Primary Thoughts

After a month of sorting through various email reports from my good friends in and around the Austin political scene, I have some observations and reports:

What did we learn from the results of the primaries?   Seems like Republicans have the momentum going into November.   I have some people telling me about this underground machine that Wendy Davis is running on the ground, but I haven’t seen anything out of that camp that makes me think she will mount a serious challenge to Abbott.   The only machine in the Governor’s race seems to be the one printing money to make sure Abbott wins.   

Tim Dunn and Company, along with his new partners in the Jeff Sandefer world, have been spending large sums this primary season with mixed results.  In the statewide races they faired pretty well.  They blessed Sen. Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor; Sen. Ken Paxton for Attorney General; Sen. Glenn Hegar for Comptroller; and, Sid Miller for Agricultural Commissioner.   Hegar won, and it looks like Paxton, Patrick and Miller are all the favorites to win their runoffs.

In the Senate, they helped to protect Sen. Donna Campbell from her challengers.  They could not defeat Sen. Kel Seliger, but they took down Sen. John Carona and installed Don Huffines (although I wonder how they are feeling about his willingness to cozy up to the “Establishment” so quickly).  They have spent heavily trying to defeat Sen. Bob Deuell, but I keep hearing that he will hang on against Bob Hall.  

In the House races, they weren’t nearly as successful.

Dunn/Sandefer went to 34 House districts last fall recruiting candidates to run against incumbents. This recruiting trip occurred after their “report cards” were mailed into these districts. Out of those 34, they claimed they recruited 17 challenger candidates. That puts the success rate for Dunn Co. at 50% for House races.  They then dumped nearly $3 million into these 17 House seats. (Due to their interpretation of reporting rules, it’s hard to track Dunn Co. numbers down.  Since printers and media types are amazingly willing to visit about their large projects, this is the known amount.)  The vast majority of this spending was focused on defeating Rep. Jim Keffer, Rep. JD Sheffield and Rep. Angie Chen Button, which Dunn Co lost handily.   They also spent big in their failed efforts to defeat Rep. Sarah Davis and Rep. Myra Crownover.  

Dunn/Sandefer were the main funding sources in two incumbent losses: Rep. Diane Patrick and Rep. Bennett Ratliff. It’s not surprising that they focused their attention on these two supporters of public education. Dunn and Sandefer make large sums of income from their state-subsidized charter school operations.  This brings the win number for Dunn Co/Sandefer to 5.9% in House races. If you want to be generous and take it as a percentage of the seats they had challengers in, you could double this to 11.8%. That is a pitiful number, particularly when you have unlimited millions to spend and a self-proclaimed conservative grassroots program.

At that rate, Dunn and Sandefer would be justified to fire everyone from campaign consultant Luke Macias on down through mouthpieces Michael Quinn Sullivan and the almost bloggers at AgendaWise. Their other subsidiary venture, Texas Public Policy Foundation, could probably use a scrubbing as well, since it was their unsupportable non-substantive analysis of legislation that was used as mail fodder by Dunn Co in the races.

But perhaps, being inherited wealth oil guys, a win rate below that of wildcat wells is acceptable to them.

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