Why Gov. Abbott is Intervening in GOP Primaries

Gov. Greg Abbott has surprised many observers of Texas politics by actively campaigning to defeat three incumbent Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives in their bids for re-election – Lyle Larson from San Antonio, Sarah Davis from Houston, and Wayne Faircloth from Galveston.

All three members are known as Straus Republicans, strong supporters of the outgoing Speaker of the Texas House. But, Joe Straus is retiring and won’t be Speaker next session. There are plenty of other Straus loyalists in the House who the Governor is not campaigning against. In some cases, Abbott is even endorsing legislators who are known to be aligned with Speaker Straus.

Abbott claims that he is opposing the three GOP legislators because they are not in favor of his property tax reform legislation. Yet, the Governor scarcely was present in the last legislative session to push for property tax reform and never offered a serious plan in that session to replace the Robin Hood school finance scheme, which is a major factor causing high property taxes in many parts of Texas.

Putting the pieces together, it is pretty obvious why Abbott has sought retribution against the three GOP legislators: Last session Rep. Lyle Larson introduced legislation, HB3305, designed to ban “pay to play” appointments by the Governor to various boards and commissions.

As has been reported, “Larson has alleged that there is a ‘pay for play’ system in the governor’s office where campaign contributors are awarded with appointments to state boards and commissions.”

The legislation passed the House but failed in the Senate.

Davis chairs the House Investigative and Ethics Committee, and she oversaw the passage of Larson’s bill out of her Committee. She also called on the Governor to add “ethics reform” as a priority in the special session of the legislature.

The Governor’s response: he accused her and other legislators endorsing this idea of “show-boating.”

Rep. Faircloth made the fatal mistake of supporting the ban on “pay for play” gubernatorial appointments and talking about it.

“They said you want to be on the Board of Regents of the University of Texas, you need to make a donation.” Faircloth also was quoted as saying that Abbott and others “use [campaign] donations to make appointments to agencies, committees, bureaus.” That is a no, no. So, Faircloth drew Abbott’s ire too.

It is well known in Austin that some UT regents, who were unhappy with a few of Gov. Perry’s appointments to the U.T. Board of Regents, made major contributions to Greg Abbott’s first campaign for Governor.

Their payoff came with the ouster of Wallace Hall from the U.T. Board and the appointment of new members to the board who were viewed as more supportive of the University Administration.

The brutal truth is that big money drives the political process in Texas well as in other states. Greg Abbott plays that game as well or better than his two predecessors as governor, George W. Bush and Rick Perry. And, it has served him well in his career.

Now, he is trying to make Lyle Larson, Sarah Davis, and Wayne Faircloth examples for trying to limit his ability to award his big donors.

Copyright March 05, 2018, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission.


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