Two weeks into the 2014 Texas governor’s race, 20-year Republican judge and officeholder Greg Abbott has all the media attention and money.But if that meant anything, David Dewhurst would be a U.S. senator.Port Aransas Republican Tom Pauken, a Reagan-era party warhorse and former state party chairman, is not a firebrand like Ted Cruz. But he hopes to follow the same whistle-stop Tea Party path to his party’s nomination.“The principle of the grassroots-vs-the-top-down approach is the same,” Pauken said by phone Saturday, leaving a Greenville Republican picnic on his way to another stop as he scrambles to stay on the election map.“People don’t want to hear the same old blah, blah, blah. There’s a healthy skepticism of big money.”That’s an easy line for the candidate who doesn’t have it.But Pauken mentioned comments he said he heard Thursday at a welcome hosted by the San Antonio Tea Party.“People there went to Greg’s event” — Abbott’s campaign rollout in San Antonio, the hometown of his wife, Cecilia — “but they felt it was too orchestrated,” Pauken said.“It was too much of the same old thing. It didn’t really speak to them or reflect true conservative values.”If Abbott’s campaign sounds familiar, there’s a reason.Consultant Dave Carney went from Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign to Dewhurst’s senatorial run as senior campaign adviser and now to Abbott, where he leads a $20 million effort.“It’s like they’re all reading from the same script,” Pauken said.“Before I went to Austin [as Perry’s appointment to lead the Texas Workforce Commission], I probably would have thought Greg would make a good governor. But I’ve been too close to it now. I’ve seen too much. The big money is too embedded in Austin.”Pauken’s two top targets: (1) school testing and (2) toll roads, along with the state’s willingness to arrange financing for private, for-profit toll highways.For-profit toll roads should pay their way, he said.“It’s like Washington bailing out financial institutions,” he said. “It’s socialism — like saying, ‘If it doesn’t work out, we’ll put it on the back of the taxpayer.’”Former Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Steve Hollern will lead his local campaign, Pauken said.State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, known for bucking the status quo, remembered how Pauken supported him early when establishment Republicans did not.Stickland has not endorsed either candidate but said for grassroots Republicans, “the verdict is not final yet.”“People are waiting to see what Abbott does,” Stickland said.“It’s very easy to say you’re conservative because you sue the federal government.“But what do you really want to do about education or transportation? What’s his view of the rainy-day fund?”The question is whether we’ll ever ask those questions.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy