Clements op-ed endorsing Perry

Former Governor Bill Clements has an op-ed in today's Dallas Morning News. Clements endorses Perry and

In 1978, the Democratic Party was in the majority and dominating the political landscape. Democrats held all statewide offices, except for the Senate seat of John Tower. They controlled both the House and Senate in the state Legislature. They occupied the vast majority of local offices.

Conventional wisdom informed us that this was the political reality for years, if not decades, to come.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the polling place. Conventional wisdom was turned on its head.

Democrats engaged in a contentious primary for the gubernatorial nomination. John Hill battled incumbent Dolph Briscoe. The Democratic Party ended the primary divided and embittered, with the liberal and conservative wings fractured. It did not heal in time for November, and some would say that it has never healed. Many conservative Democrats started voting Republican in 1978 and eventually became Republicans.

The majority party that could not lose did exactly that in 1978 to an outsider, a successful drilling contractor who had no previous political experience. Me.

I tell this story to send a message about 2006. Make no mistake, if Texas Republicans have a blood bath in a primary battle between Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry, we are providing the Democrats an opening to make a speedy comeback to political prominence. We risk dividing our party for decades to come. This is serious business, and Republicans should take heed.

There are some key differences here, in my mind.

The Texas Democratic Party had a history of internal warfare between different wings of the party. Many of these folks didn't necessarily get along well, and for good reason. Plus, a big section of the Democratic Party was really more compatible ideologically in the Republican Party...folks like Phil Gramm. So it was significantly easier to get people to vote for the non-dominant party back when Democrats ruled.

Today's Texas GOP isn't very similar to yesterday's Texas Dems. No similar history of bitterness, no ideological warfare, and no section of the GOP that would be more comfortable with in the Democratic Party.

Moreoever, the 1978 primary was on May 6,The 2006 Texas primary is March 7. There will be two months longer for wounds to heal.

That said, no doubt Clements' point is valid. The bloodier the primary, the greater the Democrats chance in the general.

Some observers point out that Republicans have had contested gubernatorial primaries. I've been in several, including in 1978. But those were tame. Every indication suggests that a Perry-Hutchison primary would be something very different something no one but partisan Democrats would enjoy.

Discipline, focus and teamwork have been at the foundation of Republican success in recent years. Texas Republicans are the majority. We are elected to run the state government, and we win more local seats every year. If we lose our focus, if we fight each other, we may end up with a result few "experts" believe is possible.

I support Mr. Perry for re-election. I support Ms. Hutchison for re-election. It is best for Texas and the Republican Party.

Mr. Perry is a strong conservative. He has confronted many challenges and achieved impressive results. In 2003, he faced a $10 billion budget shortfall and solved it without a tax increase. He championed reform of the civil justice system to stop junk lawsuits and improve our business climate for job creation. He established an enterprise fund to attract companies to Texas. He has helped direct $7 billion in new resources to Texas classrooms.

He also took on the tough job of congressional redistricting. The Democrats did not like it. Neither did many in the media. But redistricting was needed in Texas to more accurately reflect the state and to help President Bush. Texas redistricting resulted in more congressmen supporting our nation's war on terrorism and the president's economic policies.

Ms. Hutchison also deserves re-election. The senator serves on the key Armed Services and Appropriations committees. If she leaves the Senate, Texas loses seniority and seats on these committees. Moreover, as Mr. Bush leads the war on terrorism, works to reform Social Security and fights to appoint common-sense judges, we need a strong, seasoned voice helping him.

Historians tell us that if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history.

The Republican Party today is dominant in Texas. However, our success is not preordained. Tens of thousands of volunteers and scores of tireless candidates worked for many decades to realize this success. We won. But we are one bad election cycle away from giving back ground, as the Democrats did in 1978.

I've been there when we were the minority party and when the majority party turned its guns on itself. When the smoke cleared, the political world in Texas was turned upsidedown. The Democrats gave us the opportunity in 1978. Let's remember that and not do the same in 2006.

I agree that Democrats will watch with glee. Party elders are understandably nervous at the thought of a bloody primary, because it will increase the Democrats' chances, even if only marginally.

That said, I've already gone on record giving Democrats very long odds for unseating either Perry or Hutchison (or Strayhorn for that matter).

Posted by Evan @ 05/19/05 07:21 AM


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