, Cornyn had little worry. However, Stockman brings a certain conservative gravitas to the whole process.
With that being said, a few things need to be kept in mind. First, it is no secret that the Democrats are heavily targeting Texas through a concerted effort. Although I believe they have a greater chance in a state like Georgia rather than Texas in the short term, they view Texas' 38 electoral votes as the grand prize at the end of the tunnel and the state is projected to gain yet more seats after the 2020 census. Second, in general terms, incumbents have an approximate 80% chance of reelection success. Third, Republican control of the Senate is tantalizingly close yet again as if the stars are aligning assuming the GOP does not shoot themselves in the foot... again.
With these facts in mind, it is my belief that because of the somewhat crowded field, the chances of a runoff in late May is likely and will pit Cornyn against Stockman. Here, although somewhat of a crap shoot- especially given the 2 month gap- Cornyn is probably better positioned financially. One is tempted to say that because the Democratic potentials are a somewhat weak field with low name recognition, they can make up for that in the general election campaign which is lengthy. There is too much risk here with switching horses in midstream and going with Stockman. Therefore, this writer would endorse incumbent John Cornyn for Senate.
Third District- (Cook PVI R+17) Republican Sam Johnson faces three challengers in this district. There would appear little downside to endorsing Johnson since he is sufficiently conservative for this district. Its Cook rating below 20 and mine at the borderline 20 range dictates to leave well enough alone even though in fairly strong Republican districts I work under the philosophy of endorsing new blood in the House provided they are conservative. In this case, however, this writer would endorse the reelection of Sam Johnson.
Fourth District- The 4th Congressional district is considerably more conservative than the Third. Although ideologically Hall and Johnson may be alike, running a more conservative candidate would make perfect sense especially since the Democrats will likely offer no competition here. Therefore, I endorse the candidacy of Brent Lawson in the 4th Congressional district.
Sixth District- Representative Joe Barton was first elected to the House in 1984. Under ordinary circumstances, I would assert that he has been in Washington too long. However, the Democrats are running a veteran here- David Cozad who Barton defeated easily in 2010. Since then, conservatives and Democrats alike have targeted Barton. His primary opponent will be Frank Kuchar who mounted a primary challenge in 2012. In that year, Barton took 64% of the primary vote to Kuchar's 11%. This writer would not want to chance the loss of a House seat in the interest of "new blood" and therefore endorses Joe Barton.
Eighth District- Kevin Brady faces a different challenge in the 8th district where he will meet Craig McMichael in the primary. Democrats will likely field token opposition. Unlike the 6th, Brady is slightly to the left of Barton while the district is considerably to the right of the 6th. Put it all together and one is almost forced to endorse Craig McMichael.
Eleventh District- Mike Conaway will face off against Wade Brown in the primary. From an ideological standpoint, Conaway has much in common with Barton. Also, the 11th is more conservative than the aforementioned 8th district. Therefore, this writer supports the candidacy of Wade Brown.
Thirteenth District- This is another no-brainer district where Mac Thornberry will face two challengers. Thornberry was first elected in 1994. Given the strong Republican slant of the district coupled with a weak Democrat, this writer endorses Pam Barlow to replace Thornberry in Congress.
Fifteenth District- The 15th district is currently held by Democrat Ruben Hinojosa in a district that is certainly winnable. This is a southern Texas district with a heavy Hispanic presence. It is also the district that once gave us John Nance Garner and Lloyd Bentsen and has never been won by a Republican. Although targeted, there is nothing to "lose" here and I would go with the Hispanic candidate- Eddie Zamora.
Nineteenth District- Republican incumbent Randy Neugebauer was first elected in 2002. He will face Chris Winn and Donald May in the primary. Again, although Neugebauer is sufficiently conservative for this Lubbock-based district, there would be little risk in running some new blood against likely Democratic opponent Neal Marchbanks. Therefore, the better fit for this district, in my opinion, is Tea Party activist Donald May.
Twenty-First District- This primary will pit incumbent Lamar Smith against businessman Matt McCaul in a fairly reliable Republican area. However, given the credentials of both candidates, one is led to endorse the reelection of Lamar Smith.
Twenty-Third District- The 23rd is represented by Democrat Pete Gallego, a somewhat "moderate" Democrat, who is also vulnerable. Former GOP Congressman Francisco "Quico" Canseco is seeking to win his seat back. One is tempted to go with the person who has proven they can win in this district. However, William Hurd,who was a candidate in 2010, may be the better choice ideologically. This is a tough one. In theory, the GOP does not have to target too many seats. Falling under the rubric there is nothing to lose here, this writer goes with William Hurd.
Twenty-Sixth District- The 26th, represented by Michael Burgess, is a fairly safe Republican district located northwest of Dallas. Opposed by Joel Krause and Divenchy Watrous in the primary, there is really no need for a change in this district and this writer endorses Michael Burgess, especially since Watrous sounds more like a member of the Libertarian Party than the GOP.
Thirty-Second District- Pete Sessions represents the Republican-leaning, but by no means strong GOP 32nd District. Being challenged by Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson, it is simply too risky a move to endorse her. Cook has the district's PVI at +10 Republican which this writer feels is a little high. Therefore, I would endorse the candidacy of Pete Sessions.
Thirty-Sixth District (being vacated by Steve Stockman)- As Steve Stockman vacates this seat, there are 12 Republicans vying to replace him. This is a very conservative, Republican district with little downside for the GOP. Many of them are "losers" in previous political campaigns. That is why I believe ex-Congressional and gubernatorial aid Doug Centilli is perhaps the best qualified of the lot and I would endorse him for the 36th District.
Good luck to all the candidates on Tuesday.