Election pairings in Texas are already being described as proxy battles pitting embattled Texas Speaker Joe Straus against insurgent conservative challengers. Conservatives again expect a likeminded conservative leader in 2013.
House District 115, formerly held by Republican Mike Jackson is being touted by the media as one of these races.
According to Mike Hailey of Capitol Inside, a capitol-centric subscription publication, the Speaker and his team are lining up behind Bennett Ratliff in HD 115. Ratliff has a pedigree as he is the son of former Lt. Govenor Bill Ratliff. Hailey speculates that the endorsements of key Straus cardinals including Charlie Geren, Jim Pitts and Burt Solomons mark Ratliff as the establishment’s pick.
Squaring off against Ratliff is Matt Rinaldi a Dallas area lawyer how has been involved in Republican politics for 20 years. Along with conservative activists and elected officials from his area Rinaldi’s press release announcing his candidacy included a word of endorsement from Representative Ken Paxton. In 2011 the conservative Paxton mounted an unsuccessful campaign to replace Straus as speaker in the first speaker race open to the public in over 35 years.
The fact that Ratliff is involved in school district politics is interesting given the tactics employed by Jim Pitts during the 2011 budgeting process. Pitts, in a play to make life more difficult for conservatives, drafted a budget that was intentionally brutal on education spending. His original budget was eventually overhauled and schools ended up with more funding then ever but the damage was done.
The Pitts maneuver was repeated by liberals and moderates all session long when seeking higher taxes and access to the states’ savings. During the upcoming election education spending is expected to be a major theme.
Over the next 7 months several of these leadership races will emerge and this primary will mark the first in which speaker politics will be on display. Candidates should be open with Texans about their allegiances and intentions so that accurate representation is achieved.
Link to Matt Rinaldi HD 115 press release