Many Texas conservatives have already, perhaps prematurely, written off incumbent David Dewhurst. His loss to dark horse candidate turned grass-roots Tea Party conservative super-star Senator Ted Cruz has many analysts already looking towards others in the field.
Among those other three are two accomplished conservatives, State Senator Dan Patrick and State agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples.
Both appear to have similar platforms. Dan Patrick's exploratory surveyed the state to determine what citizens felt to be their most important state-level issues. Among the top issues are Second Amendment protections, Immigration Issues, and Border Security.
Todd Staples wrote a book that included several studies and data concerning immigration and border enforcement issues. The common sense plan and policies explained in the book gain Staples a large amount of credibility on those two subjects. Dan Patrick seems to have taken to task a mission to crumble away that foundation.
The risks of doing so won't harm either candidate in the November 2014 election against the Libertarian and Democratic candidates. Democrats have a long history of being weak on border security and deterring illegal immigration.
Patrick has attacked Staples records from his time in the Texas Congress.
First, Patrick attacked Staples vote in favor of a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to attend Texas Universities at in-state resident tuition rates.
If Staples had done so, a possible reason may have been out of support for seasonal temporary workers on temporary work visas that are vital to Texas ranchers and farmers. Taking care of the children of those workers on temporary visas does help the Texas economy. However, if those children are not in the US legally, should they still receive that lower tuition rate? Many would argue "no". Those students should apply for foreign exchange status. Perhaps, if their parents are legal foreign workers with valid visas, they should have some form of break extended in the red tape of the process.
While Staples and his campaign team reacted to those allegations from the Patrick campaign, Patrick released another blow towards Staples's immigration policy foundation.
On another piece of legislation, Staples allegedly voted in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to obtain Texas State Drivers' Licenses. In 2001, the Texas State Legislature considered HB 396, a bill intended to clarify what documents were valid forms of identification necessary to obtain a license.
The bill passed with several amendments. Among those amendments was this one authored by Todd Staples:
Amend HB 396 by striking Section 2 of the bill and substituting in lieu thereof the following:The amendment requires proof of citizenship or, if not a US citizen, proof of legal status under a visa or "green card". That is hardly a vote on a bill that would have allowed illegal aliens to obtain drivers' licenses.
SECTION 2. Section 521.142(a), Transportation Code, is amended to read as follows:
(a) An application for an original license must state the applicant's full name and place and date of birth. This information must be verified by presentation of valid proof of identity from an independent verifiable source <
satisfactory> to the department. Proof of identity is sufficient if the proof presented is:
(1) a driver's license or personal identification certificate issued to the applicant by the department, regardless of whether the license or certificate has expired;
(2) a valid driver's license or valid identification document bearing a photograph of the applicant and issued to the applicant by another state;
(3) a passport, federal identification card, voter identification card or work permit bearing a photograph of the applicant and issued to the applicant by another country or a governmental agency of another country;
(4) a duplicate original birth certificate or a certified copy of a birth certificate issued by this or another state or by another country, if accompanied by supporting documentation required by department rule; or
(5) any other proof of identity satisfactory to the department.
The bill was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. The basis was that the state already had similar requirements in place and the state already recognizes drivers' licenses issued by Mexico as lawful permission to drive on Texas roads as long as the license is valid and the driver is in the US on a temporary basis through a work or tourist visa.
The irony is that immigration law and the security of the borders with foreign countries is, per the US Constitution, a role of the federal government.
Meanwhile, Patrick seems to be keeping other important state-level issues out of the spotlight. Patrick's largest legislative spotlights in the last legislative session have centered around the controversial CSCOPE program and changing state laws to allow adult students with concealed carry permits to carry those tools of self-defense on college campuses.
College campuses are notorious for sexual assaults and other violent crimes. The gun-free zones provide violent attackers a virtual Elysian Field ripe with defenseless victims. Imagine a young, naive 20 year old walking from a class to her dorm only to be attacked and raped next to the security office. That happened to one college student in Colorado.
The "Campus Carry" was one issue Patrick had some direct influence over as the chairman of the Senate committee for Education as well as sitting on the Criminal Justice committee.
Despite the speeches and rhetoric, Patrick failed to garner enough support to fully shut-down the CSCOPE program he vowed "to kill". He also failed to pass HB 972 or its Senate companion SB 182 which would have allowed campus carry. Instead, SB 1907 was passed into law. It allows that college student to keep her firearm locked in her car while she is at class. That, however, would fail to do her any good while walking to and from her class, where she is most vulnerable. It's a legislative equivalent to Illinois policy of allowing FOID holders to own a weapon, as long as it doesn't leave their home.
With Patrick and Staples, two strong conservative candidates, chipping away at each other, the field may yet leave room for a race between incumbent David Dewhurst and dark horse candidate Jerry Patterson, the current Texas Land Commissioner.
More and more, this primary season is looking to be filled with fireworks and mud-flinging. This could get interesting.