Some defenders of public schools don’t see Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s victory in the March 6 Republican primary as meaning their fight is over.
There had been a grassroots surge for Patrick’s lone GOP opponent Scott Milder, a former Rockwall City Council member, who started an organization called “Friends of Texas Public Schools.”
Patrick cruised to victory in the Republican primary, getting just over 76 percent. But some who think Patrick is a problem for public education say the fight isn’t over just yet.
They suggest looking at the Democratic primary as well as the Republican, to better gauge the Patrick opposition.
Milder, they point out, got 368,995 votes, contrasted to Patrick’s 1,172,830. And Milder’s vote was from basically out of nowhere, since Milder is a political unknown, at least in state politics, and spent almost nothing contrasted to the millions that Patrick did.
Patrick reported spending more than $5 million on TV in January – and still had 300 times as much cash on hand as Milder.
One Patrick critic, irked at Patrick spending more effort trying to regulate transgender use of restrooms than in adequately funding public education, said she abandoned her usual habit of voting in the Democratic primary.
Instead, she said, she crossed over to the Republican primary to cast a vote against Patrick – as did several of her friends.
Patrick did win the GOP primary handily as expected, she said. But if you add Milder’s vote to the votes in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, it gives the folks who consider Patrick a drag on Texas a more encouraging way to look at the situation.
In November, Patrick will face Democrat Mike Collier, a Houston accountant and auditor, who worked his way up at PriceWatershouseCoopers, one of the world’s biggest accounting firms, for years before becoming chief financial officer of a successful oil company he helped start.
Collier, a former Republican who was the Democratic nominee for comptroller in 2014, won the Democratic nomination with 504,220 votes, for 52.4 percent.
He beat Michael Cooper, a political novice from Beaumont, car dealer and former executive director of the NAACP, with 458,404 votes, for 47.6 percent. Their combined total was 962,624.
That, added to Milder’s 385,995, comes to 1,331,619 people who voted on March 6 for someone other than Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor. The non-Patrick vote was 158,789 votes more than the pro-Patrick vote – 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent – a difference of just over 6.3 percent.
Now, whether that has a chance to hold up in November in Red State Texas is certainly an intriguing question. Texans have not elected a Democrat statewide since 1994.
That’s particularly interesting when the total primary turnout of 2,502,449 voters will approximately double for the general election.
But at least one of those who voted in the Republican primary in March will be crossing over to the Democratic column to vote against Patrick.
Scott Milder, in a brief statement just after his primary loss to Patrick, insisted he didn’t view it as a defeat.
“I am not delivering a concession speech, but rather an absolute victory speech,” Milder said.
“We rallied many rational Texans to the polls in a very short period of time with less than $100,000 in campaign funds against the well-funded lies and misleading rhetoric of a disingenuous incumbent,” said Milder – who did not go quietly into the night.
“What we achieved is quite extraordinary,” Milder said, “and this is just the beginning of our rational rebellion against the irrational, out-of-touch politics of our Lieutenant Governor and his posse.”
Milder has said he’s a pretty good Republican, but party loyalty has its limits.
“In November, I will be casting my votes for the Republican candidates in every race with one exception,” Milder said. “I cannot in good conscience vote for a man I know to be a liar, nor can I vote for a man who willfully ignores and disrespects his legislative colleagues and his constituents.
“Dan Patrick . . . is the biggest bully in Texas,” Milder charged.
“I will be casting my vote for Mike Collier, the rational Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and will strongly encourage all Texans who voted for me in this race to cast their votes for Mr. Collier as well.”
Milder thanked all the folks who worked and voted for him, and promised to “continue to rally rational Texans in this fight for rational leadership in every election. We are just getting started!”
Maybe. Maybe not.
But with incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz being out-fundraised by Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, and Donald Trump as the get-out-the-vote spark for Democrats, it could be a year for upsets.