Saturday, July 20, 2013

 

After Rick Perry, then what?

|Blog ---
Texas’ governor was intended to be a constitutionally weak position, almost administrative, or far less than what it became when perception left reality. 

Audrey Abbott introduces her dad, Attorney General Greg Abbott, to an overflow crowd in Duncanville.

Over the decades, it has been made powerful by those who cultivated power — not all, but many.
Some were great leaders, others accurately seen as not quite.

Texans quickly tired of some, bouncing them after a term or two. Few moved on to higher office, George W. Bush being a notable exception. Only one, Rick Perry, managed to win three consecutive four-year terms, and now he is standing down.

The early favorite to replace him is Attorney General Greg Abbott, partly on skill and name ID and mostly on an imposing campaign bankroll of about $20 million.

Tom Pauken, who campaigned for Barry Goldwater and staffed for Ronald Reagan, also has declared for the Republican nomination. Texas Democrats have yet to fit running shoes on a particular candidate but have to expect a tough road in what is still a conservative state.

Pauken, a good man and former state GOP chair, also is 69. He may have trouble raising money and persuading voters in an increasingly younger, more diverse state.

Abbott, 55, might not face those problems, but he’s likely to have others.
One is whether critics who tired of Perry — or his public caricature — will find in Abbott too many philosophical similarities.

Texans should not expect a new GOP front-runner to steer too far left on abortion, gun rights or the death penalty. For now, perhaps one more statewide election, it may be enough to win on a hard-right course, although that sells short a lot of Texans.

Abbott, though, can choose what he emphasizes and has indicated in early campaigning that he will diverge from Perry’s path on a key issue, transparency in government, and this newspaper also suggests forging better relations with the legislative branch.

A Texas Supreme Court justice before he succeeded John Cornyn as attorney general, Abbott has a solid record on open government issues, and it was no accident that he included in his campaign announcement a line about getting “government out of the business of picking winners and losers.” Texans of all political stripes, we believe, could support less crony capitalism in Austin.

Similarly, Abbott would do well to push for less tension between the executive branch and Legislature.

Perry went off course early with his “Father’s Day Massacre” vetoes in 2001 and never really bridged the gap.

His replacement has a chance at a fresh start, which voters should welcome.

The Perry years were neither all good nor all bad, style or substance, as reasonable Texans would recognize. Fiscal conservatism and limited government are worthy goals with proven benefits — but are not inconsistent with the need to invest appropriately in the education, transportation and natural resources that ensure a strong and vibrant future.

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