Richard Greene

Local Tea Party rode Cruz coattails to win

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz argues a point during Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate in Detroit.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz argues a point during Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate in Detroit. AP

Perhaps it is apropos that Texans again declare their independence in the midst of celebrating the 180th anniversary of when it was achieved.

Consistent with the spirit of intolerance of being ruled by others, voters in the Lone Star State handed a decisive victory to their U.S. senator, who stands virtually alone among his colleagues against what he says is the “Washington establishment” threat to individual liberty.

While Ted Cruz’ Texas victory last Tuesday was cast aside by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, it was another day when voters painted the state a deeper shade of red.

Many thought the pinnacle of rejecting all things liberal came in 2014 when Texans spurned Democrat Wendy Davis as governor. But this year’s primaries across the state have taken conservatism to even higher levels.

Wendy’s embarrassing defeat sent her literally packing. She sold off her stylish belongings, from designer dresses to underwear, and moved from Fort Worth to left-leaning Austin.

Now the battle is being waged almost exclusively among those on the right to see just how much further voters are willing to pull the state in their direction.

So dominant was Cruz’ support that many Tea Party candidates needed little more than their name on the ballot somewhere to sweep away any challengers.

Tarrant County races provided strong evidence, as closely followed contests resulted in victories for Texas House members Tony Tinderholt and Jonathan Stickland over strong contenders whom they painted as liberal Republicans.

While neither Andrew Piel, Tinderholt’s opponent, nor Scott Fisher, who opposed Stickland, is any kind of “liberal,” their traditional conservative credentials were hung on them as something for voters to reject.

The history-making flow of funding from West Texas and Austin moneymen was probably unnecessary for the incumbents. Yet those contributions made it possible for them to bury voters with endless mailings, paid block-walkers, robocalls and poll workers to overwhelm challengers.

This elevates the question of why these forces from afar are so determined to control local elections.

I’ve never encountered anyone who believes funders of tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars into a politician’s campaign aren’t expecting something in return.

We’ll see what happens in the next session of the Legislature when these bought-and-paid-for winners must decide whether to act in the best interest of the communities they serve when it would go against what their benefactors want them to do.

Clearly the agenda of these outside moneymen is to control local matters via the state.

Having failed to influence the outcome of bond elections to improve local school districts across the state, as an example, they have moved their fight to the state Capitol, where they can seek measures to subvert home rule authority and the will of the people.

It makes their declaration of ultra-conservative, libertarian motives ring hollow. Instead, its true name is statism — a political system in which the state has substantial centralized control over social and economic affairs.

I don’t think that’s what voters had in mind when dutifully responding to the promise of ending the dominance of traditional Republican leadership.

Texas notwithstanding, and with a Trump nomination drawing nearer to a certainty, Democrats are salivating over not only a Hillary Clinton victory but regaining control of Congress as well.

The results in November could make us yearn for the days of conservatism defined by Ronald Reagan. His 49-state triumph provides a good road map to victory, but no one seems to be following it.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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