Let’s face it: Texas is a one-party state. And all the activity in the 2014 political campaign appears to be occurring on the Republican Party side of the aisle.
Look at the top of the state’s ballot, the race for governor.
Rick Perry has bowed out of a race for another term as governor. Attorney General Greg Abbott is out raising a lot of money, such as the nearly $5 million he picked up just in the past two months. But running against Abbott — seeking to outflank him on the right — is Dallas lawyer and former Texas GOP chairman Tom Pauken.
Pauken could make this an interesting campaign. He’s a conservative firebrand. Pauken served in the Reagan administration. Indeed, he harbors great affection for the late 40th president, calling him a “true conservative.” He believes Abbott’s connections with the Austin establishment disqualify him from running as a conservative successor to Perry. Moreover, Pauken is likely to run against the Bush brand, established in Texas by the ascendance in 1994 of George W. Bush. Pauken, you see, is no fan of the ex-governor/president and is quite unafraid to say so.
For his part, Abbott is singing Perry’s praises and vowing to continue the policies he says have produced good growth in the Texas economy while other states’ economies have collapsed under the weight of the huge financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009.
Pauken, it ought to be noted, is quite familiar with the Texas Panhandle, even though most of his exposure in recent times to the region has been as a private businessman. Pauken is involved in commercial real estate development and has spent a lot of time visiting Amarillo and working on projects associated with the downtown redevelopment effort.
Abbott and Pauken will have no difficulty, though, finding plenty of support in this heavily Republican region of this heavily Republican state.
This is a just a hunch on my part, but I believe it’s a solid one: Panhandle Republicans are going to be seeing a lot of these men in the months to come as they look for votes ahead of next spring’s Republican gubernatorial primary.
Get ready for it. The ride could get bumpy.