Governor Perry’s announcement today that he will not seek reelection will set off a game of GOP musical chairs as a cast of characters will jockey to position themselves to move up to statewide positions. Following on the heels of Comptroller Susan Combs’ announcement that she will not seek reelection, it now looks likely that Texans could have a new Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, and Land Commissioner in 2014. As candidates step up to run for these newly open positions, we urge voters to look at the candidates’ records, and not just their rhetoric.

Already we have seen a number of bad actors from the legislature announce their intention to take their antics statewide. The most troubling of these are Representative Dan Branch, who is aiming to be our next Attorney General, Representative Harvey Hilderbran, who is eyeing the job of Comptroller, and former Representative Tommy Merritt, who is looking at a for Agriculture Commissioner. There can be little doubt that each of these candidates will claim to be fiscal conservatives on their websites and on the stump, but their records indicate a troubling history of poor fiscal stewardship.

Dan Branch serves as a key lieutenant for House Speaker Joe Straus, chairing the House Higher Education Committee. In that role, he has done the bidding of liberal University presidents, helping drive spending higher while doing nothing to curtail the left wing excesses of academia in Texas, supported the House’s bloated budget this session along with raids on the Rainy Day Fund and was hesitant to support broad-based tax relief. Additionally, it didn’t go unnoticed how many times Mr. Branch seemed to issue “statements” in the official House Journal indicating he’d like to be shown voting differently than he originally cast.

Harvey Hilderbran has served in the Texas House for over two decades, rising to the powerful position of Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means. The Ways and Means committee handles tax cuts and increases, along with issues like appraisal reform. This session Hilderbran was commissioned by Governor Perry with coming up with $1.8 billion in tax cuts. Not only did Hilderbran fall well short of that goal, but he engineered a package of cuts that exclusively benefited special interests with the power to lobby for industry-specific carve-outs. Hilderban’s package was, thankfully, altered greatly in the Senate and replaced with across-the-board exemptions.

Tommy Merritt, formally known as the “Prince of Pork”, was a long-time State Representative from Longview before being defeated by taxpayer champion David Simpson in 2010. Once again defeated by Simpson in a rematch in 2012, Merritt is now supposedly eyeing a run for Agriculture Commissioner. It is hard to see how he can be qualified for the position. A used car salesman, Merritt was one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House when he served and was dearly missed by the most senior Democrat after his defeat. He frequently earned scores lower than some Democrats on the scorecards prepared by watchdog organizations and came to be known as “a caucus of one” for his inability to work with other Republicans.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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