“Desperate times call for desperate measures” must be the new campaign motto for establishment State Senator Bob Deuell. As one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas Senate during the 83rd Legislature, Deuell failed to secure enough votes during the March primary to avoid a runoff against two more conservative and drastically underfunded challengers. Now, with grassroots across the state bearing down on his race, he’s seeing the writing on the wall and attempting to jump on the Dan Patrick bandwagon to avoid a stunning defeat at the end of May.
Deuell, who scored a 53 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, spent nearly $370,000 (about $30 for every $1 of his tea party challenger Bob Hall) in his quest to win re-election in Senate District 2, only to earn 48 percent of the vote on the night of the primary. Hall, who spent only $12,400, earned 39 percent of the vote, while Mark Thompson came in third with 13 percent after spending a measly $1,370.
So what’s an establishment incumbent to do when trying to spend, spend, spend their way to re-election isn’t working?
Queue the political head-fakes.
Yesterday, Sen. Deuell announced his endorsement of State Senator Dan Patrick in his race for lieutenant governor. Patrick (who earned a 93 on the last Fiscal Responsibility Index) performed better than pundits expected—coming out on top of sitting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst 41 percent to 28 percent in a four-way race. Patrick has earned the primary endorsement of many tea party and conservative groups, including Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
Grassroots and establishment types alike could see on election night that it was nearly impossible for Lt. Gov. Dewhurst—a 10-year incumbent—to overcome the lead Sen. Patrick had amassed. The writing on the wall has been so clear, in fact, that establishment-friendly groups like Texans for Lawsuit Reform are now jumping on the Patrick Bandwagon, after endorsing Dewhurst earlier in the primary.
That is in part what makes Sen. Deuell’s recent endorsement of Sen. Patrick so ironic. Those familiar with the voting records of the two men know that Sen. Deuell and Sen. Patrick might be two of the most ideologically different Republicans in the Senate, and ever was that more evident than this most recent legislative session.
Take Senate Bill 346 for example—the unconstitutional “grassroots intimidation” bill Gov. Perry ultimately vetoed after asserting it would have “a chilling effect” on free speech rights. Sen. Patrick led the charge to recall the bill from the House to kill it after grassroots and legislators alike became aware of its implications. Sen. Deuell opposed Patrick’s effort, voting with liberal Democrats to allow the bill to move forward in the House.
The budget showed yet another ideological rift between the two. Sen. Patrick voted against the budget’s final passage, recognizing that it was the driving force behind an increase in spending of more than 26 percent from the previous legislative session. Not only did Sen. Deuell vote for all the extra spending, he voted to raise legislator pensions by an average of 12 percent in the process!
Then, of course, there are other votes such as the flawed Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act championed by President Obama and carried by liberal Democrat Wendy Davis. Naturally, Sen. Patrick opposed the bill along with nearly all of his Republican colleagues. Sen. Deuell stood with Battleground Texas’ protégée and supported the bill.
So don’t be fooled into thinking Sen. Deuell has suddenly experienced a conservative epiphany, or that he’s ever been a stalwart conservative at any point in time. He’s simply another entrenched establishment incumbent looking for any way to hold on to his seat for dear life.