Houston radio host Dan Patrick, now making himself heard statewide, wrote on Facebook last week that the “hand of God” lifted him to victory and the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.
Reporters, relying on different sources, credited the Tea Party.
Patrick is closer to right.
Texas’ familiar faith-and-values voters, not the liberty conservatives, turned out in big numbers Tuesday to lift religious author Patrick to a blistering 30-point victory over a nonpreaching opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
So all the reporters who were wrong in declaring the Tea Party dead last election are now wrong again about its rebirth.
Runaway victories by Patrick and attorney general nominee Ken Paxton of McKinney seem mostly fueled by conservative evangelicals, sometimes uniting with fiscal-minded Tea Party groups against the establishment.
If you wonder how long this coalition can last — it might not make it to the state convention this week.
Already, an invitation for a Republican Liberty Caucus barbecue Thursday night describes the Texas women of Phyllis Schlafly’s family-minded Eagle Forum as “biddies” and mocks Houston religious conservative Steve Hotze as the leader of the “Judgmental Republicans of Texas.”
“Come hang out and eat some good BBQ at the Republican convention,” the Facebook invitation reads, “while they stand around sipping cocktails listening to dull speeches and thinking about [whom] to hate as the party gets smaller and smaller.”
Some liberty conservatives are also calling for the reinstatement of trade show booths for gay and lesbian Republican groups, even when Eagle Forum is calling for a platform plank commending therapy to “change or reduce homosexual behavior.”
These are the two factions that won last week.
But when you look closer, it’s obvious that faith-and-values conservatives drove the victory.
In Tarrant County, considered a microcosm of Texas Republicanism, three down-ballot judicial runoffs pitted conservatives backed by a prominent family-values PAC, the DFW Conservative Voters “green card,” against challengers supported by liberty activists and officers of the NE Tarrant Tea Party.
Faith-and-family candidates won every runoff with 59 percent or more.
At the top of the ticket, it was no mistake that Patrick’s endorsement list led with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a onetime Southern Baptist pastor, plus San Antonio pastor John Hagee and Plano religious-freedom lawyer Kelly Shackelford ahead of state officials or Tea Party leaders.
That’s the same winning political force we’ve seen in Texas for 34 years, ever since presidential candidate Ronald Reagan told televangelist James Robison and 17,000 worshipers in Dallas’ Reunion Arena how America should restore “traditional moral values.”
Lately, some faith-and-values voters have aligned with Tea Party groups or adopted the new marketplace brand. But many original “Taxed Enough Already” groups remain sternly secular, preaching mostly for downsizing government and against waste, debt and cronyism.
Robison himself has been active lately in a “Tea Party Unity” effort to join conservative evangelicals with Tea Party activists.
In April, he said he wants to combine free-market conservatives with faith leaders, saying the Tea Party “has got to understand this … you don’t have the numerical support” without faith voters.
Responding to an email, his son Randy wrote back last week describing the runoff outcome not as a Tea Party vote but “just generally the direction of conservatives.”
State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, was among Patrick’s early backers.
By email, Krause agreed that the newer Tea Party voters have much in common with family-values voters, but he also saw something else.
“In a Venn diagram of the two, you would find a lot of overlap,” he wrote, adding: “Now, I have noticed that many churches are starting to take a more active role in making sure congregants are exercising their civic responsibility.”
Dewhurst didn’t have a prayer.