One of the really interesting things about this election cycle is watching the big boys under the Dome — the trade associations — pick whom to back in the crowded fields of GOP contenders for statewide office.
Take, for example, the Texas Farm Bureau. The group’s endorsement is highly coveted because of its influence in rural parts of the state. Also, many Texans purchase insurance from the group.
The group raised eyebrows when it chose to honor the friendly incumbent rule by endorsing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for re-election. But by doing so, it passed over the current agriculture commissioner, Todd Staples, who is one of three high-profile GOP officeholders looking to wrest the nomination from Dewhurst.
A TFB spokesman explained the decision by saying, "[Dewhurst] has been a real champion for our issues, and certainly there was no reason to not endorse him in a job that he's done well."
Staples didn’t take too kindly to the snub. "This is an example of a lobby organization opting for the status quo,” said Staples’ campaign manager, Cody McGregor. “Thankfully, Republican primary voters are not status quo voters which was made clear in the race for the U.S. Senate when Ted Cruz defeated David Dewhurst."
That wasn’t the only attention-grabbing endorsement from the TFB. The group also chose Uvalde Mayor J Allen Carnes for agriculture commissioner, picking him over former state representatives Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt as well as rancher and former Republican Party of Texas Executive Director Eric Opiela.
That wasn’t the only big endorsement for Dewhurst. Eager to bolster his tough-on-crime bona fides, the lite guv announced the backing of five public safety groups. That included the largest law enforcement organization in the state, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
Other Republicans announced endorsements shoring up their right flanks heading into primary contests where it seems you can’t go far enough to the right. John Cornyn — who must now reckon with a Tea Party challenge from U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman — announced the endorsement of George Strake, a key early backer of Cruz. Cornyn also got Gov. Rick Perry to reaffirm his support for the incumbent senator.
Dallas Republican Sen. John Carona rolled out a couple of big endorsements. One — from Carol Everett, founder of The Heidi Group, an anti-abortion organization — was designed to burnish Carona’s anti-abortion credentials. The other was from former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, whose connection to the Landry-era glory days of Cowboys football is always a prized “get” in Dallas.
State Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, doesn’t need to further burnish his conservative credentials but he announced another influential endorsement all the same, touting his choice by the Concerned Women for America in his bid for attorney general.
Back in the world of the trade associations, the Texas chapter of the Associated General Contractors endorsed Glenn Hegar for comptroller, and the Texas Association of Builders endorsed Dan Branch for attorney general.