Despite long odds for his conservative challenger, liberal Republican State Senator Bob Deuell is in the fight of his political life. According to Texas Ethics Commission reports, Deuell astronomically outspent his conservative challenger, entrepreneur and Tea Party activist, Bob Hall by a nearly 30-to-1 margin, running up to the 2014 primary. Even with this outrageously high monetary advantage, Deuell failed to avoid a runoff.
We have noted before that while money is important in these races, message matters more. The truth is not bought and the truth of Deuell’s record speaks for itself.
A perennial “F” on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, Deuell rated worse than 16 of his Republican colleagues and even one of his Democratic colleagues on the 2013 scorecard. Deuell was ranked the 5th most liberal Republican in the Senate according a Rice University political science study that ranked Senators’ political ideology based on votes during the 83rd Session. Given these facts and the legislation Deuell has carried, it is no mystery that Deuell is anything but conservative.
Deuell’s flexibility of principle makes him an appealing investment for special interest political contributions. A special interest funded Goliath, 79% of Deuell’s political war chest raised during this primary season, some $370,000, came from special interest or corporate political action committees (PACs).
Where special interests have invested, Deuell has returned.
During the 83rd Session, Deuell carried the reauthorization of the Texas Economic Development Act that could better be characterized as the Texas Corporate Welfare Act. We’ve written about these incentives before. Notable tax incentive specialist G. Brint Ryan alone contributed $10,000 to Deuell’s campaign in 2013. There is tenuous evidence that these incentive programs do anything for taxpayers other than take their money and give it to corporate interests.
Toeing the line for the state’s medical lobby, Deuell proposed his own plan for the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, heavily favored by the Texas Medical Association. TMA is also well known for its support of the controversial “advance directives” bill, SB 303, which Deuell carried in the 83rd Session. This bill was strongly opposed by the state’s oldest and most respected pro-life group, Texas Right to Life. During this primary, TMA contributed nearly $23,000 to Deuell’s reelection effort.
In lockstep with his special interest backed colleagues, Deuell twice supported SB 346, a donor intimidation bill that would silence conservative opposition to his liberal record through a donor-reporting requirement for grassroots conservative groups, while exempting labor unions. This was a clear attempt to limit the influence of citizens and empower special interests in the political process.
Contrast Deuell’s out-of-touch, deep-pocketed “corporate sponsors” with Hall’s campaign fundraising. Hall is truly a grassroots candidate—our “David.” Hall has not accepted a single dollar from any political action committee, corporate or otherwise and all of his donations have come from individuals. During this race, as of this writing, Deuell has raised nearly $470,000 to Hall’s relatively meager $22,000—nearly 22 times more than Hall.
Conservatives across Texas are watching the race in Senate District 2 (SD2). The solidly conservative Northeast Texas district is centered on Deuell’s hometown of Greenville in rural Hunt County, and includes many Dallas suburbs in eastern Dallas County and Rockwall County.
Deuell demonstrates a record of votes that are against the grain of his conservative district. During an earlier session, in 2009, Deuell supported a bill to create a needle exchange program for drug addicts. During the 83rd Session, Deuell supported the flawed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, championed at the federal level by President Obama and carried by liberal Democratic candidate for Governor, Wendy Davis. This bill was vetoed on the objection that it would have likely led to a more litigious workplace for many employers across the state.
SD 2 is also of interest to Republican primary voters in the upcoming runoff due to the fact that it shares six counties with the high-profile runoff race for Texas’ 4th Congressional District between Congressman Ralph Hall, the incumbent since 1981 and challenger, former U.S. Attorney, John Ratcliffe. Could this federal race drive turnout for Bob Hall down the ballot?
Most shocking to many political observers is the fact that in terms of the money spent, this race should have been a blowout. It seems that many voters in District 2 have awoken to the facts of Deuell’s record and are concluding that conservative Bob Hall will better represent them.
Austin insiders want liberal Republicans like Deuell. Earlier this month, an article published by Capitol Insider, an Austin-based publication that delivers an insider perspective of the Texas political realm, reported that liberal Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate are colluding to try and block potential reforms in the event of major conservative gains in the May runoff elections.
Earlier this month, Republican primary voters in Texas sent a clear message to establishment Republicans: the “purple state” status quo is a losing proposition. Conservatives in Texas should be offended by the complacency of establishment incumbents who sell themselves to the highest bidder. Republican primary voters in SD2 will have a clear choice in their runoff election for State Senate in May: the mega-money-backed, liberal incumbent, Sen. Bob Deuell, or conservative entrepreneur, Bob Hall. In this David vs. Goliath struggle, right makes might.