Bud Kennedy

July 1, 2014

Libertarians find some unhappy R’s, but will it matter?

Candidates Kathie Glass and Robert Butler hunt for disenchanted voters and might make the fall election closer.

Wendy Davis’ political best friend was circling Dallas last week, but not for the Democratic convention.

Any votes for Houston lawyer Kathie Glass, the Libertarian Party nominee, will likely come from Republican front-runner Greg Abbott.

“Republicans are playing a rigged, corrupt corporate game,” Glass said Tuesday after her weekend bus tour of Dallas-Fort Worth.

“We’re getting voters who have tried working with the Republicans and they’re fed-up.”

Glass and lieutenant governor candidate Robert Butler of Round Rock play a small but interesting role in Texas’ fall election.

Libertarian campaigns don’t amount to anything unless the election is close, and then they amount to everything.

In Texas Tribune polls, Glass and Butler are drawing 3 to 4 percent, which hasn’t been enough to make a difference since 1990.

But in 1990, a Libertarian pulled enough votes to lift Ann Richards to victory without a majority vote.

If that happens this year, it’s more likely in the Dan Patrick-Leticia Van de Putte race for lieutenant governor after Patrick made new enemies in a scorched-earth primary campaign.

“If Dan isn’t elected, that sends the message that the Republican Party has to change on immigration and social issues,” said Butler, the state party director in 2009 when Libertarians founded the Tea Party rallies.

“When we started, the rallies were mostly people who were against government interference and wanted more freedom,” Butler said.

“Then the Republicans started using the name to just rebrand their party.”

As a party ticket, Glass and Butler are sort of a political odd couple, even more mismatched than the genteel Abbott and the border-basher Patrick.

Against Abbott, Glass appeals to more conservative Republicans by calling for having the Texas State Guard help defend the border and for ignoring or “nullifying” federal regulations and control.

But she would also accept a guest worker program. Butler, running against Patrick, focuses even more on labor needs and also appeals to younger voters seeking relaxed marijuana laws.

Jim Riddlesperger, a TCU political science professor watching his ninth Texas election cycle, said Republicans’ 10-point lead is out of range for Glass or Butler to play a role.

But that might change.

“They will draw people who are disgusted with both parties, and this year, there will be some number of those,” he said.

“And they’ll draw those voters who are conservative on economic issues but just don’t go along with the social agenda trumpeted by Dan Patrick and [attorney general nominee] Ken Paxton,” Riddlesperger said.

“Most of those voters would normally be Republicans.”

If these were normal Republicans.

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