Best for a party, or best for Texas?

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, November 1, 2014

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For some this may be a confession, for others a boast.

I am not a member of any political party.

Like many Texans, I vote in the Republican primary because that’s where most races are decided. But all you have to do to cast that ballot is show up. There’s no DNA test or written exam to make sure a voter is not a charlatan like me, posing as a Republican while occasionally thinking non-Republican thoughts.

I was raised to think for myself and vote for people, not parties.

The last time a Democrat was elected to statewide office in Texas was 1994, when the late Bob Bullock won re-election as lieutenant governor. That 20-year drought for Texas Democrats is the longest of any state.

Maybe it ends this year, maybe it doesn’t.

I’m not a Democrat, but I think it should.

For the first time in a while, the Democrats are running some credible, viable candidates in races all up and down the ballot.

Whether they’re the best person for the office remains for voters to decide, come Tuesday. But even the most partisan Republican must admit that Wendy Davis is more electable than the cigar-chewing, wise-cracking Kinky Friedman or the nearly invisible Chris Bell or Bill White.

For what they’re worth – paper and ink, at best – here are my endorsements.

I like Kay Granger, but Mark Greene is a sharp guy and would be an interesting voice in Congress.

On the west side of the county, Mac Thornberry is working hard to represent us, and doing a good job.

Ditto for John Cornyn in the U.S. Senate.

Austin-wise, Steve Brown is very well-qualified to be a voice for the little guys on the Texas Railroad Commission. They need one.

George P. Bush seems like a nice young man, but John Cook is a much more experienced and qualified candidate for land commissioner.

I’m put off by the highly partisan campaign Ken Paxton ran for attorney general, which is, or should be, a non-partisan office. Sam Houston is a well-qualified, experienced attorney and will get my vote.

I can’t support Wendy Davis. I think Greg Abbott would be a better governor. But I fervently hope that if Abbott gets elected, he will quit trying to out-Perry Rick Perry. We’ve had enough Perry.

I’m not thrilled with Phil King, and I think Matthew Britt is a nice young man, but I think Matt would be lost in Austin.

The race I’m most concerned about – and the one that, more than all the others, should end the Democratic drought – is the lieutenant governor’s race.

Leticia Van de Putte, not Dan Patrick, needs to be running the Texas Senate.

Dan Patrick is a conservative radio talk show host – a Rush Limbaugh ripoff – who as a Texas senator has been a borderline racist demagogue on immigration while demonstrating a slavish devotion to the idea of school vouchers.

That thinly-disguised movement to take public funds and pay for private education is one of the worst ideas ever. Our elected representatives should be focused on making Texas’ public schools better, not funneling tax money to their rich friends’ private schools.

Texas needs leaders who can work with both sides of the aisle to do what’s best for Texas. For Patrick and too many others, the party comes first.

In the local races, party means absolutely nothing. Vote for the best candidate. There are some good choices.

Years ago, during that party-switching frenzy, I interviewed a district judge in Tarrant County who had been “retired” by the voters because he had a D after his name on the ballot. While he packed books in his office, he looked up at me, and I’ll never forget what he said.

“Can you tell me one thing I could do, as a sitting judge, to advance or retard the cause of a political party, that wouldn’t be completely unethical?” he asked.

I couldn’t. He was a good judge, and the voters fired him.

When you vote Tuesday, don’t think for a minute that one party or the other has all the answers. They don’t.

Vote for people, not parties – and we’ll all get better government.

Bob Buckel is editorial director of the Wise County Messenger.

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