There is a common question being fearfully contemplated by establishment Republicans in these early days of the 2016 accountability season: “Do I want to go down fighting?” But make no mistake: they know they are going down.
Some prefer retirement to an out-right election loss.
The latest to avoid a humiliating loss is State Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton). Once considered a conservative, Crownover eagerly joined the coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans that have spent the last six years thwarting serious policy reforms.
She’s also drifted to the bottom-third of the GOP on Rice University’s non-partisan conservative-liberal ranking. By that metric, she was more likely to vote with Democrats than most of her Republican colleagues.
Heading into 2016, everyone knows Crownover was going to lose. Her 2014 opponent, Read King, has been gearing up early. His most recent campaign finance report shows he has raised more money in advance of the 2016 election than he had during the entire 2014 election season.
Crownover isn’t the only one calling it quits. For example, Jim Keffer, the liberal Republican from Eastland, nearly lost in 2014 and faced certain defeat. Similarly, John Otto (R-Dayton) quit ahead of a challenge in his primary after he killed spending limit legislation favored by 94 percent of Republican primary voters. Then there is Jimmie Don Aycock, who has killed every substantive education reform bill to come before his committee, Public Education.
Ah, yes. Committees. Those exiting lawmakers aren’t exactly rank-and-file guys tired of the commute. No, these are the coalition’s inner-circle who hold powerful sway among the Austin lobby.
And they are scared. They are scared of the simple fact that citizens are paying attention.
The terrifying question for others who recently started drinking too heavily of the Lake Austin water has got to be: “If they are running with their tail between their legs, what’s going to happen to me?”
In abandoning their positions, each of the quitting lawmakers all but ensure a better representative will take their place – or at least someone not yet cozy with the Austin insiders club. (At least initially, even those recruited by the establishment will have to lie to their constituents about being a conservative.)
Even worse for those who remain: the departures make political resources originally intended to be used against one of them now available for someone else further down the list. “Am I next?”
There’s lots of time ahead for those questions to be fearfully pondered. And lots of time for other coalition legislators to make a smart choice: improve, or call it quits.