On the Republican side, everybody wants to be the next coming of Ted Cruz.
As Attorney General Greg Abbott sweeps toward the GOP nomination for governor, other Republicans are reminding voters that he’s not alone in the party primary.
Waging longer-than-long-shot bids against Abbott’s superior name identification and huge war chest are conservative commentator and author Lisa Fritsch, former Univision broadcaster Miriam Martinez and Larry SECEDE Kilgore, who will be simply SECEDE Kilgore on the ballot.
They’re each pushing a message they think voters should hear.
“It’s the nature of a democracy,” said political scientist Jerry Polinard of the University of Texas Pan American.
Underfunded, largely unknown candidates tilting at party favorites have a statement to make, he said, and some may benefit from such a run in future contests.
“They are certainly serious in their minds, I think, in most cases,” he said. “In terms of the real meaning of competition – that is, do they have a realistic chance of winning? No.”
The three candidates vying against Abbott draw inspiration from Ted Cruz’s tea-party-fueled 2012 U.S. Senate victory against the better-funded, better-known Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, but they don’t have Cruz’s advantages. Though an underdog, Cruz had national support from limited-government groups that helped with funding and turnout, and he caught the attention of media nationally.
A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll done in October showed that those besides Abbott in the GOP gubernatorial primary – who then numbered four – had combined support of 8 percent of GOP voters. Former state GOP chairman Tom Pauken has since dropped out.
The problem with no-name underdog candidates using Cruz as an analogy for their candidacies is that Cruz wasn’t some plucky little no-name underdog taking on the big bad establishment. He was very much a part of the establishment as Solicitor General and consigliere to Greg Abbott, and while he entered that race largely unknown to general election voters, he was well known to party activists. The support he got from national groups was critical to his success. He also got a big assist from the calendar, with redistricting litigation pushing the primary back to May and the runoff to June, which gave him a lot more time to connect with a broader array of voters. Nobody in the GOP gubernatorial primary has anything close to the advantages Cruz had. The only sense in which Cruz was an underdog was that he hadn’t run for office before. He was on a level playing field in every other way. His hardcore wingnuttiness against David Dewhurst’s perceived “moderation”, where “moderation” is a code word that can mean anything from “incompetence” to “we just don’t like him anymore”, was also a key, since he was the sort of thing that the howling masses of a GOP primary runoff really wanted. The two female candidates are positioning themselves as more moderate alternatives to Greg Abbott, and it goes without saying that the constituency for that is a lot smaller than the constituency that propelled Cruz to victory. The fact that the other candidate is more than crazy enough for all three of them doesn’t do anything to help them.
The Democratic opponent to Sen. Wendy Davis doesn’t have a fatally flawed but easy to grasp analogy for his candidacy, among other things.
At age 71, Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal of Corpus Christi is a veteran of political battles going back to the 1970s as a young South Texas activist in the Raza Unida party.
He has worked to improve education for Latinos, advocated on behalf of fellow military veterans and campaigned for four offices without a victory.
Madrigal is running again in 2014 – this time for governor of Texas. He’s not bothered that he’s up against a well-known, well-funded fellow Democrat, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth.
“You shouldn’t be scared away by somebody telling you that you need $150 million to run,” he said. “I might be opening the door for the next generation of Hispanics that want to run for office.”
I can’t say I learned much about Madrigal from this article. If he has any well-developed policy positions, or a clearly articulated reason why he’s a superior alternative to Davis, it’s not in the story. Not that it’s likely to matter anyway.