Tea Party members had Dan Patrick’s back during last year’s election.
Now the state’s new lieutenant governor is returning the favor.
Patrick has created a committee, his own Grassroots Advisory Board, to help guide him on hot-button issues such as border security, tax cuts and education reform.
Nearly two dozen grassroots leaders from around the state are gearing up to begin their work.
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“I’m both shocked and encouraged by the response of the people,” said Julie McCarty of Grapevine, the co-founder and president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party and a member of the board. “People are so excited they will have a voice.
“I think this will be an open forum where we can share ideas, talk about what we like and don’t like and make suggestions.”
The 20 members of the committee are expected to meet in Austin as soon as next week to learn what is being asked of them.
Political observers say this board is a way for Patrick to stay in touch with those who put him in office.
“He is trying to find his voice as a leader of the Senate,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “He obviously wants to reach out to people whose views he values to help shape his priorities and his new leadership style.
An ‘outsider’ move
“Typically our lieutenant governors have been insiders, people who have been part of the Austin leadership team,” Riddlesperger said. “Patrick clearly is an outsider and that will lead to a different leadership style.”
Other North Texas committee members include Katrina Pierson of Garland, a Tea Party organizer who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions in the 2014 Republican primary; Ken Emanuelson, a Dallas Tea Party activist; and Michael Openshaw of Plano, who is with the North Texas Tea Party.
Patrick appointed the committee shortly after he announced several Advisory Boards of Private Citizens to make sure business and industry leaders have a seat at the table this legislative session.
These committees are unusual for a leader to appoint at the beginning of the session, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.
“There are all kinds of agencies, boards and commissions to which prominent Texans are appointed,” he said. “To formalize a group of advisers to the lieutenant governor is something that has not happened before.
“The lieutenant governor has appointed committees that reflect two opposite wings of the Republican Party — the traditional business wing and the newer Tea Party wing,” Jillson said. “That leaves out a lot of Texans.”
Getting to work
JoAnn Fleming, who heads the grassroots committee, said she’s more than ready to get to work.
“Gov. Patrick has a reputation for valuing folks outside the Capitol complex who ask tough questions and bring common-sense solutions to the table,” said Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America, who also led the Legislature’s Tea Party Caucus advisory committee in 2011 and 2013.
McCarty said she believes that the committee will create somewhat of a level playing field.
She said she attended a private dinner the night before the inauguration with other Texans who worked on the inauguration.
A few Tea Party leaders were in the room along with many more attorneys, lobbyists and big-dollar donors.
“Conversations were disturbing, as most guests seemed to be opposed to large chunks of the Republican Party platform,” McCarty said. “I walked away discouraged because those at dinner had the most influential voices, yet few truly represented the desires of Texas citizens.
“Dan Patrick’s grassroots advisory committee gives us a chance to counteract some of that noise.”
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610
Grassroots Advisory Board
Here’s a look at the 20 members of the grassroots advisory board Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick named in January.
Chairwoman JoAnn Fleming, Flint; Bill Hussey, Llano; Chuck Molyneaux, Allen; Connie Curry, Lubbock; Dean Wright, Austin; Debbie Georgatos, Dallas; Derek Baker, McKinney; Jim Lennon, Kingwood; Julie McCarty, Grapevine; Julie Turner, The Woodlands; Katrinia Pierson, Garland; Ken Emanuelson, Dallas; Larry Youngblood, Hilltop Lakes; Michael Openshaw, Plano; Robin Lennon, Kingwood; Sharon Hall, New Braunfels; Steve Baysinger, San Antonio; Ted Hart, Frisco; Tom Fabry, Frisco; and Toni Fabry, Frisco.
Source: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s office