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Pauken: There is No Divine Right of Succession

Former Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken, who is running to replace Gov. Rick Perry in 2014, says that people shouldn't automatically anoint Attorney General Greg Abbott as the "chosen one."

Tom Pauken speaks to the media about his challenge to Greg Abbott for the Republican nomination for Texas governor on July 9, 2013.

For those who are already declaring that Attorney General Greg Abbott will be Gov. Rick Perry’s successor, former Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken has a clear message.

“This idea that there’s a divine right of succession, I challenge it and thoroughly,” the gubernatorial candidate said Tuesday in a Capitol news conference. “This is a real battle for the soul of the Republican Party between the outsiders and the people that feel they don’t have a real voice in Austin." 

At his news conference, Pauken also took aim at the state’s school finance system and its budget, saying that as governor, he would take decisive action to make both more efficient. He also declared himself a candidate for all of Texas, not just those who have enough money to pay for lobbyists at the state Capitol. Pauken said his proven track record of listening to the issues and doing something about them will make him stand out among his opponents. 

In March, Pauken announced that he was seeking Perry's seat. On Monday, Perry said that he wouldn't seek re-election. Although Abbott has not declared his candidacy for the position, speculation has run rampant that he will throw his hat in the ring and become the instant favorite.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Pauken said he is running on authentic conservative principles, criticizing the “pretend conservatism” that he says many in Texas have adopted. 

“It’s not a conservatism of the heart, it’s not a conservatism that takes the fight to the left that lays out here’s what we’re going to do,” Pauken said of the philosophy he opposes. “It’s taking the easy road of reading polls, seeing what the base wants to hear and giving them that.”

Pauken said that real conservatives listen to regular people, not just those who have enough money to pay for lobbyists. Conservatives are serious about ideas and solving problems, not just saying what people want to hear, Pauken said.

For instance, Pauken said that although Texas is not raising taxes on transportation, it has the highest transportation debt in the nation at $13 billion in principal.

Pauken said that one of his main priorities is letting people know that they won’t have to buy his attention — a jab at Abbott, who has the biggest war chest in state politics. Pauken said he is calling for a series of Lincoln-Douglas debates with Abbott before the election and is focused on the issues. 

Pauken said that although Abbott is a nice person, he does not have what it takes to be governor.

“Greg is very good at doing what his advisers tell him to do — attack Obama, stand up for the Second Amendment, stand up for pro-life,” Pauken said. “We’re all pro-life, I’m for the Second Amendment, I’m very critical of the Obama administration. But what are we going to do?”

Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for Abbott, declined to comment on Pauken's statements. Hirsch also said Abbott had not decided whether he would run for governor but would make an announcement in the coming weeks.

Pauken said that the current school finance system, in which money from property-wealthy school districts is used to help property-poor districts, unnecessarily burdens some homeowners should be removed. To make up the difference in funding for poor districts, Pauken said he would tap the Rainy Day Fund or increase the sales tax a quarter of a percent.

Pauken also said that recent state budgets have been bloated. He said he would not approve budgets in which spending increases more than the sum of inflation and population growth. 

"I'm not just someone who talks — I follow up with action," Pauken said. 

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